MAYO REPORT: November, 2007 Sales Analysis

It's amazing how dramatic the sales lists can change from month-to-month.  For starters, this report refers to CBR's recent release of estimated sales for November, 2007.  Have a look at the list and you'll see what I mean.  Case in point, last month I talked about how Dark Horse had almost as big a percentage of the top 100 trade sales as Marvel and DC during the month of October. In November, Dark Horse only had about 8.09% of the total unit sales. DC on the other hand accounted for 38.32% of the unit sales and just shy of half of the total retail dollar sales for the trades. Marvel had about 28.23% of the total units sold.

As should come as no surprise, the top item on the trades list for November was the "Heroes" hardcover with an estimated 26,151 units. This had two covers which may have helped sales a little. Alternate covers on higher priced items like hardcovers are more likely to entice someone that was on the fence to buy a single copy than to convince someone already planning to get a copy to buy an additional copy. Sales wise, this was a great debut and most importantly for DC, it is likely to sell very well in bookstores and other places that fall outside the scope of the Diamond sales information.

This is the highest sales for the top ranked collected edition since the oversized "JLA: Liberty & Justice" softcover back in November 2003. The only other items to open with sales this strong or better were the "Sandman: Endless Nights" hardcover in September 2003 with an estimated 41,200 units, the oversized "JLA: Secret Origins" softcover in November 2002 with around 31,695 units and the oversized "Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth" softcover in November 2001 with about 32,786 units. While the majority of these items were published in November, it was most likely the original Alex Ross art that pushed up the sales for all but the "Sandman: Endless Nights" hardcover.

The #2 itrade for November was "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier" hardcover with around 20,700 units. This is also well above the average sales for the top ranked item which tend to be around 12,300 units. What is interesting about this item is that DC has "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier Absolute Edition" in the January solicitation for a June 11th release. This sort of immediate double dipping seems almost guaranteed to cause some backlash. This practice of releasing a higher quality packaging of the same material or very similar material encourages readers to wait for the format they want at the expense of the sales of the earlier formats. It also runs the risk of upsetting the people that prefer the upscale version who already purchased the "lesser" format, not knowing that a "better" version was in the works. But none of that should take away from the great launch this book had.

One surprise on the list came in at the #4 position on the trades chart, the "Marvel Encyclopedia" Vol. 4 which covered Spider-Man. It did an estimated 8,564 units of reorder activity. Most likely this was due to retailers wanting to have it on hand to take advantage of the popularity of Spider-Man with the DVD of the third movie being out for the holiday.

The fourth volume of the "52" trades came in the fifth spot with a bit over 7,500 estimated units sold. It is quite possible that some readers are waiting for an omnibus or absolute collection of the series. The sales for this series of trades has been unimpressive with the total sales of the four trades around 38,150 units falling about 6,600 units below the estimated reported sales of the "Civil War" trade paperback. It is entirely possible that there has been some "under the radar" reorder activity for the earlier trades that might become apparent when the list of top selling trades for 2007 is released.

In rank #6 was the other big surprise for the month with the "Marvel Encyclopedia" Vol. 3 which covered the Hulk selling around 7,413 units of reorders. As opposed to a DVD release accounting for this massive reorder activity, this seems to be an outgrowth of the success of "World War Hulk."

Another three trades of "Naruto" were released on November 7th. In rank #11 was "Naruto" Vol. 24 with around 4,934 units. In rank #15 was "Naruto" Vol. 23 with about 4,259 units. In rank #17 was "Naruto" Vol. 22 with an estimated 4,098 units. Down in rank #52 was another 1,880 units of reorder activity for "Naruto" Vol. 19 which had below average sales in October. This is the third month in a row in which three volumes of "Naruto" have been released in a single week.

The highest ranked Image item on the list was the "Wanted" trade paperback in rank #20 with an estimated 3,491 units of reorder activity. The upcoming movie and promotion for it should keep this item on the list for the next few months.

While the "Official Handbook of the Invincible Universe" trade paperback made the list in rank #62 with a little over 1,700 units, the only Robert Kirkman collection of stories to make the list in November was Vol. 7 of "The Walking Dead" trade paperbacks in rank #76 with a bit under 1,500 units of reorder activity. However, based on the earlier version of the list of top trades released to retailers, the first trade paperback of "The Walking Dead" just missed making the final cut of top 100 list by a single rank.

The initial version of the top 100 trades list didn't include either of the "Marvel Encyclopedia" hardcovers or volume 1 of the "Arana" digest which were in ranks #4, #6 and #24 of the final version of the top 100 trades list. These additions pushed the first "The Walking Dead" trade paperback, the third "Hack/Slash" trade paperback and the first "Appleseed" trade paperback off the list.

And, finally, the "Watchmen" trade paperback was in rank #53 with another 1,872 units of reorder activity. But we've now gone from this item frequently appearing because it is a classic storyline to it also getting supported by an upcoming movie and what will no doubt be an associated media blitz in the coming year. As it stands, the "Watchmen" trade paperback has made the list every month so far in 2007.

