February comics: The growing midlist

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201103081755 February comics: The growing midlist
Sales charts estimates for February were out today and the top seller, GREEN LANTERN, set a record for lowest total ever, writes John Jackson Miller. However, the titles lower on the charts showed STRONGER sales:

We can see the effects of a larger supply of new titles all over the list. Marvel and DC combined to place 19 more titles in the Top 300 in February. There were 130 titles selling more than 10,000 copies in January; that figure swelled to 173 in February. The 300th place title more than doubled in orders from January, rising to 2,860 copies. Trade paperback depth improved as well, up 1% year-over-year in just the Top 300 and 7% when the entire backlist was included. January does appear to be an outlier.



Although the month was up from January, which was an outlier, there were still some weaknesses:

On the other hand, as I warned last week, February also saw the record lowest number of copies ordered for a top-selling title. DC’s Green Lantern #62 had orders of just over 71,500 copies, more than 18,400 copies less than the previous record-holder — a record only two months old! For the first time, we probably cannot say that when all reorders and newsstand sales are added, the total will be above 100,000 — although we certainly would expect its eventual readership to go above that mark given reprint editions (to say nothing of digital).


ICv2″s analysis has similar themes.:

DC’s Green Lantern #62 topped ICv2’s chart of the Top 300 comics sold in February, but its total of 71, 517 was the lowest ever for #1 comic since ICv2 began keeping track of direct market sales back in 2001. Sales were hurt by a lack of major crossover events, and Batman Incorporated and Batman: The Dark Knight, two top Batman titles that didn’t ship in January either were also MIA in February. Sales of Green Lantern have been building nicely and recent issues have included preview stills from the Green Lantern movie starring Ryan Reynolds that debuts this summer.


And also notes the midlist growth:

Sales of those “long tail” titles below the Top 300 masked a weakness at the top of the list. Unit numbers at the top of both the periodical and graphic novel lists were some of the lowest since ICv2 has been tracking comic sales. The effect of the low sales numbers was overcome on the graphic novel side by the high cover prices of a number of the most popular titles including the #1 book, Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne ($29.99). Eleven of the top 25 graphic novels had cover prices of $20 or more, which certainly helped.


Our take? Things are not as bad as January indicated. but we are seeing new sales patterns and a new paradigm which has yet to be identified.

More:
Top 300 Comics Actual–February 2011
Top 300 Graphic Novels Actual–February 2011

And a warning, as Nick Spencer tweeted:

Never has ICV2 gotten a number more wrong than the Morning Glories trade. Way under, fellas. Way under.


Which is a good reminder for those looking at these charts — they indicate DEGREE and PLACEMENT, not absolutes. So please no “Ohmygod Twisted Tykes sold 299 copies!” type stuff.

Comments

  1. As I tweeted back to Nick, both mine and ICV2’s identical estimates are based on the indexed figure reported by Diamond: http://bit.ly/e3rUIg

    While there’s always the possibility something was wrong in the reporting, more often the disagreement stems from the fact that the numbers creators learn about are simply different than what Diamond is reporting here. This particular table only represents what Diamond shipped to North American comics shops in the calendar month; no bookstores, no Europe. It will always be a smaller figure than the overall.

  2. Lack of reorder activity really hurts the list, too. My average reorder is between 5-10% of our initial order, if not higher, especially on the lower end items.

  3. People are really going to have to get used to the fact that in some dead months without an event or new number 1 relaunch the top selling comic have a big number.

    I personally find it really interesting to look at last months list. Because for the first time in a long time we get a real look at how the montly comic books are doing. There are no events dominating the top 10, no new comic relaunch is stealing the top spot. Instead we have mostly monthly comics in the top 10 minus any big gimmicks and we are seeing how they are really selling.

    Of Course with Fear Itself, Flashpoint, etc. that won’t last too much longer but they are still interesting numbers none the less.

  4. Torsten Adair says:

    GN Top 300
    #1 Title
    Feb 10 Fables Crossover TP $213,937.08
    Feb 11 Return of Bruce Wayne HC $159,246.90

    Estimated Gross Top 300 Titles (# sold * price)
    Feb 10 $5,102,478.35
    Feb 11 $5,145,924.11

    0.85% increase?

    Marvel had fewer titles than DC, but had a bigger share.
    Both DC and Marvel had smaller grosses in Feb 2011 compared to Feb 2010.

    Naruto is #3!
    Watchmen sold 500 copies.

  5. Lack of events or “big” books do effect the chart, but even the top monthly sellers aren’t moving as many copies as they were in, say, 2008. NEW AVENGERS is barely hanging onto 60k sales; once upon a time it was the top selling ongoing title in the industry and could average over 75-80k regardless of events. We used to have more books selling 90k, 80k, etc. Now we have exactly 2 titles selling over 70k, barring any death bag issues, and only 6 titles selling over 60k. A book can sell less than 45k and be a Top 25 seller. A book that sold over 30k can be a Top 50 seller. These are not numbers we saw until more lately in the decade.

    The midlist may be expanding, and I am wondering if sales expectations shouldn’t be compared to 2006 or so, but perhaps to 2002.

  6. Allen Rubinstein says:

    Green Lantern is the top selling comic? Seriously? Green Lantern? Where’s the freakin’ X-Men?

    I am so out of touch with the freaks in tights genre.

  7. errolmorris says:

    What we’re witnessing here is the rapid decline of the direct market. The point where comics distribution is not a profitable enterprise cannot be far off in the distance. When the distribution goes, so too does the direct market.

    Despite the protestations of well-known creators, comics is not an industry well-built to survive a recession (let alone a depression). The end would have come soon enough, anyways, regardless of the state of the economy.

    The publishing model used by Marvel, DC, and the other Diamond publishers is completely unsustainable in this day and age. And digital is not going to “save” anything, just ask the music industry.

    It’s amazing the superhero paradigm has lasted as long as it has, to be honest, but free online entertainment, video games, and social media leave little room for $3.99 floppies that provide six or seven minutes worth of entertainment.

    The wild west is here, folks. It’s up to you to promote your own ****, find your own distribution, and build your own audience.

    Comics will survive, but it’s sheer lunacy at this point to assume the direct market will as well.

  8. R. Maheras says:

    Methinks reports of the death of the comics industry are greatly exaggerated: http://blog.comichron.com/2011/03/difference-50-years-makes.html

  9. John G says:

    Methinks you might be into something there.

  10. John Jackson Miller’s right; the calculation of these estimates is simply a straightforward exercise of knowing one (or more) figures and working out the rest using the Index Point data. There isn’t much subjectivity involved.

    When creators claim that their comics actually sold more than the estimates – and it’s not a claim we seem to hear as much as we used to – there are logically only three possibilities for why that might be so:

    1. The creator’s figures include sales not counted towards the Diamond chart (of which there are plenty).

    2. Diamond made an error in compiling the index point data.

    3. ICV2 and Comichron have made a maths error in calculating their estimate.

    Option 3 can pretty much be ruled out when both sites, working independently, have come up with the same number. Option 2 is slightly more plausible; we don’t have an independent cross-check on Diamond’s figures (and from time to time Diamond have modified them, for example by docking sales on titles solicited as returnable). Option 1 merely requires crossed wires, and can usually be assumed to be the most probable explanation in any given case.

  11. I concur with John and Paul. (Also see files Wood v. Frisch 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and, possibly, 2010.)

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  13. Matthew Southworth says:

    Every time I skim past this headline, I’d swear it read

    THE GROWLING NUDIST

    which wouldn’t make a half-bad title.

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