Tilting at Windmills #166: Looking at BookScan: 2007

By Brian Hibbs

(Originally published #166 – February 2008 – “Looking at BookScan: 2007”)

 

“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King”

Call me Mr. Squinty.

For the fifth year in a row, I’m going to try o figure out something that can only vaguely be seen and perceived: the size and shape of the sales of books through the book store market, as seen through the prism of BookScan.

Some preamble:

“Direct Market” stores (also known as “your Local Comics Shop”) buy much of their material for resale from Diamond Comics Distributors (though, not, by any means, all – and many DM stores are also buying from book distributors). DM stores seldom have Point-of-Sales (POS) systems (though this is rapidly changing!!!), and, because we buy non-returnable, what we track is in our side of the industry is what sells-in to the store, not what sells-through to the eventual consumer. In a very real way, this means that the DM store owner is the actual customer of the publisher, as opposed to the end consumer.

The bookstore market, however, buys their material returnable, where they can send back some portion of titles that don’t sell. Because of this, sell-through is the data that is tracked and trended. Bookstores that have POS systems are able to report their sales to BookScan, a subsidiary of Nielsen.

Each week, BookScan generates a series of reports detailing the specific sales to consumers through its client stores. The category we are most interested in is “adult fiction overall graphic novels”. Bookscan 07. (Matt, please place the link where I underlined, thanks!) If that link doesn’t appear, or is broken when you read this, it’s because Nielsen objected to the data being put out there, so you’ll just have to trust me that it says what I say it says, alright?

(For points of comparison, try these links [not all of which may work any longer]:

2006: BookScan Report and My Analysis

2005: BookScan Report and My Analysis

2004: BookScan Report and My Analysis

2003: BookScan Report and My Analysis)

Much like last year’s report, what I’ve been given is the actual end-of-the-year total report, as opposed to 2003-2005 where I only had the report for the last week of the year. The effective difference for a casual chart reader is probably very little, but it does change some of the value in the percentage changes year-to-year. Please bear it in mind when comparing this year’s report to the previous ones – comparing 2007-to-2006 is probably as close to apples-to-apples as it can get, as is 2003-to-2004-to-2005, but comparing the ’06-07 data to ’03-’05 isn’t going to be necessarily as valuable, and any analysis I can make of comparative growth is going to be off by some factor, possibly a significant one.

The biggest and most obvious difference when doing straight comparisons will be in the lower ends of the chart. This year, the “worst selling” book in the Top 750 clears 4400 copies (it was ~4700 copies in ’06). In ’03-‘05 there would be 200 or more items that didn’t have YTD sales in that amount.

One other change this year is that I now have the full and entire BookScan listing, down to books that have only one copy sold YTD. However, I’m not going to provide that entire list because that’s too much data, even for a data-junkie like myself. I’ve cut the list off at 750 items because that’s what we’ve reported in the previous four years. Still, I have the deeper data, and I’ll add a quick summary section for it a bit further down. Presuming I continue to get that much data going forward, I should be able to tell you a few things about “The Long Tail”. I possess data on nearly 13,200 items now!

This is not a list of every book that sold through every book store – the report is limited to those stores that report through BookScan. According to BookScan, more than 7500 venues are now reporting to them, but this still leaves many venues that don’t. Like I said in my first analysis:

But who are the retailers who report to BookScan? According to the list that I have, there are over 7400 potential BookScan venues. This list includes almost 300 independent bookstores, as well as chain retailers, B. Dalton / Barnes and Noble, Borders / Waldenbooks, Tower Music and Books, Musicland, Deseret Book Company (Mormon bookstores), Follett Stores (University bookstores), Hastings, Costco, K-Mart, and Target. BookScan also tracks online sales from Amazon.com, B&N.com, Borders.com, Buy.com, Fatbrain.com, and Powells.com.

That’s still a fair number of places that sell our product that aren’t represented – beyond traditional book retailers who don’t report to BookScan (Say, a number of indie bookstores), and mass market retailers like Wal-Mart. This also doesn’t track any number of other channels — like library sales, or other specialty markets like, say, LGBT stores, etc. This Publisher’s Weekly article [from 2003, I wish they’d check in on this story for the 2008 reality!] (you’ll have to subscribe to read it, sorry) says the following:

BookScan generally claims to represent between 70% and 75% of sales in the industry (Wal-Mart and some of the supermarket chains are among those who decline to report.) But a comparison with in-print figures supplied by publishers reveals that the numbers are more likely to represent about 65%, even after deducting for unsold books and returns.

For BookScan’s top ten nonfiction titles published last year – a list that include mass-market favorites like Phil McGraw’s diet books as well as indie hits like Benjamin Franklin: An American Life – no title had BookScan sales comprise more than 75% of total sales. For some of the books that had strong special-sales, they ran as low as 25%.

Frankly, I haven’t bothered to ask BookScan for a client list every year, so it is pretty likely that the number or volume of stores has increased significantly since 2003. However, I’m also going to continue to assume that the Publisher’s Weekly article is still accurate to the extent that these numbers are unreported by some potentially significant degree, and don’t, in any way, represent all “book stores” selling comic book material.

Also, remember that this analysis represents RETAIL SALES. This absolutely doesn’t include anything like Library sales, or Academic Sales, or things like books clubs and so on. Those are not RETAIL SALES. This is all about “person with an extra $20 in their pocket”, so don’t conflate anything else from this.

There’s also a certain amount of miscategorization going on. As an example, every volume of the manga series Love Hina can be found in my full copy of the sales report, except for volume 2. In the Great Big Database there’s apparently an error and Love Hina volume 2 isn’t listed as a “graphic novel”. Conversely, a few prose books always sneak on to the list – Bloody Crown of Conan makes its fifth annual appearance as a not-comic. I do not know what the actual extent of miscategorization might be and how it would impact any of the general data analysis!

Really, what I’m trying to get across to you is that this really is potentially unreliable data in terms of the absolute and total number of books sold, and is only able to give the broadest outline of what’s happening in book stores, based upon the data-set that I’m being given, which is in no way comprehensive. I still think that’s better than having no information, so I persevere in writing this each year.

We’ll talk some more about the DM and how it compares a bit further down in the column.

As always, I strongly encourage you to look at the BookScan numbers  on your own and make your own conclusions – I’m trying to be balanced and fair, but, of course, I have huge bookshelves worth of biases I’m dragging around with me, and your analysis might be more correct than my own.

*          *          *

OK, that’s the boilerplate out of the way, let’s start looking at the data.

Here’s the big picture:

 

Year Total Pieces Growth Total Dollars Growth
2003 5,495,584 $66,729,053
2004 6,071,123 10.5% $67,783,487 1.6%
2005 7,007,345 15.4% $75,459,669 11.3%
2006 8,395,195 19.8% $90,411,902 19.8%
2007 8,584,317 2.3% $95,174,425 5.27%

 

The sum of the Top 750 in 2007 is 8,584,317 pieces for a total of $95,174,425 at full retail. I want to note that the nearly 20% of growth in 2006 was almost certainly overstated because of the difference in reporting methodologies between 2005 and 2006. Read 2006’s report for more detail. My estimate was that it was probably closer to 10-12%.

