2015 was a good year for the direct market comics industry. Sales all over were up. Year on year, sales grew 7.17% over 2014; comic books were up 8.99%, graphic novels were up 3.14%. And Diamond Comic Distributors sold 6 million more comics to comic stores than in 2014. Almost everyone did well. Almost.
But 2016 so far? Not so much.
Of single comics, there's a almost 10% drop in sales numbers this year so far, compared to where we were last year. It's mollified by a boom in graphic novel sales, but that still works out at a 7.5% drop in overall sales numbers. Increased prices have helped stem the financial tide, with a fractional increase in dollars spent, but this is also on the back of a rise in the number of comic stores. Sales per store are down.
There are some bright moments. The success of The Walking Dead and Saga has helped Image Comics push their comics into bookstores and international markets and I've had reports of big gains there. But the Walking Dead effect has been hard for other publishers to replicate, even as their comics get TV shows and movies. Our ex-DC beancounter's predictions seem to run true.
Growth, it seem, in both print and digital, has been acquired through opening new markets rather than growing the existing ones. Digital sales have completely plateaued, growth has been achieved my opening up opportunities in other countries, and now it seems the same is true of print.
But at some point, people are going to run out of new territories, and they will have to stop running the Red Queen's Race to survive.
One observation I have heard is that there are also just too many comic books trying to get readers attention and too many creators and publishers trying to put them out. Everyone is agreed that there should be fewer. if people want to make a living – but no one wants to be the ones to give it up.
Boom has begun to cut their publishing line and they're not alone. Word from recent shows had a number of people who had their books suddenly dropped by Boom failing to find homes elsewhere. And page rates and advances are dropping everywhere, unless you are the A-listiest of A-listers.
But all, that's the other thing. The comics are better. Getting more people to try them, and like them has to be the next trick.