After some correspondence yesterday, John Mayo at CBR has taken the info for the year and made that years to date graphic novel sales chart :

Marvel dominates the rankings in 2007 thus far, doing very well with the “Civil War” TPB and the numerous trades collecting the tie-in series. Of the currently projected top 50 graphic novels and collected editions, nearly 40% of the list was “Civil War” or related material. Outside of “Civil War,” Marvel had other strong sellers thus far in 2007 with the third “Astonishing X-Men” trade paperback and the second “Ultimates 2” trade paperback.


Here’s our yellow analysis:

2007Revinit

Superheroes in yellow, and Marvel clearly rules this chart.

BUT — see Brian Wood’s comments:

Then this one pops up on CBR, that is supposedly the cumulative sales on graphic novels to-date this year. Sounds good, right? Well, the only number that I myself can verify is DMZ Vol.2’s, which this chart claims has sold so far this year:

5,488

I look through my emails and find the number of initial orders that DMZ v2 got back in early February:

5,489

So it seems like from February to now I have sold -1 copy of DMZ v2.

Somethings fishy, right? So I check my royalty sheets, and the most recent statement I’ve received for this book reports sales through April of this year. So three months of sales. Wanna know the number?

9,798

Year-to-date my ass. I get so sick of these charts and flawed estimates and subsequent analysis. They aren’t just off – sometimes they are WAY off.

EDIT: I’ve corrected the Marvel/52 error which was entirely my own.

1 COMMENT

  1. Brian is dead on here. you cannot run these numbers and really understand what actual sales are…and the worst thing is people read these numbers and consider things
    ” failures”

    good spotting and post brian.

    JIMMY PALMIOTTI

  2. OK, while there’s truth to this, there might also be some serious apples and oranges going on. Did that royalty statement include bookstore (non-direct market) sales? If so, did you do 4000 in “normal” markets and another 300 in the direct market?

    Yes, it may well be missing some information, but it may not be 40% off, either.

  3. These lists don’t account for Amazon or book stores like Borders, Waldenbooks, or Barnes & Noble. In other words, the places where most books are sold. The fact that these stores cannot be included in these charts proves that these charts shouldn’t even be created.

    The only thing worse then no information is the wrong information.

  4. Look, its clear what my DMZ numbers are, as reported: initial orders. Not year-to-date, no bookstore, and no reorders to either market.

    Calling them year-to-date is just flat-out incorrect and misleading. As Rick just said above, incorrect information is worse than no information.

    bri

  5. Just to add: and what incenses me the most about these charts is this incorrect information gets cited and conclusions drawn, all based on wrong information. The life of a book does not begin and end with its initial orders, and even those IVC2 charts that claim to also include reorders, they only report SOME reorders and for inconsistent periods of time. Again, incorrect information. At best what those charts are is a narrow snapshot of the life of a book (to paraphrase something Warren Ellis said on this same subject).

    So, useful to make broad statements involving the general health of a books sales and to see how much retailers are willing to gamble on a book initially, but anything beyond that is guesswork.

    Again, I know what my DMZ singles sell, as reported on my royalty sheets. A couple thousand more than reported by ICV2.

    bri

  6. Hrm, the sales charts are fun to look at, but I feel better hearing about how inaccurate they can be since they DID make me worry a little about some of my favorite Vertigo books like DMZ and American Virgin.

    Comic book stores seem to have a hard time figuring out what people will buy in a lot of cases. My old store used to sell out of Infinite Crisis before it hit the shelves but fill the shelf with Civil War one week, then under order Civil War the next week but have 20 extra copies of Cable/Deadpool. That and most of the time you’d never know if Batman (of all comics) came out unless you checked the internet because none would ever make it on the shelves.

    So if sales charts mostly show store orders, I personally can see where they ought to be off base.

  7. As I mentioned in the article, these are estimates and only estimates. My estimate for the initial orders of DMZ v2 was off by a single unit. Given the granularity of the Diamond index that isn’t too bad. By their very nature, estimates are going to deviate from the actual numbers. No other sales of that trade have been reported by Diamond on the monthly lists. But that just means that it didn’t make the monthly top 100 lists, not that it didn’t sell any units during those months.

    The information I have available is only the sales of items through Diamond to retailers as reported by Diamond. That is why I refer to the total known estimates sales as such. It is simply a total of the known estimated sales, not all of the year to date or life to date sales. I can’t include data that I don’t have.

    This data should only be used to serve as indicators of trends within the direct market. Using them to declare an item a “failure” is not why I report the data. I try to use the available data to explain the sales trends as I see them. Nothing more, nothing less.