Having said that, this is a clear slowdown in the growth of the bookstore market in 2007. There’s still growth, yes, but it’s not the double-digit growth that we’ve come to expect. What’s most curious about this to me is that the Direct Market is said to have had an 18% growth in 2007 in GN/TP sales – and the DM is a mature and very established marketplace, while the Bookstores really should still be in their “honeymoon” phase with comics material, and should, in my opinion, be seeing greater growth. Obviously, I have no real information of the overall levels of growth in bookstores in general (doing a GN-driven report is difficult enough, thanks), so the book market may still be looking at this as excellent growth, but in relationship against the Direct Market, they’re growing at a significantly slower rate.

The book selling the most pieces in 2007 was Naruto v13 with 80,423 pieces sold. Like last year, you can probably call it Naruto’s year, as all 27 (!) volumes chart, and they all chart within the top 100 (or Top 65, to be more precise) – that’s a pretty major accomplishment. There’s only one minor “but” here, however – in 2006, Naruto v9 was the #1 top-selling book, and it sold 101,457 copies. That’s around a 20% drop from this year’s best-selling number, and may indicate that the Naruto phenomenon is waning. Of course that is to be expected, I think, when last year we had 12 volumes of the title, and this year we had 27!

What’s slightly more curious to me is that the next highest placing Naruto volume (v1 at 67,147, and chart position #3) is nearly 16% down from v13. And v14 (#4 on the chart) is down to 62k. That’s a pretty huge gap, and I wonder if there’s something else going on that I can’t see from looking at a one-time-snapshot-at-year’s-end chart – 13-18k copies is a pretty big gap after all. It appears to me that Naruto, despite its success, is slowing down dramatically.

Still, even with that, the 27 volumes of Naruto combined sold 1.18 million copies in 2007 – I suspect that Viz is pretty unworried about the slowdown because that’s still a very very impressive number. In 2006, the 12 volumes of Naruto released at that point sold 917k copies.

In terms of gross dollars, 2007’s #1 book was Frank Miller’s 300 with of $2.1 million, at full retail, in sales. Whew! That’s a big-ass number, the largest we’ve ever seen from these charts! (2006’s #1 book was V For Vendetta, selling nearly $1.6 million dollars of copies) Given 300’s thirty dollar price tag, I suspect we won’t see that large a number in the years to come.

That wasn’t the only “million dollar book”, in fact, there were three others! – the $150 boxed compilation of the Mad Magazine Art of Don Martin grossed over $1.32 million in retail sales, the hardcover of Stephen King’s Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born, came really close to that with an impressive $1.29 million dollars in sales, and (while not technically a comic, is still on this particular chart), the DK Publishing Marvel Encyclopedia scored $1.23 million in gross retail sales.

Watchmen came really close to joining that club, with just more than $908k in sales. In fact, those top five books generated nearly $6.9 million gross dollars in retail sales (or about 7.25% of the total dollars sold for the year), compared to 2006’s $4.7 million dollars for the top five.

Just for comparison’s sake, last year’s #1 quantity book, Naruto v9 (101k), sold nearly 32k this year – roughly a third of last year. Last year’s #1 dollar book, V For Vendetta ($1.6 million), sold about $390k in 2007 – roughly a quarter of last year.

In terms of “The Long Tail”, items #751-13,177 (the absolute bottom of the chart) sold just over 6.8 million pieces, for $87.9 million dollars. This makes the total number of books sold through BookScan-tracked sources to be 15.4 million pieces, and over $183 million dollars.

If we assume that the Publisher’s Weekly article referenced above is correct and that BookScan is only tracking 75%-ish of sales, it could be inferred that the total non-Direct Market market-size for Retail Sales of TPs and GNs is something along the lines of 21 million pieces, and $244 million (at full retail). This inference might also be very very wrong, however, given all of the caveats I have noted.

Currently 49 of the top 750 titles (7%) each year are “evergreen” – that is to say that they’ve appeared on each and every BookScan Top 750 since 2003. This is a stupidly flawed data-point, because it doesn’t give any weight to anything published after 2003, but I’m going to stubbornly cling to it as something of some significance, because I always have.

As I do every year, I’ve arbitrarily divvied the Top 750 list into one of five categories: Humor, Manga, DC, Marvel, and the ever-wonderful Everything Else. While such categorization is horrifically subjective (Is Asterix “humor”? Is The Simpsons? And that’s why I’m not showing that part of my work, to avoid such debates), I did it so to try and track the distinctions between “traditional” bookstore material (e.g., humor books like Garfield, or Far Side); Direct Market-driven material (i.e., Marvel, DC, and most of the “Everything Else” group); and Manga.

So, here’s the year-to-year comparison between my categories:

 

For Humor:

In 2006, “Humor” books, the traditional pre-y2k owner of the sales charts, place only 8 titles on the Top 750 chart. These titles represent 54,093 units with a total retail of $1,990,296. For some comparative history, check the chart below.

 

Year # of placing titles Unit sales Dollar sales
2003 125 1,246,141 $16,095,800
2004 108 829,279 $11,460,533
2005 35 428,941 $5,904,947
2006 34 357,424 $5,060,097
2007 8 54,093 $1,990,296

 

OK, something dramatically changed in the reporting this year – virtually every “humor” book (eg: Calvin & Hobbes, Fantagraphics’ Peanuts reprints, Bongo’s Simpsons titles) have, as far as I can tell, utterly vanished from the BookScan report. No, they’re not down in the “Long Tail” either. I am assuming that they’ve somehow been recategorized in some fashion.

For “strips” like Calvin or Peanuts, this sorta kinda makes sense – while they may be “comics” they aren’t “graphic novels”; except there’s several things I can find deeper in the list that are also strips that haven’t been recategorized (example: IDW’s Dick Tracy reprints) – but it doesn’t make a lick of sense for the Bongo/Harper Simpsons comics. Those are collections of previously published serialized comic books!

Further, the purging isn’t exactly complete – within the Top 750, I can still find one of the Bongo Bartman volumes, a Far Side book, a Foxtrots book, and one of Ballantine’s Peanuts volumes. Deeper in the Long Tail, I can find another score or so of similar examples without even looking hard.

So, unless I’ve somehow got a (badly) edited list (though why anyone would cut those examples and not my others, would be a deep mystery), or, unless BookScan reverts back to the old categories next year, I’m going to drop this section, and just fold it into “everything else” next year. If anyone in “real” publishing has a clue what’s going on here, I’d love to know! I’ve checked with a few sources, and they all tell me the reports they see show the same thing, but I’m not at all clear why this change was made.

With only eight titles in this section, they’re fairly easy to deal with. The best-seller of them is The Far Side Gallery #5, with 10,124 copies sold. The Far Side Gallery #5 is an “evergreen” title –that is, it has appeared on every BookScan Top 750 list going back to the first one I have in 2003. Sales have been steadily declining on the title over the years: in 2003 it sold 22,690 copies, while in 2006 it sold 12,218 copies. Over the years virtually all strip collections have pretty much been declining year-to-year, for the most part this was because the ones that charted tended to be strips that were no longer running, and there wasn’t anything new coming in to replace them. The Far Side hasn’t had a new strip since 1995.

The #2 charting “humor” book is the Complete Don Martin book mentioned in the introductory section. While it “only” sold 8815 copies, thanks to its $150 price tag, it grossed over $1.3 million dollars, making it the second highest dollar volume book on the entire chart, handily beating everything except Frank Miller’s 300.

Coming in at #3 & #4 are volumes 3 & 4 of Penny Arcade. I included these in “Humor”, rather than “Everything Else” because these are collections of strips. While they appear on the internet rather than in your newspaper, they seem to be to very much be the children of the “traditional” kind of cartooning, rather than coming from a GN-tradition. They sell 7951 and 6982, respectively.

