dogman for whom the ball rolls pilkey

By Brian Hibbs

“There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics”

Implausibly, this is the seventeenth annual BookScan report of something that is hard to exactly perceive and understand: the size and shape of the sales of graphic novels and trade paperbacks through the bookstore market, as seen through the prism of NPD BookScan.

This is a crazy and insane thing for me to be writing today, because this feels like a message in a bottle from a far distant past, and from something that may never be working in the same way again as book retail goes through what I think everyone imagines will be an incredible sea change due to COVID-19.  But, we can look at a sweet and halcyon past, so let’s do that.

You can see my notes on my methodology at the end of my analysis.

Some preamble:

“Direct Market” stores (also known as “your Local Comics Shop”) buy much of their material for resale from Diamond Comics Distributors (though, not, by any means, all of the material your LCS has for sale – many DM stores are also buying from book-market wholesalers, or directly from publishers and have been for years). While many DM stores have Point-of-Sales (POS) systems, because our market typically buys non-returnable, what we track in our side of the industry is what sells-in to the store, not what sells-through to the eventual consumer. In a very real way, this means that the DM store owner is the actual customer of the publisher, as opposed to the end consumer.

The bookstore market, however, buys their material semi-returnable, where they can send back some portion of titles that don’t sell (but not, usually, all unsold product). Because of this, sell-through is the data that is tracked and trended. Bookstores that have POS systems are able to report their sales to NPD BookScan, a subsidiary of The NPD Group (they bought it from Nielsen in 2017).

NPD BookScan tracks the specific sales to consumers through its client stores. I had several well-trained spies who have, for many years, provided me with access to the NPD BookScan reports at the end of each year.  However, I am very excited to say that we are now getting the NPD BookScan reports directly from The NPD Group, with no filter or middleman!  This is our third year of doing so.

However, getting “official” details has brought a major change as of last year: NPD Group no longer wants us releasing the actual data, even the pretty tight “Top 750,” as has been our historical practice.  I am fairly certain that, if you know how to search the internet, you could probably turn up previously published links from 2003 through 2017, but going forward, you will have to trust my abstract of the charts, rather than seeing the charts themselves.  So sorry!

(For points of comparison, try these links to the earlier pieces:

2018: My Analysis

2017: My Analysis

2016: My Analysis

2015: My Analysis

2014: My Analysis

2013: My Analysis

2012: My Analysis

2011: My Analysis

2010: My Analysis

2009: My Analysis

2008: My Analysis

2007: My Analysis

2006: My Analysis

2005: My Analysis

2004: My Analysis

2003: My Analysis)

2019 Overview

The main thing that has to be done in editing the data I am sent is removing all of the things that are not comics.  I literally hand-checked thousands of items against Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature” to say “is this a comic or not?”  I defined “comics” like this: either a) it has multiple panels sequentially producing a narrative (those don’t have to be on ONE PAGE, so someone like Mo Williams is certainly comics) OR b) a single image that, taken entirely by itself, provides a complete thought. So, “The Far Side” is comics, but, no, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” is NOT (but very glad to see that number as a comparative).

Using my new working definition, I have decided to cut some items that had previously been kept in: chief among those is Rachel Renee Russell’s “Dork Diaries” – they have words, they have pictures, but they don’t work together in the way I’d think we’d commonly agree is “comics”.  I also removed prose-driven books like DK Publishing’s “Marvel Encyclopedia,” which, while nominally about comics or comics culture, is factually an encyclopedic prose book with pictures. Or “Wonder Woman: Warbringer” which is a straight-up prose novel that happens to feature a comics character, or “DC Super Heroes: My First Book of Girl Power,” which the Amazon “Look Inside” clearly shows is an illustrated reader for 2nd graders. There is clearly an enormous market for this kind of material – in fact, in many cases a larger market than for the actual comics themselves – it just isn’t the “comics” market, as I would define it.

Here’s the big picture for just the Top 750 in 2019:

Year Total Unit Growth Calculated Retail Value Growth
2003 5,495,584    ——- $66,729,053    ——–
2004 6,071,123 10.5% $67,783,487 1.6%
2005 7,007,345 15.4% $75,459,669 11.3%
2006 8,395,195 19.8% $90,411,902 19.8%
2007 8,584,317 2.3% $95,174,425 5.3%
2008 8,334,276 -2.9% $101,361,173 6.5%
2009 7,634,453 -8.4% $93,216,014 -8.0%
2010 6,414,336 -15.9% $85,266,166 -8.5%
2011 5,696,163 -11.2% $79,961,951 -6.2%
2012 5,438,329 -4.53% $89,918,354 12.45%
2013 5,654,351 3.97% $96,062,709 6.83%
2014 6,659,031 17.77% $112,768,709 17.39%
2015* 8,762,983 31.60% $141,226,518 25.24%
2016* 9,967,907 13.75% $159,510,075 12.95%
2017 10,310,682 3.44% $154,026,517 -3.44%
2018 11,755,903 14.02% $165,885,527 7.70%
2019 15,537,520 32.17% $226,370,566 36.46%

 

That’s nothing less than the best year of comics that we’ve ever tracked in the Top 750!  Not just in terms of raw numbers (the market has more than doubled since 2014!), but also in terms of percentages of growth.  And the calculated retail dollars (again: only a measure of what the gross sales would be if every book was bought at full cover price… which assuredly they are not!) is up even more than the raw circulation figures.  WOW!

great graphic novel sales(I want to remind you that while I asterisk 2015-2016 in terms of the sheer number of data points that I was getting was probably edited, it appears to be that the top 750 itself was fairly rock solid.)

The trend for print books in general (not just looking at comics) through bookstores, according to the NPD group and NPD BookScan appears to be a general drop of 1.3% in 2019, which does nothing but continue the now six-year trend of comics-material being significantly stronger than the general curve.  For 2019, we could change that to “wildly stronger”!

(For what it is worth, overall book [only] sales through Diamond in the Direct Market appear to be down by about 2%, (in dollars; ComicChron isn’t calculating pieces here) so the comics market performed incredibly better in the book category – however, I want to reiterate that “Direct Market” retailers are not necessarily buying their book stock from Diamond; certainly, I’ve moved the overwhelming majority of my own purchases directly to book publishers and distributors.  Diamond only directly reports the Top 300 best-sellers each month, and those Top 300s in the DM sum up to just over $65m worth of books sold, though obviously there are a LOT of periodicals on top of that (another $307m).  Deep, deep into the micro, my own individual sales were up about 3.7% in dollars at my main store in 2019.

As I noted in the methodology, I primarily write about the top 750 because a) that’s all the data I was initially leaked back in 2003, b) it’s a “manageable” chunk of data, and c) “as above, so below” – the top 750 represents about half of sales. However, since 2007, I’ve received the “entire” database, which now gives us a solid ten years of data to track. Sometimes we refer to this as “the Long Tail.

BookScan 2019 Overview

Here’s what the yearly sales of all comics sales NPD BookScan tracks in this category look like – but, seriously, let me remind you that the data set changes enough each year so that this is a kind of meaningless set of comparisons!  Even putting aside “the asterisk years,” prior to 2013 this didn’t include Walmart, for just one example of the lack of direct comparison.

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail Value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 13,181        —– 15,386,549       —– $183,066,142      —– 1167 $13,888.64
2008 17,571 24.98% 15,541,769 1.00% $199,033,741 8.02% 885 $11,327.40
2009 19,692 12.07% 14,095,145 -9.31% $189,033,736 -5.02% 716 $9,599.52
2010 21,993 11.68% 12,130,232 -13.94% $172,435,244 -8.78% 552 $7,840.32
2011 23,945 8.88% 11,692,058 -3.61% $175,634,490 1.86% 488 $7,334.91
2012 23,365 -2.42% 9,562,236 -18.22% $164,415,366 -6.39% 409 $7,036.82
2013 24,492 4.82% 10,153,628 6.18% $176,419,370 7.30% 415 $7,325.63
2014 26,976 10.14% 11,820,324 16.41% $207,598,355 17.67% 438 $7,695.56
2015* 22,431 -16.85% 15,269,550 29.18% $259,807,532 25.15% 681 $11,582.52
2016* 21,295 -5.06% 17,302,891 13.32% $293,583,180 13.00% 813 $13,786.48
2017 35,338 65.95% 18,385,086 6.25% $302,300,435 2.97% 520 $8,554.54
2018 38,424 8.73% 19,965,469 8.60% $318,345,707 5.31% 520 $8,855.07
2019 40,745 6.06% 24,694,686 23.69% $399,322,754 25.44% 606 $9,800.53

 

Overall, this is our top-line conclusion for NPD BookScan 2019: Up 6% in total number books listed, up a shocking 24% in Units Sold, and up 25% in the calculated retail value of all books sold for cover price (they didn’t, not in the “bookstore” market)

But, as great as those top-line numbers look, please remember that it is largely “hits” that are driving the business – the “average” book still only sold approximately 600 copies, nationwide, in the entire year. Almost no one can earn a living from that.

Let’s take a look at the Top 20 best-selling items on the 2019 chart; it looks like this:

Rank Titlle Author Imprint YTD
1 DOG MAN: FOR WHOM THE BALL ROLLS PILKEY, DAV GRAPHIX 1,095,532
2 DOG MAN: BRAWL OF THE WILD PILKEY, DAV GRAPHIX 789,489
3 DOG MAN: FETCH-22 PILKEY, DAV GRAPHIX 608,483
4 GUTS TELGEMEIER, RAINA GRAPHIX 454,603
5 DOG MAN: LORD OF THE FLEAS PILKEY, DAV GRAPHIX 379,390
6 DOG MAN AND CAT KID PILKEY, DAV GRAPHIX 296,041
7 DOG MAN PILKEY, DAV GRAPHIX 285,484
8 DOG MAN UNLEASHED PILKEY, DAV GRAPHIX 279,525
9 DOG MAN: A TALE OF TWO KITTIES PILKEY, DAV GRAPHIX 253,025
10 STRANGE PLANET PYLE, NATHAN W. MORROW GIFT 242,793
11 DRAMA TELGEMEIER, RAINA GRAPHIX 165,463
12 BOY-CRAZY STACEY GALLIGAN, GALE GRAPHIX 156,222
13 SMILE TELGEMEIER, RAINA GRAPHIX 143,056
14 BEST FRIENDS HALE, SHANNON FIRST SECOND 134,442
15 THE LOST HEIR (WINGS OF FIRE GRAPHIC NOVEL #2) SUTHERLAND, TUI T. GRAPHIX 128,713
16 SISTERS TELGEMEIER, RAINA GRAPHIX 124,984
17 GHOSTS TELGEMEIER, RAINA GRAPHIX 113,036
18 THE DRAGONET PROPHECY SUTHERLAND, TUI T. GRAPHIX 111,800
19 JUST JAIME LIBENSON, TERRI BALZER & BRAY/HARPERTEEN 105,294
20 MY HERO ACADEMIA, VOL. 1 HORIKOSHI, KOHEI VIZ MEDIA 98,720

 

Eighteen of the 20 are aimed at younger readers – only “Strange Planet”, a collection of webcomics, cracks the Top 20 for “Western” creators, while only “My Hero Academia v1” breaks in for Manga. The first Marvel/DC comic comes in at #36 (“Watchmen” – although that’s for the new 2019 edition, if you added in the older edition that DC was depreciating, it would have been #28).

dav pilkey graphic novel salesClearly, Dav Pilkey and his “Dog Man” series of books are the current rulers of comic sales in the bookstores.  What’s critical to remember about this is that Scholastic is also presumably selling a metric shedload of these books through the Scholastic Book Fairs, to elementary and middle school libraries, and any number of other places that don’t report to NPD BookScan. This continues to be just the tip of the iceberg.

So strong is Pilkey’s hold on the current charts that he takes the eight of the first nine spots on the charts.  The #1 best-seller (“Dog Man: For Whom The Ball Rolls”) sold almost 1.1 million copies.  No, that’s not a misprint, it is over a million copies sold.

At #2 is “Brawl of the Wild” (789k), #3 is “Fetch-22” (608k), #5 is “Lord of the Fleas” (379k), #6 is “Dog Man & Cat Kid” (296k), #7 is v1, just titled “Dog Man” (285k), #8 is “Dog Man Unleashed” (280k), and #9 is “A Tale of Two Kitties” at a staggering 253k copies.  Any one of those, in any other year, would be an insanely high number by itself – add them all together and you have almost four million copies of one single series sold in one single year.

Let’s underline just how huge “Dog Man” is: these eight volumes together represent sixteen percent of all comics sold through NPD BookScan.

If Pilkey is the current King of comics sales, then the Queen can’t be anyone other than Raina Telgemeier, because her books take up the next swath, including #4, with the new-for-2019 “Guts” (455k in just three months time!), #11, “Drama” (165k), #13 with “Smile” (143k), #16 with “Sisters” (125k), #17 with “Ghosts” (113k).  Every one of her original graphic novels places in the top 20.

The only thing that breaks these two author’s hold on the top 10 is “Strange Planet” by Nathan Pyle, which is a collection of Instagram cartoons – which comes in at #10, selling 243k copies.  This comic is aimed at adults, and is the highest-placing adult-oriented comic on the charts.

Sixteen of the top 20 are published by one publisher: Scholastic. In addition to Pilkey and Telgemeier, they also place a “Baby-Sitter’s Club” adaptation, from Gale Galligan, which is the seventh release in that series (“Boy-Crazy Stacey”) coming in at #12, with 156k copies. They also place two volumes of the adaptations of “Wings of Fire”, with volume 1, “The Dragonet Prophecy” being book #18 (112k sold), and volume 2 (“The Lost Heir”) coming in at #15 (129k sold).

 

strange planet nathan pyleRounding out the top 20 is Shannon Hale & LeUyen Pham’s “Best Friends” at #14 (134k), Terri Libenson’s “Just Jaime” at #19 (105k), and our first piece of Manga, “My Hero Academia v1”, at #20, just missing the 100k club at 99k sold.

As is increasingly the situation, you may want to consider the fact that not one of these books was created “for” the traditional Direct Market audience, and that the DM (as purchased through Diamond at least) does a mediocre job stocking or selling any of these books – in fact, of the top 500 DM best-sellers in 2019, only seven of the NPD BookScan top 20 even appear at all –  and really only “My Hero Academia v1” (at #25 with 10k copies) can be said to be “successful.”  The best selling of the Scholastic hits (“Guts” at #256 sold just over 3k copies into the Direct Market via Diamond), while the best selling “Dog Man”, “Brawl of the Wild” barely registers at #441 with 2200 copies.  Now, to be fair, many DM stores are buying these books from non-Diamond sources, but clearly the model is really starting to shift.

How about if we sort things by author? Here are people who sold more than 100k copies combined in the Top 750 in 2019:

 

4,198,699 PILKEY, DAV
1,299,528 TELGEMEIER, RAINA
702,482 HORIKOSHI, KOHEI
334,330 SUTHERLAND, TUI T.
306,324 GALLIGAN, GALE
272,932 PEIRCE, LINCOLN
258,473 CLANTON, BEN
254,796 SIMPSON, DANA
242,793 PYLE, NATHAN W.
223,837 KIBUISHI, KAZU
211,665 LIBENSON, TERRI
207,629 ONE
201,405 ISHIDA, SUI
181,774 HALE, SHANNON
152,631 ITO, JUNJI
151,173 MOORE, ALAN
145,795 ARAKI, HIROHIKO
138,860 MCELROY, CLINT
133,987 CHMAKOVA, SVETLANA
132,688 TORIYAMA, AKIRA
131,690 HALE, NATHAN
125,401 POPULARMMOS
124,093 SHIRAI, KAIU
115,983 GOTOUGE, KOYOHARU
112,474 HIMEKAWA, AKIRA
109,196 WAY, GERARD
103,834 MILLER, KAYLA

 

These 27 people represent 68 percent of sales in the Top 750 in 2019!

What you can take from this is that only a tiny number of creators drive the majority of the business in comics (and books in general, I think); and conversely, this probably means that the numerical majority of comics aren’t actually significantly profitable in any given year.

Let’s switch our attention to looking at how publishers performed.

