By Brian Hibbs

(Originally published February 2014)

“There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics”

For the eleventh (!) year in a row, I’m going to try to figure out something that is hard to exactly perceive and understand: the size and shape of the sales of graphic novels and trade paperbacks through the book store market, as seen through the prism of BookScan.

Some preamble:

“Direct Market” stores (also known as “your Local Comics Shop”) buy much of their material for resale from Diamond Comics Distributors (though, not, by any means, all – many DM stores are also buying from book distributors). While a number of DM stores have Point-of-Sales (POS) systems, because our market buys non-returnable, what we track in our side of the industry is what sells-in to the store, not what sells-through to the eventual consumer. In a very real way, this means that the DM store owner is the actual customer of the publisher, as opposed to the end consumer.

The bookstore market, however, buys their material returnable, where they can send back some portion of titles that don’t sell. Because of this, sell-through is the data that is tracked and trended. Bookstores that have POS systems are able to report their sales to BookScan, a subsidiary of Nielsen.

Each week, BookScan generates a series of reports detailing the specific sales to consumers through its client stores. I have several well trained spies who have, for several years, provided me with access to the BookScan reports at the end of each year.


If you go over here, you can find a copy of the 2013 BookScan Top 750 year end report for the comics category.

(For points of comparison, try these links [I can’t guarantee these links will always work, this being the internet and all]:

2012: BookScan Report and My Analysis

2011: BookScan Report and My Analysis

2010: BookScan Report and My Analysis

2009: BookScan Report and My Analysis

2008: BookScan Report and My Analysis

2007: BookScan Report and My Analysis

2006: BookScan Report and My Analysis

2005: BookScan Report and My Analysis

2004: BookScan Report and My Analysis

For the last eight years, what I’ve been given is the actual end-of-the-year total report, as opposed to 2003-2005 where I only had the report of the final week of the year. The effective difference for a casual chart reader is probably very little, but it does change some of the value in the percentage changes year-to-year. Please bear it in mind when comparing this year’s report to the previous ones – comparing 2013 to 2006-2012 is probably as close to apples-to-apples as it can get, as is 2003-2005, but comparing the ’06-13 data to ’03-’05 isn’t going to be necessarily as valuable, and any analysis I can make of comparative growth is going to be off by some factor, possibly a significant one.

The biggest and most obvious difference when doing straight comparisons will be in the lower ends of the chart. This year, the “worst selling” book in the Top 750 is about 2600 copies. (It was about the same in 2012, and about 3200 copies in 2011) In ’03-‘05 there would be many items that didn’t have YTD sales in that amount.

Also of major note is that starting in 2007, I have the full and entire BookScan listing, down to books that have only one copy sold YTD. However, I’m not going to provide that entire list because that’s too much data, even for a data-junkie like myself. I’ve cut the list off at 750 items because that’s what we’ve reported in the previous nine years. Still, I have the deeper data, and I’ll summarize it as we go along. As long as I continue to get that much data going forward, I should be able to tell you a few things about “The Long Tail”. In 2013, I possess data on more than 23,000 items! We’ll talk more about this later.

This is not a list of every book that sold through every book store – the report is limited to those stores that report to BookScan. According to BookScan, more than 7500 venues report to them, but this still leaves many venues that don’t.

Neilsen now claims in 2013 that approximately 85% of retail, physical book sales are tracked through them, though this number appears very much in doubt as an actionable percentage for any specific individual book. A quick internet search can find any number of cases of authors saying that BookScan numbers show half or less of their royalty statements. There’s some really excellent discussion on why and by how much BookScan numbers might be off right here.

BookScan says “Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Costco, General Independents, Hastings, Target, BJ’s, K-Mart, Hudson Group, Meijers, Follett Books, Books-A-Million, CEO Read, Powells, Toys R Us, Shoprite, SuperValu, Sam’s Club and Walmart are among our many data providers.”

Of specific worth of noting is Walmart’s addition to BookScan this year – by many accounts that was one of the biggest reporting holes, though how much this is true for comics remains to be seen.

What does BookScan not track? Among others, this would include Libraries, schools, specialty stores (like comic book stores!) and book clubs. BookScan does not track most sales at independent bookstores. For many books those are very very important sales channels, and thus, BookScan unreports by some potentially significant degree, and don’t, in any way, represent all physical book sales or even all “book stores” selling comic book material.

There’s also a certain amount of miscategorization going on. As an example, for the last eleven years the prose novel Bloody Crown of Conan appears on my list, while other books (see; Dork Diaries in a few paragraphs) might appear one year, and disappear another. I do not know what the actual extent of miscategorization might be and how it would impact any of the general data analysis! There are simply too many data points to possibly connect them all together in the time I have to assemble this column.

I’ve done the best I can to try and root out any items “of significance” that should be on the chart that I’m given – for example, I have to have The Complete Persepolis and Maus manually pulled for me every year because they are actually classified as (I believe) “Memoir” rather than comics. Because this relies on me thinking of things to get them on to the list – each item apparently only has one classification – there’s almost certainly comics material missing that I didn’t catch. I could not identify any other 2013-released title that was mis-listed, and that I believe would have made the top 750, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t miss one or more. If you can think of a book I might have missed, please email me, and I’ll try to track down the sales for it, and update my listings for the future!

Either way, what I’m trying to get across to you is that this really is entirely unreliable data in terms of the absolute and total number of books sold, and is only able to give the broadest possible outline of what’s happening in book stores, based upon the data-set that I’m being given, which is in no way comprehensive. I still think that’s better than having no information, so I persevere in writing this each year.

As always, I strongly encourage you to look at the BookScan numbers on your own and make your own conclusions – I’m trying to be balanced and fair, but, of course, I have huge bookshelves worth of biases I’m dragging around with me, and your analysis might be more correct than my own. Every year I write this and hope and pray that we’d get three or four competing analyses of the data dump, but that never happens. Maybe this year? (probably not)

Again, I want to stress that I’m doing my primary analysis on the Top 750 items: the reason for this is that is all that I was able to get in the first four years of this analysis, and otherwise the percentage changes I’m discussing will be even more wrong than they would be otherwise. The Top 750 represents more than half of the total of the full list, and has consistently for years. While there are significant sales below the Top 750 (about $80 million in 2013), the Top 750 probably represents the majority of items you’d be able to “easily” find on the shelf of a bookstore in America. I’d love to analyze the full “long tail” list, but I’m afraid that this might take these little essays to triple their current size, and keeping your attention just through this seems hard enough to me! Maybe if Jonah paid me by the word…

Finally, it is probably worth mentioning that although I’m analyzing both units and dollars, those dollars are what they would have been at full retail.  BookScan does not report on the price that a book sold for, so the extrapolation of dollars that I made could be dramatically overstated.

*          *          *

OK, that’s the boilerplate out of the way, let’s start looking at the data.


