Are Comic Sales Better than They Look?
Top 300 vs. All Titles
Published: 11/09/2010 12:00am
We took a look at comic sales numbers to see if analysis based on sales of the Top 300 comics and graphic novels has been overstating recent declines (see “It’s Official: Q3 Comic Sales Sucked”). Declines would be overstated if sales of comics and graphic novels that fall below the Top 300 lists are changing at a different rate from those in the Top 300 lists, and if the dollars are significant enough to move the dial.
The basic question: are sales below the Top 300 strengthening, leading us to think things were worse than they are when we look only at the Top 300? (All of our analyses to answer that question, below, use only dollars, not units, for obvious reasons).
The good news is that Diamond Comic Distributors has begun offering more visibility into comic and graphic novel sell-ins in the direct market by releasing year over year percentage change numbers for all comic and graphic novel titles (see “Graphic Novels Up in October”). This is a more complete number than the percentage change figures ICv2 uses, because our numbers have been based only on the Top 300 titles.
A Diamond spokesperson told ICv2, “Since many items of both quantity and sales dollar are going outside the Top 300, we wanted to provide better insight into the market.”
Here’s a chart comparing the year over year rates of change in sales of comics and graphic novels (and the combined total) as calculated based on all titles (from Diamond) and based on the Top 300 (from ICv2).
For 2010 year to date, looking at all titles produces a year to date decline in sales about .4% worse than just looking at the Top 300 titles. Sales on comic titles below the Top 300 are declining faster than sales on comic titles in the Top 300, while sales on graphic novel titles below the Top 300 are declining more slowly than sales on graphic novel titles in the Top 300 (at under a percentage point of difference in each case). Looking just at October, the differences by category are greater, but the over-all difference is also under 1%.
Our conclusion? Sales below the Top 300 may be growing in importance, but when we look at a fairly long period (10 months) either they aren’t big enough in the aggregate to make much difference, or their sales are changing at about the same rate as the Top 300’s. If anything, looking at year to date numbers, sales on titles below the Top 300 are shrinking faster than sales in the Top 300, at least in periodical comics.
Regardless, it’s the over-all trends that are important, and we’re pleased that Diamond is providing additional transparency that allows for a more accurate understanding of the comic store market.
One other question that’s been raised is whether sales on comics by publishers other than the Big Two (Marvel and DC) are accounting for a larger share of the market recently, making the declines in sales at the top of the chart less important. We took a look at market shares in the third quarter in 2010 compared to 2007 (as reported by Diamond Comic Distributors), and found almost no change. The average share of the Big Two in Q3 2010 was 71%; the average share of the Big Two in Q3 2007 was 72%.
Getting back to the present, October was a bright spot regardless of which way you look at it, and that’s good news. Here’s hoping for a better holiday season in comic stores!
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