Tuesday, January 3, 2012

No -- what you know is wrong.

An interesting discussion over on The Beat, where a statistical analysis of the New 52 DC comics has "proven" that the venture was unsuccessful at increasing sales or readership.

To which, several of us retailers pipe up and say, "That's not right. It was very successful."

Then it gets kind of funny, because they come back with, "I assure you, Sir, you were not successful with the New 52" to which they might as well add, "And your name isn't Duncan."


More seriously, what accounts for the discrepancy between the statistics and the retailers' experiences? Are we deluding ourselves?

First of all, the statistics have a variable or two that I think most of us retailers wouldn't count. For instance, the "returns" on issues 3 and 4. I'm not returning a single issue, because by the time the 3rd issue rolled in, I had refined my orders to normal numbers.

Secondly, it's possible that me and the other retailers who responded are the exceptions. I don't believe that. There are always a few stores who miss the boat, but this should be a constant. So I don't think that's it.

Third, I'm seeing sales in context. I'd been losing subscribers for about a year, and the New 52 brought us right back to previous numbers. Just as Obama is going to have to try to prove that the economy would have been worse without his efforts, I'd have to try to prove that comic sales would have been worse without the New 52.

In looking at the numbers in the four months preceding the New 52, our comic sales were down about 15% from the previous year (worse than I thought, because they had been covered by my increased sales in books and games). The increase in the first four months of the New 52 is up 20%. So that is a 35% swing.

But I can see how a statistician might just see a 15 or 20% increase, add the variable of returns and (whatever the other variables were, I couldn't figure out; one of the miracles of my college education was I passed a Statistics course without understanding a thing....) and the increase might be reduced to marginal numbers.

But that's not how it felt in the real world.

Fourth, I'm gauging overall interest. Even though I'd been losing subscribers, my actual sales hadn't been dropping comparatively. And yet -- it wasn't a good sign. Subscribers are strongly interested in getting their comics, and sales off the counter are more incidental. I'd say that the New 52 rejuvenated interest in comics, even among the Marvel and independents readers.

Fifth, for me the boost in DC sales was just what I needed, bringing my discount level up another notch, and allowing me to reinvest in DC graphic novels, thus allowing the possibility of increased sales in the future.

Sixth, the new readership is there, but they simply took the place of lapsed readership, so it isn't noticeable. Still, new readership is what our industry needs. It shows that it can be done. That and bringing back former readers.

So I see the New 52 as spectacularly successful.

But I must be wrong.


Andy Z said...

Do you think all 52 new titles will survive 2012?

Part of me thinks DC didn't simplify enough. 11 Batman-related titles? I think casual or new readers might still view the breadth of titles as daunting.

Duncan McGeary said...

No -- not even through summer, I suspect. Maybe 25% of the titles aren't doing well at all.

But that's actually a pretty good success rate.

Duncan McGeary said...

What I mean by that, is probably 25% (rough estimates) are selling as bad as they would have ever sold -- (after the initial boost). But another 25% are selling better, another 25% are selling maybe 50% better, and another 25% are selling twice as well (very roughly).

Overall, not bad, eh?

Andy Z said...

Speaking of new titles, if you have any extra FATALE #1s left tomorrow I'd love to add it to my shelf (39). Probably won't be able to get in this week.

Duncan McGeary said...

Got you covered.