#5 is The Assorted Foxtrot, which is also an “Evergreen” title. It sold 5243 copies this year, as compared to 6857 last year.

#6 is Bartman: The Best of the Best, with 5147 copies sold. This is the only Simpsons comic to appear anywhere on my list this year, which means The Simpsons must have been recategorized, for they were otherwise not only very steady sellers, but one of the unsung heroes of graphic novel sales. Regardless of what you think about strip collections belonging on a “GN” chart, the Simpsons books were very clearly the latter.

#7 is Devil’s Due’s Family Guy collection, with 5057 copies sold. I listed it with Humor mostly because I listed The Simpsons there.

Finally, at #8, there’s Its a Dog’s Life, Snoopy which is a Peanuts collection from Ballantine. It hits with 4774 copies, and is our sole representation of the Peanuts on this list, because the Fantagraphics collections have been apparently reclassified.

Another glaring omission to me is The Book of Bunny Suicides, which was #1 in this category in 2005, and #2 in 2006. In 2007, it’s vanished from the list entirely.

Like I said, this will probably be the last time you see these books broken out this way, but I did really like having a relatively small category to start with before getting into the “Big Boys”. Ah well…

 

For Manga:

Once again, the largest section of titles, by far. In 2007, Manga dominates with 575 spots (out of 750) on the charts for 6.8 million pieces, and $62 million in retail dollars.

Here’s a year-to-year comparison chart:

 

Year # of placing titles Unit sales Dollar sales
2003 447 3,361,966 $34,368,409
2004 518 4,603,558 $45,069,684
2005 594 5,691,425 $53,922,514
2006 575 6,705,624 $61,097,050
2007 575 6,837,355 $61,927,238

 

Just to get a little meta here, over the years several manga-related blogs copied out this section (and just this section) of the report. If you’re reading this in a report not on Newsarama, I strongly urge you to go to the source link and read the preamble to this article – several facts about reporting methodology change from year to year, and may change your perception of the numbers!

One of my three indicators – the raw number of titles placing on the charts, unit sales and dollar sales – the first is dead even with last year. However, it is my belief that had the traditional “humor” books been charted this year, Manga is the category it would have eaten the most into. The other two indicators are up, albeit by a tremendously small amount. I think it is safe to say that manga is still growing, but certainly nowhere near as “explosively” as it once did, and it is possible that the category has peaked. Nearly a 40% unit growth from ’03 to ’04, 22% from ’04 to ’05, and about 20% from ’05 to ’06, but well under 2% from ’06 to ’07. It appears that manga is starting to “mature” as a category, but I had expected that we’d still have seen growth of at least 5%. The fairly drastic drop in the rate of growth is, perhaps, worrying. Regardless of that, 77% of the Top 750 are manga volumes.

The winner of the 2007, just as 2006, unquestionably is Naruto. With 27 volumes in print in 2007, Naruto racked up 1.18 million copies sold in the aggregate – that’s 17% of the total manga sold in the Top 750, simply breathtaking.

Still, in some ways, 2007’s success with Naruto is less stellar than that of 2006’s – in ’06, 11 of the 12 then-extant Naruto volumes were the top 11 selling manga volumes. This year, however, Naruto shares the Top 10 manga titles with Fruits Basket, Death Note and Bleach.

The “worst selling” volume of Naruto (v10 with “only” 27,898 copies sold) is the fifty-eighth best-selling manga title (as opposed to #16 last year), this shows a deep softening in the Naruto brand, or, perhaps a saturation. As I’m sure you’ll remember, the last four months of 2007 had a promotional campaign called “Naruto nation” where they released three volumes of the series each month. The question becomes the chicken or the egg – was the relative slowdown of Naruto sales (917k copies over 12 volumes in 2006, versus 1.18 million copies over 27 volumes in 2007) a result of, or a response to the “Naruto nation” promotion?

Such things are pretty hard to tell with a one-time snapshot like this, but given that the “worse selling” volume is v10 (followed quickly by v9 and v11), all of which were released well before the announcement of the NN promotion in May, I’m going to go ahead and conclude that the sales were starting to slow before the NN promotion. Accordingly, pumping out twelve volumes in four months was probably a sensible decision driven more by the sales reality than the stated desire to catch up to Japan’s production – had those twelve volumes come out over the course of twelve months, rather than four, the total sales would have likely been much lower.

Either way, I doubt anyone at Viz is complaining much, those 27 Naruto volumes represent 14% of the total number of all books sold in the Top 750. That’s pretty darn staggering.

Again, like last year what we’re seeing is that entire series are charting – there are 27 different volumes of Naruto on the charts, after all, which is about 4% of the total of 750 items we’re looking at. Much like last year, the 575 manga titles only represents 140 different properties, if I’m counting correctly (and I may not be). It certainly seems to me that because rack space is not infinite, more popular series appear to be squeezing less popular series out.

That is, of course, to be expected, but it seems to me that there are two other things going on here as well. The first is that the “Big Hit”, as exemplified by Naruto, appears to be getting smaller. The second is that I’m not sure that there’s any new hits being generated that aren’t directly a result of a concurrent anime show being broadcast. I’m nowhere near as conversant with anime as I probably could be, but it seems to me that the top of the charts are dominated by (roughly in order) Naruto, Fruits Basket, Bleach, Death Note, and Pokemon – all of which are currently showing in strong anime rotation. Unless I am mistaken, the only two Manga titles breaking 25k in sales that aren’t also supported by a show are Vampire Knight and Kingdom Hearts, and Kingdom Hearts is based on a popular video game and has Disney characters in it.

Not having studied the matter particularly, I’m sure that my assumption here is pretty shallow and there’s a much more complex relationship between manga sales and anime-rotation than I am positing.

In following this for five years, we have a list of 30 manga titles that have been on each and every list since 2003. That’s an amazing percentage (4%, yeesh) of the 750 titles we regularly look at, and that’s a lot more “legs” on many series then I ever would have predicted. There are 13 different series in this “evergreen” list, and it includes (all v1 unless otherwise noted) Azumanga Daioh, Beet the Vandal Buster, Chobits (v1-6), FLCL (v1&2), Hack//Legend of the Twilight (v1 & 2), Hellsing, Inu Yasha (v1-6), Love Hina (v1, 3&4) [Note: Love Hina v2 has never appeared on one of these lists in five years and is, probably, mis-categorized], Naruto (V1&2), Ranma ½ (V1 & 2), Rurouni Kenshin (v1 & 2), Shaman King, and Trigun.

Breaking down the manga portion of the chart by publisher, Viz takes 338 of the 575 manga spots, making them the clear dominant player. Of the data set we’re looking at, Viz charted 4.6 million pieces, for just under $39 million. This is solely by translated manga, with no “OEL” (Original English Language) titles at all.

59% of all manga charted by BookScan is Viz’s, and they are almost 45% of all TPs shown, which is astonishing for any publisher. Viz’s mean “average” title within the Top 750 sold 13,540 copies per book. Their median title sold 7770 copies. Viz is the dominant player here, and by a pretty wide margin.

