Can comics become legitimate bestsellers, the Beat’s own John Shableski has been asking in a series of publishing procedurals. But in truth…comics already ARE legit best sellers!

Every week Publishers Weekly runs bestseller lists based on BookScan’s charts, with actual numbers. And there are graphic novels already on the charts. 2012-11-8 14:15:17.png

This week, for instance, Chris Ware’s BUILDING STORIES weighs in at #22 on the Top Hardcover Fiction list, with more than 9,000 copies sold to date. 2012-11-8 14:15:57.png

More expectedly, Matthew Inman’s HOW TO TELL IF YOUR CAT IS PLOTTING TO KILL YOU has enjoyed a lengthy run with more than 28,000 copies sold to date. This week it’s at #17, down from #11. The Oatmel is the Garfield of today. 2012-11-8 14:16:46.png

Rolling back the clock a bit, on the week of October 29th, THE WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM VOLUME 2 hit the trade paper list at #21, with more than 12,000 copies sold to date. 2012-11-8 14:19:45.png

And that same week, the kids list had two bestselling graphic novels—not counting WIMPY KID and DORK DIARIES, which are juggernauts all on their own. Lincoln Pierce’s BIG NATE MAKES THE GRADE and Raina Telegemeier’s DRAMA both made the chart. BIG NATE has sold more than 37,000 copies and DRAMA more than 14,000.

All these numbers are all most certainly less than the books have actually sold — BookScan is anywhere from 50-75% of actual sales. And for the kids books, the sales numbers are WAY higher due to book fairs.

Also, every book on the list is creator-owned. Just sayin’.

Okay we took a dip — Torsten, it’s all yours.


  1. I’m curious as to how many copies “Smile” has sold to date.
    I’ve gotten confirmation that 200,000 copies have sold via the Scholastic Book Fairs. Libraries, bookstores, etc. ???

  2. Great posting! If you take an even closer look at the lists you’ll see that these books are coming from major houses who tend to have the machinery in place to help their titles hit the list. Now, that is not to say they do everything possible, even the majors have some work to do when it comes to marketing and promotion.
    As for Smile, I’d be willing to bet that the numbers are above 300,000. You have a combination of market numbers to deal with and while retail info can be found, getting educational and book fair numbers is a real challenge. The publishers pretty much keep that stuff closely guarded because they dont want to draw attention to the opportunity school sales present. Bone is another great example of a title that crushes in the school market and yet traditional retail doesnt quite get it.
    Thanks again for posting this…maybe I should rename my column to something like The Road to the Bestseller’s List(?)

  3. I think another point to make is that there are more gn titles hitting the list and with an increasing frequency. We now have smarter buyers at the retail, library and educational level and we have publishers finding and promoting more and better books.
    which is cool, very cool.

  4. By book standards these numbers are modest-good, which is good just there’s no “killer-app” comic yet. Some might say Walking Dead but that has been doing good prior to the TV show and is more riding the zombie wave than leading the charge in comics reading. Amulet or Mouse Guard(yes, i’m a big MG fan) I always saw as being having the potential to “turn a generation onto reading comic books.”, but I guess I was wrong maybe cause Mouse Guard has a slow serialization(bi monthly) and Amulet is TOO basic(Joseph Campbell 101) for kids.
    Smile, Bone, Amulet, and Mouse Guard kids only like; I still feel a great kids/YA comic has not been made yet, a hell of a lot of goods ones though(Doug TenNapel’s work is under-appreciated. he’s like a Joe Dante of comics imo).

  5. Hey Serhend,
    The titles you list are all great examples of books that are doing fairly well in the book fair and library markets. I understand too, your thinking that they could create a new generation of comic book readers but the challenge here is that, in the world of these new-gen comics fans, direct market stores arent even on the radar but webcomics and digital comics are. These books grew legs because of the support from the librarians.
    As for the modest sales numbers there is also a reasoning for that, aside from Smile and Bone(which are now into the hundreds of thousands of copies sold) the other titles represent less than regular book trade marketing support. Mouse Guard really began to receive critical notice when the creator, David Peterson hired a publicist who is very sharp and knows the best places to get publicity in the standard book trade arena. Amulet gets modest support but really could become an even stronger series if the publisher would take the creator on the road to do the library and educational market trade shows.
    With Walking Dead, that’s an entirely different ball of monkeys to deal with. The reality of the situation there is that Diamond Book Distribution really had to work with Robert Kirkman and the rest of the guys at Image to help them see how big the opportunity was. This is the one real adult category graphic novel series that the traditional retailers were demanding as the connection between the series(as a graphic novel and not a comic book) and the hit TV show were crystal clear. You can imagine the surprise when the publisher kept getting asked by Diamond to increase the print runs way beyond their standard units for the direct market.
    There is one additional challenge we face in the category and that is how we, as retailers, educators, publishers and librarians ‘sell’ the books. We need to let the kids read what appeals to them and not try to force our tastes on them. Let em read what ever comic gets them interested, stock as much as you can-even though you dont like it because eventually, their tastes will mature and you can then make great recommendations.

    When I was in radio, I was a deejay and programming director for a Top 40 radio station. I had to play what the listener wanted(Brittney Spears, NSync, Mariah Carey, Allanis Morrisette, THE FREAKIN MACARENA!). I had to play what was hot and what was ‘next’. Otherwise, I’d lose out to the competition. A great bookseller carries as much of everything as they can. A great library carries stuff that readers want(manga, memoirs etc) and a great teacher let’s kids read what inspires a joy of reading. The moment any of those folks dictate what they believe is ‘good tasteful literature’ is the very moment they begin pushing away the readers.

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