Inside the November charts: Marvel's gymnastics, GN sales mystery

Justice League 3.jpg
The November chart analysis is up around the net and it was an interesting month. John Jackson Miller has an overall analysis and the GN sales have him scratching his head — they surged in November but it’s not clear why:

Led by the Batman: Noel Deluxe Edition hardcover and Dark Horse’s Hellboy: House of the Living Dead hardcover, trade paperback and graphic novel dollar orders in the Top 300 were the highest they’ve been in a year, at $7.16 million. That was almost identical to the Top 300 sales in November 2010, but the category as a whole, Diamond says, is up 12.43% for the month. This presents a conundrum, because we can’t easily attribute it to sales in the “long tail”: Diamond reports unit sales for the category overall also stayed about the same, and in fact the 300th place trade in November 2011 had fewer unit orders than a year before (358 copies versus 385). So there are two possibilities: either the “bubbling under” TPBs were priced significantly higher (with big-ticket hardcovers selling, but just not in numbers to make the Top 300), or there were significant promotions with deep-discounted trades which Diamond counted towards dollar market share but did not report in the unit sales rankings.


ICv2′s full suite of commentary is up. The main takeaway is that although Marvel closed the gap in November it was by laborious tacking and other all-out moves like shipping an equal number of free Point One’s to what retailers ordered, and more:


Marvel mounted something of a comeback in November with three number one titles that made the top ten, along with the second issue of Wolverine and the X-Men.  The numbers for Marvel’s top book, the $5.99 Point One were seriously inflated after Marvel shipped retailers 100% of their initial orders as free copies.  The new Spider-Man team-up book, The Avenging Spider-Man #1, which came in at #6, came polybagged with a digital code that could be used to redeem a digital copy of the book, and was aided by numerous variant covers.  Marvel’s revamped (and renumbered) Uncanny X-Men #1 also benefited from a number of cover variants.


ICv2 notes the sales strnegth of Lee Bermejo’s BATMAN; NOEL:

DC’s original hardcover Batman: Noel, which brought in more than twice as many dollars in sales than any other November GN release, helped revive the graphic novel category, which was up 12% for the month.  Written and drawn by Lee Bermejo, who illustrated the popular Joker hardcover that came out last year, Batman: Noel is a seasonal saga with potent sales prospects in both the direct and bookstore markets. 


More:
Dollar Trends.”

Top 300 Comics Actual–November 2011
Top 300 Graphic Novels Actual–November 2011
And here’s the top 20:

158,700     Justice League #3
150,984     Batman #3
134,875     Action Comics #3
122,644     Green Lantern #3
113,352     Point One #1
112,153     Avenging Spider-Man #1
109,911     Uncanny X-Men #1
100,077     Detective Comics #3
  90,417     Flash #3
  83,356     Wolverine & X-Men #2
  80,143     Incredible Hulk #2
  78,240     Batman: The Dark Knight #3
  77,747     Superman #3
  77,678     Batman & Robin #3
  73,809     Fantastic Four #600
  72,485     Uncanny X-Men #2
  65,621     Wonder Woman #3
  62,974     Batgirl #3
  62,223     Aquaman #3
  61,997     Batwoman #3
  60,758     Teen Titans #3
  60,562     Fear Itself #7.1
  59,774     Green Lantern New Guardians #3
  58,854     Green Lantern Corps #3
  58,006     Fear Itself #7.2

Comments

  1. Louis Lane says:

    Unfortunately, the failure of Marvel’s Six Guns and Legion of Monsters mini-series likely means were doomed to even more Avengers/X-Men/Spidey titles.

    LL

  2. John G says:

    Don’t worry, you don’t have to read them all.

    Feel free to get some DC and Independent books instead!

  3. “Unfortunately, the failure of Marvel’s Six Guns and Legion of Monsters mini-series likely means were doomed to even more Avengers/X-Men/Spidey titles.”

