This April, it is estimated that Diamond Comics Distributors sold 5,567,648 of the top 300 comic books to American comic stores.
The previous April, it is estimated they sold 6,733,040 of the top 300 comic books.
That's a drop of a fifth, year on year.
Now, there's plenty of caveats. These industry estimates on Diamond sales are often criticised for underestimating figures. They also don't count UK, South American, or European sales which can be significant. And these figures can't account for greater variance in sales, month on month, with the far end of the "long tail" being unaccounted for. They only thing they are good for is measuring trends. And whatever the actual figures are, there is one conclusion. Comic books sold in the direct market are slipping.
Coupled with bookstore markets not exactly supporting the likes of Viz or CMX sufficently, and there's a fair bit of worry out there.
Marvel have made the largest move out of any big publisher into digital sales, but their product is generally at least six months old, and runs are spotty and sporadic.
The price increase for many comics, from $2.99 to $3.99 may be both the cause and saviour. Sales may be slipping linewise as fans can now only afford to buy so many comics, made worse by the recession. But even a fifth drop on sales still means more revenue for publishers and retailers alike. As long as sales don't continue to slip, that is.
But it could be bad news for creators, as print titles repeatedly fail to meet royalty of "incentive payment" levels. And Marvel still don't pay creators for any sales of their work, digitally.
Is it just me, or does this feel like there's worse to come?