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Growing Comics

Some interesting articles recently on the biz of comics. First Journalista! points out that the website ICv2 recently estimated the entire Direct Market has retail sales of about $650 million last year (ICv2 is a pretty reliable source for numbers on comic book and graphic novel sales). Joey Manley writes "$650 million? Sorry. I’m just not that impressed." Compared to the total market for books it is a pretty small number.

Tom Spurgeon has a short post musing on the issues confronting the different facets of the comics-on-print publishing business. And at CBR, Todd Allen has a column which compares different sales channels for comics: Direct Market, Bookstores, Online Stories, Direct-To-Consumer.

Not a lot to add myself today except some speculation. I'd guess that a large percentage of the $650 million number for Direct Market retail sales is of the superhero genre. I'd find it hard to believe that there's much, if any, room for growth in that genre in comics as it's been so completely exploited by DC and Marvel over the years, so let's guess $500 million in sales as a ceiling for what is still often referred to as "mainstream" comic books. That's only one genre though - if publishers of comic books could develop other genres into at least $100 million plus categories, well, then you'd have a roadmap for the overall growth of comics. Start with popular genres in terms of sales of books and movies that have not been exploited by comics. You're not going to sell these new genre comics through the Direct Market (at least not primarily) but smart, innovative publishers could do it through a combination of bookstores and digital sales.

Isn't that fragmentation

Isn't that fragmentation already the case? There used to be just 1 TV channel.

But it gets bigger from here....

Erg's picture

Imagine going from 1000 channels to 100,000. That's what I am talking about.

Its seems to me

Erg's picture

It seems to me the upshot of digital, the Espresso Book Machine,, etc. and its comics iterations is that there will be even greater market fragmentation. The entire idea of a "mainstream" could go out of fashion as it becomes possible for creators to service their niches without need for or concern for publishers and the economies of scale that make them and their mass markets attractive. Which is great from a small business stand point but is a little weird from cultural cohesion standpoint. There may come a point where the people you work with never watch the same tv shows, see the same movies, read the same books, or even see the same news because each little group is catered to by their own. Or maybe I am making to much of it. :shrug:

Another thing I just

Joey Manley's picture

Another thing I just realized a few minutes ago. The data Diamond has released reveals that Diamond itself makes more than half of the total money made in the Direct Market -- $350 million for Diamond, vs. $650 million in the marketplace as a whole. That's astounding to me.

*stares dumbly at Joey*Ya

WillieHewes's picture

*stares dumbly at Joey*

Ya that's pretty astounding to most anyone, I'd guess. Yay for monopolies, huh. O.O

Comics by a girl who likes sad things (but sometimes they are funny) -

Comics by a girl who likes sad things (but sometimes they are funny) -

NYTimes on BookExpo America

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

It's important to remember that books writ large are going through big transition issues too (it's not just comics) and this NY Times article on the recent BookExpo captures many of them.

I wonder if this approach would support comics:

In a pavilion outside the main exhibit hall Jason Epstein, the former editorial director of Random House and the creator of the Anchor Books paperback imprint, and Dane Neller, founders of, demonstrated their Espresso Book Machine, which can print a small paperback book on site in less than five minutes. “This could replace the entire supply chain that has been in existence since Gutenberg,” Mr. Epstein said.

Contrast that to this luddite bookseller's annoyance at authors who link to their books on

...Vivien Jennings, president of Rainy Day Books in Fairway, Kan., railed against authors who link from their Web pages to or even sell autographed copies of their books directly to consumers. “We host a lot of book signings,” Ms. Jennings said. Authors who sell their own books “are particularly hurtful to us.”


Xaviar Xerexes

On second thought, let's not go to Comixpedia. It is a silly place.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.