2013 Overview

An initial overall note on this year’s chart: I continue to cut out anything that clearly wasn’t a “comic” (though such definitions are sometimes difficult to make). For instance, the #1 book of the year (and more on that below) is once again not really a “comic” – it has words, it has pictures, but they don’t work together in the way I’d think we’d commonly agree is “comics”. However, it’s just close enough that I decided to keep it. Much less controversial (I’d imagine) is my decision to remove prose-driven books like “Marvel Avengers: The Ultimate Character Guide”, which, while nominally about comics or comics culture, is factually a encyclopedic prose book with pictures. Or “Bizarro Day!” which the Amazon “Look Inside” clearly shows is an illustrated reader for 2nd graders. There is clearly an enormous market for this kind of material – it just isn’t the “comics” market as I would define it.

In all, I removed 54 items from the Top 750 that didn’t match my personal definition of “comics”, to make room for 54 items that I think are comics. However, if there was a legitimate question about it, like our #1 book, I erred on the side of keeping it.

Again, let’s remember that this is the first year that Walmart is reporting to BookScan. This can mean significant sales for certain books, as we will see.

Here’s the big picture for the Top 750 in 2013:


YearTotal UnitGrowthTotal DollarsGrowth
20035,495,584   ——-$66,729,053   ——–


Growth in both categories! That’s a beautiful result!

Made even more so because the trend for books in general through BookScan reporters is units down 2.5% for the year.

I also want to note that this is the second largest year in terms of gross retail dollars sold over our eleven years of data.  Does someone want to say again that print is dead?

Now, it is true that an enormous amount of those dollars sold is from (as we will soon see) the sales of a single title (“The Walking Dead”), and that this sale is likely driven by the overwhelming success of the television show, however I don’t see any particular signs that this success is anywhere near faltering, and we’re simultaneously seeing some astonishing growth in the children’s category. That bodes well for the future, as another decade from now those comics-literate kids will be making their own purchasing decisions.

(It may or may not be worth mentioning that the comic book store market ended 2013 up about 9% overall)

In addition to the success of “The Walking Dead” (16.1 million people watched the 2013 season finale!) there were a number of other live-action media adaptations of comics:  On television “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, and “Arrow”. In the movies “2 Guns”, “Blue is the Warmest Color”, “Bullet To The Head”, “I, Frankenstein”, “Iron Man 3”, “Kick-Ass 2”, “Man of Steel”, “Oblivion” (Unpublished), “Red 2” (sort of), “R.I.P.D.”, “Thor 2”, and “The Wolverine”. Though, in most of those cases, it is difficult to say that those adaptations sold a lot of comics.


As I noted, I primarily write about the top 750 because a) that’s all the data I was initially leaked back in 2003, b) it’s a “manageable” chunk of data, and c) “as above, so below” – the top 750 represents about half of sales. However, since 2007, I’ve received the “entire” database, which now gives us a solid seven years of data to track. We refer to this as “the Long Tail”. Here’s what the sales of all comics sales BookScan tracks in this category looks like – but, seriously, let me remind you that the dataset changes enough each year this is a fairly meaningless set of comparisons!  Prior to 2013, this didn’t include Walmart!:


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal Dollars SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
200713,181       —–15,386,549      —–$183,066,142.30     —–1167$13,888.64


In 2013 we’re tracking 24,492 items, about an 1100 item increase from last year.

The bottom line numbers are significantly better down here in the long tail – both units and dollars are up a greater percentage than the top of the chart. That is, I believe, the first time we’ve ever seen this, and I’m not sure I have a direct explanation.

Let’s take a look at the Top 20 best-selling items on the 2013 chart; it looks like this:


33,477MAUS I
30,336SAGA V 1 TP


This year’s Top 20 is a majority of books aimed at kids or tweens. Eight of the Top Ten are kid-oriented! I think this would likely be a great example of the impact of Wal-Mart’s sales now being captured.


The #1 item this year is exactly the same as it has been the last three years: Rachel Renee Russell’s “Dork Diaries”. It’s just now identified by its sub-title (Volume 1 is “Tales From A Not-So-Fabulous Life”), rather than the parent title. However, there are actually currently eight “Dork Diaries” books, and only volumes one and eight (“OMG, All About Me” – which comes in at #5), so this is one of those ongoing cases of miscategorization.

In my personal opinion, “Dork Diaries” really isn’t “comics” – this is not a book of “sequential art”, per se. However, it’s more than “merely” illustrated prose, as the art is integral to the story, and so I decided to not Wish It Into the Corn Field like I did the prose-first miscategorizations. “Dork Diaries”, for those of you who don’t know, is essentially a distaff version of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, which, you will note, doesn’t appear on the comics lists either. “DWK” also sells in multiples of “Dork Diaries”, with the latest volume of “DWK” (book 8, “Hard Luck”), selling 1.3 million copies (of a 5.5 million copy print run) in the very first week alone in 2013. I’m going to say that it is safe to guess that “Dork Diaries” also has extremely robust sales in channels outside of retail sales, and that this 146k is just the mere tip of the iceberg. Still and all, it may be helpful to note that while the best selling “comic” really isn’t, it’s still selling substantially better than anything “we” produced this year, and that if we had hard data for all of this not-really-comics material, it would likely entirely dominate the Top 20.

“Dork Diaries” v1 sold roughly 1k copies more this year, reversing the prior downward trend. Presumably, much of this is the addition of Walmart to BookScan.


#2 on the 2013 BookScan list is Lincoln Peirce’s “Big Nate: Game On” with 113k copies sold. Peirce also takes spots #7, #9 and #10 (also #23, 24, 58, 72 and #152 with various permutations). The best-selling “Big Nate” book last year (“What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”) sold a full 10% less than this year’s entry, so I think we can also put that one to Walmart.

Unlike “Dork Diaries”, “Big Nate” is firmly comics material at its core. While there are also “Big Nate” puzzle and riddle books, none of those are incorrectly included on these charts.

“What Could Possibly Go Wrong?” dropped from 93k and best-seller #3 last year, to just 28k down at position #23 this year, but that’s well offset by the addition of “Genius Mode” (#7 with 82k copies) and “I Can’t Take It” (#9 with 66k copies) both also released this year.

All told, there are just under 407k copies of “Big Nate” comics reported sold in the BookScan top 750 this year, for almost 7.2% of the total. That’s almost $4.2 million in sales!  For the most part, these customers and these books are utterly invisible in the comics industry media and conversation. These performances suggest that maybe that should change, and that there is a real opportunity for Direct Market comic book stores to likewise sell these great comics!


The #3 best-selling item on this year’s BookScan list is the only thing in the Top 10 that’s not aimed at children:  the first $60 compendium of Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s “The Walking Dead”. It sells almost 96k copies, an astonishing feat for so expensive of a book. (Well, it’s dramatically cheaper than buying the eight individual TPs, but you know what I mean). This is a 1.2% rise for this volume from last year.

This is also $5.7 million dollars in retail sales for this single book alone – that’s virtually 6% of the total sales of the entire Top 750 combined!  For one book!

