Awash In Direct Edition Profits

Slide from Newsstand Rarity Discussion & Estimates; discussion below.

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This slide is part of my post entitled
Newsstand Rarity Discussion & Estimates where I have collected quotes and graphics related to the discussion of relative newsstand rarity over the years, compared to direct edition copies. In this slide, I am discussing a quote about Marvel’s newsstand sales and returns related to one another:

“While it was seldom that a newsstand sold more than 30% of the new comics they displayed (they were able to return unsold copies for full credit at the end of the month), comics specialty stores were a guaranteed 100% sell-through, as they purchased on non-returnable basis. Freed from the enormous printing costs of publishing three comics for every one that sold, and also being able to eliminate the administration costs of issuing credits for returns, the publishers suddenly found themselves awash in profits.”

— Chuck Rozanski, Destroying the Entry Point of Most New Readers,”

What is particularly interesting to me about this quote, is that it provides insight into how the introduction of Direct Edition sales would change the dynamics of comic book distribution. The idea that newsstands only sold 30% of the comics they displayed gives us a sense of the relationship between sales and returns, i.e. that returns would have been a large number in comparison to sales, because if only 30% of the comics displayed were sold, that leaves 70% being returned. In the context of some of the Amazing Spider-Man sales and returns numbers over the years (presented on another slide), this is really fascinating to contemplate because it could spell rarity numbers for later Amazing-Spider-Man issue that are incredibly low: for example consider the average returns number given for the 2001 year at 17,210 copies (if that is what was returned, then a smaller number would have been sold in the context of that 30% / 70% relationship that Rozanski discussed in this quote). Also very revealing in this quote is the phrase “awash in profits” to describe how publishers benefitted from the shift to more direct market sales.

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