I took a random publisher, and decided to check what each of their titles sells in relation to one another. The easiest to check is Valiant, the relaunched in 2012 publisher that has one shared universe and only a few titles. These are their December 2013 US direct-market sales:
#121 Unity #2 18845
#190 X-O Manowar #20 9,941
194 Eternal Warrior #4 9,645
197 Shadowman #13 9,403
199 Harbringer #19 9,237
208 Quantum and Woody #6 8,855
216 Archer and Armstrong #16 8,608
222 Bloodshot & Hard Corps #17 8,142
Talk about comparable numbers from one title to another. Valiant appears to have cultivated a base that buys all their books, and a few people that buy this and that, and make money off it. This is really something other small companies should strive for, instead of hoping to rely on one hit title, in my estimation. Should one title be cancelled for whatever reason, the others are there to pick up the slack. A ‘united’ front of marketing, pushing all the books are ‘important’ to read, instead of an event title that is designed to push numbers for a few short months, has made it so there is no standout title, but no lagging titles, either.
This also allows them to slowly build their line, as they have done by adding Shadowman, Quantum & Woody and Eternal Warrior in succession without really taking away readership from their other books. Unity is their first big ‘team’ book, and even that has grown out of multiple storylines. There are no gimmicks to temporarily boost readership. Everything done is for a reason, and that reason is the slow building of their marketshare.
A shared universe is more than just a story; it’s a mentality. Similar, consistent marketing that values the entire line instead of one or two titles has emphasized the need to read their entire line of titles. This has stuck with a certain fan base. Others should take note if they want to get a foothold into the ever-crowded comic book market which is still dominated by Marvel and DC.