As a way to make the publisher breakdowns more readable, I split the chart into “Eastern” (Manga) and “Western” comics, because I think there are a few clear market distinctions between those categories. So, without further ado:

 

2019 Manga Sales

Overall sales are up strongly for the Manga category in 2019 – about 34% in pieces within the Top 750, and just under 39% in calculated dollars.

Here’s a year-to-year comparison chart for the Top 750:

 

Year # of placing titles Unit sales Calculated Retail Value
2003 447 3,361,966 $34,368,409
2004 518 4,603,558 $45,069,684
2005 594 5,691,425 $53,922,514
2006 575 6,705,624 $61,097,050
2007 575 6,837,355 $61,927,238
2008 514 5,624,101 $53,033,579
2009 451 4,414,705 $41,068,604
2010 436 3,117,019 $30,212,561
2011 392 2,627,570 $27,017,081
2012 367 1,908,186 $21,324,368
2013 315 1,665,487 $21,256,777
2014 271 1,748,185 $22,601,720
2015* 279 2,033,534 $26,191,474
2016* 311 2,629,366 $35,915,488
2017 284 2,427,380 $35,433,489
2018 299 2,641,158 $35,955,537
2019 332 3,539,031 $49,900,429

 

All three indicators are up for the category in 2019, and this year would be the fifth best year for Manga since we’ve tracked things!  Much like Western comics (see below), pieces are up by more than a third, and dollars are up almost 39% in the Top 750!  What’s even more interesting is that this is from a relatively low number of placing books, historically speaking. As is typical with Manga, this is driven by the near-exclusive domination of series in the manga world – when there’s not a strong anime driving sales, manga tankobon series start to perform more like periodicals than books (albeit over a wider horizon); rather than generally building a strong core backlist that sells forever, year-in-and-year out, manga tends instead to ebb and flow with culture and fashion (and what anime is airing currently, especially).

I think we can see this very clearly with the category leader in 2019, “My Hero Academia” – 29 volumes of the series (or spin-off books) show up in the Manga Top 750, and represent almost one-in-four of Manga volumes sold, combined, in the Top 750.

Nine of the Top Ten Manga in 2019 were “My Hero Academia” volumes, starting with v1 at the #1 spot (99k sold), v2 at #2 (69k), v3 at #3 (53k), v17 at #4 (50k), v18 at #5 (42k), v4 at #6 (40k), v19 at #7 (39k), v16 at #8 (37k), and v20 at #9 (36k) –each and every volume of the series charts within the Top 750. MHA v1 sold just over 61k in 2018, by way of comparison, so the property is growing for now.

The only non-“MHA” book in the Manga Top Ten is “Uzamaki” by Junji Ito, which comes in #10 with just under 36k copies sold.  This would be the rare example of “steady selling core backlist”.

One other thing that the nature of multi-book series means is that there tends to be less diversity overall in what’s being promoted – of the 299 different “manga” books, I only counted only 79 distinct “series” this year.  This is down from 81 in 2018, and 84 in 2017.

Manga, as a category, has a “Long Tail,” where we’re looking at all sales for the year, and not just within the Top 750 best-sellers:

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail Value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 6231         —— 11,323,487         —— $108,770,537          —– 1817 $17,456
2008 7842 20.54% 10,173,091 -11.31% $100,800,283 -7.91% 1297 $12,854
2009 8756 11.66% 8,148,490 -19.90% $81,770,442 -18.78% 931 $9,339
2010 8764 —— 6,239,725 -23.42% $67,092,668 -17.95% 712 $7,655
2011 8991 2.59% 5,690,327 -8.80% $62,810,728 6.38% 633 $6,986
2012 6332 29.57% 3,510,057 -38.32% $40,943,613 -34.81% 554  $6,466
2013 7024 10.93% 3,516,208 0.01% $44,651,823 9.06% 501 $6,357
2014 7452 6.09% 3,914,385 11.32% $51,557,925 15.47% 525 $6,919
2015* 4412 -40.79% 4,580,434 17.02% $62,253,624 20.75% 1038 $14,110
2016* 4968 12.60% 5,821,892 27.10% $81,314,479 30.62% 1172 $16,368
2017 10,248 106.8% 5,865,412 0.75% $85,581,224 5.25% 572 $8,351
2018 10,839 5.77% 6,100,260 4.00% $87,421,299 2.15% 563 $8,065
2019 9928 -8.40% 7,461,077 22.31% $110,577,066 26.49% 752 $11,138

 

Good general “Long-Tail” growth in the overall category.

When you start breaking down the manga portion of the chart by publisher, there’s really not any contest at all: there’s a hundred-pound gorilla, and a bunch of smaller houses struggling in their shadow.  This chart represents all 9928 books that are “manga” in NPD BookScan in 2019

Within the Top 750, the picture is very similar: The #1 publisher is Viz, which takes 235 of the 332 manga spots in the Top 750, keeping them as the overwhelmingly dominant manga player with nearly seventy-one percent of the placing titles! Within the Top 750, Viz charted about 2.8 million pieces, for almost $36.2 million of calculated retail dollars – this is another year of strong growth for Viz, up roughly 47% from the previous year in pieces placed.

Viz controls the manga charts as they have for a very long time now. It is nearly impossible envisioning anyone really challenging them substantially for that role because they are more than four times larger than their nearest competitor in their segment (!).

As noted above, Viz’s #1 Best-seller is “My Hero Academia” Nothing from the main series sells under 20k, while “MHA: Smash” and “MHA: Vigilantes” all sell under 20k.  Nine of Viz’s Top 10 are “MHA”, as are 16 of the Top 20.  All told, this one series sold 862k books combined this year!  This is dramatically up from just under a half-million in 2018 and 134k combined in 2017.

The only other book to crack Viz’s Top Ten is “Uzumaki” (about 36k at #10) by Junji Ito, and Ito appears to be the only author that Viz is successful with in the Top Ten that is doing so with single, unconnected, books instead of series.  Additionally, this is a near doubling of its 2018 sales!  Ito is also at #14 for Viz (#16 for all Manga) with “Smashed” (28k).  At least six other Ito books place in the Top 750, including “Shiver” at 18k, “Tomie” at 16k, “GYO” at just below 19k, “Frankenstein” at 11k.  Several others place, but sell under 10k.

Other strong series for Viz include “Tokyo Ghoul” (v1 places at #15 for Viz #17 for all Manga, for 27k – this is a drop of 1k from 2018, and about 9k from 2017), and “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure” (v1 places at #19, #21 for all Manga, for 23k).

Titles coming in over 20k also includes v1 of “One-Punch Man” (22k), v1 of “Komi Can’t Communicate” (also 22k), a “Pokemon” book also at 22k, and v4 of “Dragon Ball Super” at just over 20k.


VIZ

Let’s take a look at the “Long Tail” of Viz:

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail Value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 2018       —— 6,249,324       —— $55,123,347        —– 3097 $27,316
2008 2447 21.26% 5,536,286 -11.41% $50,311,791 -8.97% 2263 $20,561
2009 2793 14.14% 4,819,407 -12.95% $44,310,790 -11.93% 1726 $15,865
2010 3088 10.56% 3,576,671 -25.79% $35,041,305 -20.92% 1158 $11,348
2011 3393 9.88% 3,276,297 -8.40% $32,766,960 -6.49% 966 $9,657
2012 3518 3.68% 2,099,560 -35.92% $22,433,721 -31.54% 597 $6,377
2013 3636 3.35% 1,853,211 -11.73% $21,586,923 -3.77% 510 $5,937
2014 3765 3.55% 1,855,161 0.11% $22,732,074 5.30% 493 $6,038
2015* 2264 -39.87% 2,150,656 15.93% $28,134,971 23.77% 950 $12,427
2016* 2405 6.23% 2,811,978 30.75% $38,854,681 38.10% 1169 $16,156
2017 4443 84.74% 2,958,351 5.21% $41,594,729 7.80% 666 $9,362
2018 4637 4.37% 3,184,274 7.64% $44,423,434 6.80% 687 $9,580
2019 4702 1.4% 4,329,369 35.96% $60,817,993 36.91% 921 $12,934

 

Viz is in a great place by their Long Tail – not only are they out-performing the Top 750 overall, they’re outperforming the general Manga long-tail.  They didn’t even add 2% to the number of SKUs they sell, yet they’re up by more than a third in pieces and dollars, and had the single biggest year of dollar sales they have ever had, on their fourth largest circulation.  That’s simply stellar business!  Viz in 2019 has three books over 50k, nine more over 30k, 14 more over 20k, and 75 (!) others over 10k.  They are a strong publisher.


KODANSHA

In a steady second place among manga publishers, we have Kodansha Comics, which places 42 titles within the top 750, with 300k in sales, and $5.1 million in calculated retail dollars (compared to 384k and $3.6m in 2018.  This is their first up year in several.

Kodansha’s licenses formerly were both the original backbone of Tokyopop, as well as being the majority of Del Rey Manga. Kodansha pulled Tpop’s license in March of ’09 and Del Rey in October of ’10. You may want to look at those publishers’ listings below to get a better historical overview.

Kodansha’s current best-seller is the smaller, cheaper editions of “Sailor Moon”, where v1 does almost 15k sold at #1 for them.  This is an interesting turn when compared with the thicker “Eternal Editions”, where v1 did a bit under of half of that at 7k.  Four of the smaller version’s volumes place on the Top 750, along with three of the thicker ones.  Still, that best-selling “Sailor Moon” is only #52 in the overall Manga best-sellers.

Kodansha’s #2 best-seller is “Fire Force” v1 at just over 12k.  Three volumes of this series chart in the Top 750.

At #3 for Kodansha is “Fairy Tail”, where v1 is at just under 12k (this was 15k last year).  Two other volumes appear in the Top 750, along with one volume of the “100 Years Quest” spinoff.

For #4 for Kodansha, we have “The Seven Deadly Sins”, where v1 racks about 11k sold.  Three volumes of this series place in the Top 750.

And at #5 is “Attack on Titan”, where v1 and v27 each sell around 11k.  Therte are nine volumes of this series charting in the Top 750, making this a great example of the “Hammock Principle” in practice.  Briefly stated, books in a series generally sell in a sales pattern that looks like a hammock if you chart it out: the first few volumes and the last few volumes sell the best, with the ends running down into the middle volumes which have the lowest sales, like the sagging part of a hammock.  The problem with this, as both stores that don’t have infinite rack space, as well as publishers that need a certain volume and velocity to keep things in print, that sagging middle becomes unsustainable for most series over time, and stores start to only carry the first and last few volumes.

These Long Tail figures are just for Kodansha-published titles, and they reflect that Kodansha, itself, first started publishing in 2010:

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail Value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2010 9       —— 13,291         —— $322,717        —— 1477 $35,857
2011 108 1200.00% 197,021 1482.36% $2,537,221 786.21% 1825 $23,493
2012 246 127.78% 324,827 64.87% $4,026,770 58.71% 1320 $16,369
2013 320 30.08% 501,554 54.41% $6,299,487 56.44% 1567 $19,686
2014 442 38.13% 821,298 63.75% $10,481,008 66.38% 1858 $23,713
2015* 455 2.94% 855,347 4.15% $10,938,531 4.37% 1880 $24,041
2016* 587 29.01% 981,386 14.74% $12,596,281 15.16% 1672 $21,459
2017 895 52.47% 917,596 -6.50% $13,616,224 8.10% 1025 $15,214
2018 1060 18.44% 870,940 -5.08% $12,612,501 -7.37% 822 $11,899
2019 1177 11.04% 989,089 13.57% $15,838,708 25.58% 840 $13,457

 

In 2019, Kodansha has just six titles that sell over 10k, but otherwise their Long Tail seems reasonably healthy.


DARK HORSE

Jumping up to being the #3 manga publisher is Dark Horse. While they placed only 15 titles in the Top 750, those account for just over 148k copies sold and $4.2m in calculated retail value (up significantly from 2018).

The best-selling DH title continues to be “Berserk” v1, scoring just under 31k copies sold of the “Deluxe” version – you can compare that to about 11k sold of the “regular” version of “Berserk.”  V2 of Deluxe also has big sales for v2 (18k) and v3 (11k).

Dark Horse also does very well with “Mob Psycho 100”, whose v1 nearly shifts 11k copies.

Looking at the Long Yail, this is what Dark Horse’s (manga only!) recent performance looks like – it’s up big, on a majorly dropped number of SKUs… though, to be fair, most of DH’s growth is really coming from those reformatted “Berserk” volumes.  There is much more on Dark Horse down below in the “Western Publishers” section.

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail Value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 341         —— 249,943        —— $3,329,464       —– 733 $14,745
2008 420 23.17% 248,981 -0.38% $3,176,870 -4.58% 593 $7,564
2009 455 8.33% 226,497 -9.03% $2,915,693 -8.22% 498 $6,408
2010 473 3.96% 194,494 -14.13% $2,633,077 -9.69% 411 $5,567
2011 497 5.07% 189,329 -2.66% $2,602,230 -1.17% 381 $5,236
2012 493 -0.80% 112,373 -40.65% $1,631,038 -37.32% 228 $3,308
2013 521 5.68% 103,538 -7.86% $1,678,563 2.91% 199 $3,222
2014 559 7.29% 100,894 -2.60% $1,617,251 -3.65% 180 $2,893
2015* 303 -45.80% 135,444 34.24% $2,238,167 38.39% 447 $7,387
2016* 225 -25.74% 174,298 28.69% $2,291,355 2.38% 775 $10,184
2017 527 234.22% 238,089 36.60% $3,795,506 65.64% 452 $7,202
2018 531 0.76% 224,010 -5.91% $3,579,135 -5.70% 422 $6,740
2019 384 -27.68% 329,034 46.88% $7,280,058 103.40% 857 $18,958

 

Dark Horse Manga has one book over 30k, and four more books over 10k.


YEN PRESS

The fourth largest publisher of manga in 2019, on the Top 750 of NPD BookScan continues to be Yen Press, which places 17 titles in the Top 750, for about 117k copies sold (down from 159k copies sold last year), and nearly $1.9 million of calculated retail gross (down from $2.4 million retail gross last year). Yen is a division of Hachette (more on them later).

Yen’s best-seller continues to be “Black Butler”, where v1 brings in just a hair under 13k in the bookstore market.  This was 11k in 2018.  Three other volumes also make the Top 750, though none sell over 10k.

They also do well with the reformatted “Fruits Basket”, which does a bit under 11k.  Three other volumes of that series also place.

In the Long Tail, Yen is down for the third year in a row, but at least the gap is starting to shrink now.

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail Value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 10         —— 12,896       —— $147,449       —– 1,290 $14,745
2008 90 800.00% 110,126 753.95% $1,237,860 739.52% 1,224 $13,754
2009 211 134.44% 330,962 200.53% $3,697,113 198.67% 1,569 $17,522
2010 344 63.03% 560,983 69.50% $6,650,871 79.89% 1,680 $19,334
2011 460 33.72% 764,125 36.21% $9,953,966 49.66% 1,661 $21,639
2012 548 19.13% 647,948 -15.20% $8,735,264 -12.24% 1,182 $15,940
2013 654 19.34% 692,380 6.86% $9,715,421 11.22% 1,059 $14,855
2014 776 18.65% 682,135 -1.48% $9,985,502 2.78% 776 $12,868
2015* 649 -16.37% 917,620 34.52% $13,248,445 32.68% 1414 $20,414
2016* 793 22.19% 1,072,008 16.82% $15,520,207 17.15% 1352 $19,572
2017 1403 76.92% 928,962 -13.34% $13,866,675 -10.65% 662 $9,884
2018 1737 23.81% 890,228 -4.17% $13,051,751 -5.88% 513 $7,514
2019 1846 6.28% 884,596 -0.63% $13,008,175 -0.33% 479 $7,047

 

Yen Press has two titles selling over 10k copies in 2019.


SEVEN SEAS

Dropping to the #5 manga publisher as represented by the NPD BookScan Top 750 is Seven Seas, which places 18 titles for almost 110k copies sold combined, and a bit over $1.6 million in calculated retail value.  This is a big drop from 2018 when they had sold 199k and had $3 million in sales.

Seven Seas’ biggest success in 2019 was “I Want To Eat Your Pancreas”.  It sold just a tick over 9k copies.

