One of the things about comic blogs and reporters that annoys me is the analysis on Diamonds Charts. Sure, its an interesting list of what the comics are doing in store and a decent indicator of where comics are in terms of sales but the chart has several draw backs. Lets take a look at why only focusing on the Diamond Chart makes little sense.
1. Focus On Comic Shops Where Diamond Distributes-Diamond measures sales orders only from comic shops within their markets. Bookstores, digital, foreign and news stand are not on the list. This means that all you know is whats happening on the comic shop.
2. Not Sales, Just Orders-The numbers listed next to the comics are what is circulation in comic shops. The actual figures are not reported. That’s why its frustrating to see it listed as sales or estimated sales because it gives the illusion of meaning this is what people are buying. no, its what the comic shops bought from Diamond. A 50K selling Batman title could sell only through half of the circulation. Hell, the 50K could not even represent the print run. The companies print the books, Diamond ships based on orders. Think about that for a moment.
3. Comic Shops vs. Bookstores For Trades-You ever look at the trade charts from Diamond? Most the top selling books are in the single-thousands. From there the chart quickly drops down to low single-thousands and then into the hundreds. Once again these are comic shop estimates, however because of in print run comic shops will reorder popular books. Its an interesting list however it does not reflect bookstore or online purchases. For one, Manga dominates bookscan and New York Times where as those books do little in comic shops. There also seems to be a difference between how higher priced material does in comic shops versus bookstores. Large and pricey archival books from well known creators can do better in book markets. When Grant Morrisons Invisibles Omnibus, priced at $150, dropped it debut at 132 on the chart with over a 1000 circulated at shops. However the book scored onto New York Times Best seller list and bookscan charts. While finding those numbers are bit harder, its without much doubt shows some of the differences between what works in one market and what works in another.
4. Accurate It’s Not-Creators have criticized Diamonds chart for not being that accurate. I know Brain Wood has in response to analysis of the sales of his Vertigo work.
So that’s a quick look at why our reliance on the chart is stupid. Its an indicator, sure, but there is more going on with what sales and what doesn’t.