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  1. #1
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    Default CBR: EXCLUSIVE: Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley On Sales, Pricing, DC & More

    In part one of an exclusive two-part interview, Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley discusses the company's sales performance in 2011, takes January competition from DC head on, engages questions of pricing, double shipping and more.


    Full article here.

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    I keep hoping that Marvel would follow DC by pricing a majority of their titles at $2.99, but I keep reading that $3.99 titles sell just fine.

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    Veteran Member Flashpoint's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CBR News View Post
    In part one of an exclusive two-part interview, Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley discusses the company's sales performance in 2011, takes January competition from DC head on, engages questions of pricing, double shipping and more.


    Full article here.
    Very, very classy interview. I don't know much about Dan Buckley, but I am extremely impressed with how classy he comes across here. Very gracious in his acknowledgement of DC's success, even giving the edge to DC for the latest sales figures.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Buckley
    To be frank, I cannot speak to their strategy because I am not involved in determining their objectives. If their objective was to win market share and increase sales, then I would have to say that their pricing, promotion, PR, communications and trade strategies were spot on and that they executed the tactics associated with these strategies flawlessly.

    We have watched and, what is the word I am looking for -- "admired" many of their tactics, and I would be remiss in not stating that their efforts have inspired us to look at our marketing plans differently.
    I hope these last statements are true. This respectful acknowledgement of their biggest competitor's success is magnanimous and just plain cool. I'd love to see Marvel emulate more of what DC is doing. I'm always up for buying more good books.

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    Veteran Member Flashpoint's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CameronS View Post
    I keep hoping that Marvel would follow DC by pricing a majority of their titles at $2.99, but I keep reading that $3.99 titles sell just fine.
    Yeah. That's ridiculous. Lower your prices; I see no reason to pay extra if I don't have to and don't want to.

  5. #5
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    They say that the highest selling titles are $3.99. Well that's a given when all of your top tier talents and characters are $3.99. If you enjoy those titles and they've lead the market for years then you are almost "forced" to pay that price.

    I still feel that Marvel is cannibalizing their sales with double shipping. Every once in a while is nice. But constantly doing this causes me to buy less of other top tier titles because I have a fixed budget. Saying double shipping is a success is odd. If you're selling 50k copies of uncanny X-Force, most comic fans are completists so if you double ship your going to sell 50K times 2 in a month.

    I would love for Marvel to look at trend analysis on overall sales since migrating titles to $3.99 instead of taking a micro view of certain titles.

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    DC's top 2 titles are $3.99 (with a few extra pages, but no one buys a Grant Morrison book for the 8 page back-up written by someone else). And DC announced that they're adding back-ups to two of their top Batman books and raising them to $3.99. Because fans will still buy them.

    I do believe that $3.99 vs. $2.99 drives fans away from SOME books. And that's where Marvel got spanked two or three years ago by the market refusing a bunch of second or third-tier books at $4. Then, those fans got used to just not buying as much as they previously felt like they had to/ wanted to.

    And now Marvel can't sell any title that isn't a movie franchise (or even, in the case of Ghost Rider - can't even sell that).

  7. #7
    Brian is ainm dom. :) Nova2814.1's Avatar
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    All I am saying is that all parties should be clear about the fact that a "returnable" as a business practice elevates "sell in," which makes it an effective sales tactic if your objective is to increase product trial. The other happy by-product of this practice in the Direct Market is that "sell in" is the basis of DCD's monthly sales ranking. Would our friends across the street have gone 10-for-10 without "returnablity"? Most likely not, but to their credit they would have still had the top three or four books and most likely had six or seven books in the top 10.
    Only one of January's Top Ten books was returnable, so DC would have had at least 9 books in the Top Ten.

    And for the returnable books, Diamond's charts aren't based on sell in (i.e. total orders). The rankings of the returnable books already assumes a certain level of returns. Diamond says this in their monthly sales charts.

    Kiel, if you see this, I think you should ask Dan to clarify these comments.

    And I know it's probably too late for the 2nd part of the interview, but if there's a chance, maybe you could ask about the free overshipping as well, for books like Point One, Defenders #1, Incredible Hulk #2, etc.
    Last edited by Nova2814.1; 02-09-2012 at 02:53 AM.
    My comic collection. Go on, have a look. You know you want to .

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    Veteran Member Ari Gold's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Buckley
    First, we need to dispel the concept that the unit "win" was done with 52 titles vs Marvel's 3,489 title offering in January -- yes, that is sarcasm. Their winning of January unit share by 2.35% was done with us soliciting 82 books vs. their 80 books -- not 52.
    Except that those numbers include other imprints like Vertigo or their Kids Line which factors very little into the overall unit share as so few are sold.

    If you look at just main universe books DC still beat Marvel while selling 11 less issues.

    DC's 62 sold 2,307,009
    Marvel's 73 sold 2,197,830

  9. #9
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    I should say, a few reasons behind Marvel's pricing:

    They pay the highest base-level page rates in the industry as a way to attract and keep "the best talent". - Now obviously, this doesn't account for individual deals someone like DC would cut with individual creators that they want to keep (exclusives, or just unique offers to your Morrison/Burnham crowd). I'm saying that if you're an indie creator they want to hire, your starting rate is higher than any other company's standard. -- Which ALSO means that the minute they want to offer a raise to keep someone they like on board, the rate goes up even more off of an already higher price. (Which is not to say that everyone's deals end up being more than someone might have at DC, just that all of this $ goes into the overhead of each book.)

    Marvel pays royalties to colorists. Unlike DC (most companies). Again - this just means that one more person is taking money out of the back-end profits and royalties, which the company wants to make up somewhere else (to still make max profit).

