It came to be a truism in the early 2000s that any month in which graphic novel sales were leading the Direct Market was likely to have been a blah month overall. Nothing against graphic novels, which added an important and large new revenue stream; but the dollar volume for periodicals was so much higher that even a small dip in their sales was enough to cause a down month even when graphic novels were booming.
Not so this past month. Sales of graphic novels to North American comics retailers were up double digits percentagewise while comics were slightly off in November 2013, according to Comichron‘s estimates of data released today by Diamond Comic Distributors — but the net effect still kept the Direct Market in positive territory, up 3% over last November. Click to see estimated comics and graphic novel sales for November 2013.
What’s interesting — and what may be causing the difference this time — is which graphic novels were responsible for making up the difference. It was a big month for Walking Dead Vol. 19, with more than 25,000 copies sold — but the Top 300 Graphic Novels were only up 4%, while all of Diamond’s graphic novels were up nearly 15%. The reason is strength in the backlist: the 300th best-selling graphic novel last November had orders of 305 copies, whereas this November that same sales level on the charts was good for 386 copies.
Strength also came from beneath the bottom of the charts in comic books. The Top 300 (which Diamond returned to after a couple of months of sharing the Top 400) were off 6% in dollar terms, but all Diamond’s comics were off only 1%. Again, it’s what we can’t see that’s making the difference: the 300th place title this November sold more than 5,000 copies, versus 4,341 at the same level last November. (Click to see the 300th-place issues over time.)
DC’s Batman #25 took the top slot on the comics list, posting just over 125,600 first-month orders: that’s the smallest number of copies ordered for any #1 title since May 2011, before the DC relaunch began. Only six comic books topped 100,000 copies, versus ten last November. (Click to see the #1 issues across time.)
But while it may sound as though there are some discordant notes to the Direct Market’s recent growth symphony, it’s worth noting that November is always a difficult month to draw conclusions from. The mix of offerings is unique because of the holidays: Diamond shipped 109 fewer new comic books in November than in five-week October — but shipped 39 more new graphic novels. The problem is that Decembers have been erratic enough historically that this month may not provide much guidance as to future sales — and then we’re into the slow quarter as the market takes a breath before its next summer run.
Records set: The only record this month is the average weighted cover price of comics, which tied the $3.73 mark set in October. Average prices declined for a time after DC reduced prices to $2.99 in early 2011; those effects appear to be gone, with prices in the general market being back where they were.
Of interest on the market-share side, Marvel and DC’s combined dollar market share of 59.21% is the
first time it’s been under 60% since April 2003, when Dreamwave had the #2 book. (Hat-tip to Heidi MacDonald for catching this development.) The lowest the combined total has been in the Diamond Exclusive Era is 48.03% in February 1998, when bankruptcy-era Marvel had a truncated slate of titles. Click to see market shares across time.)
The aggregate sales are below, with one difference this month. Diamond began reporting its Top 300 Graphic Novels five years ago this month, so the five-year comparisons now are apples-and-apples:
November 2013: 6.62 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: -11%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +15%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +9%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +2%
YEAR TO DATE: 77.91 million copies, +6% vs. 2012, +6% vs. 2008, +17% vs. 2003, +1% vs. 1998
ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
November 2013 versus one year ago this month: -8.43%
YEAR TO DATE: +7.69%
November 2013: $24.69 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -6%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +28%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +40%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +47%
YEAR TO DATE: $284.16 million, +9% vs. 2012, +20% vs. 2008, +50% vs. 2003, +48% vs. 1998
ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
November 2013 versus one year ago this month: -1.21%
YEAR TO DATE: +11.09%
November 2013: $7.37 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +4%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -11%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 50 vs. the Top 50: -3%
Versus 15 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +36%
YEAR TO DATE: $83.4 million, +7% vs. 2012
ALL TRADE PAPERBACK SALES
November 2013 versus one year ago this month: +14.59%
YEAR TO DATE: +5.55%
November 2013: $32.06 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -4%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +6%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 50 TPBs: +28%
Versus 15 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +60%
YEAR TO DATE: $367.25 million, +8% vs. 2012
ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK SALES
November 2013 versus one year ago this month: +3.39%
YEAR TO DATE: +9.33%
November 2013: approximately $42.24 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: +3%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +28%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +54%
YEAR TO DATE: $475.44 million, +9% vs. 2012
New comic books released: 406
New graphic novels released: 303
New magazines released: 26
All new releases: 735
The average comic book in the Top 300 cost $3.61; 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.
Comichron can now project that overall Direct Market orders for the year are
likely to land at the lower end of the range estimated last month:
likely between $514-516 million. A double-digit gain for the year would
require December to be up nearly 17%; odds instead are that the market
will just miss that, coming in up 8-9% for the year.
Comichron founder John Jackson Miller has tracked the comics industry for more than 25 years, including a decade editing the industry’s retail trade magazine; he is the author of several guides to comics, as well as more than a hundred comic books for various franchises.
He is the author of novels including Star Wars: Kenobi, Star Wars: A New Dawn, Star Trek: Discovery – The Enterprise War, and his latest release, Star Trek: Discovery – Die Standing. Read more about them at his fiction site.
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