Comics and graphic novels bounced back from 2017’s sales slump to have their best year ever in 2018. That’s according to the annual report prepared by ICv2’s Milton Griepp and Comichron’s John Jackson Miller.
Combined sales in all channels were $1.095 billion, up $80 million from 2017 and a tad up from 2016’s $1.085B.
However the higher number includes some new sales channel: an estimate for U.S. and Canada sales through crowdfunding sites.
Sales in the book channel and digital sales were up in 2018, say Miller and Griepp. Comics shops, though, were down from their highs of 2016, but stil up a lot from 2018.
The report doesn’t list actual sales for 2017 and 2016 in comics shops but looking at part reports it was $515 million in 2017 and $570 million in 2016, compared to $510 million in 2018.
For the first time, however, comcis represent less than half the comcis market, when digital and crowdfunding are factored in.
I’ve put more comments from the official PR below, as Griepp and JAckson can speak to all this better than I can. But two takeaways:
• Reports that comics are dying are total horseshit.
• These numbers are still only what Avengers: Endgame made in a week or so. We can do better!
“After a brief downturn in 2017, the market bounced back last year,” Miller said. “Popular releases helped right the ship in comics shops, even as other sales avenues made significant gains.”
“A historic shift is playing out as the market grew, primarily in the book channel, in 2018,” Griepp said. “While comics stores are still the largest channel, they represented less than half the market for comics and graphic novels in 2018 for the first time in at least three decades.”
Sales in the book channel, which includes chain bookstores, mass merchants, major online retailers, and Scholastic Book Fairs, were up by double digits, with sales of kids graphic novels the biggest factor. Digital sales were also up for the first time in several years, with increased title counts across multiple platforms a factor. Sales in comic stores were down very slightly versus the previous year.
Sales of all three formats, comics, graphic novels, and digital, grew in 2018, with graphic novels leading the way, followed at some distance by digital and comics.
As presented above and in the accompanying infographics, the analysis by Comichron and ICv2 was divided up between periodical comics (what some call “floppies” or “pamphlets”), graphic novels, and digital download-to-own sales. All print figures are calculated based on the full retail price of books sold into the market, and do not account for discounting or markup. Digital sales do not include subscription-based “all you can read” services.
We’ve added a new category, “Other” to our channel breakdown. “Other” includes the Newsstand (periodical sales through specialty retail and mass merchant chains) and Crowdfunding (Kickstarter, etc.) channels. This year, those two channels each accounted for roughly half of the “Other” category.
Sources for the information include NPD BookScan, which collects weekly point-of-sale data on print books from over 16,000 locations including e-tailers, chains, mass merchandisers, independent bookstores, and more. NPD BookScan covers approximately 85% of the U.S. trade print book market. Some publishers classify titles that are primarily text, or art books, as graphic novels; we remove those titles from our analysis.
The analysis also incorporates information released by Diamond Comic Distributors, the largest distributor of English-language comics and graphic novels in the world, on sales to comic stores.
Information is also gathered from a variety of other sources, including publisher, distributor, and retailer interviews.
This is the sixth joint market size analysis from ICv2 and Comichron; the first was for 2013 sales.
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.