Sales Analysis: October 2013 the biggest month in 16 years

by John Jackson Miller

[Reprinted with permission from Comichron]

Walking Dead 115 Sales Analysis: October 2013 the biggest month in 16 yearsThe comics industry’s momentum showed few signs of dissipating in October, as Direct Market shops in North America ordered more than $50 million worth of comic books and graphic novels for the first time in the 16 years that Diamond Comic Distributors has been the exclusive sales agent for all the major publishers. Click to see the comics sales estimates for October 2013.

Walking Dead #115 from Image edged out February’s Justice League of America #1 for the most copies sold in a single month, approximately 310,600 to 307,800. The DC issue continues to be the front-runner for best-selling issue of the year, however, given its reorder activity in later months (which has added at least 20,000 copies to its total). We’ll have a cleaner comparison at the end of the year. (See the full list of Top Sellers by Month.)

Both Walking Dead #115 and Justice League of America #1 will wind up in the list of 10 most ordered comic books of the 21st Century when the list is updated at the end of the year; it’s an open question how high on that list they’ll go.

For the second month running, Diamond expanded the comics list to report the Top 400 (actually, the Top 399) rather than the Top 300; those entries, along with various items after 400th place from Diamond’s Small Publisher list, appear on the Comichron sales estimates page for the month. However, we’ll continue to use the Top 300 as the cross-time grouping for comparison (at least until there are a few more years of Top 400 data to enable comparisons).

This month does complete five full years of Top 300 graphic novel lists, which expanded from the Top 100 in November 2008. Next month we’ll begin using the Top 300 for five-year comparisons.

 Records set: The Diamond Exclusive Era began in full in April 1997, when Diamond became the exclusive distributor for all major publishers. The complete list of sales records for the era can be found here, and this month saw the following new records set for the era:

• Highest dollar volume for retailer orders of comics, graphic novels, and magazines (unadjusted for inflation): $50.32 million

• Highest sales in a five-week month for the 300th-place comic book: Lord of Mars #3 from Dynamic Forces, with orders of6,491 copies. See the complete list of 300th-place issuesacross time.

• Highest average weighted price comics ordered in the Top 300 (basically, dollars divided by units): $3.73. DC’s Batman #24, priced at $6.99, was the second-most-ordered comic book of the month, acting to skew the figure upward a great deal. (The average price in the Top 25 went over $4 for the first time, in part due to its appearance in the list.)

This is also the first month since at least the mid-1990s when the top five publishers (here, Dark Horse, DC, IDW, Image, and Marvel) all had orders for their entries in the Top 300 comics topping $1 million. The top four last had orders topping that sum in October 2000.

The aggregate sales:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES

October 20137.76 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: +5%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +3%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +5%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +10%
YEAR TO DATE: 71.29 million copies, +8% vs. 2012, +5% vs. 2008, +18% vs. 2003, +1% vs. 1998

ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
October 2013 versus one year ago this month: +8.69%
YEAR TO DATE: +9.46%

TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES

October 2013: $28.95 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +7%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +16%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +35%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +55%
YEAR TO DATE: $259.47 million, +11% vs. 2012, +19% vs. 2008, +51% vs. 2003, +48% vs. 1998

ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
October 2013 versus one year ago this month: +11.9%
YEAR TO DATE: +12.42%

TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES

October 2013: $8.34 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -3%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: -16%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 50 vs. the Top 50: +25%
Versus 15 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +79%
YEAR TO DATE: $76.03 million, +7% vs. 2012

ALL TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
October 2013 versus one year ago this month: -4.65%
YEAR TO DATE: +4.69%

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES

October 2013: $37.28 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +5%
Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +10%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 50 TPBs: +30%
Versus 15 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +68%
YEAR TO DATE: $335.19 million, +10% vs. 2012

ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
October 2013 versus one year ago this month: +6.36%
YEAR TO DATE: +9.95%

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

October 2013: approximately $50.32 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: +6%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +20%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +62%
YEAR TO DATE: $433.2 million, +10% vs. 2012

RELEASES
New comic books released: 515
New graphic novels released: 342
New magazines released: 38 
All new releases: 895

COVER PRICES
The average comic book in the Top 300 cost $3.64; the average comic book retailers ordered cost $3.73. The median and most common price for comics offered was $3.99. Click to see comics prices across time.

Notable in the unit sales data, we see that October’s Top 300 comics unit orders for each of the comparison years is in the same range, 7 to 8 million copies:

October 2013: 7.76 million copies
October 2012: 7.38 million copies
October 2008: 7.53 million copies
October 2003: 7.4 million copies
October 1998: 7.06 million copies

It’s a remarkably narrow range, seemingly very steady — and yet, it does not reflect a lack of overall industry growth: quite the contrary, as trade paperback sales exploded over the years since 1998, and an increasing amount of new comics volume can be found outside the top 300, as well (necessitating the move to publishing the Top 400, I suspect). The greatest factor affecting unit sales volume over the years has historically been the number of comics shops — each additional set of new racking spaces tends to boost the number of comics ordered a lot faster than organic growth within a single shop — and as the number of comics shops hasn’t fluctuated too wildly in one direction or the other in these years, that may be serving to fix the range to a degree.

With October sales this strong, odds are good for the year-over-year growth to hold up through November and December. Last November and December’s combined orders were $80.6 million: two flat months would finish off 2013 at $514 million, up 8%. Two months at October’s 6% growth level would end the year at $519 million, while two months at 2013’s 10% growth pace would end the year at $522 million. That’s the likely range, then somewhere around $519 million for the year, an increase of $45 million over 2012. The “gravy day” for the industry — on which we move ahead of 2012’s total sales — should be right at Thanksgiving, no pun intended.

Comments

  1. MBunge says:

    I’m not a huge fan of a lot of the top selling stuff in the DM now, except for Walking Dead, but it’s great somebody likes it.

    Mike

  2. RAGGEDT says:

    Irony: DC and Marvel are constantly rebooting titles — supposedly so readers don’t get “confused” by joining a book with a lengthy history, right? So, it’s rather hilarious that the best-selling book of the month comes in with an issue number of…#115!

  3. Mikael says:

    Irony: When the “best-selling book of the month” resorts to having 15 variant covers to win that claim. It’s rather hilarious that it’s no better than DC or Marvel in having to resort to gimmicks to win the lot.

  4. But… what about all those Internet comments about “comics are dying”…? Haha!

  5. Torsten Adair says:

    I’m still sticking to my prediction that 2013, specifically October, will be a watershed year, in much the same way 1986 was.

    Mainstreaming of the medium.
    A new distribution model.
    Acceptance by gatekeepers.
    Influx from other markets, influx of new talent.

    Why October? Walking Dead. NYCC, PBS, Fall/Holiday book lists, TV & Movies

  6. This is shaking out just like my 90s experience with comics. I got out for several years back then, things were booming.

    Same now. I haven’t darkened the doorway of my LCS for going on a couple years now and I don’t really follow any comics in periodical anymore.

    And things are booming! Looks like I just have to be driven out and comicbooks rule the day. Ah well, I’m happy for somebody.

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