    Disney / Marvel movies, etc. apparently DO NOT contribute capital to the publishing division Now, this I haven't been able to learn who at Marvel dictated things should run this way, but the comics publishing division is entirely responsible for its own profitability. They get ZERO dollars off of the licensing, film, or parent companies. Instead, they're expected to generate profits comparable to those divisions, despite being in a medium that's significantly struggling - but that acts as a vital R&D for those other branches.


    Now, I'm not saying that Marvel can't / shouldn't figure out a way to be more financially competitive. I absolutely think they should. But they're also struggling against their own policies. Some of which they can't change.

    Though, I wouldn't be surprised if they start paying their non-exclusive creators less...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kylun123 View Post
    Except that those numbers include other imprints like Vertigo or their Kids Line which factors very little into the overall unit share as so few are sold.

    If you look at just main universe books DC still beat Marvel while selling 11 less issues.

    DC's 62 sold 2,307,009
    Marvel's 73 sold 2,197,830
    I get what you're saying. But that really does nothing to change the actual financial returns. Which, I guarantee you, is what he cares about.

  11. #11
    Veteran Member Ari Gold's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ghostplanet View Post
    I get what you're saying. But that really does nothing to change the actual financial returns. Which, I guarantee you, is what he cares about.
    Cares about maybe, but not what he was trying to dispel by making that blanket comparison with zero context.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nova2814.1 View Post
    Only one of January's Top Ten books was returnable, so DC would have had at least 9 books in the Top Ten.

    And for the returnable books, Diamond's charts aren't based on sell in (i.e. total orders). The rankings of the returnable books already assumes a certain level of returns. Diamond says this in their monthly sales charts.

    Kiel, if you see this, I think you should ask David to clarify these comments.

    And I know it's probably too late for the 2nd part of the interview, but if there's a chance, maybe you could ask about the free overshipping as well, for books like Point One, Defenders #1, Incredible Hulk #2, etc.
    Not only that but the books that recently stopped being returnable had nowhere near 10& returned as is clear by the increase of sales of about 6-8% on these books. Marvel do seem to want to cling onto this fabrication that the shops are sending back books in the boatload. Actual numbers seem to say otherwise.

    The fact that what has been Marvel best selling ongoing for the last several years is beaten by Aquaman says to me that Marvel are in serious denial when it comes to the $3.99 price point. Guess they just don't want to lose their bonuses.

    All this spin and even this interview at this particular time strike me as a little desperate. I wonder how they will spin it come May when it seems more than likely they will only have 3 or 3 books in the top 20.

    They really need to stop kidding themselves. Oh the fragile egos of Marvel.
    Last edited by Sabrewulf; 02-08-2012 at 03:09 PM.

  13. #13

    Default $3.99 is Too Much to Pay for a Standard Comic

    I think the cost issue was basically slighted in the interview. It hurts to pay $3.99 for a comic that takes 10-15 minutes to read when you can but a video game for ten times the amount and that takes tens of hours (or more) to coimplte. This is especially true when the comic contains no extra content. I tore through Defenders #2 the other day and then went back and counted the # of pages and there was only 20 pages of story/art. That's sick.

    In the past, Marvel was justifying the $3.99 price point for their most recognizable characters by indicating that some of the extra revenue was being used to help support some comics with less famous characters or that were more independent-minded and innovative. However, it looks like support for smaller titles is now not a huge concern, so where's the justification for the extra cost?

    I saw in an earlier post that Marvel pays it's talent more than DC which is great but maybe some of the talent is over-paid? What would happen if some of the star creators were paid a bit less? Would they go to DC, where they also might be paid less? Or, is it possible that lowering the comic price might generate additional sales which would allow the talent still to be paid well?

    The cost issue is also problematic when many of the issues are drawn out and decompressed. I've read a couple of Bendis' Avengers issues where I paid $3.99 and nothing happened! The character stood around most of the issue, breaking the fourth wall and making snarky remarks to the reader via confessionals. The publisher indicates readers don't mind paying $3.99 if the story quality is great but many times, this isn't the case. And, if DC and Marvel are both offering compelling stories, I know that I'll spend my money buying comics that will save me some additional money to buy additional comics. I'm pretty sure this explains why the Avengers comics have dropped out of the Top Ten.

    I've dropped all Avengers titles and will probably drop Defenders as well. It's much easier to drop a $3.99 title than one that costs a dollar less...

  14. #14
    Veteran Member Ari Gold's Avatar
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    I agree.

    It's funny because at the meeting where John Turitzin raises the $3.99 price point he's asked about losing readers.

    He responds that the goal is to increase revenue without alienating the fanbase and without giving fans the feeling of being gouged.

    Additionally, he says that if there's a decline in sales they'll be forced to re-evaluate the strategy.

    Since the $3.99 price point has been introduced Marvel's sales have declined while the rest of the industry's sales has increased and there's this catch-22 at this point where they can't simply change back to $2.99 because it doesn't magically re-create consumers. So instead they have to put out more $3.99 titles to justify that it's working and at the same time sacrificing readers and B/C-list characters from having solos.

  15. #15
    Veteran Member Leocomix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kylun123 View Post
    Except that those numbers include other imprints like Vertigo or their Kids Line which factors very little into the overall unit share as so few are sold.

    If you look at just main universe books DC still beat Marvel while selling 11 less issues.

    DC's 62 sold 2,307,009
    Marvel's 73 sold 2,197,830
    "Main universe"??? How does that have anything to do with publishing? It doesn't. And that also shows that DC isn't doing as well as Marvel with their non-universe. I.e. Marvel is the company with more diversity.

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