Robot 6

Comics A.M. | The case against, and for, sales estimates

X-23 #20

Sales charts | Responding to an iFanboy article that speculates on what titles Marvel might cancel next, Men of War and Viking writer Ivan Brandon makes the case against sales charts and the subsequent analysis of them each month: “There’s an ongoing debate, for a bunch of years now. There are numbers that circulate every month, inaccurate numbers, people track them, people use that flawed ‘data’ to comment on what they see as the progress or decline on the list. A lot of comics professionals are against this, for a lot of reasons. In my case, for my books, the books I personally share copyright on … my reason is, and no offense to anyone out there: My income is none of your business. Just as your income is none of mine.”

Tom Spurgeon offers a counterpoint: “Sales information seems to me an obvious positive, not because it reveals the bank accounts of creators, but because what sells and to what extent is basic information about a marketplace, and the shape and potency of a marketplace seems to me a primary item of interest for anyone covering that marketplace. It’s foundational to our understanding of how things work and why. Certainly this information is already manipulated to brazen effect by companies with something to put over on customers; I have to imagine this would become worse under a system of no information at all being released.” [Ivan Brandon, The Comics Reporter]

Habibi

Awards | Craig Thompson’s Habibi is one of five finalists for the French comics organization L’Association Des Critiques De Bandes Dessinées’ annual Prix De La Critique. The winner will be announced Dec. 5. [The Comics Reporter]

Creators | Mike Mignola, Bill Sienkiewicz, Walt Simonson and several other creators are selling illustrations of classic Universal Monsters on eBay to raise money for 6-year-old Aidan Reed, who was diagnosed last year with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. [Newsarama]

Creators | Laura Sneddon profiles Watchmen and V for Vendetta writer Alan Moore, who talks about creating The Ballad of Halo Jones, one of the first non-superhero women to headline her own series: “There wasn’t a single – I mean, I was annoyed – there wasn’t a single girls’ comic in Britain … I thought, well if you do more stories that are aimed at women, you’ll get more women reading the comics. It would seem fairly simple and straightforward, but there was a lot of resistance.” [The Independent]

Eduardo Risso

Creators | Artist Eduardo Risso discusses his career and craft in along interview conducted by Michal Chudolinski at the International Festival of Comics and Games in Lodz, Poland. [Comics Bulletin]

Creators | Mike Costa talks about his work on Blackhawks and G.I. Joe: Cobra. [USA Today]

Manga | Shaenon Garrity explains Chobits, the CLAMP series about a world in which humans can own robots with personalities — persocoms: “Chobits is the strangest of beasts: a difficult, complex, thought-provoking T&A manga. Ultimately it chooses to have its cheesecake and eat it too, raising a host of challenging questions only to leave them unanswered so as not to spoil the romance.” [Anime News Network]

Digital | Remember when your mom threw out all your comics? Digital comics saved the day for one reader who accidentally destroyed her cousin’s comics collection. [Teleread]

Commentary | Rich Clabaugh looks at Fantagraphics’ first Carl Barks collection, “Lost in the Andes.” [Christian Science Monitor]

Comics | Bob Temuka looks at some forgotten superhero titles from the 1980s and 1990s. [The Tearoom of Despair]

Blogosphere | The Panelists, a blog devoted to analyzing individual comics panels, is disbanding. The writers, all of them well regarded in the comics community, are simply too busy doing other things. [The Panelists]

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Comments

14 Comments

“My income is none of your business. Just as your income is none of mine.”

What kind of person says something like that during hard time like these? Freelancers who are just entering the industry should have right to be able to ballpark a ‘goal salary’ that they obviously won’t be able to start at but can gradually work hard towards throughout the next twenty years of their comic/graphic novel career. Besides, that’s not even the main point of having access to various sales figures.

I already stated most of my disagreements with Ivan Brandon’s essay in the Beat’s thread on this yesterday, but the one statement that I didn’t address, and that still bothers me, is this one:

“In my case, for my books, the books I personally share copyright on … my reason is, and no offense to anyone out there: My income is none of your business. Just as your income is none of mine.”

The idea that anyone could take sales estimates that only cover North American sales and only cover first month sales at that (in most cases, since reorders rarely chart), spread out over an entire year and the multiple books Brandon writes at a time, and without knowing his page rate on work-for-hire, how payment is split on his creator-owned books, how the labyrinthine Diamond discount system affects things, etc. etc. etc., and come up with his exact salary is laughable. That would be doing an awful lot of math to probably get somewhere within +/- 30% of his actual income. How this is any more obtrusive than, say, going to salary.com and typing in a job, experience level, and ZIP code to get an estimated salary for every non-freelance job on the planet is beyond me.

