Posted by: Brian Hibbs on December 7, 2009
Heidi has a good write up on DC’s newest initiative — basically, it sounds like DC’s version of the “Ultimate” line, but they’re skipping out on the serialization, and going straight to OGNs.
There’s not a ton of details in terms of exact format, pagination, or release schedule, so let’s make some assumptions. Let’s assume they’re going to try for two releases of each character a year. Let’s also assume that they’ll be handled somewhat like THE JOKER HC from Azarello and Bermejo from late last year — roughly 128 pages, in HC, for $24.95.
A monthly comic, of 22 pages each, would yield approximately 264 pages at the end of a year — in this assumed OGN format, we’re talking about 256 pages at the end of a year.
Using SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGIN as a comparable metric, if these books were serialized as comics first, Comix Experience would sell something on the order of 50 copies of #1, 40 of #2, and an average of 30 copies each of #3-12, during our theoretical year. With a $2.99 cover price, on these 390 copies during a year would work out to $1166 (and ten cents).
In order to generate the same revenue from two OGNs, at a $25 price point, I’d need to sell almost 47 copies (46.73, says the calculator)
Here’s the thing, though, in my experience OGNs are really only likely to sell 2/3rds or less of a similar periodical release (cf: 1001 NIGHTS OF SNOWFALL vs FABLES, LOEG: CENTURY vs LOEG: BLACK DOSSIER or SANDMAN: ENDLESS NIGHTS vs SANDMAN) — and it can be closer to 1/3.
Working from the “mature” sales of #3 and beyond (which is really where you calculate these things, not from the top end of a #1), assuming 2/3 of those sales, that’d give me an order of 20 copies of v1. Even if we assume NO drop-off of v2 (hahaha, unlikely!), that’d yield a total of 40 copies sold. 40x$25 = $1000… or about 10% less revenue than a serialization would give us.
Of course, that’s just “initial” sales — one would presume this would continue to sell on and on, forever, if they’re any good… but then you’d have the same from the TP collection of the serialized issues, so that’s pretty much a wash.
(Also, you have to figure that somewhere between 10 and 25% of the people who bought a serialization will ALSO buy the collection… that goes away entirely with OGNs…)
[SANDMAN: PRELUDES AND NOCTURNES sells, for me, about 6 copies for every copy of ENDLESS NIGHTS I sell, today, years after initial release]
And, of course, I’m calculating using a $25 price point, if it is $19.95, or even less, that skews the math in a much uglier direction.
The bottom line is that customers are much less likely to plunk down for a Big Ticket item than they are for a periodical, which is one of the reasons that the OGN doesn’t, to my mind, make a ton of sense.
And while it is possible that the “bookstore reader” will flock to superhero-OGN work… well, I kind of don’t think that will happen… and, even if it does, I have a hardish time picturing them wanting it again and again — because this theoretical 2x a year strategy IS a periodical, just much slower than usual.
Here’s the thing: the “civilian” audience, the one in bookstores that we’re assuming DC is going after on this? Well, they don’t know, understand or WANT to understand the difference between a “TP” and an “OGN”. TPs *are* “original” to them, if it is the first time they’ve ever seen it. When SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGIN comes out in its eventual collection, it may as well BE an “OGN” to the bookstore customer. And when they ask “what’s the difference between this and ‘Earth One’?” is the answer going to make a lick of sense to them?
(My guess? No, not even a little bit)
This will be an interesting experiment, but one that I don’t think is going to work all that successfully — whatever the OGN might sell, I’m fairly certain that I would sell 1.x times as many as a periodical. Therefore the bookstores are going to have to make up the difference all by themselves… and I don’t really see that happening.