    Would you expect anything else for those titles? I’m a fan of both Western and horror books, and didn’t even realize they were released. It’s not like they’re being promoted well (if at all).

  4. Louis Lane says:

    >Feel free to get some DC and Independent books instead!

    I read numerous DC and Indie books, but I’d also like to read some B-List Marvel titles.

    >Would you expect anything else for those titles?

    No, in today’s market their failure is no surprise. However, I’d expect Marvel to feature these C-List characters as guest stars in a major title, then spin off a mini-series, but I guess that’s just me.

    LL

  5. Torsten Adair says:

    Wow. Eight titles above 100K !
    When was the last time that happened?

    Batman: Noel is currently #3 on the BN GN list, charting at #412 overall. #381 at Amazon. Very strong sales.

  6. briguyx says:

    About the graphic novel sales, can’t it be as simple as stores increasing their inventory for the holiday selling season? Plus there are stores that do sales to kick off the holiday season and might need to fill in empty spaces on their shelves afterward.

  7. Zoomy says:

    Marvel’s big new #1s could only sell 75% as many copies as DC’s big new #3s…

  8. It’s possible, Briguyx, but the reason it was worth mentioning is that the number of graphic novels units ordered did NOT go up over last year — just the dollar value did. There’s a 13 percentage point gap between GN unit sales and dollar sales. And since the Top 300 total dollars didn’t change either, it meant that the entire dollar increase had to come from the “long tail.” We don’t often see that, but it can happen.

    Looking at it further, I believe the gap could be accounted for by the long tail having more sales than usual, and that the copies purchased this month were significantly more expensive. There were 8% fewer copies sold of the Top 300 trades this November versus last November, but they cost 7% more on average — $21.87 versus $20.32. So there’s a larger portion of titles in the long tail than there usually is. If they’re also priced higher, that explains our gap.

    And in answer to Torsten’s question — the last time we had that many titles above 100,000 copies was in January 2008. There were nine that month, though one was a dollar book:

    http://www.comichron.com/monthlycomicssales/2008/2008-01.html

    There were only 26 titles in six figures in all of 2010, and that was only after all reorders were in.

  9. Spike says:

    It seems like they should subtract the free copies Marvel shipped from the numbers. Let the true order numbers be revealed. Or do we simply subtract half of those titles?

  10. I would expect that since Diamond uses the wholesale dollar figures to calculate market share, free copies would not have made any difference when figuring dollar market share. As for units, promotional-priced items like Free Comic Book Day books don’t always count toward unit shares; I’m not sure how it would work with something like this, though.

    That said, if the extra books aren’t returnable, the larger figure IS one we’d want to know, because it tells dealers and collectors how many copies are really in circulation and it may impact how retailers order related, later issues. It also changes the amount of merchandise that retailers received to sell at full retail; there’s an extra quarter-million dollars or whatever of inventory out there, if we’re looking at that.

    Yeah, it does make things more complicated for horse-race purposes — I guess the thing to remember is that distributor sales tables weren’t created with that in mind. They were created to help retailers recognize sales opportunities by seeing what other retailers nationwide were stocking. From that standpoint, it probably does make sense to let shop owners know how many copies are on the market and not coming back (as opposed to returnable books); but maybe this entry should appear with a double-asterisk to differentiate it for other purposes.

  11. We know that free copies do indeed get counted on Diamond’s charts because in the past there have been titles that were given free to retailers as part of a “Buy a copy of X get a copy of Y free” promotion that have charted.

    Look for Ultimate Fallout #1 to chart again for this month under one of those programs.

  12. Louis Lane says:

    >We know that free copies do indeed get counted

    Also, the (reported) sales of Marvel’s Crossgen titles imply “free” copies are included in the data.

    In addition to ULTIMATE FALLOUT, Marvel seems to be cleansing their warehouse of MARVEL POINT ONE by shipping even more free copies in December 2011.

    LL

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