Seven Seas’ Long Tail shows them as essentially flat in 2019.

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail Value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 54         —— 50,641        —— $558,450          —– 938 $10,342
2008 76 41.74% 80,112 58.20% $833,667 49.28% 1,054 $10,969
2009 97 27.63% 74,967 -6.42% $807,666 -3.12% 773 $8.326
2010 93 -4.12% 75,764 1.06% $875,612 8.41% 815 $9,415
2011 118 26.88% 116,360 53.58% $1,426,618 62.93% 986 $12,090
2012 151 27.97% 124,262 6.79% $1,684,994 18.11% 823 $11,159
2013 223 47.68% 204,419 64.51% $2,942,608 74.64% 917 $13,196
2014 300 34.53% 284,484 39.17% $3,979,338 35.23% 948 $13,264
2015* 304 1.34% 374,715 31.72% $5,177,568 30.11% 1233 $17,031
2016* 417 37.17% 491,947 31.29% $6,960,634 34.44% 1180 $16,692
2017 554 32.85% 478,336 -2.77% $6,801,527 -2.29% 863 $12,277
2018 906 63.54% 667,556 39.56% $9,511,591 39.84% 737 $10,498
2019 1049 15.78% 671,362 0.57% $9,498,329 -0.14% 640 $9,055

 

Seven Seas has no titles that sold over 10k this year.


Vertical

The sixth largest publisher of manga as measured by the NPD BookScan, and the final one to appear in the Top 750, continues to be Vertical. They place just four books into the Top 750, 28k copies, for $546k – that’s not very different from the previous year, down a teeny bit

Their best-seller is “The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home” with v1 selling just over 10k.

The Long Tail is up a bit… but essentially flat.

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail Value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 25       —— 23,444       —— $417,914       —— 938 $16,717
2008 34 36.00% 21,003 -10.41% $343,109 -8.21% 617 $10,091
2009 39 14.71% 19,434 -7.47% $325,437 -5.15% 498 $8,345
2010 62 58.97% 33,097 70.30% $494,098 51.83% 534 $7,969
2011 84 35.48% 49,062 48.24% $699,253 41.52% 584 $8,324
2012 118 40.48% 45,026 -8.23% $671,086 -4.03% 382 $5,687
2013 159 34.75% 61,906 37.49% $1,128,252 68.12% 389 $7,096
2014 187 17.61% 83,312 34.58% $1,491,984 32.24% 446 $7,979
2015* 162 -13.37% 110,172 32.24% $1,956,167 31.11% 680 $12,075
2016* 185 14.20% 172,792 56.84% $2,931,568 49.86% 934 $15,846
2017 269 45.41% 181,216 4.88% $3,178,964 8.44% 674 $11,818
2018 339 26.02% 162,840 -10.14% $2,784,106 -12.42% 480 $8,213
2019 387 14.16% 163,631 0.49% $2,835,473 1.85% 423 $7,327

 

Vertical has a single book over 10k.


There’s only one other Manga that isn’t covered in the above survey, and this is from Ten Speed Press: “The Life Changing Manga of Tidying Up”, which sold nearly 26k.

Manga is a pretty closed system, overwhelmingly controlled by a single vendor…. And it is very difficult seeing that change in any meaningful way in the future.

 

 


2019 Western Publishers

When I say “Western” here, I mean publishers/work from Europe and America, as opposed to Asia, not publishers of the genre of “western” comics!

I’d like to continue to remind you that back in 2008 there was some sort of behind-the-scenes recategorization in what got sent to me – I now know this is probably a change in BISAC codes! – and most of the “cartoon-strip humor” books like “Calvin & Hobbes” and “The Far Side” suddenly disappeared, so there’s kind of a not-strictly apples thing going on with the pre-2008 numbers here. Do keep that in mind when making comparisons both in the Top 750 chart, as well as the Long Tail.

children are the futureNPD BookScan itself does not try to control how data gets initially logged (or changed), leaving that all to publishers.  I think that I understand this reasoning: the publisher is the customer, and they should have some level of control over how they are represented, but as a person who tries to decipher the data each year, I know that I would prefer some sort of internally consistent (and externally-petitionable!) method of categorizing titles that doesn’t seem to change in some fashion from year-to-year – Books will appear and disappear, almost seemingly willy-nilly, and it makes showing you anything even resembling consistent data staggeringly difficult.  All of this is a function of how publishers assign BISACs and in what order – see the preamble!

Another observation I have is that NPD BookScan tracks (theoretically at least, since again, publishers set their own BISACs) Adult reading distinctly from YA and Kids.  I don’t.  Part of this is that I’m a bookseller, and I’m rather agnostic about who specifically buys books as a result.  But I have to be certain to make this point as clearly as I can: the market for who is buying comics is changing, and it is changing for the wider and the better.  The eight-year-old who is inhaling Dav Pilkey in 2019 is going to be the comics-literate adult of 2032 (or whatever), which is going to change what comics readers in the ‘30s will want or expect from comics. The kids reading comics in 1965 totally imagined what the 1980s comics scene could and would be, which is why we’re where we are today, but the shape of the Western industry in the future is absolutely what today’s children read and see.

Ignore this at your deadliest of perils.

OK, enough editorializing; let’s look at the market!

Here’s the Top 750 over time:

 

Year # of placing titles Unit sales Calculated Retail price
2003 304 2,133,618 $32,360,644
2004 233 1,467,535 $22,713,802
2005 142 1,315,920 $21,537,155
2006 174 1,689,571 $29,314,852
2007 175 1,746,962 $33,247,187
2008 236 2,710,175 $48,327,594
2009 299 3,219,748 $52,147,410
2010 314 3,297,317 $54,515,605
2011 358 3,068,593 $77,254,870
2012 383 3,530,143 $68,593,986
2013 435 3,988,864 $74,805,932
2014 479 4,910,846 $90,166,989
2015* 471 6,729,449 $115,035,044
2016* 439 7,338,541 $123,594,588
2017 466 7,846,357 $117,761,519
2018 451 9,114,745 $129,929,990
2019 418 11,998,489 $176,470,137

 

Up almost 32% in pieces, up 36% in calculated retail dollars, the highest totals in this tranche that we have ever seen – it’s a staggeringly good year for Western comics, as reported to NPD BookScan in 2019!  You will note that Manga, in the Top 750, grew slightly more than Western comics, even with those Dav Pilkey numbers.

If we were to look at the entirety of NPD BookScan’s reported numbers for the total 30,816 “Western” comics, things look generally like this – there are 1532 publishers listed in the 2018 chart, but only 14 of them manage to capture more than 1% of the market.

 

This is not quite as lopsided as the Manga chart…. But it is getting there a little?  One publisher has 40% of all graphic novels sold.

Let’s start with a look at the Long Tail for Western publishers collectively:

 

Year # of listed items % Change Total Pieces % Change Calculated Retail Value % Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 6950 3,029,039 $74,595,605 436 $10,733
2008 9728 39.97% 5,368,678 77.24% $98,233,459 31.69% 552 $10,098
2009 10,936 12.30% 5,946,595 10.76% $107,263,294 9.19% 544 $9,808
2010 13,229 20.97% 5,890,507 -0.01% $105,342,577 -0.02% 445 $7,963
2011 14,954 13.04% 6,001,731 1.89% $112,823,763 7.10% 401 $7,545
2012 17,031 13.89% 6,052,179 0.84% $123,471,753 9.44% 355 $7,250
2013 17,468 2.57% 6,637,420 9.67% $131,767,547 6.72% 380 $7,543
2014 19,524 11.77% 7,905,939 19.11% $156,040,431 18.21% 405 $7,992
2015* 18,019 -7.71% 10,689,116 34.44% $197,553,909 26.60% 593 $10,964
2016* 16,328 -9.38% 11,516,867 7.74% $212,698,759 7.67% 705 $13,027
2017 25,183 54.23% 12,544,715 8.92% $217,360,776 2.19% 498 $8,631
2018 27,583 9.53% 13,865,209 10.53% $230,924,408 6.24% 503 $8,372
2019 30,816 11.72% 17,233,606 24.29% $288,745,613 25.04% 559 $9,370

 

Fantastic collective performance, and one that really points out the errors in the ’15-’16 data – as noted above, I now believe that the leaked data those years was only for “in print” books. Comics are pretty clearly a growing medium, by like three million books a year (!).  Compare that first year of Long Tail to the current one: it’s 567% growth in pieces. Wow!

The challenge for the market is for how we grow and adapt to the changes in taste that are becoming clear: “traditional” genres and sellers are starting to suffer in the face of a new widening of the market.  From 20,000 feet this seems mostly healthy, even though it seems clear that every participant isn’t going to be able to thrive.  We’ll cover that down in the weeds, below!

Next, we’ll survey each of the publishers, and their best-selling titles, ranking them by the number of pieces they sold this year with the Top 750 of NPD BookScan.  We’ll also look at the “Long Tail” for each entry, discussing the entirety of NPD BookScan.

 

 


SCHOLASTIC

It is now the fifth year in the row that our #1 Western publisher in the Top 750 is Scholastic.  This is the new reality of a thing that seems super unlikely to change against them anytime soon.  Look at the overall market, and pause and wonder at that dominating 40% market share of pieces sold – up significantly from 33% last year.  Consider for a moment that Scholastic has done this with only two hundred and seventy books, total!  Consider for a second moment that Scholastic only started “doing” comics in 2005.

Just limiting ourselves to the Top 750, Scholastic surged forward in sales this year by selling an astonishing 6.7 million copies, from 73 placing books  This is an incredible 49% growth from last year (4.5 million copies), which itself was up 67% from 2017 (2.7 million).  In calculated retail dollars, we’re looking at almost $86.4 million in sales.

This is all the more incredible when you start to think that these are sales to book stores (and Amazon) only – none of these numbers (as far as I know) include the direct-to-families sales that happen via the incredibly successful Scholastic Book Fairs.  Nor does this count any sales that are being done to elementary and middle school libraries, numbers that likely exceed retail sales. Possibly by a multiple.

Also consider that the next largest publisher sold a combined 815k copies in the Top 750, less than an eighth of scholastic volume.  Or, how about this: if you combine the Top 750 performance of all of the Diamond Comic “Premier” publishers (Boom!, Dark Horse, DC, Dynamite, Image and Marvel) those combined best-sellers only amount to 1.4 million books, or only a fifth of Scholastic alone.  Scholastic is, quite simply, dominant.

Scholastic has several imprints – besides the Graphix imprint, they also publish Arthur A. Levine and Blue Sky.

In alphabetical order by imprint:

Arthur A. Levine places one book into the Top 750 just as they have for years, and it’s the same book: just a bit under 7kk copies of “The Arrival” by Shaun Tan.

Blue Sky is also just one book in the Top 750 – Dav Pilkey’s “Ook & Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen” shifting 14k copies, much of that you can assume being a sidestream of the success “Dog Man.”

The Graphix imprint has 59 placing titles, for just nearly 6.5m in sales, and is where the big hits live: the aforementioned “Dog Man” and all of Raina Telgemeier’s books, all of which are discussed up top.   “Dog Man” alone shifts nearly 4.2 million books, to recap.  Telgemeier sells “only” 1.3m.  All of the Scholastic Top Ten is from one of those two authors.  As are 15 of the Top Twenty.

The post-Telgemeier “Baby Sitter’s Club” continues great without her – the three Gale Galligan-adapted books sell more than 356k copies combined, with “Boy Crazy Stacey” (156k) being the #11 seller for Scholastic, while “Kristy’s Big Day” (83k) is #20.

The next biggest line for Scholastic is the adaptations of the “Wings of Fire” books: “The Lost Heir” (129k) is #13, “The Dragonet Prophecy” (112k) is #16, and “The Hidden Kingdom” (94k) is #18.

While not in the Top 20 for them, Graphix also does fantastic with Kazu Kibuishi’s “Amulet” – v1 (“The Stonekeeper”) moves 42k books, and in full “hammock” style, v8 (“Supernova”) sells 39k.  Even the combined boxset of v1-8 moves almost 16k units.  The eight books, and two different box sets combine for 224k copies sold within the Top 750.

Also not in Graphix’s Top 20, but shifting over 20k each includes Jarrett Krosoczka’s “Hey Kiddo” at just under 34k, Jennifer Holm’s “Sunny Rolls the Dice” at 32k, Kristen Gudsnuk’s “Making Friends” at 26k, and Jim Benton’s “Catwas: Its Me” at 25k.

Jeff Smith’s “Bone,” which largely launched Graphix, places three of the nine volumes into the Top 750 this year. V1, “Out From Boneville,” sells almost 12k copies this year.

Scholastic also publishes as “Scholastic”, straight up, and they place 10 more titles that way.  The big hit is more Dav Pilkey, as “The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby” sells some 28k copies sold, while Jeffrey Brown’s “Jedi Academy” books continue to place: the first volume of that perennial series sold almost 10k copies this year.

The Long Tail for Scholastic looks like this – more insane growth:

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail price Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 28      —— 203,900    —— $2,018,694       —– 7282 $72,096
2008 39 39.29% 346,134 69.76% $3,498,012 73.28% 8875 $89,693
2009 52 33.33% 432,070 24.83% $4,654,686 33.07% 8309 $89,513
2010 60 15.38% 361,086 -16.43% $4,084,718 -12.25% 6018 $68,079
2011 72 20.00% 419,010 16.04% $4,708,860 15.28% 5819 $65,401
2012 76 5.56% 325,088 -22.42% $3,955,249 -16.00% 4277 $52,043
2013 91 19.74% 437,590 34.61% $5,365,921 35.67% 4809 $58,967
2014 97 6.59% 846,277 93.39% $10,204,175 90.17% 8725 $105,198
2015* 140 44.33% 1,449,296 71.26% $17,170,714 68.27% 10,352 $122,648
2016* 131 -6.43% 1,940,760 33.91% $23,919,704 39.31% 14,815 $182,593
2017 166 26.72% 2,823,345 45.55% $33,884,541 41.66% 17,008 $204,124
2018 224 34.94% 4,623,212 63.75% $54,645,209 61.27% 20,639 $243,952
2019 270 20.54% 6,868,794 48.57% $88,878,195 62.65% 25,440 $329,179

 

Scholastic has one book at over a million copies, another over 700k, one more over 500k, another six over 250k, seven more over 100k, seven more over 50k, 14 more over 20k, and another staggering 16 over 10k.  Whew!  Any other publisher would be satisfied with a tiny fraction of that.

Scholastic seems more and more like an unstoppable juggernaut to me: the vast majority of their portfolio is extremely likely to go on to “perennial seller” status.  And I continue to dream about what might happen if they decided to do two streams of revenue and serialized first before eventual collection.


HARPERCOLLINS

Surging forward to the #2 largest publisher with Western comics in NPD BookScan Top 750 in 2019 is the first of the traditional “big five” book publishers: HarperCollins. Harper places 23 books into the Top 750 for a total of 816k copies sold, and a calculated retail cover price of $12.6 million – this is up from 2018’s result of 448k sold and $6.5m There’s a lot of imprints with the word “Harper” in the title in the Long Tail (Harper, Harper Paperbacks, Harper Teen, Harper Festival, Harper Teen, and so on), and Harper is also Blazer & Bray, Quill Tree and William Morrow (in the Top 750); as well as Amistad, IT books and Zondervan (out of the Top 750).

At Balzer & Bray it is all about Terri Libenson, and “Just Jaime” leads the pack with an amazing 105k sold.  Libenson also does exceptionally well with “Positively Izzy” and “Invisible Emmie”, each of which shifts 45k copies sold. There’s also a box set of those two which moves over 16k copies.

At the various Harper-named imprints, their biggest hit is from “Minecraft-inspired YouTube star PopularMMOs” with “PopularMMOs Presents Enter the Mine” crossing 81k in sales, while “PopularMMOs Presents A Hole New World” does 44k.  The third best-seller is the comics adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” coming in just shy of 27k.

Harper also does well with “Warriors: Graystripe’s Adventure” (14k), while “Warriors: Ravenpaw’s Path” comes in at 11k.  There’s also another YouTube-based comic from “DanTDM”, with “DanTDM: Trayaurus and the Enchanted Crystal” (12k).

The Harper imprint Quill Tree has a big hit with Jerry Craft’s “New Kid” (84k), while perpetual seller “Nimona” brings in 13k.

