Like the death of a warrant canary, sometimes the most notable news stories stem from absence rather than presence. Such was the case last night when literary agent Charles Olsen tweeted out this doozy:

According to an email subscription version of February 5th’s NY Times Best Sellers List, “Beginning with the advance BSL edition that will be delivered today for February 5, 2017 there will be revisions to multiple categories in the publication. These changes will span weekly and monthly lists.” One of these changes appears to be the deletion of the hardcover graphic novels, softcover graphic novels, and manga Best Seller lists, as none of these sections are included in the document that we have reviewed.

Graphic novels have been a constant source of profit and expansion for the ailing publishing industry over the last several years. According to ICv2, “graphic novels in the book channel represented the biggest area of growth” in 2016. Raina Telgemeier’s Ghosts received a monumental 500,000 copy first printing when it was released last year. Recently, John Lewis’ biographical comic March won four awards from the American Library Association and topped the Amazon Bestseller List as well. With these things in mind, it is certainly seemed possible that the NY Times had omitted the three graphic literature lists by accident.


However, as confirmed by comics sales aggregator Comichron, graphic novel and manga categories have been eliminated from the NY Times Bestseller lists.

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Cindy from TimesDigest, the advance subscription service that provides the bestseller list early to publishing professionals, told Comichron “Please be advised that the Best Sellers List will be focusing on its core lists. These include the lists in this week’s advance BSL publication.” That suggests the lists are gone not just from the advance version, but also will not appear Friday online and this weekend’s print Books section.

 


Comics are a demonstrably important cultural force in America. With a deeply rooted history in subversion and resistance, we need them now more than ever. It is a huge loss to us all that the Times has pulled back on their coverage of the industry.

Asked for comment, the New York Times provided the following response:

Beginning February 5, The New York Times will eliminate a number of print but mostly online-only bestseller lists. In recent years, we introduced a number of new lists as an experiment, many of which are being discontinued.

We will continue to cover all of these genres of books in our news coverage (in print and online). The change allows us to devote more space and resources to our coverage beyond the bestseller lists.

Our major lists will remain, including: Top 15 Hardcover Fiction, Top 15 Hardcover Nonfiction, Top 15 Combined Print and E Fiction, Top 15 Combined Print and E Nonfiction, Top 10 Children’s Hardcover Picture Books, Top 10 Children’s Middle Grade Hardcover Chapter Books, Top 10 Children’s Young Adult Hardcover Chapter Books and Top 10 Children’s Series. Several more including Paperback Trade Fiction, Paperback Nonfiction, Business, Sports, Science and Advice Miscellaneous will remain online.

Readers will be notified that individual lists will no longer be compiled and updated by The New York Times on the relevant article pages.

It’s worth noting that while the loss of the graphic novels and manga bestseller lists is of great import to the comics industry, it was not the only sector to be impacted by this policy change. Mass paperbacks will be losing their sales coverage as well. Sports books, however, will continue to receive coverage.

In addition, while the Times called the graphic book and manga charts an “experiment,” these charts first appeared in 2009 when the Watchmen movie debuted and have now been around for nearly a decade. The Times’ post heralding the arrival of these sales charts proclaimed that “comics have finally joined the mainstream.”

 

UPDATE: The New York Times has explained its reasons for eliminating the graphic books bestseller lists.

42 COMMENTS

  1. “There are FOUR awards!”

    I suspect the lists aren’t active enough, that it doesn’t take much to hit #10.

    When I analyzed the lists annually, it was easy to see what was a “normal” bestseller, and what was merely a result of advance sales and the Wednesday crowd.

    I suspect we’ll see them mainstreamed into the regular lists, which is what caused the creation of the lists originally. (The Batman movie adaptation prose adaptation charted in paperback, but not the thousands of copies of Watchmen.)

  2. No problem. I think with the changes being across the board, it says more about the changing priorities at the paper rather than anything about our market, which as ComicsBeat notes was up in the book channel last year.

  3. I’m surprised they’re not, like, just consolidating them into one category if they’re trying to focus. It’s been an expanding area so this is a big disappointment.

  4. It’s somewhat of a financial blow as well as a symbolic one for publishers and creators, for whom that bit of extra buzz carried some weight. Certainly people look forward to it, hence all the subscribers to the advance list. I’ve been fortunate enough to make both the GN and hardcover lists, but I’ve also had works that “missed by that much” judging from comparisons with Publishers Weekly’s lists (including one that likely would have made the list the week they cut hardcovers from 25 to 20). So more entries on the extended lists and more categories were always popular, since they meant more chances.