“The Walking Dead” also takes spot #8 on the chart, with 76k copies of Compendium v2 (another $4.5 million); and also #11 (TP v1 selling 45k copies), #13 (TP v18, 39k), #15 (TP v17, 33k), and #18 (TP v19, 30k) – and, in fact, each and every volume of “TWD”, all eighteen paperbacks, all nine hardcovers, places within the Top 750.

This means that “TWD” does very well.  How well? In the full BookScan list, there are forty-eight books listed with “TWD” in the title (including the $100 boxed hardcovers, or the book of just the covers, and so on), summing up to almost 587k copies all together – almost 5.8% of all comics total sold to BookScan reporters. In dollars? It is $18.9 million dollars, which means that over 10.7% of all dollars sold through BookScan reporters is “TWD”

Want to put that another way? This single title sold more than the collective output of Marvel Comics on BookScan in 2013 – they only sold $17.8 million collectively… For every title they published, combined!

Now, as we just noted, this isn’t as big as things can get – we know that the 8th volume of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” had a 5.5 million copy print run.  At $14 a throw at retail, across eight books, “DWK” almost certainly topped “TWD” in all totals, even if that runs on a different chart – but that’s still a pretty great performance for “TWD”.


The #4 item is Jeffrey Brown’s “Star Wars Jedi Academy” with just over 94k sold. Kids + popular license + charming creator = sales!


The #6 best-seller for 2013 is Raina Telgemeier’s “Drama” surging forward with almost 82k copies sold – an incredible increase from last year’s sales of 38k sold.  This, to me, is the single-largest piece of evidence of the “Walmart effect” – more than doubling of sales.  It also doesn’t hurt that this is a great comic!


At #12, we have our first “literary” graphic novel – Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis” with almost 44k, this is up from 36k the year before, and 32k the year before that.  This book is cemented as a graphic novel that almost any generalist book store can sell. However, per usual, while v1 does well, “Persepolis v2” (the second half of the story) sells about a tenth as many copies – just 4414.  I never understand if this is stores not stocking both parts, or if the audience simply doesn’t understand there’s a second part, or if they somehow disliked the first part after buying it, or what the reason really is. The “complete” omnibus edition sells just over 17k copies, virtually exactly like last year.


Book #14 is the first volume of art spiegelman’s “Maus” (33k), that’s down just a little bit from last year when it was 34k. Similar to “Persepolis” the second and concluding volume sells just a fraction – 17k in this case – though half is better than a tenth. The complete hardcover sells about 6200 copies, while the multimedia “MetaMaus” shows just under 1800 copies. These are pretty great numbers for a book that is now 27 years old.


The #16 best-seller for 2013 is a volume of Lego’s “Ninjago” – volume 1, “Challenge of the Samukai” with 31k copies sold.  This is pretty substantially down from last year’s 46k sold, although all none volumes of the series are in the Top 130 best-sellers for the year.


Coming in at #17 is my personal best-seller for the year, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ “Saga” volume 1, with just over 30k copies.  Volume 2 is fairly close behind with 23k sold. This is a well-deserved success, and I strongly suspect these numbers will grow even further from here.


At #19 is our first piece of manga, the 60th volume of “Naruto” with almost 29k sold.  It wasn’t long ago when “Naruto” was the number #1 book in the bookstore market – these sales are about half of what “Naruto” was selling as recently as 2010, when v47 sold 53k.


Finally, at #20, we have another manga, the first volume of “Attack on Titan” – the first new hit we’ve seen in manga in a little while, with just under 29k sold.


For the first time that I can recall, there is no superhero material in the Top 20. A full quarter (5) of the Top 20 are created by women.


What if you sort the chart by dollars grossed, instead? That changes the picture a little, here’s the Top 20, and look, you can see the real financial impact of “The Walking Dead”


 $ 1,131,876.99BIG NATE GAME ON
 $ 1,080,676.00DIARY OF A WIMPY KID BOX 1-7
 $  953,232.00DIARY OF A WIMPY KID BOX 1-4
 $  899,454.57DRAMA
 $  884,900.00BUILDING STORIES
 $  875,605.50PERSEPOLIS 1
 $  868,206.87WALKING DEAD BK 1
 $  814,774.41BIG NATE GENIUS MODE
 $  658,690.65BIG NATE I CANT TAKE IT
 $  616,990.00DIARY OF A WIMPY KID BOX 5-7
 $  582,676.29WALKING DEAD V18
 $  576,250.31WALKING DEAD BK 2


It is interesting to note here that while the individual books are not, the boxed sets of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” are coded as comics, and the full box is a million dollar item – there are seven of those this year – and both of the “smaller” boxed sets also make the Top 20 that way.

Chris Ware’s “Building Stories” is #10 in this view – it still sells 18k copies at $50 a throw.  Otherwise, sorting the list this way doesn’t reveal any other major surprises.

How about sorting it by author? Here are people with more than 10 books placing in the Top 750:




These 16 authors represent 258 of the Top 750 (34%) for 1.9 million books. That’s about 19% of all books sold via BookScan reporters (not just the Top 750) from the pens of just sixteen authors.


As a way to make the publisher breakdowns more readable, I split the chart into “eastern” (Manga) and “western” comics, because I think there are a few clear market distinctions between those categories. So, without further ado:


2013 Manga

In 2013, manga continues its collapse in the American market, and is no longer the dominant “kind” of comic – “only” 315 of the Top 750 are now manga – just 42%. Unit sales are down in the category by 12.7%, though gross dollar sales are only down by about a third of 1% — essentially flat.

Here’s a year-to-year comparison chart for the Top 750:


Year# of placing titlesUnit salesDollar sales


It’s pretty much a full retreat for manga at this stage of the game, with the seventh consecutive year of decline on display. Manga largely peaked in America in 2007, and the units sold in the top 750 is down to just 24% of that peak.  More than ¾ of the American market for manga has vanished over the years. With $21m of comics sold, manga is still a significant market, but it seems extremely unlikely to ever regain the heights it once had.

Unit sales are down by 17% from the previous year, while dollars are down but essentially flat at -0.31%. A measure of this is the movement to more expensive formats for older material – boxed sets and 2- and 3-in-One volumes.

While the best-sellers of manga as represented in the Top 750 are still dropping fast, things look a little better down in the “long tail”, where unit sales are actually up a smidge, and dollars are up a respectable amount


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
20076231        ——11,323,487        ——$108,770,537         —–1817$17,456.35
20126332-29.57%3,510,057-38.32%$40,943,613-34.81%554 $6,466.14


I count 82 distinct series among the 315 placing manga titles in the Top 750 – manga less dominated by a small handful of properties than it has been in the past.

The crown for most popular manga returns to “Naruto” – it is the #1 manga (with v60 selling just under 29k copies), as well as #3, #4, and #8.