Finally, the William Morrow imprint has the single most successful book aimed at adults (as noted in the initial market overview) with 243k copies of “Strange Planet” burning up the charts.  They are also able to place 13k copies of the everyone-should-have-in-their-library “Understanding Comics.”

Nothing else is over 10k, so here is the Long Tail:

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 18      —— 36,940    —— $600,540       —– 2052 $33,363
2008 36 100.00% 48,264 30.66% $863,808 43.84% 1341 $23,995
2009 42 16.67% 81,774 69.43% $1,308,891 15.53% 1947 $31,164
2010 41 -2.38% 64,429 -21.21% $719,328 -45.04% 1571 $17,545
2011 50 21.95% 75,394 17.02% $1,083,609 50.64% 1508 $21,672
2012 80 60.00% 159,573 111.65% $2,113,744 95.07% 1995 $26,422
2013 68 -15.00% 197,595 23.83% $2,667,933 26.22% 2906 $39,234
2014 115 69.12% 158,193 -19.94% $2,398,836 -10.09% 1376 $21,042
2015* 109 -5.22% 188,181 18.96% $2,646,378 10.32% 1726 $24,279
2016* 108 -0.09% 261,183 38.79% $4,473,589 69.05% 2418 $41,422
2017 107 -0.09% 357,972 37.06% $5,530,994 23.64% 3346 $51,692
2018 148 38.32% 517,800 44.65% $7,506,751 35.72% 3499 $50,721
2019 154 4.05% 891,701 72.21% $13,894,052 85.09% 5790 $90,221

 

Harper has one book over 200k, one over 100k, two over 75k, a further four books over 20k, and another six more over 10k.


PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE

Sticking to #3 is another of the “Big Five” traditional book publishers: Penguin Random House.  They land 45 titles, selling 795k copies for nearly $12.6m in gross sales.

Like a lot of the “big five” book publishers, these companies have lots and lots of imprints built up over decades of publishing books. Penguin Random House, as best as I can tell, has twelve distinct imprints that appear in the Top 750 list for 2018 – Alfred A. Knopf, Ballantine, Clarkson N. Potter, Crown, Del Rey, Dial, Nan A. Talese, One World, Pantheon, Random House Books For Younger Readers, Ten Speed, and Tundra.

They’re also, in the Long Tail: (deep breath!) Ace, Bantam, Berkley, Blue Snake, Broadway Books, Doubleday, Dutton, Emblem, Golden, Gotham Books, G.P. Putnam & Sons, Grossett & Dunlap, Hudson Street, InkLit, Knopf, McClelland & Stewart, Montena, New American Library, Penguin, Philomel, Plume, Price Stern Sloan, Puffin, Putnam, Razorbill, Riverhead, Rodale, Schocken, Schwartz & Wade, Tarcherperigee, Three Rivers, Triangle, Viking, Villard, Waterbrook, Watson-Guptill and Yearling (whew!).  However, they are not (Brian writes down here so he remembers this research next year) the PRH-distributed-only Angry Robot, Beacon, Campfire, Charlesbridge, Dragonfly, Fawcett, Frog In Well, Library of America, Overlook Press, Powerhouse, Quirk, Sasquatch, Shambhala, Universe, or Verso.

Looking at those imprints in alphabetical order, within the Top 750:

Alfred A. Knopf Books For Younger Readers places three books into the Top 750, Beginning with 33k copies of “White Bord: A Wonder Story”, and following through with “The Cardboard Kingdom” by Chad Sell, which sells 19k.  There’s also the first volume of Jarrett J. Krosocza’s “Lunch Lady” series at a bit over 6k.

Ballantine places four titles in the Top 750:  They are all different “Garfield” volumes ranging from 4900-6700 copies each.

Clarkson N Potter has a second frame of Mari Andrews’ “Am I There Yet? The Loop-de-loop Zigzagging Journey to Adulthood” selling 9200 copies – this sold 48k last year, so that’s a pretty sharp drop.

Crown Books for Younger Readers succeeds big with Lincoln Peirce’s “Max and the Midknights” at 45k sold.

Del Rey publishes the Dave Wenzel adaptation of “The Hobbit” for about 11k copies.

Dial places three books, with two by Victoria Jamieson: “Roller Girl”, at almost 28k, and “All’s Faire in Middle School” with 19k.  They also sell 8200 copies of Chris Eliopoulos’ “Cosmic Commandos.”

Nan A. Talese places 26k copies of the adaptation of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

One World does 9400 copies of “Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations.”

Pantheon is their “literary” comics wing, and has some of PRH’s best-sellers.  There are nine placing in 2019, including Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis” as the lead book, which sells 60k of volume 1.  As always surprises me with Pantheon books, way way less people read v2, only about a tenth at 6500 copies.  But the Complete edition does 19k.  Similarly, Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” continues its multi-decade success with 27k copies of v1, 10k of v2, and 22k copies of the Complete edition.  Pantheon also does well with 15k copies of the adaptation of “Anne Frank’s Diary,” and 11k copies of Chris Ware’s “Rusty Brown.”

Random House Books For Younger Readers (Catchy imprint name!) places eleven titles into the Top 750, led by Judd Winick’s “Hilo”, where v5 does 29k, v1 does 14k, v4 does 12k, and three other entries selling under 10k.

Ten Speed Press brings us a single title: “Cheshire Crossing” with about 6200 copies sold. (Plus they have that single volume of Manga of the adaptation of “The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up,” listed in the manga section.)

And finally, Tundra has PRH’s best-selling titles with Ben Clanton’s “Narwhal: Unicorn of the sea” series, another juvie-aimed title.  V4 launches at 71k in HC, while the softcovers of v1 does almost 49k, v3 does 43k, and v2 does 37k.  Then on top of that, it’s still selling in HC too, with v3 shifting 20k and v1 selling 18k.  All together in all formats, it places 258k copies between nine edition/formats.

Penguin Random House formed out of a merger in 2013 – prior to that they were separate publishers Penguin and Random House. Here’s what the Long-Tail for the combined Penguin Random House looked like in 2019:

 

Year # of listed items % Change Total Pieces % Change Calculated Retail Value % Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2013 282 ——- 447,174 ——- $7,259,364 ——- 1,586 $25,742
2014 252 -10.64% 428,634 -4.15% $7,415,712 2.15% 1,701 $29,427
2015* 450 78.57% 513,611 19.83% $8,517,761 14.49% 1,141 $18,928
2016* 293 -34.88% 435,877 -15.13% $7,150,087 -16.06% 1,488 $24,403
2017 409 39.59% 664,858 52.53% $10,136,224 41.76% 1,626 $24,783
2018 613 49.88% 760,314 14.36% $11,136,058 9.86% 1,240 $18.166
2019 635 3.59% 1,013,092 33.25% $15,745,448 41.39% 1,595 $24,796

 

However, I’m not willing to pull an “We’ve always been at war with East Asia” moment, so let’s look at the individual pieces of the past.  This is what Penguin Putnam (Ace, Berkley Books, Dial, Dutton, Gotham Books, Grossett & Dunlap, Hudson Street, InkLit, New American Library, Penguin, Philomel, Plume, Price Stern Sloan, Puffin, Putnam, Razorbill, Riverhead and Viking) used to look like alone).

 

Year # of listed items % Change Total Pieces % Change Calculated Retail Value % Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 18      —— 13,545      —— $178,260      —— 753 $9,903
2008 28 55.56% 28,606 111.19% $310,856 74.38% 1022 $11,102
2009 39 39.29% 40,288 40.84% $444,928 43.13% 1033 $11,408
2010 45 15.38% 50,628 25.67% $623,650 40.17% 1125 $13,859
2011 53 17.78% 123,749 144.43% $1,576,161 152.73% 2335 $29,739
2012 60 13.21% 121,769 -1.60% $1,499,660 -4.85% 2029 $24,994

 

This is what Random House (Alfred A. Knopf, Ballantine, Bantam, Broadway, Crown, Del Rey, Doubleday, Pantheon, Random House, Schocken, and Three Rivers) looked like alone:

 

Year # of listed items % Change Total Pieces % Change Calculated Retail value % Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 74 216,580 $2,890,347 2,927 $39,059
2008 77 5.47% 383,105 76.89% $5,698,922 97.17% 4,975 $74,012
2009 109 41.56% 405,598 5.87% $5,398,890 -5.26% 3,721 $49,531
2010 132 21.10% 389,410 -3.99% $5,831,814 8.02% 2,950 $44,180
2011 144 9.09% 397,143 1.99% $6,356,212 8.99% 2,760 $44,140
2012 185 28.47% 375,254 -5.51% $7,124,794 12.09% 2,028 $38,512

 

Penguin Random House has two titles over 50k, ten additional books over 20k, and another 11 books over 10k.


HOLTZBRINK/MACMILLAN

Coming in at #4 is Holtzbrinck, which owns Macmillan, another of the “big five”, and is also one of those publishers with lots and lots (and lots) of imprints: Farrar Straus Giroux, FirstSecond, Henry Holt, Hill + Wang, and Square Fish are the only five to make the Top 750, but there are others down into the Long Tail as well – I have also identified Feiwel & Friends, Metropolitan, Picador, Roaring Brook, Rodale Press, St. Martins Griffin, Times books, and Tor.  Holtzbrinck also distributes several other publishers they don’t own (including Bloomsbury, Drawn & Quarterly, Papercutz, and Seven Seas) Holtzbrinck-owned companies placed 38 titles in the Top 750, for about 669k and about $10.8m combined.

By imprint, we start alphabetically with Farrar Straus Giroux which has two placers in the Top 750: None of them hit 10k, but the biggest is Emily Carroll’s adaptation of “Speak” (about 9500 sold).

FirstSecond is their strongest imprint, with 31 books placing into the Top 750, and where they score their biggest hit Shannon Hale’s juvie-focused “Best Friends” with 134k.  This is a sequel to “Real Friends” which pulls in 47k.  This is followed closely by the for-adults “The Adventure Zone”, which debuts v2, “Murder on the Rockport Limited!” at 91k, while v1, “Here There Be Gerblins” sells 36k, and an additional 12k in a Barnes & Noble exclusive version.  FirstSecond also does terrific with Rainbow Rowell’s “Pumpkinheads” (25k), Vera Brosgol’s “Be Prepared” (23k), Jen Wang’s “The Prince and the Dressmaker” (about 21k), and Kevin Panetta’s “Bloom” (21k).

Henry Holt doesn’t hit any heights like that, but they place “Epic Athletes: Stephen Curry” for about 5400 copies.

Hill + Wang places the adaptation of “Fahrenheit 451” with a scootch under 5k.

Square Fish’s deal is cheaper repackaging from other imprints (I don’t personally get this business model) and has three placing titles.  Gene Yang’s “American Born Chinese” does just over 32k, while Hope Larson’s adaptation of “A Wrinkle In Time” brings in nearly 11k.

Here’s Holtzbrinck’s Long Tail (again, I might have missed an imprint somewhere – trying to tease them all out is a difficult task from their Byzantine org chart).

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 39      —— 31,452    —— $559,681       —– 806 $14,351
2008 66 69.23% 63,473 101.81% $1,132,767 102.40% 962 $17,163
2009 88 33.34% 84,090 32.48% $1,438,044 26.95% 956 $16,341
2010 108 22.73% 68,599 -18.42% $1,085,311 -24.53% 635 $10,049
2011 139 28.70% 114,243 66.54% $1,794,084 65.31% 822 $12,907
2012 165 18.71% 126,745 10.94% $2,077,143 15.78% 768 $12,589
2013 187 13.33% 142,375 12.33% $2,395,569 15.33% 761 $12,811
2014 222 18.72% 190,682 33.93% $3,096,858 23.27% 859 $13,950
2015* 104 -53.15% 99,223 -47.96% $1,804,001 -41.75% 954 $17,346
2016* 272 161.54% 272,668 174.80% $4,240,075 135.04% 1,002 $15,589
2017 336 23.53% 437,258 60.36% $6,616,130 56.04% 1,301 $19,691
2018 427 27.08% 723,096 65.37% $11,701,046 76.86% 1,693 $27,403
2019 494 15.70% 946,680 30.92% $15,814,819 35.16% 1,916 $32,014

 

Holtzbrinck has one book over 100k, one over 50k, seven more over 20k, and eight others over 10k.


 

ANDREWS MCMEEL

Dropping in position by a few in the Top 750, the #5 publisher is now Andrews McMeel. Andrews is a publisher that sometimes has frustrated me by how they’ve been represented by NPD BookScan – as I noted, it used to be that “humor” books like “Far Side” and “Calvin & Hobbes” used to rule the NPD BookScan charts. Until, one day, poof! Almost all of those books disappeared entirely from the dataset I was given, throwing off a whole lot of my comparables. And, for the most part, comic strip reprints have stayed out of these charts for half a decade.  But, they’ve started creeping back into the listings for the last few years. I’m actually fine with comic strips and comic books co-existing in the same places – at least they’re both comics – but the inconsistency just drives me nucking futz.

I found 33 titles from Andrews in the Top 750 in 2018, for 538k copies and $9.7 million in sales, but clearly that number would scale up to some large degree if it listed all of the strip collections they publish.  What’s interesting about Andrews McMeel is that, for the most part, their “graphic novels” are reformatted/repackaged newspaper strips.  In other words, this is basically the other paid-for way one can serialize work: through syndicated newspaper pages.

2019’s big star for Andrews McMeel is Dana Simpson’s “Phoebe and Her Unicorn” where v1 sells just over 94k copies.  V2 sells 29k, v3 and v10 each sell 21k.  Sum up all the placing volumes, and we’re talking 255k sold this year.

The big runner up is Lincoln Pierce and “Big Nate”. there are 15 different “Big Nate” volumes in the Top 750, summing up to just over 205k copies combined.  The best seller (“Big Nate Goes Bananas!”) sells around 44k copies.

There’s also a smattering of “traditional” strips here: I can see the $125 “Complete Calvin & Hobbes” here (23k copies, which would make that the #10 dollar book in the entire NPD BookScan chart) as well as the $100 “The Complete Far Side” (13k copies – or #28 in all comics in dollars).  But we’re still missing most of the individual volumes for Watterson, and Larsen.  Andrews McMeel also sells 16k copies of the adaptation of “Anne of Green Gables.”

Andrews McMeel’s Long Tail chart is just about the most useless one of all because they publish a whole lot of comics (humor strips, like “Calvin & Hobbes”) where the BISAC changed to something we’re having a hard time properly getting – almost certainly they’re doing several times better than this chart would suggest because of those books.  Further, things appear and disappear in a way I’ve never been able to make sense of – it might be them changing BISACs after the fact.  Most of my comparatives are terrible and counterproductive here, and I really apologize for the weakness of my data in this specific instance.

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail Value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 22      —— 29,835    —— $461,238       —– 1,356 $20,965
2008 20 -9.09% 25,115 -15.82% $388,965 -15.67% 1,256 $19,448
2009 21 5.00% 26,205 4.34% $401,982 3.35% 1,248 $19,142
2010 19 -9.52% 47,181 80.05% $544,852 35.54% 2,483 $28,676
2011 17 -10.53% 116,850 147.66% $1,222,171 124.31% 6,874 $71,892
2012 31 82.53% 225,546 93.02% $2,737,935 124.02% 7,276 $88,320
2013 43 38.71% 343,681 52.38% $3,747,799 36.88% 7,993 $87,158
2014 59 37.21% 373,713 8.74% $4,387,252 17.06% 6,334 $74,360
2015* 76 28.81% 502,061 34.34% $5,950,368 35.63% 6,606 $78,294
2016* 85 11.84% 472,145 -5.96% $5,147,673 -13.49% 5,555 $60,561
2017 140 64.71% 520,554 10.25% $5,644,031 9.64% 3,718 $40,315
2018 273 95.00% 735,184 41.23% $11,862,349 210.18% 2,693 $43,452
2019 277 1.46% 611,784 -16.79% $11,078,977 -6.60% 2,209 $39,996

 

Andrews McMeel has one book over 75k, six more over 20k, and 16 others over 10k.


