Graphic novel sales fell 5% in 2017, according to the year end Bookscan numbers, Jim Milliot reports at Publishers Weekly.

This follows an 11% gain for GNs in 2016, and a gaudy 22% rise in 2015.

Overall fiction book sales were down about 1%, basically flat. Despite ups and downs in various categories, print book sales were up overall 1.9% in 2017, their survival in the digital landscape an impressive feat.

And although it isn’t really a graphic novel, Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid #12 The Getaway was the #1 selling new book of 2017, with 992,000 copies sold according to the numbers Bookscan measures.

While the downturn in graphic novel sales at comics shops was well-tracked – GNs were down nearly 12% in units – the drop in bookstores is a bit more of a surprise, although still only half of the LCS drop.

However, it should also be noted that Bookscan does not include kids graphic novels sales in the adult GN category. Unfortunately, it doesn’t break  out kis or YA GNs as their own category, but if these numbers were to be included you might find a different growth trajectory. BUt we won’t know until someone runs that report.

According to Milliot, juvenile nonfiction was up 8%:

The juvenile nonfiction category increased the most of any segment in the year (8%), led by the biographies/autobiographies subcategory, in which units were up 26% from 2016. Two books about smart women were instrumental: Women in Science topped the subcategory list with 128,000 copies sold, and the children’s edition of Hidden Figures was second, with approximately 115,000 copies sold. In the social situations/family/health subcategory, which saw a 22% increase from 2016, were more strong women: She Persisted, which sold about 250,000 copies, was the #1 title, followed by two American Girl titles that together sold more than 280,000 copies. The 12% gain in the education/reference/language segment was driven in part by The Pokémon Essential Handbook, which sold more than 260,000 copies.

Juvenile fiction was up 2%, and adult non-fiction was up 3%.

I still haven’t fully found the reason for the GN sales drop, but in other book categories, the lack of a big bestseller is usually the culprit. The lack of interest in Marvel collections, and DC’s soft GN sales for Rebirth titles are also seen as a factor. Or as someone put it to me, “When readers don’t like the periodicals, they don’t like the trades, either.”

A general drop in the wake of the NY Times dropping their graphic novels bestseller chart a year ago is also a factor, although book section editor Pamela Paul’s promise for expanded coverage in the Times may or may not have ever actually happened.

Despite the sales decline, graphic novels still make up about 8% of the book market, and some 11.3 million graphic novels were sold in 2017. All it would take is a new adult hit book – a new Walking Dead, new Saga, new Killing Joke – and things will bounce right back.

How do we get a new Killing Joke, though – that’s the question.

Here’s the adult fiction list from Bookscan. First column in 2016 sales, second is 2017 sales (both in 1000s) and final is the % change.

Adult Fiction
Classics 8,083 8,605 6%
Fantasy 6,537 7,464 14%
Graphic Novels 11,938 11,328 -5%
Mystery/Detective 11,225 12,099 8%
Occult/Psychological/Horror 2,369 2,880 22%
Religion 4,739 4,356 -8%
Romance 24,989 21,492 -14%
Science Fiction 5,319 5,145 -3%
Suspense/Thrillers 21,901 21,839 0%
Westerns 1,983 1,852 -7%
General Fiction 39,492 40,590 3%
Total 140,221 139,184 -1%



  1. Yeah, I’d agree with that wholeheartedly.

    In my discussion of this material I found I was able to run the unit sales numbers on total GN sales through Diamond all the way back to 2010, which suggested more stability than I was expecting to find, with 2017’s graphic novel sales smack in the middle of a 2 million copy range between the decade low in 2011 and the high in 2016:

  2. Hi Heidi,
    I’m happy to help you guys tease out the 2017 C/GN BooKScan numbers more directly and thoroughly. Can you drop me a line? Thanks–Kristen McLean, NPD BookScan

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