The next most popular series is “Attack on Titan”, being #2 (29k), #7, #13, and #18, with “Sailor Moon” coming in third (#5 with 20k, #6, #9, #11).  The first volume of “Black Butler” comes in at #10 (15k)

The back half of the Top 20 is filled by “Soul Eater” v1 coming in at #12 (14k), “Blue Exorcist” v1 at #14 (13k), “Death Note” at #15 (11.7k), “Fairy Tail” at #16 (11.5k), v6 of “Maximum Ride” at #17 (11.2k), a “Pokemon” book at #19 (11k), and, at #20, the newest adaptation of Twilight: “New Moon v2” (10k)



Breaking down the manga portion of the chart by publisher, Viz takes 153 of the 315 manga spots in the Top 750, keeping them as the overwhelmingly dominant manga player with just under half of the placing titles. Within the Top 750, Viz charted about 773k pieces, for about $9.4 million – Viz pretty much controls the manga charts as they have for some time now.


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
20072018      ——6,249,324      ——$55,123,347       —–3097$27,315.83
201235183.68%2,099,560-35.92%$22,433,721-31.54%597 $6,376.84


But here’s where you see the downside of being the dominant, #1 publisher – when the category tanks, your performance goes with it, mirroring, or creating the mirror of, the larger trend.

Viz is the only still-in-business publisher of Manga that is both categories in the red in 2013.

Viz has three books (volumes of “Naruto”) that do over 20k in sales in 2013, and another six books that do over 10k



The #2 manga publisher, like last year, is Yen Press, which places 92 titles in the Top 750, with about 450k copies sold, and $6.2 million retail gross. Yen is a division of Hachette (more on them later).

Here’s the Long Tail for Yen, which recovers nicely from the primarily “Twilight”-driven blip into red territory last year.


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
200710        ——12,896      ——$147,449      —–1290$14,744.90


Yen has no books over 20k, and five over 10k.



In third place among manga publishers, we have Kodansha Comics, which places 40 titles within the top 750, with 316k in sales, and $3.8 million dollars.

Kodansha’s licenses formerly were both the original backbone of Tokyopop, as well as being the majority of Del Rey Manga. Kodansha pulled Tpop’s license in March of ’09 and Del Rey in October of ’10. You may want to look at those publisher’s listings below to get a better historical overview.

These Long Tail figures are just for Kodansha-published titles, and they reflect that Kodansha, itself, first started publishing in 2010:


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
20109      ——13,291        ——$322,717       ——1477$35,857.44


Kodansha only has one title over 20k (“Attack On Titan” v1 is a legitimate hit with 29k sold), and nine more over 10k. “Sailor Moon” continues to do very well for them.



The fourth largest publisher of manga in 2012, on the Top 750 of BookScan is Seven Seas, which places 21 titles, for 89k and $1.3m in sales.

Seven Seas’ Long Tail looks like this, actively swimming against the trend for the larger market for manga – they’re clearly doing something right in a very tough space.


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
200754        ——50,641       ——$558,450         —–938$10,341.67


Their best-selling title is “Alice in the Country of Clover” v1, which sells 6877 copies.



Moving quickly up the charts to the fifth largest publisher of manga, as measured by the BookScan Top 750 is Vertical. They just place four books into the Top 750, 17k copies, for $472k

The Long Tail:


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
200725      ——23,444      ——$417,914      ——938$16,716.56


They, too, recovered well from their dip into red last year. Their best-selling title is “Mobile Suit Gundam” v1 with 6830 copies sold.



At this point in the deliberations, things get a little strange in the manga category listings. Technically, the next largest publisher would be Tokyopop, except for a small detail: that is, Tokyopop is out of business, and that the remaining three books listed with “Tokyopop” as publisher are actually “Warriors” titles, which I have a cringing time in actually truly calling “manga”, despite that word in some of the titles. But the bigger problem with the “Warriors” titles is that they’re actually being sold by Harpercollins. I can’t really tell if these are still copies in-print-from when Tpop was still a going concern, or if Harper went back to press and simply didn’t change the “publisher” field in the Big Database In The Sky. I’m not the only one, look at the Amazon listing here – the picture still says “Tokyopop”, but the publisher field says “HarperCollins”, with a publication date that has to be Tpop’s…

But, since I’ve been building this Long Tail, I’m just going to stick with what the BookScan database tells me, which means that the #6 publisher for manga in the Top 750 is Tokyopop, which places 3 titles for almost 13k copies sold, and $90k in retail dollars. The best-selling one is “Warriors Manga #04: Rise of Scourge” with 6,242 copies sold. (Which would have to be a new, Harper, printing at this point with that kind of velocity, right?)

Tokyopop went out of business in April of 2011, and once symbolized the “manga revolution” in America, and I find this free-falling Long Tail, while the last of their inventory trickles out utterly fascinating:


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
20071992      —— 3,073,193     ——$30,425,927      —–1543$15,274.06


I can not exactly explain how they GREW by five titles this year, despite being out of business.  That’s just BookScan, Jake.



The #7 publisher for “manga” on the Top 750 is then HarperCollins, with two other “Warriors” books, selling combined just 7354 copies, for about $83k at retail. I’ve not kept a separate “manga” Long Tail for Harpers, so look down into the “Western” section for their combined performance over the years.



Eastern Publisher #5 will be Dark Horse, with just 2 placing titles in the Top 750, for just 6880 copies sold and $111k in dollar sales.

The better-selling of the two (the “FLCL” Omnibus) limps in with 3,893 copies sold.

Looking at the Long Tail, this is what Dark Horse’s (manga only!) recent performance looks like:


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
2007341        ——249,943       ——$3,329,464      —–733$14,744.90


There’s more about Dark Horse down below in the “Western” section.



Finally, let’s talk about Del Rey’s manga line, which used to publish what is now published by Kodansha’s books.  They have ZERO books in the Top 750, because Del Rey’s license stopped in October of 2010.  I’m assuming that everything still listing here is simply copies still left on the shelf, and these will trickle down to nothing over very soon, if not outright delisted like TokyoPop was in 2012. They still publish a decent amount of non-manga material, so you can see more from them down below.

Here’s the manga portion of Del Rey’s Long Tail – there’s not a lot here, but I built the long-tail in the past, and so here it is for you:


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
2007238      ——    745,175      ——$8,332,276      —–3131$35,009.56


If this is the last year of presenting this, I’ll just fold this data back into The Penguin Random House one.




2013 Western Publishers

When I say “Western” here, I mean publishers/work from Europe and America, as opposed to Asia, not publishers of the genre!

I’d like to continue to remind you that in 2008 there was some sort of behind-the-scenes recategorization in what got sent to me, and most of the “cartoon-strip humor” books like “Calvin & Hobbes” and “The Far Side” suddenly disappeared, so there’s kind of a not-strictly apples thing going on with the pre-2008 numbers here. Do keep that in mind when making comparisons both in the Top 750 chart, as well as the Long Tail.

Naturally, we get another weird influx of strips into this year’s charts (see: Andrews) – I really wish BookScan could keep some sort of internally-consistent method of categorizing titles that didn’t seem to change in some fashion from year-to-year!  But that is clearly a pipe-dream for me!