    I tried to point out in the article what the numbers do and don’t measure and why and that these are not all inclusive sales figures. I try to be very upfront about this as much as possible and practical. I’m constantly trying to improve the reporting and analysis that I do. I agree that more inclusive data would yield more information analysis. If more data sources become available I’ll gladly add them to my number crunching an analysis. If anybody had suggestions on how I could improve the scope or quality of my analysis, please email me and let me know.

  8. Nice job John. Ya i remember you talking about how Diamond only gives you data for the top 100 sellers every month. Since there are so many trades these days then there are plenty of books that have reorders that cannot be accounted for. This explains why DMZ had reorders that could not be accounted for. I dont think your at any fault in this. You put all the necessary “asteriks” in your text about the data.

  9. John

    I agree you don’t have the info. No one does, that’s part of the problem. And what makes any kind of chart-making or sales analysis at all a bit of a fool’s game.

    It’s misleading, though, to title an article “Top Trades Year To Date” with such incredibly incomplete info, even with disclaimers sprinkled around. Much the same when the “Actual” orders for monthly comics are reported. There is nothing “actual” about them at all. Still mostly North American pre-orders only.

    And analysis of an incomplete picture can be a harmful thing. Consumers and retailers can see a monthly title dropping low in these charts, read some snarky one-line analysis about how bad its looking for a book, and maybe decide its not worth buying/ordering any more if its likely to be canceled. When the reality of the situation can be very different.

    bri

  10. I’ve never taken the DM trade paperback chart very seriously; it only goes down to 100, and it’s clearly going to miss the long-term re-orders of most books.

    (Personally I don’t find it at all surprising that only 40% of Brian Wood’s DMZ sales made the Diamond chart; that leaves 60% of sales to go through non-DM bookstores, to sell abroad, or to be caught in long-term re-orders. Sounds about right to me.)

    These problems are less serious with the monthly singles chart. It goes down to 300 and the sales of most periodicals tend to be heavily front-loaded into the first two months (at least at Marvel). So it’s much more likely that the chart is going to catch enough of the sales to allow for meaningful trends to be identified. It’s adequate for the purpose, as long as you accept the limitations of the segment of the market that it claims to cover. And besides, it’s the best we’ve got.

    But the DM trades chart? I wouldn’t trust it as far as I could throw it.

  11. You knows kids, these are, as stated JUST THE NUMBERS THROUGH DIAMOND. That should be made clearer and I’ve done so – and changed the post title because it was funny but confusing. They do not include non-Diamond sales. So of course the TOTAL is higher.

    I just went into Bookscan and checked on some numbers. Bookscan’s numbers are ALSO low, but by a smaller factor. AND NO IT IS NOT BECAUSE INDIE BOOKSTORES SELL 1000s and 1000s of graphic novels. They don’t. Honest.

    Most trades published by Marvel and DC sell MUCH MUCH MUCH better in the direct sales market than bookstores. Random House and DC’s deal may change that where DC is concerned, but as of now that is the case. That goes for Vertigo and Wildstorm, too with the EXCEPTION of name authors like Alan Moore and Brian Vaughan. Books like Y the Last Man and V FOR VENDETTA sell loads in bookstores. The books that are at the top of the Diamond charts — Halo, Marvel Zombies, Walking Dead — also sell very well in bookstores.

    Of course, they are all eclipsed by Naruto. And Fruits Basket. And a ton of other manga the LCS system can’t sell.

    All of these numbers are compromised. Brian may see his royalty statement but he doesn’t see Brian Bendis’s or Joss Whedons. I think a dialog about a flawed system with a look to improving it is better than no dialog at all.

  12. I said that they do, quite plainly, five comments in. What the chart doesn’t reflect is the Year-To-Date Top Trades, otherwise known as the title of the CBR article and the header above the chart itself. And five messages above this I explain why that is a bad thing.

    In DMZ’s case, the info labeled “year to date” is simply the eight-month-old pre-order number (http://www.icv2.com/articles/home/10271.html)

    bri

  13. Brian, I still don’t see how my new post title was “in favor of” CBR since I say there are caveats right there. But be that as it may, I can see why you’re frustrated with these numbers, and I agree that people need to label them very clearly. It is unfortunate that so many people will not read the disclaimers that come with ALL of these flawed numbers and think they are graven in stone instead of seeing what they are — trends.

    How about this: Diamond expands its top 100 GNs to top 300 GNs as they do with periodicals. That would reflect more accurately the focus of the industry right now AND allow number crunchers to get more data. And I do think more data is needed. The music industry changed forever on the day Soundscan was introduced and it was shown that Nirvana and Public Enemy were selling more albums than Winger. the more accurate information the better for EVERYONE.

