Ever wonder what categories are the most popular in graphic novels?
Think it’s all manga and superheroes?
Well, as you can see on the chart to the left, it’s fairly diverse.
How did I come up with these percentages?
First, there’s this group called BISG. They make sure all the standards that booksellers and publishers use work. One thing they standardize are called BISAC subject codes. These help booksellers to categorize what they sell, either online or onshelf.
Books In Print is a big database run by R.R. Bowker, who also manage EANs and ISBNs for Anglo-American publishers. If it’s got an EAN, they list it. Even for the rinky-dink publishers you’ll never hear of.
With a little trial and error, and hacking of URLs, I figured out a way to search BISACs for specific years. That’s a work in progress, and I’ll publish that data at a later date.
But it’s quite easy to search for EVERYTHING by a specific BISAC code, regardless of date.
Here are the numbers for the above chart:
|TOTAL Everything Else||21,240|
Some caveats: BISACs are assigned by publishers. A title may have more than one BISAC subject code. A title may have a “graphic novel” BISAC, yet not be a graphic novel. (For example, a Golden Book easy-to-read Spider-Man story book.) Version 2 of the BISAC subject codes dates to November 1997, which predates the modern era which started in 1999 with the importation of Pokemon titles by Viz Media.
(Library subject headings are just as muddled. Some titles use “Comic books, strips, etc.”; some use “Graphic novels”. But if we standardize the search terms, one can still study trends.)
Note that graphic novels for kids outnumber superhero titles for a general trade audience…
Manga’s numbers have decreased over the years (2013, Manga only had 14% of the titles), and “everything else” has grown (36% in 2013).
What’s it all mean? Stay tuned… I need to fill in the years from 1970 to 2011.
Here’s the raw data for each BISAC subject I could find, including ones since deactivated. (Yes, they still show up…)
|CGN000000||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / General||17,996|
|CGN001000||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Anthologies||880|
|CGN002000||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Comics & Cartoons||393|
|CGN003000||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Educational||9|
|CGN004000||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Graphic Novels / General||1547|
|CGN004010||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Crime & Mystery||1309|
|CGN004020||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Erotica||522|
|CGN004030||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Fantasy||2778|
|CGN004040||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Horror||2056|
|CGN004050||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / General||10291|
|CGN004060||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Media Tie-In||1426|
|CGN004070||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Science Fiction||2322|
|CGN004080||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Superheroes||8811|
|CGN004090||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Romance||266|
|CGN004100||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Crime & Mystery||169|
|CGN004110||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Erotica||56|
|CGN004120||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Fantasy||2004|
|CGN004130||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / LGBT||57|
|CGN004140||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Historical Fiction||126|
|CGN004150||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Horror||412|
|CGN004160||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Media Tie-In||237|
|CGN004170||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Nonfiction||42|
|CGN004180||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Romance||816|
|CGN004190||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Science Fiction||754|
|CGN004200||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Sports||117|
|CGN004210||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Yaoi||62|
|CGN004220||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Religious||7|
|CGN005000||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / History & Criticism||175|
|CGN006000||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Literary||1479|
|CGN007000||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Nonfiction||752|
|CGN008000||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Contemporary Women||159|
|CGN009000||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / LGBT||138|
|CGN010000||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Historical Fiction||319|
|CGN011000||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Religious||93|
|CGN012000||COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Adaptations *||21|
|ART004000||ART / Techniques / Cartooning||905|
|HUM001000||HUMOR / Form / Comic Strips & Cartoons||3642|
|HUM002000||HUMOR / Comic Books, Strips, etc.||42|
|JUV033070||JUVENILE FICTION / Religious / Christian / Comics & Graphic Novels||117|
|JUV008000||JUVENILE FICTION / Comics & Graphic Novels / General||6025|
|JUV008010||JUVENILE FICTION / Comics & Graphic Novels / Manga||867|
|JUV008020||JUVENILE FICTION / Comics & Graphic Novels / Superheroes||1306|
|JUV008030||JUVENILE FICTION / Comics & Graphic Novels / Media Tie-In||413|
|JNF028010||JUVENILE NONFICTION / Humor / Comic Strips & Cartoons||239|
|JNF049190||JUVENILE NONFICTION / Religious / Christian / Comics & Graphic Novels||40|
|JNF062000||JUVENILE NONFICTION / Comics & Graphic Novels / General||327|
|JNF062010||JUVENILE NONFICTION / Comics & Graphic Novels / Biography||166|
|JNF062020||JUVENILE NONFICTION / Comics & Graphic Novels / History||302|
I’ve been writing for The Beat since July of 2010.
I’ve been reading comics since 1974, collecting since 1984, and spreading the graphic novel gospel since 1994.
I’m a bookseller, a librarian, an amateur scholar, a cool uncle, and a comics evangelist.
Ask me anything!