In addition to the clear dominance of Naruto, I also want to point strongly to both Bleach and Death Note as stellar performers – the first volume of each topped 50k, and every following volume made the top 100 manga titles. 60% of the manga Top 100 is one of those three titles. Viz also did very well with various Pokemon-related titles, as well as Vampire Knight. Viz also did well with Fullmetal Alchemist and Absolute Boyfriend, both of which charted multiple volumes. Over 20k, Viz also hit with the first volumes of Gentlemen’s Alliance, and Millennium Snow.

Tokyopop is the #2 manga publisher, with 148 titles charting – that includes their OEL (like Dramacon), as well as their licensed books like Hannah Montana and High School Musical. Subtracting those, there’d only be 130 “actually manga” titles charting. I’m including everything however, and Tpop brings in 1.6 million pieces, $15.6 million retail dollars.

Tpop doesn’t even do half of Viz’s business. Still, don’t feel too bad for them – Tokyopop is still taking 24% of the volume of manga that BookScan shows. Their mean average is 10,842 copies sold, while their median title did 10,795 copies. Tokyopop’s best-selling title is Fruits Basket v16 with an excellent 58,372 copies sold in 2007.

In addition to Fruits Basket, Tpop did exceptionally well with various Kingdom Hearts volumes, and with Loveless. And Tpop’s #3 book, Warriors: The Lost Warrior, which, if I’m understanding my Google results properly is a spin-off of a prose novel series, did exceptionally well as a stand-alone book with 43,239 copies sold.

Coming in at #3 is Del Rey, with 56 books charting, for 450,853 pieces and $4.7 million retail dollars. Mean average of 8051, median of 6789. Their average numbers have dropped a great deal from last year’s report, probably reflecting the general weakening of manga in the face of the number of titles available. Their best selling title in 2007 was Negima v13 with 22,137 copies sold.

#4 is Dark Horse, but they only place 12 books for 75,768 pieces and $1.02 million retail. Mean average 6314, median 5584. Best seller was Hellsing v8 coming in at 13,942 copies sold. Six of the twelve Dark Horse books placing are Hellsing.

The #5 publisher is ADV, placing just 7 titles for 44k copies and $710k retail dollars – mean of 6297, and median of 5065. Their best-seller is Yotsuba&! V4 with 11,213 copies sold.

The rest of the publishers that chart – Broccoli (5 titles), DC/CMX and Go! (2 each), and five other publishers with a single book each – do so for a meager for 14 different titles sold. The only thing in that batch that I would consider a real success (over 10k) is Megatokyo v5 from DC which, with sales of 11,112, nearly triple DC’s next closest from-Japan title. In fact, based purely on the BookScan charts and nothing else, I don’t understand at all why DC/CMX is churning out a dozen or better releases a month. The sales in the book channel are absolutely not there for that kind of a release schedule.

It might also be worth noting that the combined volume of publishers #3-9 doesn’t even come close to matching the volume of Tokyopop alone. Viz and Tokyopop combined represent 486 of the 575 (85%) of all manga titles listed – that’s up from 84% last year, and 83% from the year before. And if you look at it in terms of pieces it is even worse: 2 publishers represent 6.2 million pieces of 6.6 million for the category – that’s 95%! And people say the Direct Market is lopsided!! Seriously folks, Marvel & DC have nothing on Viz and Tokyopop!

Looking at things more generally, manga as a whole represents 4 of the Top 5, 17 of the Top 20, 45 of the Top 50, and 84 of the Top 100 for 2007 – that’s a virtually identical performance to 2006. There are 9 manga titles that sold over 50k units – last year that was 13. There are 82 that sold over 20k – up from 67 in 2006. Perhaps more worryingly, 89 manga titles in the Top 750 have sales below 5k, way up from 2006’s 37.

Taking a look at OEL (in which I include most of the licensed titles), there are (if I’m counting correctly, and I may not be) 20 OEL titles, up from 13 in 2006. As noted above Warriors: The Lost Warrior is the big winner with over 43k copies sold, but the Warcraft series and Hannah Montana also did well. If you’re a OEL purist, and you don’t want to include licensed titles, there are really five things to look at: Dramacon (with three volumes), Megatokyo (only the two DC volumes chart, why can’t Dark Horse sell theirs?) My Dead Girlfriend, and one volume of Bizenghast. In the sub-5k OEL race, Avalon High also just barely limps in (you probably wouldn’t have seen this if the “humor” books hadn’t been recategorized)

Both Bizenghast and Dramacon are hitting multi-year numbers that would do any normal Western-style publisher very proud.

On a somewhat personal note, I got a rather nasty email from what I inferred was an employee of one of the manga publishers last year, from an obvious fake and temporary gmail account (seriously: it was something along the lines of MathIsReallyHard@gmail.com) accusing me of ignoring the depth of backlist in my analysis. The reality is, this is the first year I’ve ever gotten a look at the Long Tail, and one can’t analyze what one doesn’t have.

But for that anonymous commenter, here’s what I can tell you: Viz and Tokyopop combined represent 4010 entries in the 13,177-long database that I have. They together represent 9.3 million books sold, for $85.5 million dollars at full retail. Of those totals, Tpop is 3.07m pieces, and $30.4m at full retail, while Viz is 6.25m pieces, and $55.1m at full retail. That certainly makes Tpop a little closer to Viz, but not, really, by a great deal.

 

For DC:

2007 was largely a continuation of 2006 for DC, in the bookstores. They placed 58 titles in the Top 750, with total unit sales of 487,467, and $9,953,976 in retail dollar sales.

Here’s a year-to-year comparison chart:

 

Year # of placing titles Unit sales Dollar sales
2003 74 336,569 $6,151,258
2004 39 179,440 $3,135,983
2005 42 298,484 $5,440,001
2006 59 551,160 $10,246,082
2007 58 487,467 $9,953,976

 

While DC’s 2007 numbers in the Top 750 are down a smidge from 2006 (by 63,693 pieces), what they’re down by is nearly exactly the drop in sales on V For Vendetta. In 2006 V For Vendetta sold 79,907 copies in TP (and 5992 in HC!), and those sales were pretty clearly driven by the film version (and the home video release). In 2007, V For Vendetta “only” sold 19,495 copies in TP (and deeper in the Long Tail, 1152 in HC) in 2007, so if one were to factor that out, DC gained by a smidge in the markets that BookScan tracks.

DC’s #1 book for 2007 is Watchmen, with 45,449 sold. That’s up from 37k in 2006 and 17k in 2005, and the beautiful thing from DC’s point of view is that really can’t help but climb through 2008 and 2009 when the Watchmen film is released, and then goes into home video. Even if the movie stinks on ice, I’d expect Watchmen to come at or near 80k in the book market in 2008. Not bad for a twenty year old story, really. As noted above, Watchmen came really close to grossing a million dollars in retail sales in 2007 without a film driving it – the actual figure was $908,525.

[I’m also going to expect that Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is going to explode in 2008 with the next Batman film on the horizon, though history shows that “single books” do a whole lot better than “franchised” titles via the mass market when it comes to film adaptations, because there is an easier sales hook]

DC’s second best seller in 2007 is the Heroes HC, which racks up 25,193 copies sold, for $755k in retail sales, which is a really great performance for material that is available 100% free, on-line.