 

DC ENTERTAINMENT

 

Recovering a bit in 2019,  #6 publisher in the Top 750 is DC Entertainment.  DC spent a really long time as the #1 Western publisher before losing it to Scholastic, and was #2 until last year, where they dropped to a weirdly low #9.  Here they make up some of that.

In 2019 they placed just 33 titles in the Top 750, for just under 414k units, and $9.7 million in calculated retail price.  DC has four charting imprints: DC Black Label, DC, DC Zoom, and Vertigo.  Deep in the Long Tail we can still track America’s Best Comics, Mad, Wildstorm, Paradox, Minx, and CMX – makes you wonder how stores still have those handfuls of copies to sell.

Here’s a year-to-year comparison chart of the Top 750:

 

Year # of placing titles Unit sales Calculated Retail price
2003 74 336,569 $6,151,258
2004 39 179,440 $3,135,983
2005 42 298,484   $5,440,001
2006 59 551,160 $10,246,082
2007 58 487,467 $9,953,976
2008 71 1,015,864 $19,805,098
2009 93 1,223,733 $24,061,834
2010 96 648,403 $12,523,128
2011 107 660,706 $13,083,378
2012 104 688,870 $14,811,979
2013 130 767,686 $15,620,981
2014 131 931,239 $19,207,755
2015* 119 1,074,304 $21,701,088
2016* 117 1,234,047 $23,203,071
2017 101 827,544 $15,234,525
2018 47 360,414 $7,810,753
2019 33 413,923 $9,691,574

 

2019 has the lowest number of DC books placing in the Top 750, since we’ve ever tracked this.

DC’s #1 book is the new $25 edition of “Watchmen” at 59k.  This is certainly doing as well as it is on the strength of the HBO show (which was, surprisingly, a fine piece of television).  At #3 is the “old” $20 version at 23k.  You’d probably be sensible to actually add those together for 82k sold.  “Watchmen” sold about 27k in 2018, so it’s a near-tripling.  Also at #6 is a $40 HC of the same story (16k sold).  “Watchmen” also sells 6k copies of the $50 HC, and about the same of the $30 “international edition” (since the smiley face is copyrighted still in other countries, as I understand it).   Alan Moore, a writer who vowed to never work with the company ever again since 1989, is also responsible for the #5 best-seller (“V For Vendetta” – 16k), as well as #7 (“Batman: The Killing Joke” – also 16k).  Imagine if he hadn’t felt they betrayed him?

DC’s #2 book is from what was formerly known as the DC Ink imprint –“Teen Titans: Raven”, which shifts 43k copies.  The next best-selling “Ink” title is “Under The Moon: A Catwoman Tale” (#31) that doesn’t ever crack 5k, so it will be interesting to see what happens with the YA books over time – I would imagine had that latter been serialized they would have sold 15k-ish of each issue in addition to the book numbers.  But that’s supposition on my part.  The best-selling “Zoom” book (their juvenile line) is “Super Sons: The Polarshield Project”, which is their #20 best-performing book in the Book market, and only sells 8300 copies.  No other Zoom or Ink book places in the Top 750.

At #4 is the Black Label imprint, the retroactively branded “Batman: White Knight”, with 17k sold.  At #10 is another Black Label book: the one that originally had the Bat-Penis in it: “Batman: Damned.”  It sells 14k in this censored version.

#8 is more Batman: 15k copies of “Detective Comics: 80 Years of Batman”, while #9 is the first appearance of a DC book from current continuity, “The Batman Who Laughs” (also 15k).

Very little else sells over 10k; just four books, actually:  “Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes” (13k) – which I would expect to explode later in 2020 with the announced Netflix series – “Batman: The Long Halloween” (11k), Tom King’s “Mister Miracle” (11k), and “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” (also 11k).

Here’s DC’s Long Tail – better a bit.  Still selling fewer pieces, but at least calculated dollars rose.

 

Year # of listed items % Change Total Pieces % Change Calculated Retail Value % Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 1644 1,181,218 $22,033,212 719 $13,402
2008 2057 25.12% 1,719,330 45.56% $33,609,704 52.54% 836 $16,339
2009 2264 10.06% 1,902,181 10.64% $37,816,864 12.52% 840 $16,704
2010 2442 7.86% 1,320,262 -30.59% $25,982,910 -31.29% 541 $10,640
2011 2423 -0.07% 1,323,630 0.26% $27,130,811 4.42% 546 $11,197
2012 2452 1.20% 1,206,198 -8.87% $26,729,997 -1.48% 492 $10,901
2013 2551 4.04% 1,369,850 13.57% $29,881,153 11.79% 537 $11,714
2014 2746 7.64% 1,638,901 19.64% $35,388,570 18.43% 597 $12,887
2015* 1690 -38.46% 1,997,577 21.89% $43,031,546 21.60% 1182 $25,462
2016* 1214 -28.17% 2,262,888 13.82% $47,963,215 11.46% 1864 $39,508
2017 3152 259.64% 1,948,037 -13.91% $42,921,514 -10.51% 618 $13,617
2018 3364 6.73% 1,333,836 -31.53% $31,844,186 -25.81% 397 $9,466
2019 3229 -4.01% 1,303,807 -2.25% $33,428,626 4.98% 404 $10,353

 

DC has just one book over 50k, two more over 20k, and 11 more that come in over 10k.


 

DARK HORSE

It’s a big surge forward for the Western Top 10 with Dark Horse Comics at #7.  They place 33 titles into the Top 750 for 364k, and $6.2 million in calculated retail value.

This is a nice surge for Dark Horse, but it is largely on the back of the success of Netflix’s “Umbrella Academy” show – v1 is their #1 book, selling just over 50k copies, #2 is v2 (32k), while the newly released v3 is #5 with 22k.  As often happens with surprise sales from TV shows, “Umbrella Academy” spent a good chunk of its immediate surge in popularity being Out-of-Stock.  Had it been available, I imagine it would have sold significantly better.  Maybe with Season Two!

Coming in at #3 for Dark Horse is 25k copies of their officially licensed “Minecraft” comic.  While certainly a hit for Dark Horse, this does worse than “unofficial” Minecraft comics on the same chart.

#4 is the first “Stranger Things” collection from the Netflix show of the same name with 25k, while #6 is 19k copies of “Critical Role Vox Machina: Origins,” a podcast-focused comic.

#7-9 are all “Plants Versus Zombies”: v12 does 13k, v13 and v1 sell 10k each.  All thirteen “PvZ” comics hit the top 750, selling a combined 99k.

And, finally, #10 is brought along with the first “Hellboy” Omnibus, which sells a tiny hair under 10k.

Here’s what Dark Horse’s Western performance looks like in the Long Tail.

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 597    —— 413,022   —— $7,607,264          —– 692 $14,745
2008 734 22.95% 552,815 33.85% $9,329,828 22.64% 753 $12,711
2009 798 8.72% 455,924 -17.53% $7,757,240 -16.86% 571 $9,721
2010 955 19.67% 445,248 -2.34% $7,852,063 1.22% 466 $8,222
2011 1025 7.33% 389,514 -12.52% $7,102,710 -9.54% 380 $6,929
2012 1133 10.54% 377,322 -3.13% $6,907,772 -2.74% 333 $6,097
2013 1238 9.27% 383,391 1.61% $7,391,831 7.01% 310 $5,971
2014 1420 14.70% 421,708 9.99% $8,982,411 21.52% 297 $6,326
2015* 947 -33.31% 376,231 -10.78% $8,120,937 –9.59% 397 $8,575
2016* 877 -7.39% 461,297 22.61% $9,076,526 11.77% 526 $10,350
2017 1598 82.21% 478,658 3.76% $9,256,795 1.99% 300 $5,793
2018 1615 1.06% 485,919 1.52% $9,410,362 1.66% 301 $5,827
2019 1612 -0.18% 459,996 -5.33% $9,617,364 2.20% 285 $5,966

 

In the Long Tail, Western Dark Horse has its best year ever.  Again!

Dark Horse’s Manga offerings are up in that section. Dark Horse is one of the rare publishers that does a significant business in both Eastern and Western comics, and I’m sure they’d prefer all of their numbers to be represented together. In which case, their Long Tail actually looks like this:

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 938      —— 662,965    —— $10,936,728       —– 707 $11,660
2008 1075 14.61% 801,796 20.94% $12,506,698 14.36% 746 $11,634
2009 1253 16.56% 682,421 -14.89% $10,672,933 -14.66% 545 $8,518
2010 1428 13.97% 639,742 -6.25% $10,485,140 -1.76% 448 $7,343
2011 1522 6.58% 578,843 -9.52% $9,704,940 -7.44% 380 $6,376
2012 1626 6.83% 489,695 -15.40% $8,538,810 -12.02% 301 $5,251
2013 1759 8.18% 486,929 -0.56% $9,070,394 6.23% 277 $5,157
2014 1979 12.51% 522,602 7.33% $10,599,661 16.86% 264 $5,356
2015* 1250 -36.84% 511,675 -2.09% $10,359,104 -2.27% 409 $8,287
2016* 1102 -11.84% 635,595 24.22% $11,367,881 9.74% 577 $10,316
2017 2125 92.83% 716,747 12.77% $20,624,676 81.43% 337 $9,706
2018 2146 0.99% 709,929 -0.09% $12,989,497 -37.02% 331 $6,053
2019 2023 -5.73% 977,155 37.64% $19,467,752 49.87% 483 $9,623

 

Dark Horse has one title over 50k on the Western charts, four more over 20k, and four more over 10k.


 

HACHETTE

At #8 is another of the “Big Five”: Hachette, which includes the imprints of JY, Little Brown, Running Press, and Yen in the Top 750, as well as Black Dog & Leventhal, Grand Central and Nation Books, in the Long Tail.  In the Top 750 they place twelve books, selling 266k copies and $2.9m.  Yen also has a lot of manga up above in the previous section. If you added them together, it would be about 383k, and $4.8m

JY is their strongest imprint, being home to Svetlana Chmakova’s “Crush” (60k), “Awkward” (39k), “Brave” (28k), and “Diary” (6200).

Little, Brown places seven books into the Top 750.  The biggest hit is “Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy: A Modern Retelling of Little Women,” which brings in sales of 53k.  “Catstronauts: Mission Moon” is their next best-seller at nearly 29k, and the later volumes follow behind.  Their last best-seller is “Middle School Misadventures” that scores 12k.

They also sell just 2607 copies of the first 3-in-one edition of Herge’s “Tintin,” which continues perpetually to be disturbingly low for one of the classic masters of the medium, if you ask me.

None of their other imprints manage to score any titles at 10k or over.

Here’s the Long Tail of just the Western books for Hachette.  It’s going to jump a bit because we now add Perseus publishers (which they purchased in 2016), Basic Books, Public Affairs, and Running Press:

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 15 —— 39,181 —— $689,383 —— 2,612 $45,959
2008 18 20.00% 37,519 -4.24% $596,609 -13.46% 2,084 $33,145
2009 18 —— 40,172 7.07% $642,935 7.76% 2,232 $35,719
2010 19 5.56% 160,992 300.76% $3,097,996 381.85% 8,473 $163,052
2011 24 26.32% 88,131 -45.26 $1,273,500 -58.89% 3,672 $53,063
2012 28 16.67% 110,897 25.83% $1,565,744 22.95% 3,961 $55,919
2013 24 -14.29% 39,093 -65.75% $584,783 -62.65% 1,629 $24,366
2014 32 33.33% 38,853 -0.61% $593,667 1.52% 1,214 $18,552
2015* 30 -0.63% 61,539 58.39% $830,047 39.82% 2,051 $27,668
2016* 56 86.67% 81,648 32.68% $1,654,511 99.33% 1,458 $29,545
2017 78 39.29% 220,591 170.17% $2,998,501 81.23% 2,828 $38,442
2018 203 260.26% 363,575 64.82% $4,541,954 51.47% 1,791 $22,374
2019 152 -25.12% 356,334 -1.99% $4,469,594 -1.59% 2,344 $29,405

 

And if you add the Manga from Yen, the combined total looks like this:

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 25         —— 52,077       —— $836,832       —– 2,083 $33,473
2008 108 332.00% 147,645 183.51% $1,834,469 119.22% 1,367 $16,986
2009 229 112.04% 371,134 151.37% $4,340,048 132.78% 1,621 $18,952
2010 363 58.52% 721,975 94.53% $9,748,867 124.63% 1,999 $26,856
2011 484 33.33% 852,256 18.05% $11,227,466 15.17% 1,761 $23,197
2012 576 19.01% 758,845 -10.96% $10,301,009 -8.25% 1,317 $17,884
2013 678 17.71% 731,473 -3.61% $10,300,204 —– 1,079 $15,192
2014 808 19.17% 720,988 -1.43% $10,579,169 2.71% 892 $13,093
2015* 742 -8.17% 994,407 37.92% $14,304,955 35.22% 1,340 $19,279
2016* 849 14.42% 1,153,656 16.01% $17,174,718 20.06% 1,359 $20,229
2017 1481 74.44% 1,199,553 3.98% $16,865,176 -1.80% 810 $11,388
2018 1940 30.99% 1,253,803 4.52% $17,593,705 4.32% 646 $9,069
2019 1998 2.99% 1,240,930 -1.03% $17,477,769 -0.66% 621 $8,748

 

Hachette has two titles over 50k, three more over 20k, and two others over 10k, on the Western charts.


 

IMAGE COMICS

Falling back sharply, Image Comics in now our #9 Western publisher via the NPD BookScan reporters; Image has 26 titles placing within the Top 750 in 2019, that sell 224k copies and just over $5.4m in calculated retail value.  That’s a big drop from last year’s 402k, and almost $11m.

Because Image is a primarily Direct Market retailer, we’ve always built a special year-by-year chart for them in the Top 750 (Hey! I have my biases!), and this is what Image’s performance has looked like for the last 17 years:

 

Year # of placing titles Unit sales Calculated

Retail Value

2003 1 2,328 $30,148
2004 1 402 $5,206
2005 3 8,699 $100,236
2006 1 5,311 $113,465
2007 4 28,349 $344,026
2008 9 55,033 $830,574
2009 11 78,874 $1,210,094
2010 22 289,044 $6,479,930
2011 27 367,265 $8,670,917
2012 33 701,050 $20,389,762
2013 38 651,390 $19,371,269
2014 47 691,804 $17,554,492
2015 71 878,262 $22,587,672
2016 72 908,655 $22,917,758
2017 52 556,196 $11,092,960
2018 42 402,584 $7,611,777
2019 26 223,569 $5,446,399

 

Yeah, big drop.  This is what happens when “The Walking Dead” and “Saga” both end.

Image’s best-seller on the Top 750 charts goes back to being “The Walking Dead,” with the debut of the final big thick Compendium doing almost 26k, while the final slender volumes v31 (21k) and v32 (17k) also place.  None of the rest of “TWD” sell over 10k.

Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ “Saga” is the second best-selling series.  V9, the final book of the first half, launches at 13k.  v1 hangs in there at 12k, but that’s down dramatically from 17k in 2018, and 20k in 2019.  Clearly the continuing serialization was driving a significant amount of backlist sales.  BKV’s other series, “Paper Girls” comes in as the #7 best-selling Image book, but with just 8800 copies.

The only other Image title that beats the 10k mark in 2019 is “Monstress v1”, which sells 12k.

Image is super-hungry for new “hits.”

Here’s what Image’s Long Tail looks like: just like from the top, it’s a brutal cut this year.  These are not happy numbers, leaving them at like half of what they were selling in 2016.

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail Value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 438      —— 116,015    —— $2,313,477       —– 265 $5,282
2008 515 17.58% 121,001 4.30% $2,445,765 5.72% 235 $4,749
2009 571 10.87% 156,466 29.31% $3,207,033 31.13% 274 $5,617
2010 642 12.43% 359,238 229.59% $8,152,806 254.22% 560 $12,699
2011 749 16.66% 466,637 29.90% $11,041,187 35.43% 623 $14,741
2012 868 15.89% 794,419 70.24% $22,797,279 106.47% 915 $26,264
2013 994 14.52% 776,507 -2.25% $22,085,860 -3.12% 781 $22,219
2014 1006 1.21% 830,735 6.98% $20,309,973 -8.04% 826 $20,189
2015* 842 -16.30% 1,070,299 28.84% $26,175,438 28.88% 1271 $31,087
2016* 876 4.04% 1,187,316 10.93% $28,267,847 7.99% 1355 $32,269
2017 1531 174.77% 938,991 -20.91% $18,564,975 -34.32% 613 $12,126
2018 1706 11.43% 769,180 -18.08% $14,923,335 -19.62% 451 $8,748
2019 1757 2.99% 641,353 -16.62% $14,305,501 -4.14% 365 $8,142

 

Image has two titles over 20K, and another four over 10k.