There’s some nice growth going on this year – almost 13% in pieces, just over 9% in dollars.


Year# of placing titlesUnit salesDollar sales


Pieces sold is at an all-time high, while dollars sold is the second highest it has ever been.


Let’s take a look at the Long Tail for Western publishers:


Year# of listed items% ChangeTotal Pieces% ChangeTotal Dollars% ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title


Again, this is a great collective performance, given the general economy and the overall state of print books in 2013.

Next, we’ll survey of the publishers, and their best-selling titles, ranking them by the number of pieces they sold this year.



In 2013, things return to an older familiar pattern as DC Entertainment retakes its #1 position as the best-selling Western publisher in the Top 750.

In 2013 they placed 130 titles in the Top 750, for 768k units, and almost $16m in retail dollars, from their three charting imprints.  “DC” itself is 102 of those placements, Vertigo represents 25, and the other three are from Mad.

Here’s a year-to-year comparison chart of the Top 750:


Year# of placing titlesUnit salesDollar sales
200542298,484  $5,440,001


DC is firing on all cylinders with the BookScan reporters. They are the #1 publisher (west or east), and yet, they did that without a single title placing in the Top 20 – I believe this is the first time that has happened since I’ve been tracking these numbers.

DC’s #1 book is “Watchmen”. As it has been for six of the last seven years. Sales go up a bit to 25k (vs 23k in 2012).

The next few spots go to Batman — #2 (“The Killing Joke”), #3 (“Dark Knight Returns”), and #4 (“The Court of Owls”).  That last is fairly impressive, showing the success of the New52 relaunch putting the new Scott Snyder-driven Batman in with the test-of-time classics. In fact, v2 of that run in HC (“City of Owls”) is #6, and v3 in HC is #9, while the tie-in “Joker Death of the Family” is #14, the SC of v2 is #16, and tie in “Night of the Owls” is #20.

Batman stories are also DC’s #10 (“Hush”), #11 (“Year One”), #12 (“The Long Halloween”), #15 (“Knightfall” v1) and #18 (“Arkham Asylum”) – in all, 13 of the Top 20 DC best-sellers are Batman-related, as are 50 of the DC 130 placers.

DC’s #5 book is “V For Vendetta” and is the highest placing “Vertigo” branded comic.  Vertigo is also #8 (“Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes”), and #19 (“Fables” v18).  Nine out of the ten “Sandman” volumes place in the Top 750 (plus “Death”), as do six “Fables” volumes (and two “Fairest)

DC’s New 52 relaunch of “Justice League” takes position #7 (v1) and #13 (v2) – 49 of DC’s 130 placers in the Top 750 are New 52 titles, showing that these are still resonating with the civilian readership. Though the real surprise to me is how well “Nightwing” v1 does – it is the best-seller after the “Batman” and “Justice League” books with a bit over 7k copies sold.

Finally, among DC’s top 20 is “Superman Red Son” at #17.  This is the highest placing “Superman” title… in the year of a relaunched Superman movie in the theatres. It doesn’t even sell 10k copies through BookScan reporters. I’m not sure this is a surprise, as the tone of the “Man of Steel” film wasn’t remotely like any existing “Superman” comic book.

2013 was also the year that the “Before Watchmen” collections came out. And only three of the four make the Top 750 – Brian Azzarello’s “Comedian / Rorschach” does the best, but it doesn’t even sell 5k copies

Looking past just the Top 750 down into the Long Tail shows a strong year for DC, with growth by all metrics.  It would appear that Walmart does pretty good with DC collections?


Year# of listed items% ChangeTotal Pieces% ChangeTotal Dollars% ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title


DC has four books over 20k, and eleven more over 10k.



Image Comics, our #2 largest Western publisher via the BookScan reporters, has 38 titles placing within the Top 750. It’s a small drop for Image, as they sell 651k units of books, for just over $19 million, but it is enough, coupled with DC’s growth, to kick them out of the #1 position they took last year.

This is what Image’s performance has looked like, in the Top 750, over the last decade:


Year# of placing titlesUnit salesDollar sales


Fun trivia: In 2003, the only Image title that placed was Kevin Smith’s “Chasing Dogma”, while 2004 is the first appearance of “The Walking Dead” – that’s actually v2 charting there with just a mere 402 copies sold! The rest of the decades growth is pretty much all about “TWD”, with a few other books (most notably “Chew”) also placing – but you can just starkly see how “TWD” has grown over the decade from this chart.

In this year’s chart, well, I’m sure you’re sick of me saying how awesome the sales of “The Walking Dead” are, but it really is true, TWD is a comic book money machine. The first two TWD compendia dominate the Image listings with 96k and 75k sold for v1 and v2 respectively. Those would be great sales, even if it wasn’t on a $60 book.

V17 is the first “post compendium” volume of “TWD”, but while 135k copies of Compendium v2 has sold over the last two years, v17 only manages 33k sold this year, with v18 (with only six months of sales) does 38k. This suggests that the compendia buyers don’t know where to go next (or that they’re cheap… but I think it is the former) – and since Compendium v3 is unlikely to come out before 2016, there’s an educational opportunity there. Now v18 is substantially up from what v16 sold in the previous year (a bit over 30k), but it looks like there is plenty more room to grow.

“TWD” dominates Image’s lineup (though, again, “Saga” also had a great year) – but they have five other books in the Top 750 – one volume of “Chew”, One volume of “East of West”, two volumes of “Manhattan Projects”, and one volume of “Revival”.  None of those crack 5k.

Here’s what Image’s Long Tail looks like; it takes a drop this year:


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
2007438     ——116,015   ——$2,313,477      —–265$5,281.91


Image has two titles over 50k, eight more over 20K, and another seven over 10k.



The #3 Western publisher in the Top 750 for 2013 is Scholastic. Though, note that this is exclusively through BookScan reporters – there is a working assumption that whatever retail bookstore sales we’re seeing here are a tiny fraction of their overall sales – between Book Fairs, school sales, Library sales and such, Scholastic might be racking up much more impressive numbers, but I can only analyze what data I actually have!

Scholastic also has several imprints – besides the Graphix imprint, they also publish Arthur A. Levine and Blue Sky, and together, they place 25 titles in 2013 for 399k copies, and $4.9m in sales.  Again, in alphabetical order…

Arthur A. Levine places two books in the Top 750: “The Arrival” by Shaun Tan at just over 10k copies, as well as “Sidekicks” by Dan Santat, just under 4500 copies.

Blue Sky is just one book in the Top 750, but it is a doozy – Dav Pilkey’s “Ook & Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen”, which racks up an impressive 23k in sales.

The Graphix imprint has 20 placing titles, for 260k in sales, and about $3.2 million in dollars. Graphix’s single best-seller is Raina Telgemeier’s “Drama” which brings home an incredibly strong 82k copies – more than double the 38k that was reported last year. Graphix also does extremely well with Kazu Kibuishi’s “Amulet”, with all five volumes charting, and the most recent volume, “Prince of the Elves”, doing almost 22k copies.  Jeff Smith’s “Bone” continues to do well, with 11 Bone-related comics on the chart. Volume 1, “Out From Boneville” sells just over 18k copies this year, a fairly large drop from 23k last year.