Other stellar (over 12k) sellers include the aforementioned V For Vendetta (19k), Dark Knight (18k), League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier (14k), and Batman: Long Halloween and Sandman v1 (both at 12k)

In terms of dollars, the big winners (over a quarter million dollars in gross retail sales) are Watchmen ($908k), Heroes ($755k), Absolute Sandman v2 ($594k) and v1 ($479k), LOEG: Black Dossier ($436k), V For Vendetta ($390k), and Dark Knight Returns ($271k)

In terms of “media impact”, DC also does alright for itself with the TP of Stardust (7313 copies), but that’s probably less than you were expecting, given the film. Stardust, however, had direct competition from the straight-prose (no Charles Vess illustrations) version which I’m suspecting did better. I don’t have access to prose-only lists, however, so that’s just a guess.

Looking at it by “imprint”, 24 of DC’s 58 placing titles are Vertigo (Nine Sandman [including the Absolute HCs], seven Fables, four Y, the Last Man, and single enteries with Neverwhere, Pride of Baghdad, Stardust and V For Vendetta), that’s up quite a bit from 2006, where they only had 19 books chart.

Wildstorm places 4 titles, but none of them are “Wildstorm U” – The aforementioned Heroes, and LOEG v1 & 2, and Black Dossier is it.

The remaining 30 titles are branded as DC. However two of them (Watchmen and Ronin) aren’t properly “DCU”. There are nine “Batman” titles, seven “Superman” books (counting Superman/Batman as a “Superman” title), five “event” comics tracking (three volumes of 52, Infinite Crisis, and Identity Crisis), and four “Justice League” titles (v1 of the Meltzer run, and all three volumes of the Alex Ross Justice series). The other three DCU tracking books are Kingdom Come, Green Lantern: Rebirth, and v6 of Teen Titans.

These titles tracking (especially, to me, 52) says that the oft-repeated line that the bookstore environment isn’t interested in superhero comics, especially ones tied to “continuity”, is clearly wrong. In particular, 52 v1 outsells every Vertigo title except for V For Vendetta and Sandman v1. That’s hardly a sign of a market rejecting the superhero genre, in my opinion.

Not one of the Minx titles makes the Top 750, nor does any CMX title except for Megatokyo, which is OEL. Looking deep into the Long Tail, Minx’s Plain Janes sells 3201 copies, none of the other four Minx titles even manages to crack a meager 800 copies sold in the bookstore environment. Aren’t those books specifically designed for the bookstores, and the customers that shop there?

There’s a lot of conventional wisdom that suggests that things like the Minx and Vertigo books sell oodles and oodles better in the bookstore market than the do in the DM, but I have to tell you, now that I’m looking at the “full” BookScan list, I can guarantee you that this is simply false. Now that I can see into the Long Tail, what I can tell you is that, while the bookstore market can (potentially) sell more copies of the “top” of the “bookstore-oriented” material, on anything else the DM beats them handily.

Here’s just one example: none of the three American Virgin trades charted more than 400 copies sold on BookScan; we can pretty definitively state that each of those three sold at least 2000 copies in the DM (because their first month, alone, sold-in more copies than that) Many many Vertigo titles are selling 3-5x as many copies in the DM, as they did through BookScan.

Now, of course, the DM and BookScan accounts are not the grand total of all venues possible – there are also library sales, book clubs, academic sales, and probably another dozen channels that I’m not thinking of – it is entirely possible that these works could be doing gangbusters in those channels, and we’ll never have any way of knowing, but I can state, pretty unequivocally, when it comes to comparing the two primary retail sales channels, the DM is absolutely selling more copies of most Western-originated comics. It isn’t even close.

(and, since we were speaking of the Long Tail, DC scores a total of 1.18 million books when looking at the full and complete BookScan list, for just over $22 million in sales)

DC’s “evergreen” list (the books that have charted every year since 2003) is one down from last years – Crisis on Infinite Earths fell off this year – now it is twelve titles long. Five of them are Batman (Year One, Dark Knight Returns, Long Halloween, Hush v1 & v2), three of them are Alan Moore Books (Watchmen, LOEG v1 & v2), three of them are Sandman (Endless Nights, v1, v7), and there’s also Kingdom Come. This statistic is probably essentially meaningless, since it doesn’t track something “evergreen” that was created after 2003, but those are still some solidly performing titles.

The mean average DC title sold 8405 copies, while the median book was 6668 copies. This does not count the two volumes of Megatokyo that charted – those are in the “manga” section. DC has no titles this year that top 50k, two that top 20k (Watchmen, and Heroes), and nine that chart under 5k.

 

For Marvel:

Marvel did significantly better in 2007 in the bookstores, versus 2006. They placed 37 titles for 376,918 units and $7.6 million dollars in retail dollars.

Here’s a year-to-year comparison chart:

 

Year # of placing titles Unit sales Dollar sales
2003 73 455,553 $8,428,962
2004 50 227,985 $3,756,764
2005 26 153,317 $2,459,027
2006 33 294,852 $5,702,307
2007 37 376,918 $7,599,057

 

As should be no significant surprise to anyone anywhere, Marvel had a major hit in the book stores this year with Stephen King’s Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born HC. Marvel sold 51,714 copies via BookScan-reporting sources, for a gross of nearly $1.3 million dollars. That’s a huge success, and is the eighth best- selling title for the year.

However, I’m surprised it isn’t actually higher, for a couple of reasons. First: it isn’t the highest Western comic on the sales list – Frank Miller’s 300 sold 72k copies, and while that did have a movie behind it, Stephen King is certainly a more familiar name to bookstore buyers than Miller is, and so I would have expected a higher number.

Second: my sense of it, without any easily searchable anecdotes on the internet, is that that level of sales would be considered a failure for a prose book by Mr. King. Comics are not prose, of course, and Dark Tower isn’t a wholly new story, but still.

Third: the internet pundits love to declare that “real” people (that is, those not already reading comics, or predisposed to the medium) are not at all interested in serialized fiction, and that they only want complete volumes if they’re going to bother to read comics at all. However, sales of the periodical version of Dark Tower through Diamond appear to top 216k for issue #1 of the serialization – some four times as many copies. Even issue #7, the “worst” selling of the serialized issues, topped 124k. Could it be that the pundits are actually mistaken, he asked snarkily?

Maybe the audience is holding out for an eventual, cheaper, softcover release?

(Just for a point of comparison, it appears that the DM sold just over 15k copies of the HC)

But it wasn’t only King livening up The House in 2007, they also had a little story called Civil War that maybe some of you have heard of? Marvel managed to sell 32,528 copies of the collection of that mini-series into the BookScan venues, for a gross of almost $813k.

(And to continue to the comparison, the DM sold more than 46k copies of Civil War)

The main Civil War trade is only part of the picture, in fact – Marvel charted twelve other books related to Civil War in to the Top 750, for another 99,683 pieces and $1.5 million dollars. All told, the Civil War “brand” through the BookScan top 750 sold more than 132k books, and $2.3 million dollars. Do you still believe that “bookstore customer” doesn’t want continuity-heavy superhero comics?

Marvel’s #3 best-selling title into the bookstore market was the first hardcover of Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter. That moved nearly 22k copies, and grossed $438k in sales.

For #4, you get Marvel Zombies, with nearly 18k copies sold (and Marvel Zombies/Army of Darkness comes in at #6 for nearly 13k copies sold)

Their fifth best-selling book in 2007 was the Halo Graphic Novel, which sold just over 14k copies. Halo sold over 32k copies in 2006.

There’s very little “media bounce” for Marvel’s films in 2007 – Spider-Man 3 came out on home video in 2007, and while Ultimate Spider-Man v6: Venom manages to sell 8859 copies, and Spider-Man: Birth of Venom sells 8104 copies, that’s about it for Spidey (except for the Civil War tie-in volume). Both the first Ultimate volume (5120 copies) and the most recent one, v18 (4835 copies), also appear, but those would in a normal year, anyway.

