The gorgeous Albertine bookstore at the French Embassy.
I’m in the middle of Book Expo/Book Con hubbub but I wanted to draw beat readers attention to the conference on French-language comics held this past Tuesday as a kickoff for BEA. The invite-only event was organized by BIEF, a French books organization, but agent/translator Ivanka Hahnenberger , and included representatives of 35 US publishers and many French ones as well. There were lots and lots and lots of stats thrown out, and maybe the decks will be made public at some time, but I summed up some of them for the piece:
The event is part of a renewed effort by BIEF to attract more attention to French comics in a growing U.S. market that is changing to be more accepting of content beyond the superhero genre that has dominated it for decades. More such efforts are planned. Castille announced that in the fall of 2015, a coalition of 13 comics publishers from eight countries is launching Europecomics.com, an EU-cofunded online venture aimed at the North American market that will provide information and highlight events around European graphic novels.
Comics—or “bande desinée” as they are known in France—make up a much larger portion of the French publishing market than they do the U.S., about 12.5% of all the books published, compared to about 3% in the U.S. According to statistics from Livres Hebdo (the PW of France) 349 French comic publishers put out 5000 graphic novels in 2014, compared to 1500 graphic novels distributed in the U.S. through Diamond. Sales in France were led by the latest volume of the long-running humor comics series Asterix with 1.634 million copies sold.
Other numbersL currently digital comics make up only 1% of the French market, a fact that Izdeo and Comixology are trying to change…give them time, I’m sure it will happen.
The day was part of an effort to bring more Francophone comics to the US. Given the success of things like Beautiful Darkness, Lulu Anew, Exquisite Corpse, Sardine in Space, Robert Moses and Blue is the Warmest Color — all books from a spectrum of US publishers—it seems this is starting to happen. We may never get the total range of French GNs but we’re getting more of them and the variety is definitely adding to the general golden age of comics we’re now experiencing.
Schmoozing over wine and cheese.
This fall europecomics.com will launch, a portal for all things Euro.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.