It’s time to take a look at the sales distribution charts of Image and the other independent publishers for February.
Standard disclaimers: The numbers are based on the Diamond sales charts as estimated by the very reliable John Jackson Miller. These charts are pretty accurate for U.S. Direct Market sales with the following caveats: 1) you can add ~10% for UK sales, which are not reflected in these charts; 2) everyone’s best guess is you can add ~10% for digital sale – while some titles do sell significantly better in digital (*cough* Ms. Marvel *cough*), that’s the average rule of thumb; 3) it’s not going to include reorders from subsequent months, although reorders will show up in subsequent months if they’re high enough. So if you’re a monster seller in Southampton and it took the US audience 3 weeks to reorder, it’s probably not going to be reflected here.
What’s a sales band? It’s another way to have a higher level view of the market. The general idea is to divide the market into bands of 10K copies sold and see how many issues are in each band. How many issues sold between 90-99K copies, 80-89K copies, etc. etc. In very broad terms, the market is healthier when there are several titles selling in the 70K-100K+ range because titles that move a lot of copies give the retailers some margin of error on their ordering. When you see titles selling in the 20-29K band and especially below, there’s a pretty good chance a lot of retailers aren’t ordering those titles for the shelf (pull box/pre-order only) or minimal shelf copies at best.
For the purposes of these sales band charts, we really are looking for titles that are selling 10K and over, so only publishers with an issue that topped 10K will be listed here. The sad fact is, most independent comics sell under 10K and it’s when they cross that line that they really start getting noticed. The December estimates have the top *500* single issues, which means everything above 647 copies ordered, so this is probably a fairly complete list compared to the old top 300.
This is a little bit more like the Image charts we’re used to seeing. Walking Dead had a bump previously and is “down” to ~77.4K. A new series of Kick-Ass debuts at just over 50K. Hit-Girl debuts at ~39.7K. Saga’s back with ~38.7K. Paper Girls at ~22.4K. Sure, it would be nice to have a couple more titles in the 20K+ range, but that top list has been on break for a few months. We’ll also be finding out shortly if Millarworld is going to give Image a couple more sustainable breakouts that the retailers have been asking for, those are good debuts, but #1 is always a bit higher.
There are a few more books in that 10K-19K sales band, which is one where creators are more likely to be seeing effective page rates similar to DC/Marvel. Vs had a notable debut just under 19K.
Image is also the DM’s leading publisher of titles that sell under 10K and nobody else has volume in that sales band that’s even close.
The high end of the rest of the indies isn’t so high. It continues to be very difficult for the independent publishers to crank the 20K barrier. The big sellers in this segment were Dynamite’s Dejah Thoris #1 at ~18.5K, BOOM!’s Jim Henson Labyrinth #1 at ~18.4K, Dynamite’s Shadow / Batman #5 at ~17.9K and Oni’s Rick & Morty at ~15.1K.
As usual, it’s the debut issues leading the way and it’s all licensed material at the top.
The bestselling creator owned material outside of Image? Depending on you feel about IDW’s TMNT getting licensed to its creator, it’s TMNT with 10,572. Otherwise, it’s Dark Horse’s Hellboy & BPRD 1955 Burning Season One Shot with 10,505. Yes, those two were ordered into the DM very nearly the same.
You’d like to see a few more issues cracking the 10K barrier, but this seems to be the current pattern.
And if we merge the two charts:
Image has a big lead in every sales band and in overall volume published. I suppose we’ll see if Diamond re-arranging the catalog and premiere section causes any noticeable changes to ordering patterns in the next few months. It’s certainly possible.
Want to learn more about how comics publishing and digital comics work? Try Todd’s book, Economics of Digital Comics