Friday, May 23, 2008

Sales Numbers and What the Fuck Does Brian Wood Know?

I tried to send Brian Wood a personal message, since I'm kind of tired of the public back-and-forth nonsense, but that bounced, unfortunately. So here we go again.

I'm writing in response to a thread titled "Sales Numbers and What the Fuck Does Anyone Know?" at Standard Attrition. While I appreciate the discussion on sales, I feel compelled to address a number of things.

On the collection of Fight for Tomorrow, Wood says:
It was published on March 3. My royalty sheet tracks its sales through March 31, so roughly three weeks being covered here.
According to Diamond, the book was released not on March 3, but on January 16. It showed up on the January chart with those approximately 1,700 units Wood cites. Based on that, I'm not sure what to make of Wood's suggestion that three weeks are covered by his royalty sheet - without further information, my guess would be that the 3,850 units he mentions are total sales since January 16, which would fit with the 1,700 sales documented for January. But hey, it's his royalty statement, and I can't check it for him.

For what that's worth, I certainly agree with him that those first-month sales covered by the chart are unlikely to paint a remotely accurate picture of the book's total numbers.

On a discussion at The Engine Wood and I had a while back, he says:
When I used to talk to Marc, over on The Engine, I brought this up and he admitted that he doesn't have a lot of time and what he does it about as much as he's willing or able to do.
While I don't recall the exact phrasing, I don't quite think that's what I said. Rather, I think my point was that, for various reasons, it's not viable to write paragraphs worth of commentary for each and every book each and every month - particularly if there's no change in the established pattern. I think those comments are an appropriate way of documenting a continuing trend.

Also, I've elaborated on Northlanders and DMZ sales, including the significance of collection sales, quite a bit, both in the column and at the blog. I just don't do it every month - not because I haven't got the time, as he suggests, but because I don't see a point in it.

In this context, the Shakespeare poem (!) I re-wrote (as quoted by Jason Aaron in the thread) was a response to Wood's objection to those kinds of comments. If it came across as petty or sarcastic, I apologize - that wasn't the intention, and I didn't expect anyone to be offended other than Shakespeare. I thought it was a more charming way of saying that sales come and go, basically, or, if you like, are "slowly declining." Your mileage may vary.

I like the title of the forum, by the way, which is why I'll make an exception and not bill Jason Aaron and Brian Azzarello for the perfectly good coffee I inadvertently sprayed on my notebook upon first discovering it.

I'm awfully sorry Brian Wood doesn't care for my analysis of DC's sales figures. That's fine, and I suppose it can't be helped. I still appreciate the feedback. But I think I've done a reasonably good job of double-checking my facts and getting them straight, and I'm asking the same of Wood, particularly if I'm to be the scapegoat of choice for Vertigo's declining periodical sales.


Joe S. Walker said...

Since March 3 to 31 is 28 days or fully FOUR weeks, Mr Wood's own arithmetic seems pretty suspect.

Joe Willy said...

I think it comes down to the fact that you two will never agree on this as you are coming at it from two different angles. I understand both your points. What I don't understand is that car companies release their sales numbers to the public, movie studios release their box office numbers (which in case anyone forgets are based on ESTIMATES and are often revised), etc. and yet for some reason comics should get a pass, according to some who can't seem to let this go.

I'm not sure I understand the fuss as I don't know anyone who doesn't buy a book because it may or may not be canceled in a year- Vertigo has shown tremendous patience and even allows books to finish their run even after their numbers fall below the cancellation thresh hold. Hell, I bought the second issue of Big Numbers knowing that Al Columbia flaked out and would never finish the series and that Alan Moore had declared the project dead!

I also don't see anyone outside of editorial and retailers who read these numbers for anything other than a pleasant diversion.