  14. By beef is with these charts and how they are presented, which seems a much easier problem to fix than getting Diamond to change its ways. You did a good job summing up the opinions so many of us have: unclear charts and analysis, frustrating, people coming away with incorrect information, etc. If we had accurate info, sure, that would be solid gold. But we don’t, and that shouldn’t make it okay to present the partial info we DO have as accurate.

    And your title: it was in CBR’s favor in that you added and changed bits to counter the arguments being made in the comments section (mostly by me), and after the fact. Not to say the bits you added aren’t correct or helpful, but thank god your original title is still in the URL. But it makes my reposted blog entry look unnecessary.

    bri

  15. Aaannnd now the CBR article’s been clarified. Which is good.

    Seriously, everyone, the name of the game is PERCEPTION, and most readers aren’t going to scour an article or a comments section looking for the grand big picture or the little caveats sprinkled around. They’ll breeze through, reading the title, looking at the charts, and walk away depressed that their favorite book is tanking, or whatever, never knowing they’re only getting part of the story.

    It’s a problem, and kudos to Mayo for seeing that and clarifying his article.

    bri

  16. The first thing Diamond should do if they truly want to come up with lists that reflect demand rather than corporate market manipulation is to publish lists based on sell-through rather than pre-orders. John Miller has done a lot of number-crunching over the last decade for Comics Retailer and shown time and time again that preorder figures and sellthrough figures can be very different, and that preorder figures usually skew toward the largest players with the most muscle (or sleaziest marketing gimmicks), reinforcing a hegemonic atmosphere that hardly rewards or encourages diversity.

  17. By the way, Brian, all of your comments have been great.

    All sales charts kind of suck. I appreciate why they exist, but they’re all compromised and skewed to some degree. Diamond’s lack integrity more than most, because of the way they guard hard sales data like it was gold at Fort Knox and focus on preorders (not sell-thru), and present their data in such unscientific ways (the whole “Batman index” thing they use is just stupid) and skewed ways that only reinforce The Way Things Are.

    Bookscan is just as skewed, leaving out such major markets as wholesalers, Amazon, and most of the direct market. PW’s methodology is a complete mystery to me. Even John Miller, who has done so much work on this front, has had a certain tunnel-vision in the way he refuses to look at anything BUT the direct market, which again is only a piece of the entire book business puzzle and any analysis he does completely ignores massive trends in other niches that could be useful to retailers in anticipating demand from all consumer ends. For example, over the last five years, our reported market share in the DM has trended downward, even though our overall sales as a company have gone up because of continued growth in other areas. If you only read the Comics Retailer market shares, you’d think overall consumer demand was lower than ever for Fanta, when in reality our overall sales have proven just the opposite. This kind of info I would think could be useful to retailers, but more to point (and getting back to what I think Brian is talking about), not having that info can be actively misleading and harmful to our business.

  18. Which raises a good question as to whether retailers are actually using these numbers or are influenced by these numbers when making purchasing decisions.

  19. It becomes a question of, why release information if the information isn’t helpful, useful or educational?

    I bet Karl Rove could answer this.

  20. I would hope that an individual retailer would look at his own numbers first and foremost before looking at industry-wide sales charts, flawed as they may be.

  21. Matt C & CF Kane, I assume most retailers do look first at their own numbers but I’d also hope they then look at the numbers in the way Mayo does- to spot trends and perhaps to see if they are missing books that could sell better for them. If they see a title flying off the shelves for everyone else and they’re only ordering enough for the pull box crowd then maybe they would add a copy or two for the shelf (stop laughing, I said maybe) or if they do have copies for the shelf which aren’t selling perhaps they then try to identify their customers which might like that title and convince them to give it a shot.

    Also, I know it’s hard when you think your work is being hurt by these numbers but most of the people who see these numbers aren’t going to be swayed from reading DMZ or Jonah Hex in trade or singles because of a sales chart. It’s fine for people with inside knowledge to point out when they think the numbers are wrong but perhaps their time would be better spent talking to their bosses and trying to get them to put pressure on Diamond to release sell through numbers instead of the pre-order Batman mumbo jumbo we’re stuck with now. Wishing that people would quit trying to figure out what’s selling is kind of a waste of time since it’s something people want and sometimes even need to see. All of us would like the real numbers but until we get them we’re left with the hard work that Mayo and others put forth, which is often the best they can do with what they have. Diamond has the ability to give us the real numbers and the only way that’s going to happen is if the exclusive publishers and/or DM retailers demand it. However, I think that the bad data actually skews the numbers in benefit of the Big 2 and their top line books so they have no interest in changing the status quo.

