May 09, 2007

COWBOYS & ALIENS sales inflated

The COWBOYS & ALIENS ScandalI open up the Entertainment Weekly that came in today’s mail, pleasantly surprised to find, in place of its traditional Best-sellers List, a run-down of the top comic books and graphic novels for mid-December. And, also a nice surprise, this list is not entirely dominated by the superhero genre: There’s BKV’s Pride of Baghdad, Miller’s 300, and…ouch, Cowboys & Aliens.

What smarts most is that C&A is listed as the top-selling graphic novel. Yes, Entertainment Weekly crowns it as #1.

First, that’s crap. I think we all know that’s crap. And, by “we,” I mean people who actually go to comic book shops on an almost weekly basis to stock up on the newest, the best, and the guilty pleasures (not always mutually exclusive). Even folks who are only casually aware of the comic book industry—as either a consumer, a producer, or a critic (again, seldom mutually exclusive)—know that this is crap. Entertainment Weekly naming Cowboys & Aliens is the #1 graphic novel is like saying Girls Gone Wild Spring Break Sex Riot is the #1 DVD over Pirates of the Carribbean.

Numbers don’t lie, you say? Sure they do.
How and why did this happen?[L]et’s recount the factors:

1. Cowboys & Aliens was generally not sold for its $4.99 cover price. In many cases, including Midtown Comics, it was given away for free.

2. Entertainment Weekly chose this week and this location, for whatever reason, by which to gauge industry sales (not Diamond’s list, not Wizard, etc.). They chose to include promotional items in their tally and ignore price-point or sales in total dollar amount.

3. Platinum Studios paid retailers to order and sell the book. The company cut checks back to retailers for more than the cost of their orders as a ridiculous incentive to have it in stores.

4. C&A is being prepared for Hollywood treatment, largely based on these reported numbers and EW coverage. Beyond notoriety, there’s definite incentive for Scott Rosenberg and Platinum to undertake this course of action.
Comment:  For more on the story, see Cowboys & Alibis.

Note:  A. David Lewis, who wrote this report, is an old friend of Blue Corn Comics.


Anonymous said...

And this is old news to boot. If you did your research, you might be shocked or suprised to learn that retailer co-ops are nothing new, DC and Marvel have done them for years.

The only people complaining about this, aren't retailers, who are in fact happy with these sort of deals, but other graphic novelists who think it's unfair. Maybe they should go with a publisher with pull with the major retailers?

Rob said...

Many of my postings cover "old news," so that's nothing new. Sometimes I review 25-year-old comics, 50-year-old movies, or 100-year-old books.

The question is whether it's news to me or to readers of this blog, not whether it's news, period. This subject is news because I haven't reported on it before.

Lewis wasn't questioning co-op deals so much as the inflated numbers for COWBOYS & ALIENS. He stated his reasons for his critique.

Whatever they do, DC and Marvel don't tout sales figures from Entertainment Weekly based on one NYC store. And retailers don't sell DC and Marvel comics at steep discounts off the cover price.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Early on, writerfella researched COWBOYS & ALIENS, and found that its initial numbers were due to 'free distributions' and so the numbers weren't actual. Thus, it nowhere deserves its reputation as a 'best-seller' among 'graphic novels'. There is a certain amount of calculation here and it becomes similar to a movie studio's willingness to let theaters lie about 'sold-out' opening days of certain movies, that 'word-of-mouth' then can become a free source of advertising for that film. People say, 'Hey, I can't get in to see that film, so it must be pretty good!'
Then they strive to see the film and they tell their friends. That means "COWBOYS & ALIENS" did that very same marketing ploy...
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

Right, Russ. Even if this is standard practice in the comic-book and motion-picture industries, Lewis is free to critique it. And I'm free to share his critique and thus make it more well-known.