Dirk responds to my needling yesterday by admitting that for one brief shining moment, 300 sold more copies than Naruto.

That said, I have to wonder at Heidi MacDonald’s just-linked post, where she attempts to beat me over the head with the fact that 300 landed at #18 on Publishers Weekly’s hardcover bestsellers list. And you can use this to measure against the sales of a paperback… how, exactly?

(Don’t get me wrong: It’s rare to see Heavily Networked Heidi taking a bold stance on anything, even if it’s only on the extent to which I suck. It’s a nice start, and I’d hate to discourage such behavior. Who knows? Perhaps one day, she’ll voice an opinion that might make one of her friends, industry colleagues or possible gossip sources frown a bit! One can only guess at the sort of interesting things she’d write after that happy day has dawned…)

I would be more impressed with Dirk’s salvo if he didn’t have 300’s ranking on the PW list wrong — it was #12 NOT #18 — and this week it’s #11.

I of all people know how many mistakes and typos you can make while late night blogging, but unless Dirk is one of those Monty Python types who automatically adds 6 to every number he says, his fighting technique this time out is pretty weak, and such sloppy reporting brings back my questions over his agenda. And this:

And you can use this to measure against the sales of a paperback… how, exactly?

was my EXACT point. While Bookscan is the most accurate gauge we have access to, it is not infallible. In fact, when it spits out results Dirk didn’t like, he was saying just the opposite

The dubious: Over at The Engine, Hibbs goes on to make claims that his presented figures simply cannot support. “Conclusion: for the most part, ‘art comix’ sell just as bad in the general bookstore market, as they do in the DM.” Don’t you believe it. Never mind that the portion of the bookstore market most likely to back non-genre works — independent bookstores — is the one most underrepresented by BookScan’s numbers. Likewise never mind the absence of Canada’s largest bookstore chain, Chapters (a significant market for Drawn & Quarterly, I’m led to believe), let alone the library market sum in toto. The real signifier that this claim is unsupportable comes from the simple fact that the bottom item on the list in question sold 4784 copies.

Never mind that independent bookstores are known in the actual publishing community as a weak source of sales for GNs. The facts go against Dirk’s Bold Stance, so they must be wrong!

The New York Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists were, until the advent of Bookscan, considered the bible of book sales. Both use different methods to arrive at their goals, and both are assumed to be a mix of magical juju and actual sales reporting. Are they as accurate? Not really. But they do represent publishing industry thinking, and any graphic novel landing on either of them is something to be noted and analyzed.

Both have different charts for hardcover and paperback sales. Now why is this? I suppose it’s because mass market paperbacks are generally racked separately. When trade paperbacks came along, they got their own sales charts. I’m sure much of the reason is so more publishers could have more bestsellers, but it’s also to differentiate them by price point, retail outlets and so on.

All of which is to say that Dark Horse was perfectly justified LAST WEEK in crowing over the fact that they had a bestselller. And Viz and Dark Horse should both go out there and talk about their bestselling books to book buyers and bookstore owners, librarians and even readers. I’m all for a critical reading of press releases (and we do it here on a regular basis) but you’d better get your facts straight or else it’s an agenda.

As for the last part of Dirk’s riposte, we’re always smiling on the outside and crying on the inside here at SBM. I *wish* all I got was frowns.


  1. Dark Horse may be #1 in terms of dollar sales instead of unit sales by a long shot. Bestseller charts always are based on unit sales, but publishers and booksellers care a LOT about dollar sales. Selling 10 copies of a $30 hardcover is better than selling $20 copies of a $9 paperback.

  2. “Never mind that independent bookstores are known in the actual publishing community as a weak source of sales for GNs. The facts go against Dirk’s Bold Stance, so they must be wrong!”

    Heidi, you should know by now that no one who works for The Journal or Fantagraphics could ever be wrong about anything…ever. I mean ever.

  3. According to John Kremer, author of _1000 Ways to Market Your Books_ (a book which I recommend to every small publisher and most authors), here is how the New York Times Bestseller list is compiled:

    “… the _New York Times_ submits a list of 36 titles (those which their editors think will be bestselling titles for that week) to about 3,000 bookstores across the country These stores are asked to fill in the number of copies of each title they sold during that week. In addition, there is a space at the end of the lists where stores can write in good-selling titles that didn’t make the suggested list. Each week, these reports are compiled, wighted by region, and reported in the _New York Times Book Review_.