I still don’t see how it’s any of our business. Nobody has really come up with a compelling reason other than “I want to know.”

And let’s be real…if the people from the Beat could figure out a way to calculate creators salaries/page rates/royalties each month, no matter how complicated the math they would almost certainly do it and post it as a monthly column.

“Nobody has really come up with a compelling reason other than “I want to know.”"

Nobody except, y’know, Tom Spurgeon. In the very post your responding to. Here, I’ll quote it for you since you missed it the first time:

“Sales information seems to me an obvious positive, not because it reveals the bank accounts of creators, but because what sells and to what extent is basic information about a marketplace, and the shape and potency of a marketplace seems to me a primary item of interest for anyone covering that marketplace. It’s foundational to our understanding of how things work and why.”

Just because I don’t agree with it doesn’t mean I didn’t read it.

I don’t see how knowing exactly how many copies of “Firestorm” were sold in October does any of the things Spurgeon claims it does.

Surely, having an idea of whether titles are selling 100,000 copies or 10,000 copies provides clues as to “the shape and potency of a marketplace.”

Tracking sales gives an idea of what’s popular right now, and it will help comic companies to figure out what kind of comics to create. Furthermore, it gives fans an idea of how popular their own tastes are, and whether books they like are likely to be cancelled. If you go to video game blogs or movie blogs you’ll see that they also track sales of various titles because the fans want to know. TV blogs also often report ratings because people want to know how many other people have the same tastes as them. Some people like that their favorite stuff is popular, and others pride themselves on being outside the mainstream. It’s all in good fun.

While the sales of any one individual title in any particular month don’t provide that information, the analysis done by Milton Griepp and John Jackson Miller on the overall size and health of the market, and the month-to-month comaprisons of those numbers shows the relative health of both specific titles and specific TYPES of titles, which helps serve as a predictor of what kinds of titles we may see more of in the future. From those analyses, for example, we can see that while events are still a big draw (see: Fear Itself), they don’t have the ability to lift other titles along with them that they used to (see: virtually no change in sales of Avengers titles, and spinoff Fear Itself minis that plummeted down the sales charts).

Also, those month-to-month predictions helped prove out one of the biggest questions of the DC relaunch: whether DC’s success was at the detriment of other publishers, which doesn’t seem to be the case as the relative performance of Marvel and indie titles has so far remained more-or-less business as usual. Knowing that DC could gain their success by adding readers instead of simply stealing readers from other publishers is a metric that anyone wanting to examine the “shape and potency of a marketplace” would need to know.

That Spurgeon wants to know so that he can “examine the shape and potency of a marketplace” isn’t a mitigating factor. It’s still the same reason that anybody gives: he just wants to know.

The NYT has bestseller lists, movies have weekly updates on what movies have sold what, and comics shouldn’t be any different.

It’s not a matter of being curious what a person individually brings in as income, but rather gives an overall view of what’s trending at any given point, and sometimes, I’ll admit, I’ve seen some books selling really well that I’m NOT getting, and I’ll go, “Huh. Wonder what all the hubbub’s about,” and I’ll sometimes give it a try.

Sometimes, since I hate getting the rug pulled out from under me as has happened so many, I’ll wait and see how a series is doing for a few months before I decide whether I want to become invested in a series, especially if it seems like its sales are hurtling towards that cancellation number.

That’s asinine, RJT. Totally asinine.

Well, sure, I want to know as much about the marketplace I cover. I’d also like to know what certain people look like naked. The difference is that the first thing that correlates to my curiosity has a positive social and industry good — it reduces opportunities for fraud, it provides a greater understanding of how the market works, and it lets me know how much money Ivan Brandon makes. The second thing, not so much.

I’m sympathetic to the point that people are far too concerned with these issues, and that the numbers can be employed in irresponsible ways. In media that I don’t cover, it’s not a concern of mine. I have no idea how much Thomas McCarthy’s movies have made, but I like them. I have no idea if “Arcadia” made more than “Angels Of America” during their mid-’90s runs on Broadway. But I’m sure this information is useful to people that cover that industry closely.

One thing I tried to point out is that this information exists in some form or another, and what we’re talking about is having the best information available and in hands other than those of people that have an ownership interest. We have so many people manipulating the system and making claims the way it exists now, and I’m pretty certain that would continue or get worse if Milton and John were cut off.

There’s a selfish, petty part of me that I guess wishes people couldn’t jump on Alexa and see how many more readers that Heidi MacDonald and especially CBR have than I do, but that part of me should not be catered to in any way. He’s a dick.

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