Tilting at Windmills #211: Looking at BookScan: 2011

By Brian Hibbs

(Originally published February 2012 – “Looking at BookScan: 2011”)

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

For the ninth 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 books 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, and in increasing numbers). A relative minority of DM stores have Point-of-Sales (POS) systems so, because we buy 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 2011 BookScan Top 750 year end report for the comics category.

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

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

2003: BookScan Report and My Analysis)

For the last six 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 2011 to 2006-2010 is probably as close to apples-to-apples as it can get, as is 2003-2005, but comparing the ’06-11 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 3200 copies. (It was about 3300 copies in 2010) In ’03-‘05 there would be 200 or more 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 eight 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 2011, I possess data on about 24,000 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 through BookScan. According to BookScan, more than 7500 venues report to them, but this still leaves many venues that don’t. Like I said in my first analysis:

But who are the retailers who report to BookScan? According to the list that I have, there are over 7400 potential BookScan venues. This list includes almost 300 independent bookstores, as well as chain retailers, B. Dalton / Barnes and Noble, Borders / Waldenbooks, Tower Music and Books, Musicland, Deseret Book Company (Mormon bookstores), Follett Stores (University bookstores), Hastings, Costco, K-Mart, and Target. BookScan also tracks online sales from Amazon.com, B&N.com, Borders.com, Buy.com, Fatbrain.com, and Powells.com.

That’s still a fair number of places that sell our product that aren’t represented – beyond traditional book retailers who don’t report to BookScan (Say, a number of indie bookstores), and mass market retailers like Wal-Mart. This also doesn’t track any number of other channels – like library sales, book clubs or other specialty markets like, say, LGBT stores, etc. This Publisher’s Weekly article [from 2003, I wish they’d check in on this story for the 2010 reality!] (you’ll have to subscribe to read it, sorry) says the following:

BookScan generally claims to represent between 70% and 75% of sales in the industry (Wal-Mart and some of the supermarket chains are among those who decline to report.) But a comparison with in-print figures supplied by publishers reveals that the numbers are more likely to represent about 65%, even after deducting for unsold books and returns.

For BookScan’s top ten nonfiction titles published last year – a list that include mass-market favorites like Phil McGraw’s diet books as well as indie hits like Benjamin Franklin: An American Life – no title had BookScan sales comprise more than 75% of total sales. For some of the books that had strong special-sales, they ran as low as 25%.

Frankly, I haven’t bothered to ask BookScan for a client list every year, so it is pretty likely that the number or percentage of reporting stores has changed significantly since 2003. However, I’m also going to continue to assume that the Publisher’s Weekly article is still accurate to the extent that these numbers are unreported by some potentially significant degree, and don’t, in any way, represent all “book stores” selling comic book material.

Also, remember that this analysis represents RETAIL SALES. This absolutely doesn’t include anything like Library sales, or School Sales, or things like book clubs and so on. Those are not RETAIL SALES. This is all about “person with an extra $20 in their pocket”, so don’t conflate anything else from this.

There’s also a certain amount of miscategorization going on. As an example, every volume of the manga series Love Hina (Yes, copies of the Tokyopop version are still trickling out – 35 copies of volume 1 sold in 2011!) can be found in my full copy of the sales report, except for volume 2. In the Great Big Database there’s apparently an error and Love Hina volume 2 isn’t listed as a “Adult Fiction graphic novel”. Conversely, a few prose books always sneak on to the list – Bloody Crown of Conan makes its ninth annual appearance as a not-comic. I do not know what the actual extent of miscategorization might be and how it would impact any of the general data analysis!

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 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 find/think of any 2011-released title that was mis-listed, and 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!

Really, 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 just about half of the total of the full list, and has consistently for years. While there are significant sales below the Top 750 (about $95 million in 2011), 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…

*          *          *

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


2011 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 “young reader” prose books like “Super Friends: Going Bananas”, which, while nominally about comics or comics culture, is factually a prose book with pictures. That specific title’s sales would have qualified it to be the #4 best-selling item on the 2011 list, so clearly there is an enormous market for this kind of material – it just isn’t the “comics” market as I would define it.

Beside the “young reader” prose books, I also cut things like “DC Comics Ultimate Character Guide” from DK Publishing. In all, I removed 57 items from the Top 750 that didn’t match my personal definition of “comics”, to make room for 57 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.

One other major note for 2011 is, of course, the Death of Borders through the year. The final Borders stores finally closed down in September 2011. Borders, all by itself, was once approximately something like 15% of the bookstore sales market. Borders, more importantly, really originally broke the manga category in America, and when you see the fairly horrific drops the bookstore market for comics is showing this year, constantly bear in mind that the number two retail chain utterly collapsed this year.