Graphix also does OK with a couple of Doug Tennapel titles (“Ghostopolis”, “Cardboard”, and “Tommysaurus Rex”), but none of them crack 5k.

Scholastic also publishes (without an imprint) the “Star Wars Jedi Academy” book by Jeffrey Brown which racked up over 94k copies.


The Long Tail for Scholastic looks like this – really a superb performance this year:


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
200728     ——203,900   ——$2,018,694      —–7282$72,096.21


Scholastic has two books over 50k, two more over 20k, and a total of seven more that sell more than 10k copies.



In 2013 there was a significant merger between Random House and Penguin Putnam, making the so called “Big Six” of mainstream book publishing now just the “Big Five”.  The resulting new publisher is known as Penguin Random House, and was formally born on July 1, 2013. This new entity is the #4 largest publisher of Western comics in 2013, via the BookScan reporters.

The “Big Five” publishers usually have a lot of multiple imprints,and I’m never 100% sure that I’ve properly identified each and every one of them. I do a lot of Googling to try and figure this stuff out!

The new Penguin Random House, as best as I can tell, has eight distinct imprints that sell comics in some fashion that appear in the Top 750 list – Alfred A. Knopf, Ballantine, Bantam, Broadway, Dial, Pantheon, Random House, and Razorbill.

They’re also, in the long tail: (deep breath!) Ace, Berkley Books, Crown, Del Rey, Doubleday, Dutton, Gotham Books, Grossett & Dunlap, Hudson Street, InkLit, New American Library, Penguin, Philomel, Plume, Price Stern Sloan, Puffin, Putnam, Riverhead, Schocken, Three Rivers., and Viking.  However, they are not (Brian writes down here so he remembers this research next year) the PRH-distributed-only Library of America or Overlook Press.

Combined, Penguin Random House imprints in the Top 750 in 2013 place 45 titles, for 345k units, and $5.9m in dollar sales. Looking at those imprints in alphabetical order:

Alfred A. Knopf Books For Younger Readers places seven books, all from Jarrett J. Krosocza’s “Lunch Lady” series. Aimed squarely at, as the imprint’s name implies, younger readers, the best-seller of the seven is “Lunch Lady & The Cyborg Substitute” with sales just over 8k. The six volumes combined are about 32k copies, and $221k in retail dollars.

Ballantine places four titles in the Top 750, all strip reprints.  Three of them are “Garfield” comics (with their #1 best-seller being “Fat Cat Three Pack 16 selling just over 7300 copies) and there is also “It’s a Dogs Life, Snoopy”, which sells 2697 copies.

Bantam co-produces (with Dynamite) the comics adaptations of George R. R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones”. V1 sells just under 10k copies, with v2 selling just under 8300.

Broadway also places two books in the Top 750: almost 15k copies of the comic book extension of Max Brook’s “Zombie Survival Guide” – which nearly tripled in sales, I suspect because it was supported by the “World War Z” film, sort of – and just over 5k copies of something that I just now realized was a prose novel (“Ex Patriots”), but I’ve already done too much math this year to change now.  Whoops!

Dial is on here for four volumes of Ursula Vernon’s “Dragonbreath”, where the best-selling volume (“Curse of the Were-weiner”) is a bit under 10k copies sold.

Pantheon is the “literary” comics wing, and has some of RH’s best-sellers. There are ten different Pantheon books within the Top 750, the best-selling being Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis”, art spiegelman’s “Maus”, and Chris Ware’s “Building Stories”, in various permutations. Those are all discussed up the page, and they lead Pantheon’s 152k in sales, with $3.6 million in retail dollars. In addition, Craig Thompson’s “Habibi”, Charles Burns’ “Black Hole”, And Ware’s “Jimmy Corrigan” all place, though none sell over 5k.

Random House Books For Younger Readers is the domain of Jennifer L. Holm and her multiple series: “Babymouse” (of which “Queen of the World” is the best-seller, with about 9200 copies sold), as well as “Super Amoeba” and “Squish” though neither of those pull 5k this year. Additionally, the adaptation of the “City of Ember” hit towards the bottom of the chart for almost 2800 copies sold.

Finally, there’s Razorbill, but, gr, googling this book (“Ultra Violets: Power to the Purple!”), it, too, is a prose novel and not a comic at all. Thankfully, that one is down below 3k and won’t badly impact the charts I’ve already created.

Here’s what the Western (only) Long-Tail for the merged company looked like in 2013:


Year# of listed items% ChangeTotal Pieces% ChangeTotal Dollars% ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title


And this is what they look like if you also include what’s left of the “Eastern” manga from Del Rey:


Year# of listed items% ChangeTotal Pieces% ChangeTotal Dollars% ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title


However, I’m not willing to pull an “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia” moment, so let’s look at the individual pieces of the past.  This is what Penguin Putnam (Ace, Berkley Books, Dial, Dutton, Gotham Books, Grossett & Dunlap, Hudson Street, InkLit, New American Library, Penguin, Philomel, Plume, Price Stern Sloan, Puffin, Putnam, Razorbill, Riverhead and Viking) used to look like alone)


Year# of listed items% ChangeTotal Pieces% ChangeTotal Dollars% ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
200718     ——13,545     ——$178,260     ——753$9,903.33


This is what Random House (Alfred A. Knopf, Ballantine, Bantam, Broadway, Crown, Del Rey, Doubleday, Pantheon, Random House, Schocken, and Three Rivers) looked like alone, with just their “Western” Comics:


Year# of listed items% ChangeTotal Pieces% ChangeTotal Dollars% ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title


But Del Rey publishes a lot of Manga, so here’s what the former Random House looked like if you added that “Eastern” manga in as well:


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
2007312      —— 961,755      ——$11,222,623      —–3083$35,969.95


Penguin Random House has two books over 20k, and another four books over 10k.



The #5 publisher spot is pretty close, but it nudges just an inch over to Andrews McMeel. Andrews is a publisher that sometimes frustrates me by how they’ve been represented by BookScan – as I noted, it used to be that “humor” books like “Far Side” and “Calvin & Hobbes” used to rule the BookScan charts. Until, one day, poof! All of those books disappeared entirely from the dataset I was given, throwing off a whole lot of my comparables. And, for the most part, comic strip reprints have stayed out of these charts for half a decade.  But, they’ve started creeping back into the listings for the last two years. I’m actually fine with comic strips and comic books co-existing in the same places – at least they’re both comics – but the inconsistency just drives me nucking futz.

Ultimately, I have 15 Andrews-published titles in the Top 750 in 2013, for 325k copies and $3.5 million in sales, but clearly that number would scale up significantly if it listed all of the strip collections they publish.