    “If a book is not selected for the Times’ suggested list of 36 titles, it has no chance to make the bestseller list that week since few bookstores bother to write in titles.”

    Kremer however recommends publishers do everything they can to get their books on lists like this, because they are influential despite being heavily biased.

  4. Stats are there to be manipulated. You can count units (like books), circulation (newspapers), ad pages (magazines), unique visitors (online) or dollars (movies).

    In my world, only thing that matters is dollars. If I can sell one copy of a book at $100,000, I’m happy.

    300 is a huge success. By May this book will have moved over 300,000 copies at $30 per. Nice.

    Naruto is a phenomenon. There are 13 volumes, each one selling hundred of thousands of copies. I don’t know the actual figures but I’d bet Naruto brings in close to $15 million a year for Viz. Nice.

    As for NYT bestseller list calculation, I can’t say anything in print ’cause I’ll get in trouble. Let’s just say it’s all politics, has nothing to do with what actually sells. If you want to know more ask me about why The Hobbit didn’t make the list after selling 10 million copies when the moves came out.

  5. snoid: “Heidi, you should know by now that no one who works for The Journal or Fantagraphics could ever be wrong about anything…ever. I mean ever.”

    Yes, because anyone ever employed by Gary Groth has obviously been replaced by a robot only capable of groupthink. Sheesh. Why people bear such a grudge against TCJ and FBI I can never figure out though my guess is either they got a bad review in the journal or the journal just doesn’t cover the books they like (in which case I would recommend any of the excellent Two Morrows publications such as Back Issue because complaining the Journal doesn’t give nicer reviews to Big 2 books is like wondering why The New Yorker doesn’t give positive reviews to books by Steven King or Tom Clancy). Dirk and his blog hardly represent the opinions of Fantagraphics Books, mostly because if they did the Journal would be all-shoujo manga all the time.

    And if Dirk has never been wrong about anything how do we explain away his many corrections? And NO, despite my defense of Dirk I am no sycophant (in fact, I am often bothered that due to his libertarianism he often acts as if Democrats and Republicans are just two sides of the same coin which is a notion I think doesn’t do justice to the current level of corruption and incompetance in the administration and it’s rubber stamp Congressional delegation and this often colors Dirk’s writing when issues of politics come up in the blog or at the TCJ message board). I just think TCJ gets a bad wrap from people who don’t even read it. In fact, the false notion that TCJ only gives good reviews to books published by Fantagraphics is dispelled by Dirk in today’s column (of was it yesterday?) where he mentions being shunned in San Diego by Jaime Hernandez after editing and publishing a negative review of his work.

  6. Joe,
    1. Never had anything reviewed by The Journal.
    2. I like 99% of the books The Journal likes, haven’t read a big two book in years. I’d match my “art comics” cread agiants yours anyday, bub.
    3. I’ve read The Journal for 27 years.
    4. You know how it takes a certain type of person that wants to be a cop? Same thing with Fantagraphics and The Journal. Everyone I’ve read or meet was a snarky, prick, and their king is Groth. Which isn’t to say I don’t sometimes agree with them.
    5. Of course Dirk makes corrections.
    6. My comment was a smart assed comment, not a fact.
    7. After checking out your blog, I now know why you defended them, “Willy” your one of the Journal kool-aid drinkers.

  7. One wonders why Deppey chose this opportunity to refute an accusation that he has a pro-manga agenda by presenting an argument that the manga in question is popular because of some inherent superiority to western superhero comics.

    And I kind of assumed 300 saw an increase in sales due to the movie tie-in, not from some formula of crafting the comics themselves.

    The poor fellow kind of took up the shovel and deepened a hole I may not have noticed otherwise.

  8. Just wanted to say something about the posts traded by Snoid and Joe Williams, as to the merits of Fantagraphics employees: I’ve spoken to Fantagraphics’ Eric Reynolds on a number of occasions, and he’s never been anything but nice, positive, and supportive. Sure, I know he’s the publicity guy, but I think it should be said that not all Fanta employees fall in the “snarky prick” catagory. I’ve never met Dirk, though.