Comics writer and armchair statistician John Jackson Miller was very, very excited by Diamond’s decision to release year-to-year comparisons for their sales charts. While such maths make us go catatonic, in a blog post, he explains that this missing info has enabled a much more accurate view of comics’ long tail — and it’s a healthy tail. In an email, he writes:
It looks like about 69% of comics-and-trade dollars this year are coming from comics; put another way, this year Diamond has grossed from comics 2.25 times what it’s grossed from trade paperbacks. Back when Diamond stopped running its sector market shares, in 2002, comics dollars outpaced trade dollars 3.5 to 1. A lot’s changed, but no parity yet.
From this calculation, we can estimate what was bubbling under. The roughly $35 million in Direct Market orders in October breaks down to about $24 million for comic books, and $11 million for trade paperbacks. That means that the “long tail” in comics amounts to between $3-4 million this month; applying the average weighted cover price, that’s close to a million more comic books falling outside the Top 300. That’s higher than even I would have expected, but remember that the table includes reorders, now, and so basically all of September’s and August’s Top 300 chart items are still there, selling copies, out of sight on the current month’s table. Historically, a rate of 8% is an often-cited figure for typical reorders; that, plus new comics not reaching the Top 300, could easily make up the unseen balance.
Unit sales are less useful with trades, but Diamond appears to have sold 12.4 times as many comic books in October as it sold trade paperbacks; this would be consistent with the revenue breakdowns, reflecting the fact that the average trade paperback costs four to five times what the average comic book does. It also suggests that Diamond moved about half a million trade paperbacks this month, nearly half the volume of which were outside the Top 300.
Much more of this sort of analysis in the link, and a topic sure to be explored even further down the road.
Miller also has his direct sales estimates for October up here. We’ll comb over it for signs of health and diversity over the next few days.