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The Great August Graphic Novel Collapse

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The August 2010 sales estimates for graphic novels have come out over at ICV2, and the sales sure looked like they tanked.  Take out the second month of Scott Pilgrim sales, the beneficiary of a film version being release and you’ve got an even more seriously sad looking top 20 sales column.

Over at Bleeding Cool, Rich Johnston suggests that the sales levels are fairly normal if you figure no “big ticket” books were released, especially compared with July’s debut of the new and final Scott Pilgrim volume, along with a new volume of Walking Dead and some Blackest Night releases.  I asked Rich what he considered a big ticket item and thought 3,000 units was a reasonable number for that.  There were a handful of titles fitting that description (Cinderella, Unwritten, Dark Tower), but certainly no blockbuster along the lines of a Walking Dead release.

In the interest of seeing how far the market has fallen, I pulled two set of numbers from the ICV2 graphic novel rankings  from August 2009 through August 2010.  Before the sales rankings for graphic novels were expanded to 300, the 100th bestselling graphic novel tended to hover around 1,000 copies, so I took the ranking of the comic selling ,1000 copies (or closest to it without going under) to check for the tail end of new releases or top of the backlist.

Month Sales Rank Book Sales Est.
August 09 115 STEPHEN COLBERTS TEK JANSEN HC 1,013
September 09 129 ABSOLUTE PROMETHEA HC VOL 01 1,004
October 09 98 SOUL EATER TP VOL 01 1,025
November 09 100 ALIEN LEGION OMNIBUS TP VOL 01 1,012
December 09 97 GUARDIANS OF GALAXY PREM HC VOL 03 WAR OF KINGS BK 02 1,014
January 10 79 CLEANERS TP VOL 01 ABSENT BODIES 1,013
February 10 89 AVENGERS KORVAC SAGA PREM HC 1,006
March 10 109 ROBIN ARCHIVES HC VOL 02 1,004
April 10 106 SCOTT PILGRIM GN VOL 03 INFINITE SADNESS 1,001
May 10 117 ARCHIE AMERICANA SER TP VOL 10 BEST OF 70S BOOK 2 1,006
June 10 137 X-BABIES TP STARS REBORN GN 1,004
July 10 99 AVENGERS SEARCH FOR SHE-HULK PREM HC 1,020
August 10 81 FABLES TP VOL 01 LEGENDS IN EXILE 1,016

What we find, is that the sales level for a 1000-copy book is very nearly at its highest ranking in the last year, barely beat by January’s ranking of 79.  This ought to be a good indicator that books were slow up and down the line.  Were there really 18 more “big ticket books” in July, pushing the 1000-level down to 99?  Actually, if you count 3,000 as the definition, you had 21 of them.  Of course, down at the 1,000 level, you still have 6 volumes of Scott Pilgrim, 1 volume each of Blackest Night and Walking Dead that were “big ticket” in July.  The so that’s 13 big tickets missing for an 18 drop.  Call it a contributing factor.

Click below for the chart of books selling 2500 copies:

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2 Comments

  1. Interesting.
    But given the new dynamic of book publishing affecting graphic novel publishers, August is a dead month as pubs prepare for the Fall and Holiday seasons. (Also, San Diego encourages pubs to release big titles in July.)

    How does your analysis compare when matched against other Augusts?

    How does the price point effect the number of titles above a certain threshold? Wouldn’t a month devoid of hardcovers show more titles? Perhaps a gross profit (price x number sold) benchmark is more precise?

  2. Well, I started out with August 2009, but let’s backtrack a little. Note: in 2003, you only got the top 50 and then 04-08, you only get the top 100, so if the 100th best seller is over 1K, I’ll just denote where it is.

    2003 #50 = 1412 #19 (2500)
    2004 #85 (1000) #28 (2500)
    2005 #100 =1137 #25 (2500)
    2006 #100 =1296 #35 (2500)
    2007 #100 =1231 #34 (2500)
    2008 #100 =1181 #33 (2500)
    2009 #115 (1000) #20 (2500)
    2010 #81 (1000) #14 (2500)

    So yeah, the position of a 1000 copy book is as low as it’s been in the modern graphic novel environment, in terms of the month of August. Ditto the rank of a 2500 copy seller. (And if you remove the movie-spawned Scott Pilgrim orders, it only gets worse.)

    Maybe there was just some REALLY bad luck in terms of publishing schedules, but those are the historical #’s.

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