Comichron: Image has its best month since 2000

Image Comics logo Comichron: Image has its best month since 2000 by John Jackson Miller

Comics sales months in the mirror may be smaller than they appear. That’s one of the lessons of the data released today byDiamond Comic Distributors about comics sales in March 2014, as analyzed by Comichron. Click to see the comics sales estimates for March 2014.

March’s sales to comics shops overall only represented a slight cooldown from March a year ago — and as reported here on Friday, the big action was in the graphic novel sector. Walking Dead Vol. 20 led the graphic novel charts — and with Saga Vol. 3 and an expensive Stray Bullets volume in the Top 10, Image posted its highest market share since November 2000, with an 11.38% dollar share. (November 2000‘s mark was 12.54%.) But while March 2013’s numbers posed a difficult comparative to beat — I called it a “blockbuster for this time of year” — going inside the numbers shows that last year’s totals were a bit of a mirage.

The Top 300 graphic novels this March, for example, were actually down 4% versus March 2013—even though the graphic novel category overall last month was up 18.31%. Why such a discrepancy? Because as Comichron noted at the time, March 2013’s graphic novel charts were artificially inflated by Marvel’s deep-discounting of several million dollars’ worth of hardcovers. So March 2013’s Top 300 graphic novels had a total retail value of $8.97 million versus $8.65 million this March —but the publishers and Diamond realized far less money from them.

The overall graphic novel percentage changes that Diamond reports, meanwhile, are calculated based on wholesale value — how much money retailers paid — and there, it’s clear that while more dollars worth of material moved through the system in March 2013, discounts weren’t as deep on what Diamond sold this year, and it and publishers realized more from the sales.

If we take the analysis down to units, we see that this March’s 300th-place graphic novel sold 490 copies, whereas last March’s book in that spot sold only 413. So we’re really looking at a comparison with a March 2013 chart that was seriously distorted by a lot of high-dollar value books sold at very high discounts.

The 300th-place comic book sold 4,940 copies this March versus 4,077 last March — almost exactly ten times the number of graphic novels sold in that spot in each month we’re comparing.

Meanwhile, on the five-year comparison tracks, we’re finally comparing against recessionary months in the Direct Market — the boost lent by the Obama Spider-Man issue in January and February 2009 was no longer in the picture. The market may have sold a million fewer comics in the Top 300 in March 2014 versus March 2013, but it sold a million more than in March 2009.

The aggregate change figures:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES

March 20146.22 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: -14%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +17%
Versus 10 years ago this month: -2%
Versus 15 years ago this month: -4%
YEAR TO DATE: 20.93 million copies, -13% vs. 2013, +10% vs. 2009, +8% vs. 2004, -1% vs. 1999

ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
March 2014 versus one year ago this month: -11.83%
YEAR TO DATE: -11.40%

TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES

March 2014: $22.98 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -11%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +29%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +23%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +42%
YEAR TO DATE: $68 million, -10% vs. 2013, +21% vs. 2009, +41% vs. 2004, +44% vs. 1999

ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
March 2014 versus one year ago this month: -9.47%
YEAR TO DATE: -6.89%

TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES

March 2014: $8.65 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -4%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -26%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +1
Versus 15 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +51
YEAR TO DATE: $20.63 million, -9% vs. 2013

ALL TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
March 2014 versus one year ago this month: +18.31%
YEAR TO DATE: +1.39%

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES

March 2014: $31.64 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -9%
Versus 5 years ago this months: +13%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +15%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +56%
YEAR TO DATE: $88.64 million, -10% vs. 2013

ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
March 2014 versus one year ago this month: -1.48%
YEAR TO DATE: -4.4%

OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)

March 2014: approximately $40.73 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: -1%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +31%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +36%
YEAR TO DATE: $116.59 million, -4% vs. 2013
The average comic book in the Top 300 cost $3.64; the average comic book retailers ordered cost $3.70. The median price for comics offered was $3.99, and the most common price for comics offered was also $3.99. Click to see comics prices across time.

So the market ends the quarter about $5 million off the pace of 2013, a not-unexpected place for it to be given the winter weather, the lack of major event titles, and the degree to which 2013’s volume was impacted by heavy discounting.

A reminder: Free Comic Book Day is May 3. And check the Comic Shop Locator Service to find a comic shop near you.   

Comments

  1. Great news!

  2. It’s amazing how graphic novels and collections have turned the corner. Not just in the height of sales, but in the continued longevity of sales data. I’m old enough to remember with the graphic novels were a footnote to the comic sales data back in the days of the Comic’s Buyer’s Guide.

  3. And to think, all Image had to do to get back to their old market position was evolve into a completely different company.

    To be fair, it should be noted that March 2014 also seemed to have a massive amount of deep discounting from Marvel, since I doubt retailers just spontaneously decided to order dozens of older Masterworks softcovers and other older books, some at levels higher than their original direct market orders. It didn’t inflate the market as much since these weren’t as expensive as the hardcovers offered for sale in other months. I do kind of wish Diamond had a separate chart for books offered at deep discounts, or at least marked them in some way, since they kind of clutter up the chart, and knock a few dozen other entries off the Top 300.

  4. Every month has some, but it didn’t have nearly the dollar impact on the bottom line, as you say. I honestly don’t know how they should deal with this situation: the percentage changes and market shares have always been based on wholesale dollars, to keep things fair for the publishers. But a list sorted by wholesale dollar earnings (which is possible, sorting by dollar rank) just isn’t as easy to comprehend.

  5. Looking again — yeah, there were 89 (!) Marvel hardcovers in the March 2013 top 300 list, versus something like nine this March. The difference at total retail was more than a million dollars.

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  1. […] are directed to John Jackson Miller’s excellent Comichron analysis, posted earlier this month right here at The Beat! All of the opinions expressed in this column are my own and do not reflect those of my employers, […]

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