It’s our favorite day of the year! The day retailer Brian Hibbs posts the complete BookScan chart for the previous year, with his own analysis. You can download the entire chart for your own edification in the first link above, but we’ll just cut to the chase. Here are the top 20 GNs for the year:
|157,786||DORK DIARIES||RUSSELL RACHEL RENEE|
|84,045||BIG NATE FROM THE TOP||PEIRCE LINCOLN|
|39,382||ADV OF OOK & GLUK KUNG FU CAVE||PILKEY DAV|
|36,436||MAUS I||SPIEGELMAN ART|
|35,365||WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM 1||KIRKMAN ROBERT|
|34,297||TWILIGHT GRAPHIC NOVEL V 2||MEYER STEPHENIE|
|32,931||BONE OUT FROM BONEVILLE||SMITH JEFF|
|32,223||PERSEPOLIS 1||SATRAPI MARJANE|
|31,526||NARUTO V 50||KISHIMOTO MASASHI|
|30,885||SCOTT PILGRIM V 1 SCOTT PILGRI||O’MALLEY BRYAN LEE|
|29,430||ADV OF OOK & GLUK KUNG FU CAVE||PILKEY DAV|
|27,081||WALKING DEAD V1 DAYS GONE BYE||KIRKMAN ROBERT|
|26,111||WALKING DEAD V 14 NO WAY OUT||KIRKMAN ROBERT|
|23,743||BIG NATE & FRIENDS||PEIRCE LINCOLN|
|23,567||POKEMON BLACK & WHITE V 1||KUSAKA HIDENORI|
|23,349||MAXIMUM RIDE V 4 MANGA||PATTERSON JAMES|
|23,025||SCOTT PILGRIM V 2 SCOTT PILGRI||O’MALLEY BRYAN LEE|
|22,934||NARUTO V51||KISHIMOTO MASASHI|
|22,797||BONE THE GRT COW RACE||SMITH JEFF|
We’ll have lots more analysis of the chart on Monday, but if you look at the above, one thing is screamingly clear: kids comics are what is selling in bookstores. And not in comics shops.
For instance, has a copy of Dragonbreath ever been sold in a comics shop? Is it ever even mentioned? Have you ever heard of Ursula Vernon? According to her website:
Dragonbreath is the current children’s book series from Ursula Vernon. A combination of text and graphic novel, the Dragonbreath books tell of the adventures of Danny Dragon, a young dragon attending a school for reptiles and amphibians. Join Danny and his best friend Wendell the Iguana as they travel under the sea outwitting bullies, fending off giant squid, meet giant heron, run from ninjas,and fight were-hotdogs, all the while trying to avoid getting an F in Science!
If you’re wondering where DC and Marvel are, DC charts for the first time at #25 with (surprise!) WATCHMEN.
Marvel? All the way down at #149 with that RICHARD CASTLE: DEADLY STORM tie-in.
Hibbs’ analysis includes charts showing year-to-year changes for all the top publishers, and includes an analysis of the long tail—the complete BookScan chart of more than 24,000 items. Although sales were down in the top 750 for the fourth year in a row unit-wise (ouch), when the entire category is examined, the unit drop for the year is smaller and dollars are UP:
We are now tracking almost 24k items through the BookScan charts, which is almost a 9% increase since 2010, and an amazing 82% increase since 2007. This is a much rosier chart — while units sold are still down (but only by 3.6%), dollar sales are actually up by almost 2%!
I would primarily attribute this to two things: first, the majority of the new books entering the market every year are “western” comics, and, as such, bear a much higher cover price than manga books; and second, there’s a certain amount of greater stability in the “long tail” base simply because of lower piece sales. By this I mean that over 6000 of the 24k items in the full database — a full quarter! — have reported sales of five copies or less. It is, generally, less likely for those books to drop from (say) 5 copies to 4, than it is for a best-seller to drop from 5200 copies to 5000, in my opinion as a bookseller.
Still, there is a general paucity of “new hits” to the market in 2011 that, when combined with the crushing crash of manga gives you an ugly looking picture for the frontlist. The positive news is that with the slow-motion collapse of Borders now concluded, there’s every reason to think that 2012 is going to look a whole lot better.
As I’ve mentioned here several times, while the daily changes in the periodical chart after this or that event has been sifted and resifted by industry watchers, the big underreported story of 2011 was the decline in graphic novel sales. A lack of a new Scott Pilgrim is part of the reason, but it’s also clear that aside from kids’ books and media tie-ins (predominantly female-driven), publishers are not putting out material that is setting the book world on fire.
BTW, we’re not putting much emphasis on the actual numbers—BookScan sales are accurate to a degree, but actual sales are higher by variable degrees.
As Hibbs also mentions, the fall of Borders was part of the story as well—as is manga’s continuing decline. That’s the half-empty part.
The half-full part? Kids read comics! Amazing. Something no one could have foreseen.
It’s a day busting with news, so we’ll be back to break down this chart with this year’s Shiga line on Monday.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.