 

MARVEL COMICS

Bringing up the back as #10 Western publisher within the Top 750 in 2019 is Marvel Comics, which places just 27 titles for about 221k copies and $4.2m of calculated retail.  This is Marvel’s worst performance in the Top 750 since 2012.

Here is how Marvel looks in the Top 750:

 

Year # of placing titles Unit sales Calculated

Retail value

2003 73 455,553 $8,428,962
2004 50 227,985 $3,756,764
2005 26 153,317 $2,459,027
2006 33 294,852 $5,702,307
2007 37 376,918 $7,599,057
2008 38 303,639 $6,446,359
2009 34 226,541 $5,019,216
2010 33 206,273 $4,979,323
2011 27 128,364 $3,303,496
2012 32 141,145 $3,872,683
2013 39 187,598 $4,229,242
2014 53 342,706 $8,341,787
2015* 63 478,076 $10,611,981
2016* 60 555,715 $12,088,278
2017 50 378,689 $7,840,198
2018 44 363,360 $7,885,015
2019 27 220,845 $4,151,908

 

As always, I really wonder how Marvel is doing this poorly in the bookstores when their very name is synonymous with “comics” in the minds of the general public.  I think the problem is that Marvel’s backlist is kind of scattershot.  Very few titles are truly perennial, and the branding and packaging is all over the map.  New backlist releases are designed for maximizing revenue, rather than audience size, where price-per-page is very similar to the serialization cost.  New backlist releases also have poor “hand,” feeling very thin compared to other books on the shelves.  It’s hard to follow which sequence individual books come in, and they’re not exactly committed to aggressively reprinting either.  I honestly think that Marvel backlist should be selling significantly better than it does – I really think just about everything about how they approach backlist sales needs to be rethought – they should be significantly above this performance, in my mind.

Marvel’s biggest success is still “The Infinity Gauntlet”, where they sell 27k copies (down from 54k in 2018, but way up from 16k in 2017).

In a strange upset for Marvel’s normal business model, #2 & #3 are the $10 smaller-format books which are kind of nominally aimed at the Children’s audience: “Spider-Verse: Spider-Men” does 19k, while “Spider-Verse: Miles Morales” does 14k.

Much to the chagrin of people who insist that only white men should be in superhero comics, Marvel’s #4 book is “Ms Marvel: No Normal”, at 11k.

Nothing else from Marvel cracks 10k in the book market, but four of their top ten are aimed at kids, including #6 “Spidey: Freshman Year” (9200), and #8 “Marvel Super Hero Adventures: Spider-Man” (8300).

#5 is v4 of “Star Wars: Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith” (9600).

#7 is the $60 hardcover of “House of X / Powers of X” (8700 sold), while #9 is the first volume of “Miles Morales” from Bendis (8k).  And bringing it up at #10 is the first Ta-Nehisi Coates paperback, at about 7500 copies sold… but that’s a big drop from 36k last year.

Here is Marvel’s Long Tail.

 

Year # of listed items % Change Total Pieces % Change Calculated Retail value % Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 1230 1,034,023 $19,947,737 841 $16,218
2008 1559 26.75% 1,032,394 -0.01% $20,128,825 0.01% 662 $12,911
2009 2067 32.58% 954,335 -7.56% $19,608,696 -2.58% 462 $9,487
2010 2551 23.42% 870,597 -8.77% $19,485,662 -0.06% 352 $7,638
2011 2852 11.80% 852,187 -2.11% $20,225,728 3.80% 299 $7,092
2012 3083 8.10% 726,542 -14.74% $18,848,013 -6.81% 236 $6,114
2013 3203 3.89% 730,826 0.59% $17,820,299 -5.45% 228 $5,564
2014 3352 4.65% 918,595 25.69% $24,369,961 36.75% 274 $7,270
2015* 1882 -43.85% 1,114,414 21.32% $28,021,290 14.98% 592 $14,889
2016* 1841 -2.18% 1,277,046 14.59% $31,402,330 12.07% 694 $17,057
2017 3578 94.35% 1,142,061 -10.57% $28,201,535 -10.19% 319 $7,882
2018 3662 2.35% 1,180,202 3.34% $29,651,745 5.14% 322 $8,097
2019 3692 0.82% 1,064,633 -9.79% $26,249,715 -11.47% 288 $7,110

 

Marvel has one book over 20k, and another three that are over 10k.


 

SIMON & SCHUSTER

That is it for the top ten publishers, but there are a few more publishers it’s worth singling out for attention because they have a historical value, they are significant for either the book or comics markets, they are growing, or there is otherwise something of note about them!

Since this is a report on bookstore sales, let’s start with the last of the mainstream book world’s “Big Five”:  Simon & Schuster. They manage to place seven titles into this year’s Top 750, but missed the cutoff for Top Ten Publishers.  These seven titles place 56k copies, for about $931k in calculated dollar sales.

Simon has several imprints, including Aladdin, Atria, Atheneum, Free Press, Margaret K. Elderberry, Gallery 13, Pocket, Scribner, and Touchstone.  Their best-selling comic this year is from the Scribner imprint, and is the adaptation of “The Mueller Report”, that does just under 11k.

From Simon, proper, is “Fake Blood” by Whitney Gardner, at just over 10k copies.  Also just over 10k is the awesome “The Okay Witch” by Emma Steinkellner from the Aladdin imprint (and which went OOS right away after shipping, so would have sold a lot better if there were copies to sell).

Here is Simon & Schuster’s Long Tail, which includes the imprints that I’m aware of.

 

Year # of listed items % Change Total Pieces % Change Calculated Retail Value % Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 12 8,317 $158,014 693 $13,168
2008 26 116.67% 14,917 79.36% $211,798 34.04% 574 $8,146
2009 41 57.69% 109,558 634.45% $1,430,544 575.43% 2,672 $34,891
2010 46 12.20% 214,828 96.09% $2,660,094 85.95% 4,670 $57,828
2011 62 34.78% 187,531 -12.71% $2,383,491 -10.40% 3,025 $38,443
2012 63 1.61% 165,831 -11.57% $2,844,453 19.34% 2,632 $45,150
2013 67 6.35% 258,931 56.14% $4,165,350 46.44% 3,865 $62,169
2014 71 5.97% 383,878 48.25% $6,520,821 26.55% 5,407 $91,843
2015* 75 5.63% 910,341 237.14% $13,386,461 205.29% 12,138 $178,486
2016* 75 —— 618,922 -32.01% $9,477,798 -29.20% 8,252 $126,371
2017 89 18.67% 449,243 -27.42% $6,788,432 -28.38% 5,048 $76,275
2018 88 -1.12% 38,804 -91.36% $739,664 -89.10% 441 $8,405
2019 100 13.64% 80,795 108.21% $1,502,286 103.10% 808 $15,023

 

[Almost all of that 2018 drop was my reconsidering hybrid-prose books like Rachel Renee Russell’s “Dork Diaries” as properly being “comics,” so that was on me, not them!]

Simon & Schuster has three books over 10k this year.


 

ABRAMS

While not considered one of the book world’s “Big Five,” Abrams is not also considered a traditional Direct Market publisher, either. They publish as Abrams Comicarts, Harry N. Abrams, as well as Amulet Books. They distribute, but do not publish, U.K. publisher SelfMadeHero. Abrams places a dozen books, selling 197k copies for $2.8m in calculated dollars.

Their best-selling book continues to be “El Deafo” which does terrific at 47k.  Then most of the rest of their best sellers  are all from “Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales” – 22k copies of “Lafayette!,” 20k of “Major Impossible,” 18k “Raid of No Return,” 15k “Treaties, Trenches Mud and Blood,” 13k of “One Dead Spy,” 10k each of “The Underground Abductor” and “Alamo All-Stars”   Great kid-oriented series of history retellings!

The also place 18k copies of “The Best We Can Do” by Thi Bui.

Here is your Long Tail; solid performance:

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2008 3 —— 10,031 —— $148,675 —— 3,344 $49,558
2009 25 733.33% 24,116 140.41% $640,635 330.90% 965 $25,625
2010 41 64.00% 48,240 100.03% $1,109,444 73.18% 1,177 $27,060
2011 49 19.51% 31,846 -33.98% $731,054 -34.11% 650 $14,919
2012 62 26.53% 37,522 17.82% $756,650 3.50% 605 $12,204
2013 70 12.90% 72,538 93.32% $3,278,063 333.23% 1,036 $46,829
2014 88 25.71% 74,083 2.13% $2,324,820 -29.10% 842 $26,418
2015* 92 4.55% 145,633 96.58% $1,898,267 -18.35% 1,583 $20,633
2016* 112 21.74% 177,127 21.63% $2,326,956 22.58% 1,581 $20,776
2017 124 10.71% 248,580 40.34% $3,449,807 48.25% 2,005 $27,821
2018 138 11.29% 258,334 3.92% $3,776,138 9.46% 1,872 $27,363
2019 148 7.25% 265,300 2.70% $4,089,631 8.30% 1,791 $27,633

 

Abrams has two books over 20k, and seven more over 10k in 2019.


While not one of the “Big Five”, there are several other publishers that I would consider both “significant” as well as book market-first who did well in the Top 750.  In straight alphabetical: Bloomsbury (1 title in 2019), Candlewick (2), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (6), and Hyperion/Disney Press (9), and Skyhorse (4).

BLOOMSBURY

The first up is Bloomsbury, which places just a single book into the Top 750: Roz Chast’s memoir “Can’t We Talk About Somehting More Pleasant,” which recedes a bit from previous years with 7400 copies sold.

I’ve already built the Long Tail, so here we are again:

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 1 2,409 $28,788 2409 $28,788
2008 4 300.00% 8,878 268.53% $142,561 395.21% 2220 $35,640
2009 8 200.00% 30,663 245.38% $643,517 351.40% 3833 $80,440
2010 9 12.50% 26,132 -14.78% $524,642 -18.47% 2904 $58,294
2011 10 11.11% 17,663 -32.41% $343,201 -34.58% 1766 $34,320
2012 12 20.00% 10,749 -39.14% $207,938 -39.41% 896 $17,328
2013 12 8,034 -25.26% $155,776 -25.09% 670 $12,981
2014 15 25.00% 81,758 917.65% $2,211,181 1319.46% 5451 $147,412
2015* 20 33.33% 56,006 -31.50% $1,480,162 -33.06% 2800 $74,008
2016* 23 15.00% 14,990 -73.24% $303,296 -79.51% 652 $13,187
2017 21 -8.70% 31,709 111.53% $839,044 176.64% 1510 $39,954
2018 26 12.81% 35,256 11.19% $806,512 -3.87% 1356 $31,020
2019 25 -3.85% 22,664 -35.72% $472,672 -41.39% 907 $18,907

 

Bloomsbury has no titles over 10k.


 

CANDLEWICK

Next is Candlewick, which places two titles, for just over 49k combined.  The best selling is “Flora & Ulysses” which is mostly prose, but does have a significant enough comics section in it to be on “this side” of the line for the category.  It sells 25k copies.  They also move about 24k copies of “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made.”

Here’s a Long Tail:

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2008 6 5,034 $56,024 839 $9,337
2009 18 200.00% 9,688 92.45% $103,287 84.36% 538 $5,738
2010 24 33.33% 14,857 53.35% $202,687 96.24% 619 $8,445
2011 29 20.83% 19,158 28.95% $286,615 41.41% 661 $9,883
2012 30 3.45% 15,884 -17.09% $221,438 -22.74% 529 $7,381
2013 31 3.33% 18,710 17.79% $282,320 27.49% 604 $9,107
2014 28 -9.68% 19,780 5.72% $301,845 6.92% 706 $10,780
2015* 48 71.43% 57,018 188.26% $652,681 116.23% 1188 $13,598
2016* 39 -18.75% 28,318 -50.33% $436,806 -33.08% 726 $11,200
2017 41 5.13% 46,024 62.53% $503,622 15.30% 1123 $12,283
2018 51 24.39% 66,313 44.08% $622,460 23.60% 1300 $12,205
2019 52 1.96% 74,733 12.70% $705,396 13.32% 1437 $13,565

 

Candlewick has two books over 20k.


 

HMH

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishes comics both as HMH and Mariner. They place six titles into the Top 750 that total about 163k.

The best-seller is Kayla Miller’s “Camp” at 62k, while her “Click” sells 42k copies.

Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home” continues to sell, with 19k copies going out the door.  Bechdel’s “Are You My Mother?” doesn’t place into the Top 750 for the first time since its release.

HMH also sells 18k (on the nose!) copies of Kwame Alexander’s “The Crossover,” and 17k copies of the adaptation of Lois Lowry’s “The Giver.”

The Long Tail:

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 4 —— 20,474 —— $434,495 —— 5119 $108,624
2008 6 50.00% 14,183 -30.73% $307,019 -29.34% 2363 $51,170
2009 14 233.33% 24,568 73.22% $436,328 42.12% 1755 $31,166
2010 17 21.43% 29,163 18.70% $532,539 22.05% 1715 $31,326
2011 18 5.88% 24,239 -16.88% $450,536 -15.40% 1347 $25,030
2012 21 16.67% 23,562 -2.79% $402,575 -10.65% 1122 $1,9170
2013 29 38.10% 44,558 89.11% $687,920 70.88% 1536 $23,721
2014 27 -6.90% 32,751 -26.50% $552,884 -19.63% 1213 $20,477
2015* 33 22.22% 78,357 239.25% $1,214,786 219.72% 2374 $36,812
2016* 38 15.15% 60,359 -22.97% $943,188 22.36% 1588 $24,821
2017 27 -28.95% 42,963 -28.82% $710,481 -24.67% 1591 $26,314
2018 60 222.22% 41,596 -3.18% $701,891 -1.21% 693 $11,698
2019 59 -1.67% 192,157 361.96% $2,909,580 314.53% 3257 $49,315

 

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has one book over 50k, one more over 20k, and an additional three over 10k.


 

HYPERION/DISNEY

Hyperion/Disney Press is, like Marvel, also owned by Disney. Technically, that probably means I should fold them together, but I resist, how I resist (largely because they are distributed separately). Hyperion has nine placing titles, doing 113k, combined. The best-selling title is 46k copies of “Gravity Falls: Lost Legends,” but they also shift 21k copies of the adaptation of “Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief.”

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 10 —– 39,121 —– $336,771 —– 3912 $33,677
2008 19 90.00% 41,005 4.82% $409,051 21.46% 2158 $21,529
2009 24 26.32% 23,301 -43.18% $234,078 -42.78% 971 $9,753
2010 26 8.33% 30,860 32.44% $314,067 34.17% 1187 $12,080
2011 29 11.54% 46,553 50.85% $392,652 25.02% 1605 $13,540
2012 31 6.90% 33,105 -28.89% $376,735 -4.05% 1068 $12,153
2013 33 6.45% 102,537 209.73% $1,298,672 244.72% 3107 $39,354
2014 38 15.15% 77,045 -24.86% $1,015,188 -21.83% 2028 $26,715
2015* 57 50.00% 63,290 -17.85% $831,477 -18.10% 1110 $14,587
2016* 36 -36.84% 61,730 -2.46% $926,504 11.43% 1715 $25,736
2017 41 13.89% 99,589 61.33% $1,592,970 71.93% 2429 $38,853
2018 54 31.71% 132,623 33.17% $2,228,412 39.89% 2456 $41,267
2019 63 16.67% 158,896 19.81% $2,473,413 10.99% 2522 $39,261

 

Hyperion has two books over 20k.


 

SKYHORSE

Skyhorse (placing four books for right about 21k total) is here on the strength of screencap fumetti comics taken from “Minecraft” published in their Sky Pony imprint.  All of these comics are “unofficial,” however, as they’re not licensing the Minecraft brand or engine to do so.  However no individual book manages even selling 6k, so I won’t run them down one-by-one.