Over on the comics side of things, Marvel not only had the most units sold for the top 300 comics with 44.57% of the sales for the list, but also had the top eight items on the list. DC came in with the next largest number of units with 38.96% of the total sales for the list. The remaining 16.47% of the total sales were split across all of the other publishers. Dark Horse accounted for 5.69% of the sales and Image took about 3.63%.

This kind of breakdown of the list is fairly common. While the actual percentages shift from month to month, the ordering of the top few publishers is usually fairly stable as is the fact that "indy" publishers typically only account for about 10% to 20% of the total sales for the top 300 comics. While that percentage would increase if the list was expanded beyond 300 items, it wouldn't shift considerably. The reason for that is it would take another 51 items at the bottom of the list to match the sales of just the top selling item for November.

It should come as no surprise that "World World Hulk" #5 came in at rank #1. The estimated sales of 145,766 units is down only about 1.88% from the total reported sales of the previous issue. All in all, this was a highly successful series and event for Marvel. While there was a drop of about 40,000 units between the first and second issues, after that the series only dropped another 20,000 units from issue #2 to issue #5. This series will most likely do very well for Marvel when it is collected down the line. Based on the financial success of both this series and "Civil War," the upcoming "Secret Invasion" event will probably continue the trend of top selling events for Marvel.

Speaking of events, most of the titles from Marvel that had major gains in November did so because of event storylines.

"Uncanny X-Men" #492 was part 2 of the "Messiah Complex" storyline and saw a bump of 16,920 units for a total of 102,472 units. "X-Factor" #25 was part 3 causing an increase of 18,371 units for a total of 70,404 units. "New X-Men" #44 was part 4 with a jump of 21,295 units for a total of 49,508 units. "X-Men" #205 was part 5 of that storyline and increased by 15,677 units for an estimated total of 99,050 units. Every issue that was part of the storyline benefited from it with the increases for the lower selling titles accounting for an increase of 35% to 43% of the previous issue sales. The odds of seeing another crossover storyline in the X-Men titles as a result of this are fairly good.

The other title to see a massive increase in sales because of a crossover storyline was "Sensational Spider-Man" #41 with a jump of over 92% in sales from 48,082 for the previous issue to 100,262 for this third part of the "One More Day" storyline. In addition to that heavily promoted storyline, this issue had a 50/50 alternate cover and was the final issue of the series. Watching the sales of "Amazing Spider-Man" over the next few months should be very interesting in terms of how the consolidation of the multiple Spider-Man titles into a single title plays out. If it results in better overall sales than the multiple titles did, Marvel may decide to consolidate other groups of titles like the Avengers and the X-Men.

Another impressive increase for Marvel in November was in rank #56 with "Immortal Iron Fist" #10. The increase of 7,083 was a 20.67% jump from the previous issue and was due to an alternate cover for the issue. This continues the trend of a zombie cover resulting in an increase of 5,000 to 7,000 or so units sold.

In rank #9 was the top selling item for DC in November, "All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder" #8, with an estimated 97,000 units. This is the first issue of the series to drop below 100,000 units, but the drop of about 3.5% is well within the normal attrition for titles these days.

The "Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul" storyline in the Batman family of titles did fairly well for DC. "Robin" #168 started the storyline and had a 105.91% surge in sales from 26,053 units for the previous issue to 50,653 units. The second part of the storyline was in "Nightwing" #138 which jumped by 64.95% from 28,335 for the previous issue to 46,378 units. "Detective Comics" #838 continued the storyline with a jump of 17.41% from 51,312 units for the previous issue to 60,245 units. No doubt the later parts of the storyline will do similar numbers for December.

"Countdown to Final Crisis" continues to be near the top of the charts for DC. Issue #25 to #22 came out in November with sales starting at 74,640 dropping to 72,737. This minor attrition rate is similar to that of "52" averaging only a percent or two per issue. The tie-in titles aren't doing remotely close to these numbers. "Countdown Presents the Search for Ray Palmer: Red Rain" #1 and "Countdown Presents the Search for Ray Palmer: Gotham by Gaslight" #1 both came out in November and sold an estimated 32,597 and 31,753 units respectively. "Salvation Run" #1 launched at 40,516 units which is okay for a new DC title, but unimpressive for a miniseries that ties into the big events going on in the DC universe.

The top selling item for Dark Horse was once again "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Issue #8 came in rank #10 with an estimated 91,560 units for the month of November. This title is seeing fairly standard sales attrition of about 2.65% from the total reported sales of the previous issue. What is more interesting about the title is the reorder activity for the first four issues in ranks #235, #237, #240 and #248. Those first four issues sold between 4,773 and 5,471 units each. For comparison, the first trade paperback of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" came in rank #68 on the top trades list with only 1,650 units. This level of reorder activity for issues already collected into a trade paperback is unprecedented.

