Comics sales droop in January

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January was the cruelest month for comics sales, as the ICv2 headline starkly puts it: Only One Comic Above 100K. The one book was Batman #27 which sold 115,492 copies, according to ICv2. The site noes, perhaps ominously, that the last time we had a month with only one book over 100K copies was August 2011, the month before the New 52 launch, and the book was Justice League #1. Periodical comics sales were flat, down 42%, while graphic novels sales were way down with a 14.28% decline, and backlist dominating the list.

While this is troubling, I wouldn’t necessarily say doom is at hand. January is always a slow month, and we’re still above where we were pre-New 52.
 
More links:
Top 300 Graphic Novels Actual–January 2014
Top 300 Comic Books Actual–January 2014

And here’s John Jackson Miller on the month, reprinted with permission:

The first comics sales reports for the year have been released by Diamond Comic Distributors, and 2014 is off to a slow start, relative to some recent big Januaries. Click to see comics sales estimates for January 2014.

The top seller for the month, Batman #27, sold fewer copies than any monthly top-seller since May 2011, before the DC relaunch. But while the second-place title, Detective Comics#27 (boy, that issue sounds familiar) sold more than 87,000 copies to Batman’s more than 115,000, it cost twice as much, and thus was by far the biggest comic book in dollar terms in the month.

Comics shops sold nearly $39 million worth of comic books and graphic novels in January, off 5% from last January. Comic book dollar orders were essentially unchanged, but the graphic novel category dropped against difficult competition from the previous year.

RECORDS: Thanks in part to the impact of Detective #27, the average price of all comics retailers ordered within the Top 300 was $3.77, the highest ever. It beat out the $3.73 mark set in October and November. Click to see more Diamond Exclusive Era records.

Comments

  1. Higher prices and lower circulation sounds like a pretty winning strategy.

  2. Johnny Memeonic says:

    Comic sales have been dropping very badly over time if you take a long view instead of just looking back a couple years to the New 52 bump and then pretending everything’s turned around.

    Revenue loss over the years has been covered up by price gouging the 100k or so fans who are guaranteed to buy every week at almost any price. Lower sales and lower revenue for the vast majority of books outside the top 50 or so is directly responsible for the rates in the industry being so low.

    I expect the industry to eventually move all digital as a last ditch cost cutting measure, either once digital becomes a certain percentage of print sales or when revenue declines to a certain point where print can no longer be afforded. Whichever comes first.

  3. Doctor Comix says:

    Floppy sales are not all comics sales anymore. I don’t buy floppies anymore- if I’m interested in a title I check it out on Comixology. Can’t imagine I’m alone. Considering that eBooks are where most of the action is in book publishing, why assume it’s any different in comics? No fuss, no muss, no long trips to the comics store on cold winter nights.

    Though let’s not pretend this isn’t a particularly uninspiring period, content-wise. The same-old same-old ain’t gonna cut it any more.

  4. Dan Ahn says:

    “The top seller for the month, Batman #27, sold fewer copies than any monthly top-seller since May 2011″

    Damn! Issue 27 sold less than 26, too! Sure hope Snyder has another gimmick crossover waiting in the wings.

    Oh, of course he does.

    And this month Marvel has a bunch of “.NOW” comics with #1s on the cover even though they aren’t actually #1 issues.

    Winning strategies, guys, keep ‘em comin’!

  5. It isn’t surprising that they’ve continued to drop in sales, the industry isn’t in a great position when everything is taking place online and media in general is a lot more varied and rich, in that comics have taken a more and more niche position, mainly now collectors rather than general people seeking out imaginative work. E-books are where the industry needs to continue to move to.

  6. Foolish says:

    The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

  7. The article could easily have been titled “Number of comics published droops in January.”

    In addition to weather-related problems that might have affected sales, January was just a weak publishing month. Despite having 5 Wednesdays, it just felt like all the publishers were waiting for permission to put out new comics to sell. New Graphic novels/TP/HC collections felt like about half of a normal month’s worth.

