It’s time to take a look at the sales distribution charts of Image and the other independent publishers for January.

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 919 copies ordered, so this is probably a fairly complete list compared to the old top 300.

The sheer volume of Image issues ordered into the market below 10K copies really messes with the scale of this chart, doesn’t it?

54 issues selling under 10K each, 7 issues selling between 10K-19K, Paper Girls at ~22.3K and a big month for Walking Dead at ~82.4K.

Yes, mighty Kirkman’s definition of a big month is just a wee bit different then everyone else in independent comics.

As bears repeated each month, Image encourages titles to take months off around the collected editions, so there will always be a few things missing each month, and not necessarily because the creators have been spending too much time playing video games.  Notably, we don’t have Saga hanging out somewhere in the 40Ks or 50Ks.  It seems like there’s a little bit of downward drifting with the Image titles the last few months, but they’re the only publisher outside of DC and Marvel that’s selling anything into the Direct Market at over 20K.

But when you look at the size of the lowest sales band, or go in and count out 28 different titles ordered in below 5000 copies, you get a feel for why the retailers complaining about too many low selling Image titles.  It really is striking.

Stepping back and looking at the rest of the indies, there aren’t as many publishers hitting over the 10K barrier this month.  Let’s visualize this a couple different ways for your convenience:

No one broke the 20K barrier.

Dynamite had the top selling non-Image independent book with Shadow/Batman #4 at ~18.2K.  IDW had 5 Star Wars Adventures Forces of Destiny issues to help them to 7 comics in the 10K-19K band.  And look who else snuck in.  Terry Moore’s Abstract Studio hits ~10.3K for the opening issue of Strangers in Paradise XXV.  As independent as independent can get.  Also the bestselling creator-owned book outside Image, depending on how you count the sort of licensed to its creator TMNT at ~11.9K.

How does it look when we merge those charts?

Again, the sheer magnitude of Images under 10K list make this a little hard to read, but you can see IDW is the only one that’s really holding a candle to Image in January… if you ignore Walking Dead.

Want to learn more about how comics publishing and digital comics work?  Try Todd’s book, Economics of Digital Comics