Most of the real action, however, for Andrews on the Top 750, is from Lincoln Peirce’s five “Big Nate” books – with the best-selling one (“Game On!”) doing an excellent 113k in unit sales.  “I Can’t Take It” does about 66k, and “Makes The Grade” does almost 60k. Altogether the “Big Nate” books sell about 280k copies, for $2.8 million.

The strips listed here don’t do as well as that – A “Dilbert“ book (“Your New Job Title is ‘Accomplice’”  is the top performer at about just 6600 copies sold, and there’s only three books above 5k.

Andrews McMeel’s Long Tail chart is just about the most useless one of all because they publish a whole lot of comics (humor strips, like “Calvin & Hobbes”) that I no longer see in the data that gets leaked to me – almost certainly they’re doing several times better than this chart would suggest because of those books.  Further, things appear and disappear in a way I’ve never been able to make sense of.  Most of my comparatives are terrible and counterproductive here, and I apologize for the weakness of my data in this specific instance.


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
200722     ——29,835   ——$461,238      —–1,356$20,965.36


Andrews McMeel has one book over 100k, two more over 50k, another over 20k, and one more over 10k.



Our #6 Western Publisher is Simon & Shuster. They take this position with just four placing titles, which total 250k in units and just over $4m at retail.

This year, everything is from their Aladdin imprint, and it includes the #1 book of the year, “Dork Diaries” (discussed above) with 146k copies.

Other than the observation that there are more “Dork Diaries” books (if they’re actually even comics), then the ones charting here, and, thus, Simon’s share is certainly understated and shows pretty clearly the limitation of the data that is leaked to me, I don’t have much to add. Here is their Long Tail, which includes the imprints that I’m aware of (Aladdin and Simon-named ones, as well as Atria, Atheneum, Pocket and Touchstone)


Year# of listed items% ChangeTotal Pieces% ChangeTotal Dollars% ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title


Simon clearly has a book over 100k, and another over 50k.



The #7 Western publisher within the Top 750 in 2013 is Marvel Comics, which places 39 titles for about 188k copies and $4.2m sold.

When I first started writing these reports, I used to focus on Marvel and DC as entries unto themselves, as befitted my Direct Market preconceptions, and so I have this little chart I’ve already been building for eleven years and don’t want to throw away:


Year# of placing titlesUnit salesDollar sales


It is another year of growth for Marvel, so there is that. But, I think it is clear at this point that Marvel, at least in the Bookstore market, isn’t really that significant of a player able to drive very many hits. Yes, they’re largely dominant in the Direct Market channels, and they rule periodical comics, but their backlist strategy does not seem to be paying off with any kind of solid results – in either market.

I remain frustrated by this because Marvel is clearly a stronger brand than DC, better known, more established, and, for many “civilians”, practically synonymous with “comics” itself. Further, Marvel does rule the periodicals, and strong periodical sales really should yield strong backlist sales – it is audience tested material!

In previous years I lamented Marvel’s recent inability to sell even 10k of any of their superhero comics, but that’s finally changed in 2013 as we see “Hawkeye” v1 place with just over 16k copies. That’s pretty nice.  There’s also “Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe” which amasses nearly 12k.

Marvel has two multi-million dollar films advertising their comics this year: “Iron Man 3” and “Thor 2”.  The best-selling “Iron Man” standalone comic is “Extremis” with just a hair over 4k copies sold.  The best-selling “Thor” standalone comic is just a bit over 3k copies with “Thor God of Thunder v1”.  There’s also the weekly “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” television show. No S.H.I.E.L.D. comic makes the Top 750 – the complete Steranko book comes in at #1274 with just 1,678 copies sold. Media adaptations don’t help sell Marvel comics.

Here is Marvel’s Long Tail. Unit sales are minorly up, dollar sales are down.


Year# of listed items% ChangeTotal Pieces% ChangeTotal Dollars% ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title


Marvel has two books that are over 10k.



The #8 publisher of Western comics in 2013 via BookScan is Papercutz has twelve titles placing, for 180k copies and $1.3m. Nine from Lego’s “Ninjago”, the best-selling being v1 (“Challenge of the Samukai”) with nearly 31k copies sold, which is down substantially from last year’s 48k sold.  I would have thought the “Walmart effect” would have been better for them on the top of the line?  It seems like it helps in the Long Tail, though…


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
200765     ——20,121   ——$179,373      —–310$2,759.58


Papercutz has five volumes with sales over 20k, and two more over 10k.



The #9 largest publisher with Western comics in BookScan 2013 is another of the “big six”: HarperCollins. Harper has thirteen books in the Top 750 this year, summing up to 179k copies sold, for $2.3 million. There’s a lot of imprints with the word “Harper” in the title in the Long Tail (Harper, Harper Paperbacks, Harper Teen, Harper Festival, Harper Teen, and so on), and Harper is also IT books, William Morrow, and Zondervan.

Harper’s biggest hit is a “Big Nate” volume (which, yes, is published by two different publishing houses) – “What Could Possibly Go Wrong” sells almost 83k copies, while “What Could Possibly Go Wrong” sells about 28k copies. The perennial “Understanding Comics” shifts over 11k copies sold.

Their William Morrow imprint places one book into the Top 750 – “The Cartoon Guide to Calculus”, which sells about 3100 copies.  And Zondervan shifts almost 12k copies of an adaptation of “The Book of Revelations”


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
200718     ——36,940   ——$600,540      —–2052$33,363.33


Harper has one title over 50k, another over 20k, and three more over 10k



Finally, #10 on this year’s list will be Dark Horse Comics, as they place 19 titles for 158k and $2.6m.

A lot of ink has been spilled about the loss of the “Star Wars” license, but Dark Horse’s big winner this year is, once again, comics based on “Avatar: The Last Airbender” with nine different volumes charting.  The best-selling moves almost 27k copies, while the worst (based on the “Legend of Korra” television show) does about 5600 copies. Dark Horse has no non-Avatar comic that sells more than 6k copies.

In point of fact, Dark Horse only has one “Star Wars” comic in the Top 750 – “Dawn of the Jedi v1’ with just 4660 copies sold.  They actually sell more copies of “Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale” (5542) then they do of “Star Wars’ according to BookScan reporters.

Dark Horse’s only other success over 5k copies is “Plants Versus Zombies” which doesn’t quite pull down 6k sold.


Here’s what Dark Horse’s Western performance looks like in the Long Tail:


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
2007597   ——413,022  ——$7,607,264         —–692$14,744.90


Dark Horse’s Manga offerings are up in that section. Dark Horse is one of the rare publishers that does a significant business in both Eastern and Western comics, and I’m sure they’d prefer all of their numbers to be represented together. In which case, their Long Tail actually looks like this:


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
2007938     ——662,965   ——$10,936,728      —–707$11,659.62


Dark Horse has two books over 20k in the Western lists, and five more over 10k.



That’s the Top 10 Western publishers, but there are a few more that I’d like to mention.