Here’s the big picture for the Top 750:


Year Total Unit Growth Total Dollars Growth
2003 5,495,584    ——- $66,729,053    ——–
2004 6,071,123 10.5% $67,783,487 1.6%
2005 7,007,345 15.4% $75,459,669 11.3%
2006 8,395,195 19.8% $90,411,902 19.8%
2007 8,584,317 2.3% $95,174,425 5.3%
2008 8,334,276 -2.9% $101,361,173 6.5%
2009 7,634,453 -8.4% $93,216,014 -8.0%
2010 6,414,336 -15.9% $85,266,166 -8.5%
2011 5,696,163 -11.2% $79,961,951 -6.2%


Yikes, redux.

I guess the good news might be that it’s not quite the “worst” year we’ve ever seen, but, without a serious stabilization coming tout suite, it certainly will be by this time next year.

The sum of the Top 750 in 2011 is down by some 11% in unit sales, and 6% down in dollars purchased. This is the third consecutive year of sales drops in both categories, and the fourth year of drops in volume. The bookstore market in 2011 is down by an entire third of the units sold at its peak in 2007

(I do, however, want to continue to remind you that the nearly 20% of growth in 2006 was almost certainly overstated because of the difference in reporting methodologies between 2005 and 2006. Read 2006’s report for more detail. My estimate was that it was probably closer to 10-12%.)

Obviously a portion of this drop can be attributed to the general economic malaise that we’re facing in this country, and another big chunk of it can go on the books as relating to the loss of Borders. What’s actually a little optimistic, in my mind, is that the drops that the 2011 market shows is a smaller percentage drop than it was in 2010. That suggests to me, possibly, that if Border’s hadn’t had its troubles, or if the economic climate had been better, then we could have seen a flat or improved year in the bookstores.

(it may or may not be worth mentioning that the comic book store market ended 2011 up 4.57% in periodical comics unit sales, down 5.01% in dollars in book sales)

2011 was also a fairly weak year for media tie-ins driving book sales – there was no “Watchmen”, as in 2009, or “Scott Pilgrim” in 2010. Even “Walking Dead”, which is a true comics phenomenon these days had sales on many of the individual titles that were lower than 2010 sales.

What I do think we can see is that the weakening of manga as a category is now bringing down the general overall numbers in a very visible way – manga sales are down, in the top 750, some $35 million from their 2007 peak, while the overall market is only down by $15 million in that same period. Manga still dominates sales for now, but its fall as a category is masking at least some real growth overall from other categories (especially children’s comics)

As I noted, I primarily write about the top 750 because a) that’s all the data I was 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 five years of data to track. I’ve taken to calling this “the Long Tail”. Here’s what the sales of all comics sales BookScan tracks in this category looks like:


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total Dollars Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 13,181        —– 15,386,549      —– $183,066,142.30      —– 1167 $13,888.64
2008 17,571 24.98% 15,541,769 1.00% $199,033,741.57 8.02% 885 $11,327.40
2009 19,692 12.07% 14,095,145 -9.31% $189,033,736.31 -5.02% 716 $9,599.52
2010 21,993 11.68% 12,130,232 -13.94% $172,435,244.86 -8.78% 552 $7,840.32
2011 23,945 8.88% 11,692,058 -3.61% $175,634,490.77 1.86% 488 $7,334.91


We are now tracking almost 24k items through the BookScan charts, which is almost a 9% increase since 2010, and an amazing 82% increase since 2007. This is a much rosier chart – while units sold are still down (but only by 3.6%), dollar sales are actually up by almost 2%!

I would primarily attribute this to two things: first, the majority of the new books entering the market every year are “western” comics, and, as such, bear a much higher cover price than manga books; and second, there’s a certain amount of greater stability in the “long tail” base simply because of lower piece sales. By this I mean that over 6000 of the 24k items in the full database – a full quarter! – have reported sales of five copies or less. It is, generally, less likely for those books to drop from (say) 5 copies to 4, than it is for a best-seller to drop from 5200 copies to 5000, in my opinion as a bookseller.

Still, there is a general paucity of “new hits” to the market in 2011 that, when combined with the crushing crash of manga gives you an ugly looking picture for the frontlist. The positive news is that with the slow-motion collapse of Borders now concluded, there’s every reason to think that 2012 is going to look a whole lot better.

