ICv2’s Graphic Novel Sales Figures: Consider the Audience

Earlier this week, the comic business site ICv2 posted their analysis of the market for the first half of 2010. I thought I’d provide some commentary because, as always, it’s important to consider the source of the data. This information comes from their publication Internal Correspondence #72, a trade newsletter aimed at comics and hobby game retailers. It’s provided free to stores in those industries (because ICv2 makes their money selling ads to companies who want to reach that target audience), or it’s available for $10 to others.

Where Are the Graphic Novel Sales?

So this is by retailer consultants, for retailers, and in order to get retailer interest (and thus eyeballs for their advertisers), there’s a need to pitch stories that are realistic but focus on the comic store perspective. Which makes it unsurprising that the lead message is that periodical comic sales are up, graphic novel sales are down. Or as they had it,

Although retailers interviewed by ICv2 for Internal Correspondence #72 reported that market conditions were slightly better in the first half of 2010 than they were in same period in 2009, it has been periodical comics, not graphic novels that have helped inch the comic market out of its recessionary hole. Graphic novel sales in the direct market have declined by double digits every month in 2010 so far with the exception of February, when they posted a 1% gain.

If you’re talking to retailers, then yes, they are going to see fewer graphic novel sales, as customers can easily find those publications elsewhere at cheaper prices. I either buy my collections from Amazon at significant discount (25-40% off), or I get them directly from creators with the bonus of a signature and/or sketch in my copy. Comic shops have a near-exclusive on carrying periodical comics, though, and as the economy has worsened, they seem to have refocused on that core product. As they should. It’s what they know and what they do well.

Media Tie-Ins

ICv2 does mention that the Twilight graphic novel is a “breakout hit”, that Scott Pilgrim books “have been selling briskly”, and that “Dark Horse received orders for more than 80,000 copies of Janet Evanovich’s Troublemaker“. Since the print run was 100,000, that puts those numbers in perspective. In this short summary of their findings, ICv2 only mentions those collections with media tie-ins, interestingly, also discussing The Walking Dead in light of the coming TV show and listing IDW’s two adaptations of James Patterson bestsellers. In a time of uncertainty, it makes sense that shoppers and stockers would feel more comfortable with known brands and properties. People are looking for a sure thing, either something that has an established audience to sell to or something they’ve already enjoyed in some other form. It’s less of a gamble. Unfortunately, it can also be less exciting creatively, but that’s where what I’m looking for conflicts with popular interest.

Here’s another key quote:

The other bestselling movie-driven graphic novel in the first half of 2010, Marvel’s Kick-Ass Hardcover, posted sales that were less than 10% of what Watchmen achieved during the same period in 2009.

Are we really surprised that Mark Millar’s wankfest sold a lot less than an established modern classic by Alan Moore that reworked the entire superhero genre? Sometimes they’re reaching for comparisons.

I’m curious to see what the target audience makes of the other area of newsletter coverage, promoted as “In the new Internal Correspondence, ICv2 takes a look at the first halting steps taken by the “Big Two” comic publishers toward “day and date digital distribution” of new comics.” That’s a potential hot potato right there.

2 Responses to “ICv2’s Graphic Novel Sales Figures: Consider the Audience”

  1. James Schee Says:

    Yeah comic stores are for the most part for that weekly customer who wants the newest issue right then. So of course sales on GNs are going to be down when, as you say, people looking for those can find better deals at Amazon (or even DCBS), at cons or even local book chain stores at times. (one currently is having a buy two GNs, get one free promotion)

    I wish we had more real industry information and things of that like kind of stuff. I was reading The Question #1 from 1986 recently, bought it at Goodwill for 54 cents mint condition. The most interesting thing for me in it though was a Meanwhile column from a Richard Bruning.

    In it he discussed the need for the end of the never ending battle. DC was coming off the success of books like Watchmen and The Dark Knight returns, and Bruning was speculating about the need for a move to these types of stories. Ones that had a beginning, middle and ending, because that’s what the common person was looking for.

    I wish someone could reprint these old Meanwhile columns in a book, or online somewhere. Though I doubt it, as so much of it flies in the face of DC’s current philosophy of “never ending a story, because you don’t want to give readers a chance to jump off.”

  2. Johanna Says:

    I second that reprint request. KC just did a bunch of research on those columns for his “history of comic storytelling” columns, and they were a very interesting and enlightening time capsule.




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