2007 also had the Ghost Rider film, and they get a little eensey amount of traction – Road to Damnation comes in with 5086 copies, and Vicious Cycle does 4770 copies, but it’s difficult to call either especially significant.

I suspect that the Iron Man film in 2008 might help Marvel’s sales on that property to some degree, but I can’t really picture the second Hulk film giving much of a bounce. I guess we’ll find out in another year!

Much like last year, none of Marvel’s kid-oriented digests appear anywhere within the top 750, but thanks to having the Long Tail, I can tell you that the one that sells the best doesn’t even mange 2800 copies, with the vast majority of them selling under 1000 copies for the entire year (and most under 500 copies). Logically, these books have to be selling somewhere, otherwise they wouldn’t have such an aggressive publication schedule, but they don’t seem to be moving any significant number of copies in any retail source that can be tracked. Perhaps they’re selling to libraries or at school book fairs?

(Speaking of the Long Tail, Marvel sells just over 1.03 million books this year, for almost $20 million in retail sales, if they went at full retail. This includes the one [1] copy of Bill Jemas’ Marville sold in 2007. It seems that U decided! Still, that’s really surprisingly close to DC’s Long Tail, given that DC had a decade-plus jump on Marvel in the bookstores)

The rest of the Dabel Brothers-oriented titles (Hedge Knight, Magician’s Apprentice, and so on) fail to chart within the top 750 – if it weren’t for Anita Blake, I’d call the whole thing a failure.

Not much else leaps out from the Marvel charts with a couple of exceptions. First: “event” comics continue to do decently – the Hardcover of Planet Hulk sells nearly 10k copies in the bookstores (wow!), and House of M, Secret War, Fallen Son, and the first Bendis Avengers trade all chart.

Second: “big name” authors don’t seem to mean a ton for Marvel-in-the-Bookstores. While Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men v2 & v3 both make the cut-off, v1 doesn’t (and that’s wholly backwards from DC’s positioning of multi-volume series, where v1 always sells best); and both of Neil Gaiman’s books, Eternals (8109 copies) and 1602 (5773 copies) make the list, but the latter is down dramatically from the 12k sold last year.

Third: the value of the Ultimate line as an entry point to super-heroes seems to be fading dramatically. Only one of the four Ultimates books (Ultimates 2 v2) charts this year, and there are only two Ultimate X-Men (v15 & 16), and three Spider-Man (v1, 6, and 18) making the cut. No FF, or any of the secondary books whatsoever make the Top 750 this year.

Marvel’s “evergreen” list (titles that have charted every year since ’03) is now only two items long (Ultimate Spider-Man v1, and v6). V1 is down (5120 vs 7938), while v6 is up (8859 vs 5678)

Marvel’s core superhero product seems to be largely flat to me in 2007 in the Bookstores, and my guess is they won’t have a second Stephen King hardcover out in 2008. The paperback (I guess?) may help them in ’08, but they probably aren’t going to have the same support via Civil War, and World War Hulk isn’t likely to have anything like the same impact as CW. I expect that next year’s report will have them down, probably back to around 2006 levels.

The median average of a Marvel book on this years chart is 10,187 copies, the mean is 6753. Marvel placed one book over 50k (Dark Tower), three over 20k (Anita Blake, Civil War, and Road to Civil War), and seven under 5k. Marvel, as always, burns fast and hot and quick.

 

For Everything Else:

A huge gain in this “category”, as maybe (possibly) “comics as a medium” starts to come alive in the BookScan venues. 72 titles place for 828,484 pieces, and $13.7 million retail dollars.

Here’s a year-to-year comparison chart:

 

Year # of placing titles Unit sales Dollar sales
2003 32 95,355 $1,684,624
2004 36 230,831 $4,360,522
2005 39 435,178 $7,733,180
2006 48 486,135 $8,306,366
2007 72 828,484 $13,703,858

 

Lots and lots to talk about in here, because this is the Defenders of categories – it’s not really a category at all.

As we already discussed, the Best-Seller in this category is Frank Miller’s 300, with 72,328 copies sold, and an astounding $2.2 million in sales, if they all sold at full retail – that’s a crazy big number, and shows the ability of a film to sell a single-volume title. Someone coming out of Spider-Man 3 might be interested in Spider-Man, but the possible range of choices they have is enormous – they might pick up an issue of one of the half-a-dozen Spider-Man comics, or maybe one of the several score graphic novels, but their choice is diffused over the sheer number of choices that exist. Not so with something like 300 – if they’re interested in reading 300, they have exactly one choice.

On the other hand, these are probably one-off sales, unlikely to be repeated, as now that there’s no movie to promote them any longer. In 2006 300 sold 22,443 copies, and I’ll expect that in 2008 it will drop back below 20k.

The second best-selling book in this section is the color version of Jeff Smith’s Bone. Volume 5, Rockjaw, to be specific, with 36,917 copies sold, and v1, Out From Boneville, is right on its heels with 34,302 copies sold. These are exceptional performances, especially given the reports of how well Bone has been performing in the Library and Book Fair markets. It really couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

What’s even more striking about Bone’s success is that all six of the volumes (v7 was released in early ’08) placed in the Top 10 of the “Everything Else” books, selling, collectively, over 161k copies. That’s just staggering.

Jeff also sells 15,252 copies of the Bone One edition, with everything included in black & white. That’s published by Cartoon Books (instead of Scholastic’s Graphix imprint), and so probably benefits him more directly. I like the fact that the color and B&W editions don’t seem to be negatively competing with one another.

The fourth best-selling title in this section isn’t a comic at all (in the sense of “words and pictures juxtaposed in a deliberate sequential yadda yadda”), it is DK Publishing’s Marvel Encyclopedia. It would be nice if these things got categorized correctly, but whatchugonnado? Either way, it sold almost 31k copies, and at $40 a throw, that’s over $1.2 million dollars.

In at #5 is the first volume of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. That’s 28,771 copies sold. Persepolis v1 was the #1 book in this category in 2006 (with 28,796 sold), so I think this one is going to stay on the charts for a long time as a perennial. Next year, it is fairly likely that this will go back to being the #1 book because of the animated film, and the eventual home video release.

What’s much more puzzling to me is that (just like last year), the second volume of Persepolis sells substantially fewer copies – it only manages to move 9909 copies, or just over a third. This baffles me – is it because there isn’t consumer awareness that there’s more to the story, or does the audience not like v1 (unlikely, in my mind)? Or is there something else going on there? It just doesn’t make sense.

This may be moot next year because Random House has issued a Complete edition that has both volumes. The Complete Persepolis sells 11,207 copies this year, and is fairly likely to be the dominant version next year. And, all the way down at the bottom of the “Everything Else” list comes the boxed set of v1 & 2, with an additional 4516 copies. All combined, Persepolis shifts over 54k copies in 2007.

The tenth best-selling “everything else” book is v1 of art spiegelman’s Maus, with 20,365 copies sold. V2 comes in with 12,296 copies sold, while the boxed set of v1 & 2 moves 11,967 copies. The Complete Maus HC doesn’t manage to make the Top 750 (selling only 3258 copies down in the Long Tail.