    Our store ended the month down 13% from 2012, although January 2012 was +30% over 2011, so it wasn’t all bad.

  8. In regular prose printing (where ebooks are, arguably, a better format), ebook sales have started to flatten out — http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/08/08/e-book-sales-are-leveling-off-heres-why/ — so I’m not certain that saying “it’s the future, deal with it!” is all that accurate.

    In my individual store, January was up by double digits, so there’s that, too.

    -B

  9. Doctor Comix says:

    I don’t think anything is going to replace anything- I think you’re going to see a situation with a number of options for consumers. Nothing will replace a good comics store.

  10. Yeah, e-books and e-comics are very convenient in many ways, but does not come close to the pure physicality of an actual book or floppy.

    Virtual items just feel to ephemeral sometimes.

  11. Johnny Memeonic says:

    In regular prose printing (where ebooks are, arguably, a better format), ebook sales have started to flatten out — http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/08/08/e-book-sales-are-leveling-off-heres-why/ — so I’m not certain that saying “it’s the future, deal with it!” is all that accurate.

    This article is just a provocative headline with no real substance. It’s the e-publishing equivalent of when the games press runs dire future articles every time the rate of sales of a game console goes down.

    Eventually everyone who’s gonna buy the thing buys it due to a combination of interest and economics. For videogames that’s the console or PC and for e-publishing that would be tablet computers or dedicated e-readers.

  12. I’ve seen a few people now cite the horrid January weather as a reason for these numbers being low. Does that make any sense at all given they represent pre-orders made in October-ish? Feasible to argue the weather kept some books from being shipped and they’ll show up in the February numbers?

    Honestly asking because I’m curious. Figured somebody here would know.

  13. @Rich,
    If customer traffic is low then many items that would have otherwise gotten reorders due to sellouts don’t get reordered. Many comic shops order new releases based on the ability to get Just In Time restocks.

  14. Thanks, Brian J.

  15. Nicholas Winter says:

    According to Publishers Weeky, ebooks were fourteen percent of total book revenues generated in 2012. As units sold, they were nearly thirty percent of units sold. They actually dropped again as percentage of total revenues as Borders keeps lowering their per unit price!

    Printed books are doing very well, thank you.

  16. George St. Louis says:

    I stopped buying floppies after I got my subscription to Marvel Unlimited…and I don’t want to sound like I’m plugging it, but it’s the best 70.00 I’ve ever spent. I was big into the Nu52, but dropped most titles after about a year-but if DC ever did anything like Marvel’s U, I’d buy that.
    I do faithfully buy floppies and trades of SAGA, though.

  17. Nathan says:

    Comic books just cost too much money these days and for the amount of content you get its ridiculous. So I expect companies like DC to just keep pushing out as many titles as they possibly can before they realize that due to fewer people buying their titles they will have to eventually stop publishing as many titles as they do currently.

  18. rob e says:

    Yeah, e-books and e-comics are very convenient in many ways, but does not come close to the pure physicality of an actual book or floppy.
    ————————————————————————————————-

    Thank you. NOTHING beats holding the physical comic book (or for that matter, magazine, book, ect.) in your hands while reading them. If others like reading comics online, more power to them, I’ll stay with the floppies, thanks.

  19. Snikt Snakt says:

    “Thank you. NOTHING beats holding the physical comic book (or for that matter, magazine, book, ect.) in your hands while reading them. If others like reading comics online, more power to them, I’ll stay with the floppies, thanks.”

    Nothing also beats, having to deal with boxes and boxes of worthless comics you’ll probably never re-read and aren’t worth a fraction of the amount what you paid for them anyway…

  20. Skottie says:

    “NOTHING beats holding the physical comic book (or for that matter, magazine, book, ect.) in your hands while reading them. ”

    Not paying $4 for each one and not having to store it somewhere beats that (or having a well-stocked library nearby, I suppose).

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