Much continuing comment around the web on the Bookscan 2006 Graphic Novel sales chart as revealed by Brian Hibbs. Dirk has a roundup of links. The Engine thread includes the link to this very interesting discussion of the Bookscan numbers. by people in regular old book publishing. The comments yield many interesting nuggets such as a list of who reports to Bookscan:

Here is a list of the major retailers who report to Bookscan:

B. Dalton
Barnes & Noble
Chapter 11 Books
Deseret Book Company
Follett Stores
Tower Music and Books
Walden Books

There are also close to 400 independents reporting in, inlcuding Powell’s, Tattered Cover, Elliot Bay, etc…

That is a pretty comprehensive list, folks. And the holes that exist only apply to a small sector of the titles published annually. You can try and nitpick it to death—you are book people, after all—but any list that compiles the cash register sales of the vendors cited above has enormous value.

While there is some argument, the consensus is that Bookscan is as accurate as we can get for right now.

John Jakala, meanwhile, has a different take, looking at some comments on the web from First Second’s Mark Siegel to explain what would seem the discrepancy:

Even after my initial shock wore off, this fact still continued to nag at me. After a while, I finally realized why: According to ICv2 interviews with First Second’s editorial director Mark Siegel, at least two books from First Second each had print runs over 20,000 copies. American Born Chinese, for example, had a combined print run over 25,000. As Siegel noted, the first printing was 16,000, which was before the book was nominated for a National Book Award. The second printing was for around 10,000 copies, and there was a planned (as of Dec. 4, 2006) third printing of unspecified size. This also doesn’t count copies of the more upscale, more expensive Collector’s Edition, which Siegel says is “usually a print run of about 2,000 for the diehards.” So even before a third printing, close to 30,000 copies of American Born Chinese were in print.


  1. No book distributors are listed, naturally because they aren’t retailers. But guess who most libraries buy from (and it ain’t retailers). This is what happens when you ignore a large segment of the book market.

  2. Libraries are represented in Bookscan. The direct-sales-comics market isn’t represented in Bookscan. Sales outside the U.S. aren’t represented in Bookscan.

    Graphic novel sales in each of those markets is, perhaps, a larger factor than they would be for typical non-graphic-novel books.

    Taken together, those non-trivial markets can add up to a big ol’ non-trivial bunch of graphic novel sales that Bookscan doesn’t reflect.

    Bookscan has some notable lapses, but as Heidi says, it’s the best we’ve got now. (And for what it’s good at, it’s VERY good.)

    Those with access to Bookscan numbers and publisher’s actual sales figures, can probably work out some sort of relationship between what Bookscan reports and what reality is, at least in broad strokes. But, to John Jakala’s observation, I think that trying to reconcile Bookscan’s actual sell-through numbers with a publisher’s (legendarily unaudited) announced print runs might be more an exercise in frustration than in useful analysis.

  3. Ahem. And, of course, I should take the time to proofread. The first sentence of my post above shoud, of course, read:

    “Libraries AREN’T represented in Bookscan.”


  4. I believe that book fairs don’t count in the BookScan list either… am I right? I’m speaking up because Scholastic ordered 45,000 copies of “The Dreaming” v1 (3rd print run) from TOKYOPOP for their school book fair thingys, and that was in the latter half of 2006. Those 45,000 print runs totally dwarf the first and second print runs.

    Lord knows how many of these books make it into the hands of readers, but I’ve been paying attention to my fan mail, especially those that mention where they got the book from. I get on average one fan mail every few days, and I’ve been noticing that since October, I’ve been getting mail from people who bought “The Dreaming” v1 at a book fair. Over half of the fan mail are from people who got the book at a book fair, and that’s only among people who mention where they got the book from. So I suppose book fairs account for at least some numbers?

  5. > I believe that book fairs don’t count in the BookScan list
    > either… am I right?

    I believe you are right. Sales to book fairs and to book clubs (the Book-of-the-Month club kind of mail order book club, not the kind of book club where friends get together to discuss a selected book) and what’re called display marketers don’t factor into Bookscan numbers.

    Comparatively few books get any exposure in those sorts of markets, but books that do get into such venues can indeed move an impressive amount of units.

  6. Something else to keep in mind is that Bookscan tracks sales, not orders. That means there could be 20,000 copies of American Born Chinese sitting on shelves in bookstores, waiting for someone to buy them. I have it in stock, BTW.

  7. Do any of you have a copy of Hibb’s raw data? The link he posted is broken, and he seems unwilling to re-upload the sheet.

    Thanks, all.