In rank #11 was the second best selling DC title for November, "All Star Superman" #9, which sold an estimated 78,676 units. This title has been dropping a bit faster than "All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder" from the total reported sales of the first issue of 176,650 units. That is about 100,000 units lower than the total reported sales of the first issue of "All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder" of 276,020. The fact that they were the top two items for DC in November proved that these titles remain very healthy even with the dropping sales.

The second best title not from Marvel or DC was in rank #41 with "Angel: After the Fall" #1 from IDW Publishing, selling an estimated 47,545 units. This is roughly half of the current sales level of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" from Dark Horse. Some of that is the difference between "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" clearly being promoted as the eighth season and a continuation of the television series while "Angel: After the Fall" was marketed as a more traditional spinoff comic based on a television show. The more direct involvement of Joss Whedon on "Buffy" was also a major difference. While Whedon was involved in the "Angel" series, he was only providing the plot and didn't write the comic like he did with the initial issues of "Buffy."

One other difference between the two titles was the placement in Previews. The solicitation for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" #1 was in the Dark Horse section on page 22 at the front of the January 2007 Previews catalog while the solicitation for "Angel: After the Fall" #1 was in the IDW section on page 311 of the September 2007 Previews catalog. When readers and retailers go through Previews to preorder comics, they have allocated nothing to other purchases when they hit page 22 of the January Previews since it was the first item listed. You simply can't get better placement than that.

Conversely, by the time readers and retailers hit page 311 of that same Previews catalog, they had most likely already allocated their budget to whatever they decided to purchase from Dark Horse, DC, Image, Marvel, Wizard and smaller comic publishers prior to IDW. Based on the breakdown of the dollar sales for the top 300 for November, 96.52% of the dollars spent on the top 300 came from publishers listed before IDW in Previews.

What this means is that placement further back in Previews has the potential to hurt sales since readers and retailers feel they have already spent money on items earlier in the catalog. There is also the matter of fatigue to consider. Not only were there 310 pages of Previews prior to the listing of "Angel: After the Fall" #1, but the Marvel Previews falls into that area and is usually well over 100 pages long itself. By the time people get to the "Other Publishers" in the back half of Previews, they have already spent hours and potentially a considerable amount of money on the items available from other publishers. This is one of the reasons why so many smaller publishers have names beginning with a letter very early in the alphabet.

One quick note to smaller publishers -- there is currently no solid evidence to support the theory that getting positioned earlier in Previews will increase sales of existing titles. While that seems like it could be possible, it is much more likely that placement further back in Previews can only hurt sales while placement earlier in Previews won't boost sales. So there is no need for all of the smaller publishers to start fighting over the name "Aaaaaaaaamazing Comics."

The next item going down the list of best sellers for publishers is in rank #77 with "Boys" #12 from Dynamite Entertainment with 29,742 units. This continues to do very well for Dynamite, with a drop of only about 0.59% from the previous issue. This title is selling better than a number of titles from Marvel and DC. It is also selling stronger than most of those titles by virtue of having a much lower attrition rate than other books. It also would have been the top selling Wildstorm title in November by a margin of a few thousand units had it remained over at DC. DC should be given credit for smoothly transitioning the title over to Dynamite Entertainment once they decided it didn't fit their publishing plans.

The top selling Image comic in November came in at rank #101 with "Spawn" #172, selling an estimated 23,619 units. While those sales aren't too bad these days, it is a far cry from the 90,435 units that the title sold for issue #122. Granted, that issue and others in 2003 were a bit of anomaly since issue #121 only sold 46,161 units and the title dropped back down to 36,484 units with issue #131 at the start of 2004.

Topping the list of comics from Devil's Due Publishing in rank #147 was "GI Joe: America's Elite" #29 with about 15,086 units. This series has been hovering between 15,000 and 16,000 or so most of the year. With a number of DC titles, including most of the Wildstorm titles, dropping into this range it is impressive for Devil's Due to have a title that consistently sells at this level.

"Iron and the Maiden" #4 was the best seller for Aspen with nearly 12,000 units in rank #174. The increase of 7.57% over the sales of the previous issue was one of only 25 increases for the month of November.

The new "Dan Dare" series from Virgin launched in rank #187 with the first issue selling an estimated 9,431 units. These are very good sales for a Virgin title.

"Doc Frankenstein" returns with #6 in rank #191 with 8,525 units, down by 2,655 units from the total reported sales of the previous issue. The 15 month delay since the previous issue more than explains the massive drop in sales.

And to wrap things up, the $2.99 price point remains the most popular, accounting for 210 of the top 300 comics. The $3.99 price point accounted for another 39 items with $3.50 being the only other price point with more than a handful of items.

As always, if you have any questions or comments on these numbers and what they do and don't mean, please feel free to email me.

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