One of the hardest things for any independent comic book to achieve is the sort of stability which allows its creative team to count on it from month to month. Among the most solid performers in that arena is John Layman and Rob Guillory‘s Chew.
Since its launch in June of 2009, the long-form limited series (creator John Layman has stated that he intends for Chew to run sixty issues) has been able to lock in a core audience of over 10,000 monthly readers who pick it up in comic book shops around the country. Where most series see a huge drop-off from the first issue numbers to where their audience floor lays, Chew is a study in consistency. The first printing of issue number 1 was only 5246 copies, resulting in a demand which pushed it to multiple printings. Where the present-day strategy from publisher Image Comics has been to do printing after printing after printing, in the case of Chew, the publisher moved quickly to match the demand for the first issue to subsequent print runs. According to available numbers on the multiple prints of issue #1, Chew’s debut sold around 13,500 copies. After issue #2 also went to multiple printings, the initial print runs for subsequent months settled in at between 12,000 and 13,000 copies. This move allowed retailers to ensure that they were able to meet demand on a month-to-month basis and allowed Chew’s audience to go into the shop each month knowing that they would be able to grab their new favorite book without worrying that it would be sold out, and leading to a contemplation of trade-waiting.
While sales have diminished over the last several months, dropping below their long-standing floor of 10,000 copies per month to 9,583 in May (the last month of available data), trade sales on Chew have more than made up for it. Each of the its nine collected trades has been a top-5 release in its debut month, and the combined total sales of all the trade paperbacks and hardcovers is over 123,000 copies sold in the direct market. The trades alone have grossed sales in excess of $2.15 million, and that number does not account for months in which volumes fell out of Diamond’s Top 300, or sales to the book market.
Despite the occasional month or two off (after all, John Layman is a fairly busy writer), Chew’s devoted audience has made the series a rock of the independent market and with less than twelve issues to go before its’ planned conclusion, it will stand as an example to independent creators of what can be achieved with consistent quality and rapt attention paid to initial demand.
(Disclaimer: Market Maven uses publicly available data from Diamond Comic Distributors and takes into account only direct market sales figures. Digital Sales are not available to the public and do not factor into these statistics.)