In the Book publishing world, they talk about “The Big Five” – that would be: Hachette, HarperCollins, Holtzbrinck/Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster. We’ve covered three of those above, but we should at least glance at the other two, I think. In alphabetical order


Hachette includes the imprints of Little, Brown, Grand Central, and Yen. They also distribute Marvel in the book market (though, that’s not counted in their Long-Tail data, naturally).

Little, Brown is the home of “Tintin”, and they place eight volumes of that perennial series in the Top 750, with the best-selling one (the 3-in-one “Adventures of Tintin v1” selling just under 5500 copies.


Here’s the Long Tail of just the Western books for Hachette, which drops way back after the impact of the “Tintin” film.


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title


And if you add the Manga from Yen, it looks like this:


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
200725        ——52,077      ——$836,832      —–2,083$33,473.28


Hachette has no titles over 10k, on the Western charts.



Holtzbrinck owns Macmillan, which has (at least) these imprints: Farrar Straus Giroux, FirstSecond, Hill + Wang, and Square Fish. Those imprints all individually made the Top 750, but there are others down into the Long Tail as well – I have also identified Henry Holt, Metropolitan, Roaring Brook, Rodale Press, St. Martins Griffin, Times books, and Tor.   Holtzbrinck also distributes several other publishers, including Bloomsbury, Drawn & Quarterly, Papercutz, and Seven Seas. Holtzbrinck-owned companies placed fifteen titles in the Top 750, for about 69k and a bit over $1.2m combined.

The best-seller here is listed as Square Fish: “American Born Chinese”, selling just under 16k.  Farrar Straus Giroux’s best-seller is the adaptation of “A Wrinkle In Time”, with a bit over 12k sold. First Second’s strongest title is also a Gene Luen Yang book: the boxed set of “Boxers & Saints”, at 5979 copies sold. Hill & Wang’s best-seller is the adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” with 3443 sold.

Here’s Holtzbrinck’s Long Tail (again, I might have missed an imprint somewhere – trying to tease them all out is a difficult task from their Byzantine org chart).


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
200739     ——31,452   ——$559,681      —–806$14,350.79


Holtzbrinck has two titles over 10k.



While not one of the “Big Five”, there are other native-to-the-bookmarket publisher who placed more than three titles into the Top 750: Henry N. Abrams, Inc (5) and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (5), and Hyperion (4)


Henry N. Abrams publishes both as Abrams Comicarts as well as Amulet Books. Amulet publishes the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books, but as noted before only the boxed sets appear here. The set of books 1-4 sells over 17k copies.

Abrams Comicarts places a single book: the excellent “My Friend Dahmer” which sells just over 5k.


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title


Henry N. Abrams has two books over 10k.



Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishes comics both as HMH and Mariner.

Mariner’s best-seller is Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home” which just barely misses 20k sold. While HMH does best with the hybrid semi-comic “Dying to Meet You”, which just passes 5k.


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title


Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has one book over 10k.



Hyperion is, like Marvel, also owned by Disney. Technically, that probably means I should fold them together, but I resist, how I resist (largely because they are distributed separately). However, if we did that, the combined entity would move one place forward, to #6. Hyperion has four placing titles, doing almost 86k, and $1.1m. All are Rick Riordan adaptations – three “Percy Jackson” (“Lightning Thief” and “Sea of Monsters” both almost do 25k copies), one “Red Pyramid” (23k) – and three of the four outsell anything from Marvel itself.


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title


Hyperion has three books over 20k, and one more over 10k.



Outside of those bookstore-native publishers, we’ve got several Direct Market-native publishers who placed more than three titles into the Top 750. Those would be: Oni (11), IDW (9), Boom (7), Archie (5), and Top Shelf (4)


Oni Press was the sixth largest publisher the previous year, based on the strength of “Scott Pilgrim” and other Bryan Lee O’Malley books, and O’Malley is still selling books this year:  66k copies, and $1.3m in retail dollars. Not as much as the height, but still solidly profitable numbers.

Here’s Oni’s Long Tail:


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
2007125     ——11,294   ——$141,829      —–90$1,134.63


Oni has no books over 10k.



Boom! has their first year in the Top 750 this year, and they roar in with seven titles from that, Archaia and Kaboom. The best-seller is from the latter, being “Adventure Time v1” with nearly 12k sold.

I have to build a brand-new Long Tail for Boom, presented hereafter:


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title


Boom! just has the one book over 10k.



IDW places nine books into the Top 750. Their best-seller is “Teenage Mutsant Ninja Turtles Adventures”, based on the animated series, for 5318 sold. I am a little surprised that “My Little Pony” didn’t beat that among the BookScan reporters (v1 does 5151)


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
2007233     ——102,118   ——$2,090,647      —–438$8,972.73


IDW has no book over 10k.


Archie Comics’ best-selling book is “Sonic The Hedgehog” with 4822 sold. They place five total books in the Top 750.

Here’s Archie’s Long Tail:


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
200718     ——12,443   ——$103,998      —–691$5,777.67


Archie has no books over 10k.



And this leaves us with Top Shelf, who has a pretty solid hit with Rep. John Lewis’ “March” which pulls down just over 18k copies. Nothing else manages 5k copies from them.


Year# of listed itemsPercent ChangeTotal Unit SoldPercent ChangeTotal $ SoldPercent ChangeAv. Sale per titleAv $ per title
200788     ——23,317   ——$768,122      —–265$8,728.66


Top Shelf has one book over 10k.


No publisher that has not been mentioned placed more than three titles within the Top 750, which leaves me with sixteen books from fourteen different smaller publishers. Selling above the 10k line there is only a single book: Gareth Hinds’ adaptation of “The Odyssey” from Candlewick.

Below that line, only a few other things stand out:  The complete edition of Jeff Smith’s “Bone” from Cartoon Books tracks with nearly 8k copies, nearly nine years after the final serialization came out.

And the English language version of “Blue is the Warmest Color” sells 5482 copies in the wake of the film.



One final little bit of number crunching before I go for the year. If we look at the entirety of the 24k-long “Long Tail” BookScan list, how do the publishers stack up in 2012? We’ll consider it in dollars, this time, including both “east” and “west” comics, and round everything to millions (or hundred-thousands for those tie numbers), just for ease of presentation

#1 DC                                                $30 Million

#2 Image Comics                            $22

#3 Viz                                                 $21.6

#4 Marvel Comics                            $18

#5 Hachette                                      $10

#6 Dark Horse                                  $9

#7 Penguin Random House          $8

#8 Kodansha                                    $6

#9 Scholastic                                    $5

#10 IDW                                             $4

And that’s pretty much what BookScan in 2012 looks like to these eyes.

How does it look to you?



Brian Hibbs has owned and operated Comix Experience in San Francisco since 1989, was a founding member of the Board of Directors of ComicsPRO, has sat on the Board of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and has been an Eisner Award judge. Feel free to e-mail him with any comments. You can purchase two collections of the first Tilting at Windmills (originally serialized in Comics Retailer magazine) published by IDW Publishing, as well as find an archive of pre-CBR installments right here. Brian is also available to consult for your publishing or retailing program.