Here’s their Long Tail, such as it is:

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2012 2 180 $2,331 90 $1,166
2013 4 100.00% 1,227 681.67% $15,897 681.98% 307 $3,974
2014 4 458 -62.67% $6,191 -61.06 115 $1,548
2015* 5 25.00% 14,011 3059.17% $168,332 2718.98% 2,802 $33,666
2016* 6 20.00% 51,833 369.95% $622,000 369.51% 8,639 $103,667
2017 26 433.33% 81,366 56.98% $1,144,071 83.93% 3,129 $44,003
2018 35 34.62% 87,021 6.95% $1,326,292 15.93% 2,486 $37,894
2019 40 14.30% 57,866 -33.50% $843,109 -36.43% 1,447 $21,078

 

Skyhorse has no books over 10k.


Outside of those bookstore-native publishers, we’ve got several Direct Market-native publishers who placed more than three titles into the Top 750. We’ll rank them by number of titles placed, and those would be: IDW (7), Oni (5), Dynamite (3), Boom (2), Drawn & Quarterly (2),Archie (1), Fantagraphics (1), and Nobrow (1).

IDW PUBLISHING

IDW Publishing places seven books for a total of 134k sold.  George Takei’s “They Called Us Enemy,” about his experiences in the Japanese internment camps in the 1940s, is absolutely their biggest hit, bringing in 54k sold in its first frame. Representative John Lewis’s “March” trilogy, his memoir about the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, comes in next, with v1 doing 28k; v2 and v3 only sell about 9k each. I will never ever understand why, for a historical-driven series like this there’s such a wide spread between v1 and v3.

Finally, there’s a bit of a surprise hit in “Rick & Morty Vs. Dungeons & Dragons,” which sells nearly 21k copies.

Here is IDW’s Long Tail:

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 233      —— 102,118    —— $2,090,647       —– 438 $8,973
2008 335 43.78% 146,125 43.09% $2,766,505 32.33% 436 $8,258
2009 477 42.39% 215,907 47.76% $4,346,836 57.12% 453 $9,113
2010 623 30.61% 161,578 -25.16% $3,653,680 -15.95% 259 $5,865
2011 785 26.00% 206,136 27.58% $4,884,606 33.69% 263 $6,222
2012 937 19.36% 162,599 -21.12% $4,329,973 -11.35% 174 $4,621
2013 1059 13.02% 180,694 11.13% $4,443,372 2.62% 171 $4,196
2014 1134 7.08% 228,895 26.68% $5,309,992 19.50% 200 $4,641
2015* 959 -15.43% 310,512 35.66% $6,478,023 22.00% 324 $6,755
2016* 978 1.98% 343,197 10.53% $8,194,098 26.49% 351 $8,378
2017 1639 67.59% 346,368 0.92% $8,278,617 1.03% 211 $5,051
2018 1811 10.05% 279,435 -19.32% $6,525,696 -21.17% 154 $3,603
2019 1817 0.33% 330,051 18.11% $7,443,310 14.06% 182 $4,096

 

IDW has one book over 50k, and two more over 20k.


 

ONI PRESS

Oni Press is our next publisher, with four placing books for about 36k total.  Their biggest success in 2019 is Brenna Thummler’s magnificent “Sheets,” which brings in nearly 15k copies.  They also sell 9400 copies of “A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns.”

Here’s Oni’s Long Tail:

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 125      —— 11,294    —— $141,829       —– 90 $1,135
2008 138 10.40% 21,843 93.40% $320,799 126.19% 158 $2,325
2009 149 7.97% 51,584 136.13% $713,121 122.30% 346 $4,786
2010 156 4.70% 446,791 866.14% $5,882,247 824.86% 2864 $37,707
2011 177 13.46% 162,275 -63.68% $2,786,438 -52.63% 917 $15,743
2012 171 -3.39% 80,560 -50.36% $1,594,016 -42.79% 471 $9,322
2013 195 14.04% 68,140 -15.42% $1,401,748 -12.06% 349 $7,188
2014 213 9.23% 61,584 -9.62% $1,303,069 -7.04% 289 $6,118
2015* 165 -22.54% 65,254 5.96% $1,478,997 11.35% 395 $8,964
2016* 191 15.76% 90,222 38.26% $1,992,643 34.73% 472 $10,433
2017 283 48.17% 117,950 30.73% $2,847,629 42.91% 417 $10,062
2018 323 14.13% 108,897 -7.68% $2,595,362 -8.86% 337 $8,035
2019 378 17.03% 129,934 19.32% $2,786,185 7.35% 344 $7,371

 

Oni has one book over 10k.


 

DYNAMITE

For the first time since I’ve been doing these charts, Dynamite finally places enough to make it into the Top 750 survey.  They place three books for a bit over 25k copies.

The biggest success is “The Boys Omnibus v1,” which beats 13k copies. V2 comes in at almost exactly half at 6500.

Looks like I have to build a Long Tail for the first time, so let me set the WAYBACK machine….

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 21 —– 1,082 —– $17,861 —– 52 $851
2008 71 238.10% 7,300 574.68% $138,083 673.10% 103 $1,945
2009 124 74.65% 23,748 225.32% $485,272 251.44% 192 $3,913
2010 177 42.74% 31,194 31.35% $660,904 36.19% 176 $3,734
2011 246 38.98% 57,801 85.30% $1,300,079 96.71% 235 $5,285
2012 288 17.07% 38,798 -32.88% $887,083 -31.77% 135 $3,080
2013 347 20.49% 32,296 -16.76% $799,021 -9.93% 93 $2,303
2014 405 16.71% 31,528 -2.38% $788,130 -1.36% 78 $1,946
2015* 192 -52.59% 31,452 -0.24% $797,977 1.25% 164 $4,156
2016* 174 -9.38 42,280 34.43% $997,956 25.06% 243 $5,735
2017 552 217.24% 38,053 -10.00% $868,682 -12.95% 69 $1,574
2018 630 14.13% 50,538 32.81% $1,227,967 41.36% 80 $1,949
2019 654 3.81% 81,198 60.67% $2,112,720 72.05% 124 $3,230

 

Dynamite has one book over 10k for 2019, in the NPD BookScan Top 750.


 

BOOM! STUDIOS

Boom! sells two titles into the Top 750, for almost 14k.  Boom! uses the imprints Archaia, Boom, Boom Box, Boom Town, and Kaboom. The top-seller for Boom! in 2019 is v1 of “Lumberjanes” at 8500 copies.

The Long Tail:

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 21 —– 10,462 —– $246,984 —— 498 $11,761
2008 44 109.52% 10,943 4.60% $394,361 59.67% 249 $8,963
2009 93 111.36% 25,378 131.91% $485,485 23.11% 273 $5,220
2010 202 117.20% 64,770 155.22% $1,140,019 134.82% 321 $5,644
2011 253 25.25% 75,472 16.52% $1,435,514 25.92% 298 $5,674
2012 307 21.34% 59,758 -20.82% $1,160,894 -19.13% 195 $3,781
2013 347 13.03% 86,637 44.98% $1,650,374 42.16% 250 $4,756
2014 388 11.82% 108,504 25.24% $1,894,658 14.80% 280 $4,883
2015* 295 -23.97% 126,029 16.15% $2,159,071 13.96% 427 $7,319
2016* 309 4.75% 134,386 6.63% $2,313,502 7.15% 435 $7,488
2017 633 104.85% 171,133 27.34% $2,983,775 28.97% 270 $4,714
2018 768 21.33% 198,773 16.15% $3,659,046 22.63% 259 $4,764
2019 825 7.42% 228,120 14.76% $4,344,256 18.74% 277 $5,266

 

Boom! has no books over 10k.


 

D&Q

Drawn & Quarterly places two books into the Top 750, for about 20k copies. Their best-seller is 12k of “Making Comics” by Lynda Barry.

A Long Tail!

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 62 24,689 $500,764 398 $8,077
2008 82 32.26% 42,038 70.27% $912,774 82.28% 513 $11,131
2009 107 30.49% 42,957 2.19% $920,014 0.79% 401 $8,598
2010 126 17.76% 44,737 4.14% $1,009,387 9.71% 355 $8,011
2011 145 15.08% 62,286 39.23% $1,399,793 38.68% 430 $9,654
2012 155 6.90% 43,098 -30.81% $926,233 -33.83% 278 $5,976
2013 189 21.94% 41,887 -2.81% $893,905 3.49% 222 $4,730
2014 205 8.47% 46,030 9.90% $1,032,032 15.45% 225 $5,034
2015* 219 6.83% 73,471 59.62% $1,680,878 62.87% 335 $7,675
2016* 233 6.39% 57,326 -21.97% $1,266,170 -24.67% 246 $5,434
2017 247 6.01% 68,087 18.77% $1,548,813 22.32% 276 $6,271
2018 285 15.38% 79,765 17.15% $2,055,019 32.68% 280 $7,211
2019 303 6.32% 80,084 4.32% $2,112,455 2.79% 264 $6,972

 

Drawn & Quarterly has one book over 10k.


 

ARCHIE COMICS

Archie Comics places just one book in the Top 750, selling a bit under 5k copies of “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.”

Here’s Archie’s Long Tail:

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 18      —— 12,443    —— $103,998       —– 691 $5,778
2008 26 44.44% 25,046 101.29% $220,207 111.74% 963 $8,470
2009 33 26.92% 26,998 7.79% $246,557 11.97% 818 $7,471
2010 43 30.30% 24,828 -8.04% $227,014 -7.93% 577 $5,279
2011 62 44.19% 51,551 107.63% $528,353 132.74% 831 $8,522
2012 85 37.10% 66,988 29.95% $797,165 50.88% 788 $9,378
2013 110 29.41% 79,978 19.39% $974,889 22.29% 727 $8,863
2014 148 34.55% 92,953 16.22% $1,170,486 20.06% 628 $7,909
2015* 165 11.49% 75,222 -19.08% $892,756 -23.73% 456 $5,411
2016* 163 -1.21% 56,241 -25.23% $730,252 -18.20% 345 $4,480
2017 156 -4.29% 72,574 29.04% $1,102,457 50.97% 465 $7,067
2018 199 27.56% 72,014 -0.08% $1,105,711 0.03% 362 $5,556
2019 181 -9.04% 56,880 -21.02% $866,333 -21.65% 314 $4,786

 

Archie has no books over 10k.


 

FANTAGRAPHICS

Fantagraphics has one book in Top 750: about 5800 copies of “My Favorite Thing is Monsters” by Emil Ferris.

Here’s Fantagraphics’ Long Tail:

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 201 35,903 $640,565 179 $3,187
2008 239 18.91% 43,675 21.65% $1,126,587 75.87% 183 $4,714
2009 263 10.04% 46,562 6.61% $1,149,082 2.00% 177 $4,369
2010 304 15.59% 50,332 8.10% $1,156,205 0.62% 166 $3,803
2011 339 11.51% 57,278 13.80% $1,327,308 14.80% 169 $3,915
2012 387 14.16% 47,476 -17.11% $1,094,131 -17.57% 123 $2,827
2013 422 9.04% 52,278 10.11% $1,266,936 15.79% 124 $3,002
2014 440 4.27% 53,215 1.79% $1,685,171 33.01% 121 $3,830
2015* 394 -10.45% 58,938 10.75% $1,835,796 8.94% 150 $4,659
2016* 421 6.85% 67,241 14.09% $1,975,421 7.61% 160 $4,692
2017 509 20.90% 81,076 20.58% $2,599,552 31.59% 159 $5,107
2018 617 21.22% 95,600 17.91% $2,843,762 9.39% 155 $4,609
2019 673 9.08% 86,569 -9.45% $2,707,583 -4.79% 129 $4,023

 

Fantagraphics has no books over 10k in 2019.


 

NOBROW

Finally Nobrow (which only started in 2011, can you believe?) has just one placing book in the Top 750: “Hilda and the Troll” selling just over 7k.

Here’s the Nobrow Long Tail:

 

Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Calculated Retail value Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2011 6 31 $485 5 $81
2012 28 366.67% 3,062 9777.42% $60,537 12381.86% 109 $2,162
2013 36 12.57% 4,536 48.14% $93,703 54.78% 126 $2,603
2014 45 25.00% 9,612 111.90% $222,681 137.65% 214 $4,948
2015* 47 4.44% 13,095 36.24% $269,445 21.00% 279 $5,733
2016* 51 8.51% 14,867 13.53% $255,229 -5.28% 292 $5,004
2017 69 35.29% 21,997 47.96% $380,323 49.01% 319 $5,512
2018 76 10.14% 43,249 96.61% $617,854 62.25% 569 $8,130
2019 91 19.74% 44,225 2.26% $669,218 8.31% 486 $7,354

 

Nobrow has no books over 10k.


 

…AND THE REST

After this, I am left with fourteen remaining books in the Top 750 that aren’t at one of the above publishers in 2019.

Only three of the remaining placing books sell over 10k copies.  First is “The Fantastic Flatulent Fart Brothers Big Book of Farty Facts” which sells, gosh, 28k copies.  It is published by Top Floor Books.  Next is “The Loud House 3-in-1 v1” from Papercutz, which sells a hair over 15k.  While the third and final title is the “Bone: One Edition” published by Cartoon Books in its original black-and-white, which sells 11k copies – this is very close to what the Color edition from Scholastic sells, by the way (12k).

After that, none of the remaining books sell 10k, so they don’t get individual write-ups (I’m tired! This is nearly 20k words already!).

 

 


A few final bits of number-crunching for fun before we go for the year!

First and foremost: I’m sure you noticed that one of the columns on the NPD BookScan chart is listed as “publishers”.  I’ve never been able to understand why: that column is clearly the distributor column, with the (very very) weird exception of DC Comics.  DC (and Dark Horse, and IDW, and others) are distributed by Random House in the bookstore market, not Diamond.  Marvel is distributed by Hachette.  Boom! is distributed by Simon, and so on.  Now in most analysis that I do, I get fairly rigorous about going in and fixing problems, but this is a simple search. So who are the leaders for distribution, over the breadth of the entire NPD BookScan list?

Turns out it looks like this in 2019:

 

 

Not what you pictured in your head, was it?  This chart is one of the reasons why it is hard to call Diamond a true “monopoly”, despite their presumptive domination in the Direct Market – they are just 4% of sales in the book market.

Lastly: if we look at the entirety of the 41k-long “Long Tail” NPD BookScan list, how do the publishers (all 1540 of them) stack up in 2019? This is everything, including both “East” and “West” comics, and we’ll sort it by Calculated Retail Value, and rounding everything to the nearest 100,000 just for ease of presentation.  This is a list of any publisher on a quick sort that generated $1m or more in Calculated Dollar Sales.

Scholastic is strongly the biggest publisher in the bookstores, followed by Viz, then distantly followed by DC and Marvel – more importantly, the gap between the top two and the next two is getting significantly wider.  However, those top four publishers together are larger than the bottom 1536 publishers combined.

 

#1 SCHOLASTIC BOOKS $88.9
#2 VIZ MEDIA $60.8
#3 DC COMICS $33.4
#4 MARVEL COMICS $26.2
#5 DARK HORSE $19.5
#6 HACHETTE BOOK GROUP $17.5
#7 KODANSHA COMICS $15.8
#8 MACMILLAN $15.8
#9 PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE $15.7
#10 IMAGE COMICS $14.3
#11 HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS $13.9
#12 ANDREWS MCMEEL PUBLISHING $11.1
#13 SEVEN SEAS $9.5
#14 IDW PUBLISHING $7.4
#15 BOOM! STUDIOS $4.3
#16 HARRY N. ABRAMS $4.1
#17 HOUGHTON MIFFLIN HARCOURT $2.9
#18 VERTICAL COMICS $2.8
#19 ONI PRESS $2.8
#20 FANTAGRAPHICS BOOKS $2.7
#21 DISNEY – HYPERION $2.5
#22 DRAWN & QUARTERLY $2.1
#23 DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT $2.1
#24 SIMON & SCHUSTER $1.5
#25 TITAN COMICS $1.2
   — Everyone Else Combined $20.2

 

Or, if you’d prefer a visual chart?

2020 total dollars chart graphic novels

And that’s pretty much what NPD BookScan in 2019 looks like to these eyes.

