o At the recent comics retailer summit held by Diamond Comic Distributors in Baltimore, Heidi MacDonald asked retailers about the influence online sales reports have on their ordering patterns.
Among the folks we talked to, the answer was a clear no. “I make my decisions based on what sells in my store, not what’s on a chart,” said one, summarizing the general consensus.While I'm not especially surprised by MacDonald's findings, she's to be commended for actually doing the legwork and, you know, just asking the people who sell the books about their everyday business reality, instead of speculating on it like the rest of us have been doing.
In fairness, MacDonald's article doesn't specify with how many retailers she spoke, and it does point out that retailers who place more stock in online sales reports than in their own customers' buying patterns may exist. Overall, though, I have to say I'm fairly relieved to get at least a little bit of confirmation that I'm not living on Bizarro World. And it's good to know that I'm probably not actively grabbing food out of Brian Wood's children's mouths by reporting on DC sales every month. I'm serious.
o Speaking of Brian Wood, I should mention that he's clarified his comments in a number of places and stated right out that he's been misinterpreted and that, no, he doesn't think the publication and discussion of sales numbers per se are evil or harmful.
Admittedly, Brian, I have a hard time reconciling that with your comments here or here, but I'm willing to take your word on it, and I apologize if I've misrepresented your views.
o At his weblog, Dick Hyacinth uses MacDonald's piece and my ruminations as a starting point for a whole slew of insightful observations and analysis on online sales reports in general and Vertigo sales in particular - Hyacinth expresses skepticism on the existence of the mythical "bad retailers" who place their orders according to online sales reports, further investigates the issue of reorders and ponders Vertigo's future options in the direct market. Go over and read it, if you haven't already.
o In response to the most recent DC sales column, commenter Heinz Hochkoepper points out that the average number of Vertigo periodicals seems to have been increasing over the last few years. Looking into the matter, it turns out that he's quite correct. According to the Diamond Charts, the average monthly number of Vertigo periodicals was 9.5 in 2003 (not counting January and February, for which we only have preorder charts), 10.8 in 2004, 12 in 2005, 12.1 in 2006 and 12.9 in 2007 to date. That's a noticeable increase, and while I'm not sure what it means, it's certainly an interesting observation.
o In the same comments thread, retailer Randy Lander shares information on the performance of certain Vertigo books at his store.
This is anecdotal, but we sell two to three times the number of DMZ trades as we did of Transmetropolitan and Invisibles. Of course, we’re a growing store, so part of that is that we’re bigger and have a bigger customer base now as opposed to then, but it’s not unreasonable to assume that a similar pattern is happening at other stores.As Lander says, it's anecdotal, and there are other factors at play besides plain popularity of the properties.
Certainly we sell more DMZ trades in the first week than we did of Transmetropolitan. And I’m pretty sure our sales momentum is faster, too. We sell a DMZ trade almost every week (sometimes more than one), we sold Transmetropolitan maybe once a month.
Not sure how relevant this is, but just wanted to provide a direct response that for us, at least, DMZ (and Fables, and American Virgin) trades sell better than comparable Vertigo titles a few years ago.
That said, I have to admit I'm surprised that DMZ collection sales today are so much stronger - at Lander's store, at any rate - than those of Transmetropolitan or The Invisibles were a few years back. It's certainly something to consider, and I'm curious how things are looking at other stores.
(By the way, if you're a retailer - or a creator or publisher or distributor, for that matter - I highly appreciate any feedback on the column you may have. Looking at the statistics is good and well, but it always helps to have input from the people in the trenches. So feel free to drop me a line at any time if I got something wrong or right or if I'm missing anything.)