So I'm reading over Sarah Glazer's article on Shojo manga in yesterday's New York Times, and a little throw-away line in the lead paragraph catches my eye: "Last year, Del Rey sold a million copies of its first 16 releases combined."
Okay, let's pull out our calculators: That's 1,000,000 copies divided by 16 volumes, or an average of 62,500 copies per volume. That's of an $11 book, or $687,500 in sales per book.
The top seller via Diamond for August 2005 was Justice #1 with $190,400 copies of a $3 comic, or $571,200 in sales.
Which means that, dollar for dollar, each release from Del Rey--a second-tier manga publisher--is right up there with the most that Marvel & DC can do. And they're doing it completely outside of the direct market.
(Dollar figures are calculated here as if the books actually sold for cover price, which of course is not always the case. But I think it makes for a fair comparison.)