Looking deeper into the charts, in the Top 20 there’s a pretty diverse group of comics. In order, and talking about titles that we didn’t discuss above, we see Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel (17,057 copies sold), based on the prose novel series, American Born Chinese (17,008), Babymouse: Heartbreaker and Camp Babymouse (15,550 and 12,756), Fun Home (15,256), Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home (13,025), 30 Days of Night [v1] (12,661), and Scott McCloud’s Making Comics (12,427)

A few notes on this batch: Babymouse is aimed at the juvenile reader, but in form and format, they are comics, and seven different Babymouse books chart in the Top 750 – the only reason all eight released ones didn’t chart is because v8 was released the week of Christmas.

(Diary of a Wimpy Kid does not, however, appear anywhere on this chart, before you ask – which I’d agree with, as it isn’t “comics” per se, in my personal and humble opinion)

Fun Home and Making Comics both debuted a year before – Fun Home sold 20,129 in 2006, while Making Comics did 12,881 back then. I think the latter is an especially good follow-through on an “academic” book.

Buffy, to me, is a disappointment, for much the same reasons as delineated in the discussion about Dark Tower in the Marvel section. As a periodical comic book, the first issue of Buffy seems to have sold at least 158,437 copies, or more than ten times what the trade sold into the book market. To a certain degree, I’d say that Buffy is the “civilian friendly” comic following an extremely popular property with a rabid and dedicated fanbase that is both well-connected and well-educated about availability. And yet, against all conventional wisdom, the periodical performed significantly better than the collection.

(Joss Whedon’s other rabid-fanbase book, Serenity, scores 8699 copies in 2007)

And 30 Days of Night, I think it is fair to say, got its bounce from the film of the same.

After this we start getting into sub-10k sales in this category. A few call-outs:

Shaun Tan’s The Arrival brings in 8720 copies sold, a very solid performance, and one I expect will probably be duplicated in 2008 with the announcement that it won the Grand Priz at Angouleme this year.

Scholastic’s Graphix imprint continues to do well with things that aren’t BoneGoosebumps lands two placing titles (v1 with 8808, and v2 with 8267), while the Babysitter’s Club also does two (v1 with 5019, and v2 with 6274)

IDW, in addition to 30 Days of Night, places three other movie-related titles: the TP of Transformers: The Movie (8463 copies), the Transformers Movie Prequel TP (7987), and Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (7912) – that last one was actually originally printed by Eclipse, some 16 years ago!

The second Best American Comics volume (this one edited by Chris Ware) comes in with 8397 copies sold. The 2006 volume sold 12,859 copies that year.

In the Surprise Placing of 2007 category, The HC version of Archaia’s Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 arrives with 8382 copies sold. I’ve noticed that the paperback is not going to be published by ASP, but rather by Random House imprint Villard, another sign of real world book publishers cherry picking small press titles.

Image Comics manages to get four listings, all of them Walking Dead. V1 hits 8076 copies, and is accompanied by v5 (5913), v6 (8192) and v7 (6168). Top Cow also gets a listing with The Darkness Ultimate Collection (5012)

The Adventures of Tintin (the 3-in-1 HC versions) manages to place three volumes this year (last year only had one) – v1 (7607), v2 (5745), and v3 (4666)

Dark Horse, while certainly greatly helped by the performance of 300, has a bit of a comedown this year otherwise. Sin City v1 only shifts 7547 copies, while v2 moves 5601. V3 and up aren’t to be found in the Top 750. In 2005, the seven volumes of Sin City collectively sold 185,713 copies, while in 2006, only six charted, for 37,425 copies total. Now we’re down to 13,148 copies which actually surprises me a great deal, as I would have expected some “tag along” coming off of Miller’s 300. Apparently the market is saturated on Sin City?

Dark Horse also places 6979 copies of the Buffy Omnibus v1 (that collects semi-continuity stories from the 90s, not the recent “Season Eight” series – which makes that 50%-of look pretty darn good, actually), as well as six Star Wars volumes – 6824 of Legacy v1, 6494 of Knights of the Old Republic v1, 5108 of KOTR v2, and three volumes of Clone Wars Adventures: v1 (5243), v2 (4615) and v7 (6225). Like Sin City, this is a drop from last year, but only by a hair in this case. In 2006, they sold 38,863 Star Wars books over seven titles, and in 2005 that was 88,978 over eight titles. I’m actually a little surprised the franchise is staying as relatively strong as it has.

All told, including their manga business, Dark Horse comes up with $4.5 million of action of the Top 750. They only did $4.1 million in 2006, but bear in mind that $2.2 million of this year’s total is all 300, baby, and is unlikely to be repeated.

(Dark Horse’s Long Tail in 2007 is $10.9 million dollars, by the way.)

Slave Labor, as always, places both Johnny, the Homicidal Maniac (7400) and Squee (5006). These are the only two books in the “everything else” section that are “Evergreen” and have been on every list since 2003. Actually, I strongly suspect Maus was miscategorized before 2006, and it otherwise would have been “evergreen”, but I can only state with assurance data that I have! JTHM and Squee are both down a smidge from last year (and the year before), but they still have really excellent sales for decade-plus old work – sales that many other brand new books would maim and kill for.

Top Shelf only places Blankets this year for 5614 copies, again, slowly declining, but envious none-the-less. Alan Moore’s Lost Girls, which was the largest dollar book of last year in this section, doesn’t appear on the 2007 Top 750, but looking deeper into the Long Tail, I can see they shifted 4332 copies this year, and if we rank the entire chart by dollars, rather than pieces, Lost Girls suddenly becomes book #50 of the entire chart. (It was #11 in dollars, total, last year)

And then we’re down to the end of the charts: two volumes of W.I.T.C.H. (v1 for 4997, v7 for 6800), 28 Days Later: The Aftermath (5951), Adrian Tomine’s Shortcomings (5001), Forgotten Realms v4 (4900), the graphic novel from the Redwall prose series (4715), and right there at the bottom, Superman: The Dailies 1939-1942 HC (4524 copies)

The only thing I can add there is that Shortcomings there is the only Drawn & Quarterly book to appear, and nor is there any Fantagraphics book in the Top 750 – that means they shifted under ~4400. Now that I can see the Long Tail, I can now confidently state that there’s not much (if any) miscategorization that is causing that performance: “Art Comics”, with the exception of a tiny handful of “anointed” books, do not appear to be selling in the bookstore environment. Remember that BookScan includes Amazon, and all major internet retailers as well.

It further seems to me that with approximately 7500 BookScan reporting venues, this indicates that most book stores aren’t even bothering to stock “Art comics” in the first place. Make of that what you will.

Regardless of that, I still find Shortcomings’ performance to be poor given the amount of press and attention the title garnered this year – I absolutely expected at minimum a 50% better performance, and probably a doubling.

To move towards wrapping this up, we have our obligatory things-that-are-not-comics on the list, with the we-see-it-every-year Bloody Crown of Conan which, hey, they sell 5380 copies of – there’s an increase from 2006! There’s also 7157 copies of the prose novel Baltimore, 6782 copies of the Secrets of Spider-Man Revealed, and 6261 copies of the Webster’s New World Children’s Dictionary. Well, I guess it does have words and pictures!

Only seven “everything else” books sold under 5k copies. Ten sold over 20k.

And that’s pretty much what BookScan in 2007 looks like to these eyes.

