You’ll recall last week we told about how Challengers Comics + Conversation in Chicago didn’t have the greatest 2017 on record and was down $21K in Marvel single issue sales?
Well, they got a lot of attention. And they got a lot of people asking them questions and giving them advice on how to fix their problems. Not all of it helpful and some of it a bit aggressive. They seem a little surprised and perhaps occasionally even taken aback by the attention.
Since Pat and Dal do have day jobs (i.e. running a store), they decided to answer as many questions as possible about their 2017 sales on their Contest of Challengers podcast, which you can listen to here.
A few relevant highlights:
Regarding the drop in tpb sales
- 2/3 of their drop in tpb/graphic novels sales were from DC. They’re not entirely sure exactly what constituted that drop as they didn’t really sell all that many New 52 collections. Possibly its a sign of the continuing decline of Vertigo, but that’s just their best guess.
- Image tpbs were actually down less than 10% when they looked closer, which they mostly attributed to Image not having that many many new series that really popped for them.
- Marvel tpbs were down a little, but not that much.
The distribution of the their tpb/graphic novel sales was:
Dark Horse – 5%
DC – 19%
IDW – 3%
Image – 19%
Marvel – 20%
Sidekicks (all their YA titles, which are in a separate showroom) – 11%
All other publishers – 20%
Uncategorized – 2%
Regarding that $21K drop in Marvel single issues
Marvel was down roughly 23% overall. The larger problem being that Marvel has a halo effect and when people stop buying Marvel a certain number of people will just stop coming to the shop altogether, so sales on Batman and Saga could also take a hit.
The Publisher Problem nobody wants to talk about
They make a very good point about something very few people are willing to go on record about: that DC and Marvel aren’t good a pitching comics to an audience outside the “Wednesday Warrior” crowd and some of the titles they’ve been launching really aren’t intended for the traditional Wednesday crowd, despite the fact the titles are promoted as though they were. Examples being Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl and the Young Animal line. There _is_ an audience for the books, but the publishers aren’t necessarily good at getting that audience aware of the material and guiding them to the Direct Market. (It sounds like Challengers does well with some of those titles anyway.) Conversely, the Super Hero Girls line, which debuted from a different wing of Warner, has all kinds of brand awareness and parents (and kids) coming in looking for more of it.
How diverse is their product line?
In 2017, Challengers stocked products from 113 different vendors/distributors/creators. So not just Diamond.
What happened to their pull box customers?
They also noted the disturbing figure that 94 of their pull box subscribers (31%) did not visit the store in December. Which is a pretty high percentage not to pick up their comics for an entire month.
The intent of the 2017 sales conversation, and Challengers releases their top 100 sales lists every year, is to foster discussion about industry trends in hopes that some of the negative trends can get fixed. The conversation is continuing.
Want to learn more about how comics publishing and digital comics work? Try Todd’s book, Economics of Digital Comics