Led by book format comics with $415 million in sales, the North American comics and graphic novel marketplace generated $870 million in sales in 2013, according to a new estimate by ICV2 and Comichron, two comics industry trade news and data sources. The estimate includes sales of traditional comic book periodicals, digital comics, and book format comics in both the comics shop market, newsstands and the general book trade.
According to new estimates, the $870 million figure for 2013 can be divided into $365 million in sales from comics periodicals—traditional American comic books—sold almost entirely via the direct market or comic shop market, the network of about 2,000 comic shops around the country. Comichron also noted that about $25 million of the $365 million in periodical sales come from newsstands.
Book format comics or graphic novels, have grown into the largest section of the comics market. Graphic novels generated $415 million in sales in 2013, divided between sales in the comics shop market ($170 million) and general bookstores ($245 million).
Digital comics sales, the newest and fastest growing category in the market, are estimated to be about $90 million in the 2013.
All estimates are calculated on the full retail price of the books and do not account for markups or discounts. The new report also goes back and upgrades sales reports for the years 2011-2012, revising earlier reports upwards. In 2011, comics periodicals grew from $300 million to $335 million in 2011; graphic novel sales grew from $390 in 2011 to $400 million in 2012. Combined comics and graphic novels sales grew from $690 million in 2011 to $735 million in 2012.
The new estimates represent the combined work of pop culture trade news website ICv2.com, headed by Milton Griepp, whose annual White Paper on the comics and graphic novels sales, is a standard on sales reporting in the comics industry; and Comichron, a longtime respository of comics sales data, directed by John Jackson Miller, former editor of the now defunct Comics Retailer magazine, as well as a comics writer and novelist.
Griepp and Miller both called the new estimated market size “the most accurate we’ve ever produced.” Griepp said the two companies tend to have data on different parts of the marketplace. ICv2, he said, “have a better awareness of the book channel, while John has more data on Diamond Comics Distributors.” For this new estimate worked to “tighten up the numbers.”
Miller explained that ICv2’s estimates tend to be based on sales of Diamond’s Top 300 bestselling comics and graphic novels, while Comichron actually tracks “the long tail” of Diamond sales. Diamond sells more than 20,000 items, Miller said, and he tracks sales across its entire inventory.
One measure of the category’s growth, he said, was the growth in sales among lower-tiered titles. “The 300th book used to sell 1,000 comics, now it sells 5,000 copies.” In addition Miller pointed to the growth of middle-sized independent comics publishers like IDW, Boom, Dynamite, Image Comics and others with much stronger sales than were usual for indies. “The big publishers don’t sell at the same numbers they used to and the middle-tier publishers are much stronger today,” Miller said.
The report also notes that digital sales continue to grow, but much like digital prose works, the rate of growth has slowed. “There seems to be an upper limit on digital sales,” Griepp told PW. “We’ll have to see what happens now after the Amazon acquisition of Comixology and see what Amazon can bring to Comixology’s growth.”
Miller said that the $870 million estimate is the comics category’s highest dollar value since 1993. He also said that all comics format—digital, periodical and graphic novels—are growing. “When all the formats show steady growth, then there’s no pirating between each of the formats. We’re serving three different kinds of customers.”