Brian Hibbs has done the lord’s work yet again by getting hold of the year-end Bookscan report and leaking it so everyone can draw their own conclusions. You can read Brian’s analysis here, and see the precious, precious chart here.
I’m not going to go into a lot of analysis here at this time, except to note that it’s manga all the way, with only V FOR VENDETTA breaking NARUTO’s death grip on the top 10:
#1 NARUTO V9 101,457
#2 NARUTO V1 THE TESTS OF THE NIN 96,651
#3 NARUTO V10 95,859
#4 NARUTO V11 85,184
#5 V FOR VENDETTA 79,907
#6 NARUTO V2 79,071
#7 NARUTO V8 76,489
#8 NARUTO V4 70,366
#9 NARUTO V3 69,865
#10 NARUTO V7 68,207
What’s most interesting from where we stand is looking at the best sellers for individual companies. For instance, here’s DC:
V FOR VENDETTA 79,907
SUPERMAN BATMAN V1 18,796
MEGATOKYO V4 16,331
BATMAN THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS 15,689
KINGDOM COME 13,749
SUPERMAN BATMAN V2 SUPERGIRL 13,109
BATMAN THE LONG HALLOWEEN 11,591
SANDMAN V1 PRELUDES & NOCTURNE 11,540
INFINITE CRISIS 11,350
HALO GRAPHIC NOVEL 32,174
HOUSE OF M 17,365
ASTONISHING X MEN V2 DANGEROUS 15,328
NEW AVENGERS V1 BREAKOUT 13,874
X-MEN PHOENIX ENDSONG 13,062
MARVEL ZOMBIES 13,037
MARVEL 1602 12,112
ASTONISHING X-MEN V1 10,730
ULTIMATE X-MEN THE ULTIMATE C 9,960
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN V14 9,940
DC’s top non-backlist seller is–shock of shocks — MEGATOKYO #4, a Ameri-manga book. Think about that for a while. Also, what is Jeph Loeb’s mysterious hold over the bestsellers list? Other non-backlist top sellers include SUPERMAN BATMAN Vol. 2 and the INFINITE CRISIS collection.
Marvel has a slightly larger contribution from non-backlist on their top 10 — HALO, MARVEL ZOMBIES. Even ASTONISHING X-MEN Vol. 2 and NEW AVENGERS Vol 1 are more recent books.
What has proven to be the most controversial aspect of Hibbs’ analysis is his declaration that art comics sell as badly in the bookstore market as they do in the direct sales market. He makes that statement after noting the lack of Fantagraphics, D&Q and First Second books in the Bookscan top 750. A not unreasonable assumption.
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.
Tom has his own analysis:
I don’t believe as Dirk Deppey seems to that Hibbs is creating a total straw man when he seems to assume that some people out there doubt the effectiveness and importance of comics shops. No one on earth has time to track down individual statements and examples of rhetoric now three and four years old, but I remember for instance being in a room when a comics company owner was told by one such advocate that any extra effort at all working with the direct market was “a total waste of time.” You can’t tell me that sentiment didn’t exist. Still, I agree with Dirk I don’t think it’s a sentiment that anyone invested in actual decision-making at these companies takes seriously. It’s not a case that needs to be made. In addition, the only place where the idea existed that arts- and alternative-type comics do outstandingly well in bookstores exists is in the press statements of people hopeful that this would be the case for their comics as well and bad feature articles in the local paper. Just because they remember 1996 doesn’t mean alt-comics companies look at 2007 as anything other than a continuing struggle. So Hibbs is popping an already deflated balloon there.
I side with Tom here. There’s little evidence that indie bookstores sell graphic novels in vast quantities. A few may — like the Rand McNally Bookstore in NYC, or a few others — but I don’t think these sales would have been enough to boost MOOMIN to #20 on the list, or even #200. In fact most of the book sales gurus we talk too seem to think that indie bookstores are undiscovered country for GN sales, not a hallowed redoubt.
It’s also good to keep degree in mind. In the book world any sales over 5 figures is probably in the realm of the break even point, if the advance wasn’t too outrageous. Even modest sales of 5,000-8,000 can be considered strong for a small book publisher. And I am pretty confident that Houghton Mifflin was happy with the sales of BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2006.
The DM and the bookstores may have different sales patterns, but when you add them all up, you have numbers that Marvel and DC, I’m sure, are happy with. Of course, the trick is always to sell more. And the real question? Can American comics EVER compete with manga. The jury’s definitely out on that one.