  22. Joe, you just summarized the problem quite well. No fans will be swayed from reading anything by these charts, but the potential for retailers to be swayed in their ordering is there.

  23. From what I understand of the newspaper business, the headline is generally written by someone other than the person who wrote the article. Does anyone know if this is the case with CBR? It wouldn’t change the meat of the discussion, but it would help understand the process some more.

  24. Anime has Nielsen Soundscan as the method of ranking top selling anime. It doesn’t have the direct market through the Direct Market(Anime Pavilion, Right Stuf, AAA Anime). It seems to me we need to have a Soundscan system for the direct market in comics and Anime. That would make the Pre-Order thing mute and get an honest answer on what is selling. What is selling and what is being ordered can be different.

  25. wow,

    here’s my 2 cents
    ( and i am only speaking on my behalf as a comic book fan)

    I am so glad i am just a fan who has the power to choose what comic or books i want to buy and not worry about the “politics of comics”..

    if i like a comic or book I will buy it no matter what…
    it doesnt matter where its coming from, who distributed it, who else likes it or if Im the only one buying it..

  26. crap, did I mess up my post, or did it disappear for some reason? Either way, I got my question about manga answered. I knew it really didn’t include anime.

  27. An engaging conversation. I would point folks toward The Comics Journal #283, in which I run a synthesis of as many possible holes, leaks and loops in the Diamond data as I can manage in about 8 pages, compare the Diamond YTD for 2005 with limited Bookscan data for 2005, and examine the ramifications of the practice of treating the Diamond dataset as valuable.

    My argument is that the Data can only be seen as an extension of the public relations machine that Diamond maintains — to create the illusion that the products that they carry (especially products by the brokered partners) -are- the comics industry.

    Whether or not you want to agree with that last step in the argument is up to you, but it seems clear that we need to separate the important statistical work done by folks like John Jackson Miller at Comichron, reconstructing the publication history of title, from the current use of the flawed data set. Here is how I end that article:

    Final Commentary

    The Diamond bestseller list creates the sense that Diamond is the gravity at the center of the graphic novel and comic book universe. I would never deny Diamond’s historical importance in keeping the direct market alive. I would never imply that the comics medium would survive without the direct market. And so, logically, the comics medium at present depends on the existence of Diamond. But that recognition does not undercut my claim: A healthy city depends on its roads, but the roads do not define the city, and a survey of the roads (and what passing along them) is not a survey of the city. I do deny the illusion of the importance of Diamond in defining the industry, market or medium – the illusion that the Diamond data creates and that the endless commentary upon that data reinforces.

    The mistake that many commentators on the Diamond data make is that they confuse assessments of “the industry,” “the market” and “the medium” with assessments of Diamond, its central distributor, based on Diamond’s public relations machine – its bestseller lists.

    To assess the market, we need to look beyond the primary distributor to the 3,600 outlets Diamond serves. We need to be able to investigate all of the ways that those 3,600 outlets obtain material and the ways that they move that material into the hands of readers.

    To assess the industry, we need to investigate what “comics” means to more than the addicts who shop 3,600 stores for their weekly fix. We need to investigate what “comics” means to the huge population of the country that live more than 20 miles from any comic shop, and so see Star Wars, superhero movie tie-in and Archie comics more often than they see X-Men. We need to see sales of comics and graphic novels in a B. Dalton, a Waldenbooks, or a discount chain as part of the industry.

    To assess the medium, we need to be able to fully appreciate the consistent success of materials that are choked out of the bestseller lists by the volume of the materials offered by Diamond’s brokered partners – the Strangers in Paradise, the Owly, the Zoom Suit, even the Naruto – that flourish in nontraditional outlets and via nontraditional marketing.

    As long as we are dependent on Diamond data, our ability to assess the industry, market and medium is crippled….

    I hope you might take a look.

  28. To reiterate O’Brien: the data for the DM chart is too weak to put much stock into it. Everyone who reads these things regularly knows that. However, the monthly sales is a wholly different matter (while of course still with some biases.). It gives a fairly accurate picture of the relative success and failure of titles (singles) in the DM.
    It goes without saying, that anyone trying to argue awaynumbers in the monthly charts by (rightly) trashing the DM TPB chart (universally acknowledged as highly problematic) and railing against “these (unspecified) sales charts” in general would be pretty disingenuous. Good thing nobody did, right?