*          *          *

So, how does the DM compare to any of this? Well, that’s the million dollar question, and mostly the answer is the usual “dunno, we’re comparing apples to oranges”. Again, DM sales reports are focused on sell-in, while BookScan reports sell-through. DM sales reports only include Diamond, which, while largely accurate for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and Image, potentially are just a fraction of sales for publishers like Fantagraphics or Drawn & Quarterly. Further, Diamond’s reports don’t actually list sales figures, it lists an “order index” where sales are compared to that month’s issue of Batman (the periodical). ICv2 appears very confident that its numbers are accurate, but virtually every publisher tells me they’re off by some factor.

To confuse things more, Diamond doesn’t even provide “order index” figures for their year-end reports. Just a straight list with no numbers attached. Diamond’s year-end reports are available here on Newsarama. Follow these links for 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and, our subject this time, 2007. Another problem is that Diamond’s lists are relatively short – only the Top 100 for both comics and books. That’s not really enough to judge a 750-item-strong list against.

Still, there’s a certain amount of figuring it out that can be done. It is possible to sum up ICv2’s reports and try to draw certain conclusions from there. For example (and I want to give a special thanks to John Mayo for doing the heavy lifting for me this year and giving me a single excel file with all of the ICv2 data within it!), let’s play this thought experiment: not a single one of the December 2007 book release’s show on the end of the year Top 100. The highest charting 12/07 book is Chronicles of Wormwood: The Last Enemy which ICv2 calculates as selling 6023 copies. Therefore, the bottom of the year-end chart can’t possibly be less than 6024 copies, right?

(Actually, I’d be more sure of that as a definite conclusion if I hadn’t noticed that Marvel’s Anita Blake Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures HC, which was released in July of 2007, and sold at least 13,506 copies cumulatively, charting in four different months [July, August, October, and December], but doesn’t appear on the end-of-the-year Top 100 at all. My guess in that case is that Diamond didn’t add the 1st and 2nd printings together, but who can be certain?)

The 100th best-selling title on the year-end chart is Star Wars Clone Wars Adventures v8. It was released in June, and charts only in June, for 6579 copies. Therefore, chart position #100 can’t possibly be less than 6579 copies, and that assumes that SWCWA v8 sold zero copies the rest of the year – an unlikely scenario.

My guess is that chart position #100 is at least 7000 copies, and probably a whole lot closer to 8000 copies, but there’s no way that that can be proven with the ICv2 data.

How about the Top of the Chart? Well, the #1 book for 2007 in the Direct Market is Civil War. Civil War was released in April, and charts each and every month, for a reported sum of 46,322 copies. Since it charts every month, without any gaps, that probably represents most of its sales.

The #2 book is the Marvel Zombies HC. It was available all twelve months of the year (barring any gaps between the multiple printings, and figuring out that information is very much less than transparent), and it appears on the charts in eight of the twelve reporting months (skipping March, April, June, and November) for a sum of 27,445 copies. It might be a little higher than that with some amount of copies selling below chart threshold in the missing months; But it would have been a ton higher, I think, had there not been 6-week-ish stock outages throughout the year.

#3 is the Heroes HC (27,229), and #4 is Watchmen (26,112), both of which charted during their entire release (2 months for Heroes, and twelve of twelve for Watchmen), so those are probably reasonably accurate.

#5 is Frank Miller’s 300, which we can calculate to at least 22,567, appearing on five of the twelve months it could have in the year, but it has to be low because book #6, Walking Dead v6, shows up on seven of the eight charts it is available for, and sums up to 24,666 in those listings. Thus 300 almost certainly sold over 25k copies in the DM.

It is mathematically possible (if statistically unlikely) that a book could have sold a total of 13,901 copies – that’s the sum of the twelve months of position #100 on the chart throughout 2007, minus twelve copies. But that can help show you how barely semi-useful Diamond’s monthly Top 100 TPs chart is to determine the total number of books they might be selling.

In fact, this year there are an astonishing sixteen books on Diamond’s year-end Top 100 that did not appear on any of the twelve monthly Top 100 charts! The first place we can see this is item #39, Kingdom Come, which never appeared once on the Top 100s throughout the year, but it couldn’t possibly have sold less than 10,866 copies, since #40, Marvel Encyclopedia v3: Spider-Man sold that many during the three months it was on sale.

In my heart, I’m convinced that either ICv2’s analysis (and CBG’s for that matter) has some math error (perhaps from the small percentage-of-Batman that Diamond uses as their base figure), or that Diamond’s year end Top 100 measures things somewhat differently than the month-to-month ones do. I can’t prove it, however, because the data set we have is too small. I really wish Diamond would start releasing the TP data out to 200 places rather than just 100.

Eight of the year-end Top 100 are manga. 42 of them are from DC, 32 from Marvel. Again, this doesn’t mean very much with only a snapshot of 100 books, but there you are. Perhaps more intriguingly, only 44 of the Top 100 are corporately-owned superhero comics.

The big winner for the year, is pretty obviously Civil War. Not just from taking the #1 position, but also in getting a total of 15 Civil War-related TPs in the Top 100 year-end.

Y, the Last Man places all nine volumes on the chart, Fables places eight of its nine volumes (as well as Jack of Fables), and all seven Walking Dead volumes make the list.

One other thing we can’t really gauge the impact of because the charts don’t extend far enough is how much “Direct Market” business is actually flowing to other channels, because of either price or availability issues. On the latter, Diamond is really quite spotty when it comes to having stock-on-hand for non-brokered publishers. Even on obvious sales no-brainers like a Naruto (for which pricing is much better buying as a DM store from Diamond), there are many weeks of the year where we’re forced to go to Cold Cut or Baker & Taylor because Diamond just doesn’t have the stock.

Then there’s the other-hand of things – the Pantheon’s, the Ballentine’s, the Drawn & Quarterly’s – where the pricing from Anyone But Diamond is so much better you’d be a chump to buy them via DCD.

In previous years, I’ve asked Diamond for a set of Metrics to get a sense of the size and shape of the industry. And, although they’ve always been willing to give it, I could tell it was grudgingly. Therefore, this year, I’ve decided to forgo asking them in the first place. I think things like “numbers of comic shops” and “number of stores selling backlist” are very important things to know, but I’m not going to pester them for them any longer.

Historically, however, the # of stores has hovered around 3200, while the # stocking backlist has been growing to around 2800.

One of the final data points it might be worth talking about it the rate of growth. The Direct Market is a very “mature” market, with a well-defined set of primary customers, and an average age-of-store probably being well past a dozen years. DM stores were not only early adopters of the graphic novel, but the single largest proponent of same, so it would be perfectly normal if we lagged behind other markets that were just emerging. As noted above, overall growth in the Bookstores, as measured by BookScan figures, is about 2% growth. The Direct Market? Looking at the book category, the DM is at about 18% growth.

And, as noted above, we’re virtually always selling more copies of “Western” comics, often by factors of 3 to 5 times larger, with well below half of the number of venues that report to BookScan.

So, yeah, I continue to be bullish on the Direct Market. The stats show, despite an enormous amount of competition, we’re growing faster than they are, and sell the majority of western-created comics, with only a handful of exceptions. When you add to it the robust periodical market, its pretty hard to be anything other than optimistic, I think, about the Direct Market.

That’s what 2007 looked like to me. What do you think?

 

**************************

Brian Hibbs has owned and operated Comix Experience in San Francisco since 1989. Feel free to e-mail him with any comments. You can purchase a collection of the first one hundred Tilting at Windmills (originally serialized in Comics Retailer magazine) from IDW Publishing. An index of Tilting at Windmills on Newsarama can be found right here.