According to publisher promotional materials, Ghosts, the new graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier will have a 500,000 copy first printing. I believe this is the biggest first printing ever for a pure graphic novel. (not counting Wimpy Kid this time.) In other words, Raina rules! We finally have a legit home grown best selling cartoonist who can talk print runs with the best of them. Considering that she has 6.6 million copies of her other books in print and Smile has been on the NY Times bestseller list for something like four years in a row, this is a solid number, and I have no doubts that Scholastic will sell that many copies.
I do have a suspicion that it includes copies printed for the Scholastic Book Fairs, which sells thousands and thousands of books.
This information came to me with a galley of Ghosts and I got to read it. This is Telgemeier’s second purely fictional GN (after Drama) and it goes into a lot of territory that she hasn’t visited before and…I loved it. The story concerns a family that moves to a windy, seaside town for the health of their youngest daughter, Maya, who has systic fibrosis. Older sister Catrina has to adapt to the new town and all its stores about being haunted. It’s dark, sweet and comes with a very important message about the balance of life and death, along with Raina’s usual insights into those awkward middle school years. I’ll try to write a longer review later (HA!) but I’m sure this will strike a chord with her devoted readers and new ones as well.
SPEAKING OF Telgemeier, her breakout book, Smile, was the subject of a “Back Issues’ roundtable on the AV Clubwhich goes over the rise of kids GNS though, from a very contemporary perspective, as Hennum wrote:
One thing about the book that bothers me—well, not about the book per se, but about the way the book is talked about—is that, because of the way comics have been marginalized, Smile and Telgemeier’s successes in general haven’t really been talked about in any substantive way. The kinds of comics she makes, the audiences she attracts, situates her pretty firmly outside of the exclusionary “comics” discourse that goes on in niche sites. But because she makes comics, full stop, she’s regarded as beneath the more mainstream pop-culture sites. The Wall Street Journal did a profile on her a year and a half ago, but beyond that, her name rarely shows up outside of quickly forgotten press releases. At certain points she has held four out of the top five spots on the New York Times Best Seller list, which is kind of a big deal.
It is ludicrously true that Telgemeier has rarely been afforded much coverage in traditional comics sites, but in publishing trade journals and sites that cover GNS she’s been a superstar for years.
Sava points out that Smile opened a lot of doors:
The demographics of comics readers are changing, but other things are changing too. Readers that were introduced to the medium via Smile or other graphic novels are probably going to prefer that format rather than monthly single issues, which are both more expensive and less convenient. Those aforementioned monthly series sell much better in collections than they do in single issues, and I’m still waiting for publishers to commit to more original graphic novels. (This makes me very excited for The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up The Marvel Universe! original graphic novel out later this year.) I know that removes the extra revenue publishers get from single issues so I understand why it’s not done very often, but I can’t help but think that some of DC’s and Marvel’s lower-selling books aimed at the Smile audience would last longer if they were graphic novel series that came out every six months in digest-sized volumes.
It’s my understanding that Squirrel Girl GNS are sold at those Scholastic Book Fairs I was just telling you about, so it’s not surprising that they’re doing a standalone GN – I’d guest that it’s aimed just at this market. And the kids market has been leading GN sales for several years that I can think of, and Smile was definitely in the vanguard of that movement.
BTW, other books that the Back Issues feature has looked at over the years include Watchmen, Sandman, Dark Knight — you know, the perennials. So adding Smile to this canon is a welcome addition.
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.