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Monday, January 25, 2010

Comic Cuts: 2009 Wrap Party

Figures released by Nielsen Bookscan revealed that Titan Books had a very good year in 2009, with revenue up on 2008 by £1.6 million to £6.76 million. "Titan for the second year in a row benefited from the Watchmen film," said The Bookseller's Tom Tivnan and Philip Stone. "Alan Moore's graphic novel contributed £713,000 to Titan's coffers in 2008 due to pre-release buzz, and just over £1m in its release year of 2009."

What they don't mention is that if Watchmen accounts for a million, that still leaves increases of over £500,000 spread across the rest of its output, some of which was admittedly Watchmen-related. But hopefully a good sign.

The best-selling comics'-related book was, of course, the Beano Annual, with sales of 227,949. The new year deep discounting will boost that number in January 2010, as it will have for all annuals.

In other annual-related news, Pedigree had 24 titles break the £50,000 barrier in 2009, up from 18 in 2008, and showed a growth in revenue of 42%, reaching £5.26 million in 2009. Their leading titles were X-Factor and WWE and, although I've not found precise figures, 155,000 and 115,000 respectively are probably in the right ballpark.

Egmont's biggest selling annual was Hannah Montana, with a total sale in the region of 157,000, a long way down on last year's big seller, High School Musical, which probably sold around 260,000.

I've no figures for magazine sales in 2009 as the Audit Bureau of Circulations website now requires a subscription to access figures. Oddly enough, this now makes D. C. Thomson—traditionally seen as the most secretive of British publishers when it came to circulation information—the easiest to find figures for. Circulation figures relating to the period January to June 2009 show that The Beano sold an average 53,964 copies a week, Dandy Xtreme 20,403 a fortnight and Beano Max 42,565 a month. All three saw changes in comparison to the previous six monthly figures (covering July to December 2008), The Beano down almost 8,000 (a drop of 12.8%), Dandy Xtreme down by 6,000 (-23.6%) and BeanoMax actually seeing a small rise, up 2.6%. With the Commando books selling approximately 40,000 a month (Thomson's own figure for 2008, so possibly out of date), it is easy to see that comics—always considered a minor part of Thomson's output, even in the heady days of sales in the millions—would now be little more than a sideline for D. C. Thomson were it not for the sales of annuals. The Beano's weekly sale pales in comparison to Thomson's other famous weekly magazine, The People's Friend, which continues to sell 313,711 per issue.

The most interesting experiment of the year was Egmont's four specials, something I hope has proven successful (although I had some problems getting hold of the Misty Special). It might lead to more experiments on the newsstand in the future. The number of reprint books was down on 2008, primarily due to projects delayed at Titan and the low number of titles put out by Prion. The 2010 titles, from Prion at least, are likely to be slimmer and cheaper in the hope of broadening their appeal and getting them into shops that have previously not taken them. With any luck, the economy will pick up and we will start to see more titles planned for 2011.


  1. For years, the Rupert Annual was up at the top of the best sellers' list with The Beano and The Dandy. Now it appears to have completely dropped off the radar - any news of it?

  2. It's a nosy, rude and invading question I know but I've always wondered what kind of ongoing payment the royalties from the Watchmen graphic novel provide Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons with these days?

    What percentage of the final sale price would you reckon they both receive, Steve? 1% each? 2%? More?

    As Arthur Daley would no doubt say, it's been a "nice little earner"!

  3. To be perfectly honest, I'd hope it's more than 1-2% but I have no idea of the real figure on what is effectively a foreign edition of the book (as it was originally published in the USA).

  4. Mike,

    I've not found any figures at all for Rupert Annual but my resources are very limited. I'd love to be able to supply more accurate info. but Nielsen (like ABC nowadays) only supply info. to subscribers.