How does it look to you?

METHODOLOGY AND BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

For some historical context, we have three “eras” of data: 2003-2005 numbers are “what is YTD sold, IF it made the chart in the last week of the year?”

2006-2016: the full “here’s everything that sold throughout the entire year”, but filtered through a leaker – almost certainly accurate, but absolutely missing some bits due to methodology changes and differences, even year-by-year.  Important: in 2015 and 2016 I received lists that appeared to be lightly edited, potentially down to “books that are in print at the publisher level only” (obviously, there’s still stock out there on the shelves of stores and in warehouses that is not “in print” per se).  Those two years are asterisked to reflect that!

2017-now: “Everything” sold in the calendar year, with no filter.  (Though see further notes below!)

Just bear this all in mind if you compare the various “eras” against one another.  These are not inherently apples-to-apples comparisons as a result!  Moving forward, there should be a much deeper consistency of data.

The biggest and most obvious difference when doing straight comparisons will be in the lower ends of the chart. This year, the “worst selling” book in the Top 750 is just about 4700 copies (up significantly from about 3800 copies last year) In ’03-‘05 there would be many items that didn’t have YTD sales in anything like that amount.

Also of major note is that starting in 2007, I have had the “full and entire” NPD BookScan listing, down to books that have only one copy sold YTD. However, I’ve never tried to really analyze that entire list because that’s too much data, even for a data-junkie like myself. I’ve cut the list off at 750 items because that’s what we’ve historically reported. Still, I have the deeper data, and I’ll summarize it as we go along. As long as I continue to get that much data going forward, I should be able to tell you a few things about “The Long Tail.” In 2018, I possess data on 40,755 items! (for 2018 this was 38,422 items) We’ll talk more about this later in some depth, including the methodology of how these are generated.

This is important, however: this is not a list of every book that sold through every bookstore – the report is limited to those stores that report to NPD BookScan. According to NPD BookScan, more than 16,000 retail locations report to them, but this still leaves many venues that don’t.

Nielsen claimed in 2013 that approximately 85% of retail, physical book sales are tracked through them, though this number appears very much in doubt as an actionable percentage for any specific individual book. A quick internet search can find any number of cases of authors saying that NPD BookScan numbers show half or less of their royalty statements. There’s some really excellent discussion on why and by how much NPD BookScan numbers might be off right here.

NPD BookScan says “Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Costco, General Independents, Hastings, Target, BJ’s, K-Mart, Hudson Group, Meijers, Follett Books, Books-A-Million, CEO Read, Powell’s, Toys R Us, Shoprite, SuperValu, Sam’s Club and Walmart are among our many data providers.”

What sales does NPD BookScan not track? Among others, this would include libraries, schools, specialty stores (like comic book stores!) and book clubs and fairs.

There’s also a certain amount of miscategorization going on. As an example, for the last 16 years the purely-prose novel Bloody Crown of Conan appears on my list, while other books (see; Dork Diaries in a few paragraphs) might appear one year, and disappear another. I do not know what the actual extent of miscategorization might be and how it would impact any of the general data analysis! There are simply too many potential data points to possibly connect them all together in the time I have to assemble this column. It is important to point out that miscategorizations are not the fault of NPD BookScan—the publishers themselves assign the BISACs that drive these categorizations, and then Ingram and Barnes & Noble sometimes alter them before they reach the NPD BookScan universe.

I’ve done the best I can to try and root out any items “of significance” that should be on the chart that I’m given, but are not – for example, I have to have The Complete Persepolis and Maus manually pulled for me every year because of how BISAC codes work. Because this relies on me catching these titles to get them on to the list, this means there are almost certainly comics material missing that I didn’t catch. If you can think of a book I might have missed, please email me, and I’ll try to track down the sales for it, and update my listings for the future!  Even with my multiple safeguards, the datastream is too wide for me to not make mistakes.  I make constant mistakes, as you’ll see further down in the body of the column.

Either way, what I’m trying to get across to you is that this really is entirely unreliable data in terms of the absolute and total number of books sold, and is only able to give the broadest possible outline of what’s happening in bookstores, based upon the data set that I’m being given, which is in no way comprehensive. I still think that’s much, much better than having no information, so I persevere in writing this each year.  Also, now that I am getting data directly from the NPD Group, I feel much more confident that I at least know where the potential problems generally are.

Again, I want to stress that I’m doing my primary analysis on the Top 750 items: the reason for this is that is all that I was able to get in the first four years of this analysis, and otherwise the percentage changes I’m discussing will be even more wrong than they would be otherwise. The Top 750 represents more than half of the total of the full list, and has consistently for years – in 2019 the Top 750 was roughly 15.5 million books sold; the bottom forty thousand-ish represents just about 9.2 million books sold. While there are significant sales below the Top 750, the Top 750 probably represents the majority of items you’d be able to “easily” find on the shelf of a bookstore in America. I’d love to analyze the full “Long Tail” list, but I’m afraid that this might take these little essays to triple their current size, and keeping your attention just through this seems hard enough to me! Maybe if someone paid me by the word…!

Finally, it is probably worth mentioning that although I’m analyzing primarily units sold, I also have some calculations that are purely my own of dollars that they would have been if they were sold at full retail.  NPD BookScan does not report on the price that a book actually sold for, so the extrapolation of dollars that I made could be dramatically overstated.  More than “could be”: it probably is… because Amazon sells so many books, often at crazy steep discounts.  In no way should you take any “Calculated Retail Value” as TRUE – these are just to provide a series of benchmarks, and to help you see the impact and differences that “cover price” can make in sales.

If it was not obvious, this only counts physical books, and does not include any digital sale of any kind; it does however, include physical books sold through Amazon.

One of the things I really never talk about is how I get this data each year.  I certainly don’t have a NPD BookScan account (they’re pretty expensive!), so I have historically depended on leaks from industry sources. But this means that the methodology with which the data was generated may actually be very different from year to year.  The thing is, since I don’t generate these, NPD BookScan methodology is still largely a black box to me.  For a guy who writes these reports for 17 (!) years, I still have only really a passing knowledge of how things work.  I am learning, slowly, though!

Now that the NPD Group is directly providing us data, we can assume that the methodology itself will not change going forward, yay!

 

A Bunch of Information about BISAC codes and how this report is generated!

Here’s where we learn a little bit about the Book Industry Standards and Communications (or “BISAC”) codes.  As mentioned above, the publishers assign them themselves, and publishers are allowed to assign up to four different BISAC codes per item.  For example: “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” is classified as “Juvenile Fiction: Humorous Stories”; “Juvenile Fiction: Comics & Graphic Novels: General”; and “Juvenile Fiction: Social Issues: General”.  But the kicker is that NPD BookScan reports will only spit out for the first BISAC listed for any given book.  That is why “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” never ever showed on any of our previous reports, because the “comics” designation of the BISAC is listed second for that series!  Conceptually I could also ask for “Juvenile Fiction: Humorous Stories” report, too – but that’s going to have thousands and thousands of prose-only, not-even-slightly-comics items on it, and working to cut those would quintuple the hours I spend on this (no thanks!)  This is also why I have to manually ask for titles like “Maus” or “Persepolis” or “Understanding Comics” each and every year – not because they don’t contain the BISAC for comics (“CGN00xxxx” are the primary ones, for the record), but because that BISAC isn’t listed first!

Now, historically, this has really been opaque to me, to the point where I didn’t even really know what BISAC was what, but The NPD Group has been incredibly forthcoming, and I’m learning enough that I almost understand it.  First and foremost, we’re now having the report generated using the codes for “Comics & Graphic Novels” (CGN), as well as the “comics” portions of “Juvenile” fiction (JUV) and nonfiction (JNF), and Young Adult Fiction (YAF) and non-fiction (YAN).  Please note that the J and Y series of codes extend far past “comics,” but our search is for the narrower section.  In addition to that, the NPD Group pulled records for three prominent authors that seldom showed up without intervention: Art Spiegelman, Marjane Satrapi, and Scott McCloud (as well as a small handful of books that I crosschecked against my own best sellers).

So you know, there are more than 75 “main” BISACs that we’re pulling in full.

Again, the publishers are the ones who assign the BISACs, and they can assign up to four per book.  But reports can only generate (for now) from what the first BISAC code is listed – The NPD Group tells me they’re working on fixing that, but it’s a limitation of the current tools.  That’s why they pulled by Author for Art Spiegelman – and look at how MAUS breaks down:  the first individual volume has a primary BISAC of HIS022000 (“History: Jewish”), while the complete hardcover is BIO006000 (“Biography: Historical”).  But the box set of the two paperbacks is BIO000000 (“Biography: General”), and METAMAUS (the book, with supporting documentation) for some reason is categorized as LIT017000 (“Literary: Comics & Graphic Novels”) which I’m not at all certain how that is different from CGN006000 (“Comics & Graphic Novels: Literary”) – but my point is that you have essentially one book that the publisher itself doesn’t really know what the “primary” BISAC should be.

There’s also more than a few dumb-ass choices, like how JUV008010 (Juvenile Fiction: Comics & GNs/Manga) features a not-even-slightly “manga” HILO by Judd Winick.  These kinds of categorization problems pepper the entire database.

Additionally, only (apparently) the publishers can change BISACs, so even if I find errors year after year (god damn that BLOODY CROWN OF CONAN!!!), it’s very, very difficult to convince folks that it matters enough to devote man-hours to fixing up, even if the folks at The NPD Group agree.

If you want to learn more about the theory and practice of BISAC codes, you can go and follow this link.  (It’s a trap!)

The main thing to know is that while BISAC is a pretty good system for categorizing books because it is solely in the publisher’s hands, it has some pretty extreme limitations when creating reports with it as the sole basis.  There is not, however, any other way to generate this data without using those limitations, to the best of my knowledge.

Either way, prior to 2017 numbers, the exact methodology from my leakers was slightly different every year and sometimes we got weird spikes and discrepancies.  For example, as far as I can tell, in 2014 and prior we were always getting every book that sold one copy anywhere, then in 2015, and slightly in 2016, we’re getting a lightly edited list that only listed in-print books from some (but not all!) publishers.  I put an asterisk on 2015 and 2016 because it was missing several thousand data points… But those very strongly appeared to be data points that may not materially affect the actual bottom-line health of dollars and pieces the charts (you’ll see this year, I think).  Either way, I really must once again urge you to treat every data point presented here as only part of the possible picture!


Brian Hibbs has owned and operated Comix Experience in San Francisco since 1989, was a founding member of the Board of Directors of ComicsPRO, has sat on the Board of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and has been an Eisner Award judge. Feel free to e-mail him with any comments. You can purchase two collections of the first Tilting at Windmills (originally serialized in Comics Retailer magazine) published by IDW Publishing, as well as find an archive of pre-CBR installments right here. Brian is also available to consult for your publishing or retailing program.

 

16 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for doing this Brian. Always interesting to see what sells through book stores. I think it’s worth remembering that Dog Man: Brawl of the Wild had a 5-million copy initial print run. (New York Public Library currently has 157 copies.)

    Also, I have to ask, just how many copies of Bloody Crown of Conan sell each year? It might be an interesting comparison point for the comics. : )

  2. So here’s my question.

    Given these numbers, versus the direct market, should creator-owned books focus on the bookstore market, or try to crack the DM with single issues first and reach all those readers who are in it for the “love of the medium”?

  3. That’s a very good question. My personal POV is that, given that the “average” graphic novel sells about 600 meager copies in a year into the book market (including Amazon), it seems that having multiple revenue streams is the smartest way to go. Amortizing even part of the cost of production via serialization seems like the smartest possible path.

    I’ve not done any analysis of “creator owned” vs “company owned” (ugh, that would take a week just to sort things out), but the “average” includes those millions of copies of DOG MAN. My strongest possible guess is that for a typical creator owned book, the average annual sales would drop significantly from that paltry number.

    -B

  4. Last time I commented on one of your BookScan posts was quite a while ago. Great to see as always, but even though there’s a link to that long-ago thread above, it bears repeating:

    BookScan undercounts actual sales, and does so with wild inconsistency. I have many more data points now than I did in that 2013 thread you link to, so using the most recent figures I have from my Hachette, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster royalty statements, I see that BookScan reports between 9% and 57% of actual sales for my books.

    The huge and variable difference in what BookScan reports and actual sales makes most comparisons, especially across individual titles, meaningless. For example, if the errors I see for my books to your top 20 chart fall the right way, GUTS could be selling more than the top three DOG MAN books combined. Or not; we have no idea!

  5. Since there is limited returns on books bought via the bookstore market and book scans counts for sales through to customers, the difference could be the books that are still sitting on shelves in bookstores, but count as a sale to the publisher (and show up on royalty statements) since they are outside of the return policy.

  6. I do got to wonder something with the sales of Jojo, why would it increase so much this year specifically.

    Like looking at past years data seems like Jojo was doing about the same each year, then all of a sudden double it’s sales?

    Something seems a bit off as why would Jojo all of sudden get popular when it’s been having a running anime going on for years then all of a sudden get more popular.

    Can’t help but think wires are getting crossed or something… maybe you can help Brian?

  7. Hi Jamie. Though returns might account for some of the discrepancy in the first year after release, publishers hold something they call “reserve against returns” for just this reason: they don’t want to pay authors royalties on copies that haven’t really sold, and for which they haven’t been paid. The percentages I shared above are based on net (read: actual) sales, so if BookScan was doing a good job their numbers would be much closer than approx. 1/10 to 1/2 of what actually happened! (And anyway, no publisher prints two to ten times as many copies as they anticipate selling, especially over the course of almost a decade for some of the books I looked at.)

  8. For Jim, we’ve certainly had this conversation in previous years; BookScan is what BookScan is: a report of sales from STORES that report TO BookScan. Stores that don’t report to BookScan won’t be listed. Copies not sold at reporting stores, sold at book fairs, or to libraries or to schools or to comic book stores, or umpty umpty other places. There are SO MANY paragraphs that talk about how this data is in no way all encompassing or sacrosanct. Heck, read the very last sentence of the piece!

    I personally think it is better to have incomplete data out there than no data at all, but there’s absolutely no reason to doubt, that I am aware of, the accuracy of this data judged as what it IS: a report of sales from stores that report to BookScan. I do absolutely believe that within it’s guiderails, this list is correct, based on how I understand their methodology to work.

    Anyone thinking that it is anything past or beyond that would be foolish. As I spend way way way too many paragraphs saying.

    For “thatguysopinon”: I have no easy way of identifying why JOJO took a sudden spike? Maybe it’s people confusing it with JOJO RABBIT and liking it? I can say, in a statement that means absolutely nothing because it is pure anecdote, at my main store we ALSO tripled sales on the book this year.

    -B

  9. Hi Brian.

    Well, you did ask how this looks to us, right? :) The point of bringing this up again is because, last sentence and disclaimers in the text aside, you spend a lot more time and space on numbers and lists.

    Those things have the look of objective truth, but I’ll go back to the example I gave: when we can’t use BookScan’s numbers to say whether GUTS sold more or less than the top three DOG MAN books combined, what do these lists tell us?

    It may be true that “within its guiderails, this list is correct,” but it’s also true that we don’t know how wide those guiderails are, or how they vary from book to book. All I can tell you with absolute certainty — based on comparing actual sales to BookScan’s numbers — is that they vary wildly. BookScan isn’t merely incomplete data. It’s both incomplete and inconsistent. And, surprisingly to me, it’s no better now than it was when I last chimed in on this.

    All we have as a result are lots of numbers of unknown accuracy and provenance, and we clearly don’t agree that this allows for much insight into the book trade.

    I realize that now it’s probably me that’s tilting at windmills, so maybe it’s time for me to step aside on this…for another seven years, perhaps!

  10. @Brian in the Junji Ito part of the Viz section

    “Tomie” at 16k, “GYO” at just below 19k,
    Tomie is #177 on the Excel chart while GYO is at #181. Did you mean just below 16k?

  11. Sorry, one other thing – for Mob Psycho 100 vol 1, you say “v1 nearly shifts 11k copies” and for Black Butler vol 1 “brings in just a hair under 13k in the bookstore market”. However on the excel sheet, MP100 ranks at #211 above Black Butler (#228) so I’m wondering if the numbers got possibly mixed up?

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