Gilt by Association: More Providence Sales Numbers

Providence #3 Px,px detail, art by Jacen Burrows
Providence #3, art by Jacen Burrows

The sales figures for August 2016 are in at Comichron, and we’ve updated the Innsmouth Gold page accordingly. There are still a few things in the works here at the Facts blog, but since we have been pretty quiet lately while we wait for the next issue, we thought it might be interesting to briefly talk about the business side of things.

First off, publishing gaps between issues are routine in the comics world, especially with small press publishers. The ability to churn out multiple titles on a monthly (or weekly!) basis requires writers, artists, inkers, colorists, letterers, and editors to work very fast and with a great deal of coordination, and when some of those folks probably juggling multiple projects, sometimes they just don’t make the page per day needed – and that’s without any printer delays. The downside to these lapses is the long wait between issues, which can put off customers (especially on short-run or limited series), and these kind of gaps are usually (although not always) associated with a drop in sales. The drop between Providence #9 (June 2016) and Providence #10 (August 2016) was about 530 copies, or roughly 4% of the direct sales readership; that’s a little less but about comparable to the drop between Providence #6 (Nov 2015) and Providence #7 (Feb 2016), and we’re probably going to see a comparable drop between #10 and #11, just because of how the issues are being spaced out.

Cover for Providence Act 1 Hardcover Kickstarter Exclusive. Art by Jacen Burrows
Cover for Providence Act 1 Hardcover Kickstarter Exclusive. Art by Jacen Burrows

Other factors also come into play. The secondary market for comic books used to be a lot smaller, dominated by specialist sellers like your favorite Local Comic Book Store – the folks you would go to when you missed a back issue and wanted to read what happened. The triple revolutions of collected editions, digital editions, and the internet comics marketplace has substantially opened up the market for “back issues.” Now readers can compare prices and survey inventory from comic stores and independent sellers around the globe; put off hardcopy comics and just get digital copies of any missed issues missed on Comixology or Avatar Press’s web store; or…just wait for the collected edition to come out, so that you can sit down and read the whole thing at once.

The latter is what I suspect a lot of readers are doing. Having missed an issue due to the delays in the schedule, or unsatisfied with the pace and dropped the series, many readers are likely just waiting for it to end so that they can pick up the collected edition…of course, they may well end up paying for it.

Camel Chart for Providence Act 1 Hardcover Limited Ed.
Camel Chart for Providence Act 1 Hardcover Limited Ed.

This is the Camelcamelcamel chart for the Providence Act 1 Hardcover Limited Edition, released in May 2016, tracking the sales prices – minus the more extreme price spikes, which are caused by feedback loops in automatic pricing algorithms used by some Amazon sellers; even so, you can see how the red and blue of 3rd party sellers on Amazon reflects a fairly typical cycle of price spikes and resets. Amazon sold through their inventory around early July, leaving the market at the mercy of 3rd party sellers – which tend to spike and then drift back down, although the asking price in general has steadily risen – which is pretty typical for many out-of-print books on Amazon. The lesson being, if you want the limited edition, you should probably pick them up for cheap as they come out. 

The good news is that the story is completely different for trade paperbacks that remain in print for long periods of time – like Neonomicon, which collects both The Courtyard and Neonomicon series, as you can see in this Camelcamelcamel chart:

Camel chart for Neonomicon TPB
Camel chart for Neonomicon TPB

Here, because there’s a continual supply and steady demand, 3rd party sellers can undercut Amazon – and do, taking advantage of discounts, shipping, buying up unsold stock on the cheap, or just collectors looking to dump their used copies on the market. This bodes very well for folks that want to wait for Avatar to come out with a complete Providence trade paperback edition – the books will very likely be both available and affordable.

For those who paid out for the hardcover limited editions, not to worry – the Camel charts show that so far, limited editions tend to hold (or increase) their sales price over time, though that is subject to the whimsies of the collector’s market. Don’t invest your life savings in limited edition comic books hoping they’ll hold their value! These sales prices only represent the asking price on the market, not necessarily the prices the books sold at (or if they sold at all). An overpriced comic that you can’t sell is a bad investment – much better to buy a comic or collected edition because you want to read it, and at least you get that benefit out of it!

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3 thoughts on “Gilt by Association: More Providence Sales Numbers

  1. Interesting analysis. I agree that Providence, once collected, will be one of Moore’s works that remains in print for a long time (like From Hell, V for Vendetta, etc).

    In a medium currently dominated (held hostage?) by superhero universe reboots and Star Wars spin-offs, I think it’s impressive that Providence is selling 11-12 thousand copies per issue. (But I admit that this is coming from someone who knows nothing about industry sales or anything other than that Comichron chart you linked that I just looked at haha)

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  2. For those eagerly awaiting the PROVIDENCE finale, your wait just got longer. There is no listing for #12 in the Avatar January 2017 solicitations on bleedingcool.com (which is owned by Avatar). Looks like we won’t see it until February at the earliest. This isn’t especially unusual for the last few issues of Alan Moore comics series to trickle out at increasingly longer intervals going back to WATCHMEN in the mid eighties. The final issues are well worth the wait as Mr. Moore always sticks to his landing (IMO!).

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