Running the Numbers

This week, ICv2 put out their sales estimates for 2008 for comics, graphic novels, and manga. I found one particular set of figures interesting.

After years of growth, manga sales actually contracted in 2008, dropping from $210 million in 2007 to $175 million (roughly 2005 numbers), with larger declines in the bookstores than in the comic shops. … Sales of periodical comics declined from $330 million in 2007 to $320 million in 2008 …

(No indication of methodology is given in the short summary article, so I don’t know how they came up with these figures.)

I found it hard to believe that comics outsell manga by a factor of 1.8, so I wanted to break down what those numbers meant. Let’s assume a cover price of $3 for periodical comics, which means 106.67 million copies were sold last year, or 2.05 million comics a week. If an average comic sells 30,000 copies, then that means there has to be at least 68 comics released every week. That sales estimate may be high, so there might be many more.

Looking at manga, let’s assume a cover price of $10. If manga sold $175 million in 2008, that’s 17.5 million copies for the year, or 336,538 copies a week.

Now comes the tricky part. What’s a sensible assumption for sales for an average manga volume? If we assume similar sales to a comic, 30,000 copies per volume, then we need at least 11 manga volumes a week. That seems plausible, although it’s based on a lot of assumption.

So their figures make more sense if you realize that a lot more comics are released compared to manga volumes. Also consider that 15 of the top 20 graphic novels sold last year, according to BookScan, were Viz manga, mainly due to Naruto.

7 Responses to “Running the Numbers”

  1. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Feb. 9, 2009: Some sort of sports bra Says:

    […] ICv2 reports that MySpace Comics architect Sam Humphries has been laid off, while Johanna Draper Carlson and Andrew Wheeler comment on other news items to emerge from the […]

  2. Brian Hibbs Says:

    Your methodology is incorrect — “manga” sales are the total sales of manga volumes. Whether or not they were released this year! So that would include total sales in 2008 for, say, DEATH NOTE (more than 300k copies), even though there wasn’t a single new volume of DEATH NOTE released in 2008

    Looking at this year’s BookScan numbers, there were 7842 manga books that appeared on the charts, for (approximately, doing a publisher-based count, which will be less than precise) 10.2 million pieces and $100.8 million in sales.

    I calculate an average sale-per-listing of 1297 pieces and $12,853.90 in sales.

    ICv2 is adding in (at least) DM figures to that as well, but that’s more rigorous than I am capable of being on a Monday morning.

    Being equally un-rigorous, I count at least 1556 new “manga” titles being released during calendar 2008 (and it is more, because that doesn’t include anything from, say, Dark Horse) — or at least thirty new books every week.

    Also: “average cover price” for comics is higher than $3 — look to John Miller’s Comics Chronicles, where he calculates that every month (I think)


  3. Johanna Says:

    That’s why I put my “back-of-envelope” numbers out there — to get correction and elaboration, thanks. Your numbers look like a lot fewer manga were released than I assumed… which means they’re a more efficient product, since publishers spend less with fewer volumes out.

  4. Brian Hibbs Says:

    No, I don’t think they’re “more efficient”, really — the number of manga titles increased by ~21% between ’07 and ’08, while pieces sold decreased by about -11% and dollars sold decreased by about -8%…

    (For “the market as a whole” — and, again, I’m only looking at BookScan — # of titles increased by ~25%, while pieces went up by +1% and dollars up by +8%)

    Manga is down to approximately 2005 sales levels, as ICv2 noted…


  5. Matt Blind Says:

    My rankings are comparative, and based on estimates ultimately derived from ‘reported’ online sales (in as much as a posted top 100 is a report) but I can muddy the waters a bit with more arbitrary numbers:

    For 2008 I tracked 1455 new titles (of 5015) — to appear on my charts a title had to appear in the top 500 (or so) at Amazon, B&N, or Borders; or in a top 150 (or so) elsewhere.

    My methods are far from scientific but I like to think the brute-force-math-and-ceaseless-data-gathering-method is worth something.

    If one were to jive my 1500 with Hibbs’ 7500 total number, the manga ‘library’ grew by 20% (raw title count)

    My thought is, including everyone’s backlist, the total # of titles is closer to 10,000 — so the manga library grew by 15%

    I don’t think we place as much emphasis the manga backlist as we should:

    1000+ New Titles — Yearly.

    Granted, were talking about periodicals (in a dictionary sense: new volumes of a single title coming out periodically) and not brand new books, but still: that’s a lot of books.

    $100 million in sales is nothing to sneeze at either.

    For me the question isn’t why more manga pubs *can’t* make it but rather, why more manga pubs *aren’t*.

  6. Matt Blind Says:

    Oh, wait:

    That’s the tyranny of popularity, and of math — the whole $100MM could just be Naruto. We don’t get to divide the sum into equal parts for each player, there are winners and losers.

    The overall volume of output has to count for something, though, right?

  7. Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources - Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment » Food or Comics | A roundup of money-related news Says:

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