    PW’s lists, which come from Bookscan, will likely get more looks now — though I think their graphic novel list is monthly rather than weekly. https://secure.publishersweekly.com/pw/nielsen/xgraphic.html

    https://secure.publishersweekly.com/pw/nielsen/xgraphic.html

  5. Newspapers can keep changing priorities until they don’t exist any more. Slowly, but surely… they will fade away. I still buy the Sunday edition of newspapers, but that’s about it. They rest is just filler.

  6. Do people still care about the NYT best-seller list?

    It’s like the last place I go for recommendations, but maybe I’m the exception.

  7. Losing the ability for a creator or publisher to put “New York Times Bestseller” on the cover of their books kicks those sales potentially back down. The publishers — Scholastic, Marvel, DC, Top Shelf, Fantagraphics, etc. — and authors ought to be pushing on the New York Times against this.

    It’s probably a time when it’s extra hard to spread one’s activism around too thinly, but it’s more important than ever in a world of free expression and new ideas.

  8. But hey, Dinesh D’Souza and Ann Coulter can still top the NY Times Best Seller list with books of rants and lies, right?!

  9. Brian, as Nat Gertler noted on Facebook, graphic novels did make the general lists before they were broken out, so it couldn’t hurt. I suspect the threshholds are higher now that those categories too have been shortened, but graphic novels’ numbers are better, too.

  10. Aside from a few one-offs (Pogo, Alien), I don’t recall many graphic novels appearing in either the general list, or the “miscellaneous” list where one found comicstrip collections like “The Far Side” and “Calvin & Hobbes” (along with self-help and cookbooks).

    The graphic novel lists were created partly in response to protests over “Watchmen” being completely ignored when sales exploded after the movie trailer was partnered with “The Dark Knight”.

    “The Dark Knight” prose novel made the list, but not Watchmen.

    Unanswered is: Will the New York Times mainstream graphic novels into the remaining lists?
    Dav Pilkey’s “Dog Man” does appear at the top of its list, and it’s a Scholastic Graphix title, and it’s comics?

    For comparison, the USA Today issues a collated list of 150 titles.
    For 01/22/2017:
    47 41 Dog Man Unleashed, Dav Pilkey (Scholastic) , $9.99
    106 — March, John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, art by Nate Powell (Top Shelf Productions) , $49.99 (the slipcase)

    Do graphic novels appear on the PW lists (which have a longer history than the NYT)?
    I do recall “V for Vendetta” appearing on the Barnes & Noble list when the movie premiered.
    Of course, on BN.com, it’s quite common to see GN titles in the Top 100.

  11. >> Unanswered is: Will the New York Times mainstream graphic novels into the remaining lists? >>

    From Pamela Paul, on Twitter: “To be clear: Graphic novels are still eligible for both adult and kids bestsellers lists. As they were before the GN lists were broken out separately.”

    So, yes.

  12.   “The New York Times, who (much like Marvel and DC) represents the pinnacle of a dying format struggling to find ways to cut spending while fighting off their inevitable extinction, announced today that their New York Times Best Sellers lists would no longer include the best-selling hardcover / paperback graphic novels or manga, presumably due to cost-cutting efforts” — Gheru

  13. As Mr. Miller notes me noting, “graphic books” did long have a place on the best-seller charts before there were separate charts. Back in the 1960s, you can see things like the Peanuts book “Happiness is a Warm Puppy” and the Mort Drucker-illustrated never-meant-to-be-coloring satirical JFK Coloring Book (now back in print from my company, About Comics, hint hint hint) having long runs on the charts. The first “this is absolutely a graphic novel” example I can point to is the Goodwin/Simonson adaptation of Alien in the 1970s. For the year 1982, “four Garfield books account for about one-third of the sales for the top 15 titles in trade paperback”. You could find Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon’s adaptation of the 9/11 Commission Report on the Paperback Political Best Sellers chart in 2006, and so on and so forth. The charts had homes for these books before they were ghettoized, and apparently they still have them.

  14. BookReader asks ‘Do people still care about the NYT best-seller list? It’s like the last place I go for recommendations, but maybe I’m the exception.’

    For general bookstores, it and NPR (at least among liberal readers) will boost sales of a title quite a bit for general fiction and non-fiction alike. In New England, only the Boston Globe has as much impact.

    That said, I don’t remember *ever* seeing them post anything regarding the GN list from the Times. Or anything else save staff recommendations.

    Their general GN section certainly isn’t anything they really care about, same for the SF and fantasy section. Mysteries are the only genre section that they really stock widely and deeply.

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