Let’s take a look at the Top 20 best-selling items on the 2010 chart, it looks like this:


157,786         DORK DIARIES

84,045          BIG NATE FROM THE TOP

39,382          ADV OF OOK & GLUK KUNG FU CAVE

36,436          MAUS I


34,297          TWILIGHT GRAPHIC NOVEL V 2

32,931          BONE v1 OUT FROM BONEVILLE

32,223          PERSEPOLIS 1

31,526          NARUTO V 50


29,430          ADV OF OOK & GLUK KUNG FU CAVE


26,111          WALKING DEAD V 14 NO WAY OUT

24,004          DRAGONBREATH

23,743          BIG NATE & FRIENDS

23,567          POKEMON BLACK & WHITE V 1

23,349          MAXIMUM RIDE V 4 MANGA


22,934          NARUTO V51

22,797          BONE v2 THE GRT COW RACE


The #1 item this year is exactly the same as it was last year: Rachel Renee Russell’s “Dork Diaries

Now, in my opinion, this 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 whatsoever. “DWK” also sells in multiples of “Dork Diaries”. 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 158k is just the 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.

It’s also firmly aimed at children.

“Dork Diaries” also sold about 11k copies fewer than it sold last year; about 6% fewer, setting a tone for the list.

Coming in at #2 for the year is “Big Nate: From the Top” with 84k copies. This too isn’t traditional work, but there are extended comics-storytelling sequences between short prose stuff, and so, yeah, I’ll consider this “more or less comics”. Again: Aimed squarely at kids, and totally absent from almost any conversation in the comic book industry, while outselling most of our “native” product in a pretty significant fashion. This is something for you to think very carefully about.

Lincoln Peirce also places the #15 book, “Big Nate & Friends”

“Big Nate:From the Top” sold about 35k last year, so that’s a pretty big jump forward.

The #3 comic for 2011 was also the #3 comic of 2010: Dav Pilkey’s “The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future”, and there’s absolutely no question to me that parts of this is, indeed, comics. How well is this selling? Well, there’s also a HC version of the exact same material, and it is #11 for the year, selling another 29k in that format.

For the trifecta: comics aimed at kids, comics that “our industry” doesn’t talk about at all, or, for that matter, even carry. The first three best-selling books on the BookScan “comics” chart cannot be ordered from Diamond Comics Distribution (though, that certainly doesn’t mean no comic book stores carry any of them at all!)

Finally, also for all three books, it’s virtually certain that retail BookScan numbers are just a fraction of total sales – almost certainly they are selling significantly more copies through Book Fairs and classroom sales.

The difference, however, between this year’s sales of “Ook & Gluk” and last years is substantial: this book sold almost 125k copies in 2010, and “only” about 40k this year (or 69k if you add the two formats together).

It might be worth noting here that 2010 had three books with sales over 100k, while 2011 just has a single one.

The #4 best-selling title is the first volume of art spiegelman’s “Maus” at about 36k. “Maus” sold about 34k last year (and was #15), and 32k in in 2009. What perpetually confounds me is that, despite the growing sales of v1, the second volume of “Maus”, sells considerably less – only about 19k copies – just like it does every year, and to me that’s like walking out on the end of a movie. The complete hardcover version sells 8629 copies, more than doubling last year’s sales. This year, there’s also the new “Metamaus”, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the work with a DVD and extra section on how spiegelman created “Maus”. Somewhat surprisingly to me, this only sells 8703 copies this year.

#5 in 2011 is the first sign of Robert Kirkman’s juggernaut of “The Walking Dead” – and somewhat surprisingly it’s for the $60 compendium. This comes in at 35k copies (beating last year’s performance of about 29k). That, coupled with the cover price, makes it the #1 dollar book of the year, with $2.1 million dollars in retail sales. Every single volume of “The Walking Dead” makes the top 750 chart, in every format to boot! All six hardcovers, fifteen softcovers, the compendium, they are all there. Only the super-pricey boxed hardcovers don’t make the Top 750 (though they sell just fine – even there, the v3 Deluxe $100 HC release sells enough copies to gross $118k this year, yowsers) – even the hardcover that’s just the covers of “The Walking Dead” sells a staggering 2716 copies, keeping it firmly in the top 1000 best sellers of the year, at least (#920, to be exact)

That’s crazy.

Collectively, books titled with the “The Walking Dead” sell 359k copies, and a staggering $8.7 million dollars (it was 279k and $6.4m last year) making, without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest success story of 2011. And, it is creator owned to boot, almost certainly making Robert Kirkman the best compensated writer in American comics today.

To help you put this in perspective, there are 243 books on the (entire!) BookScan list this year that start with the word “Batman” (obviously, not every single Batman-featuring trade has that as the very first word, however) – those books sum up to 308k copies sold, and $6m. Superman? $1.4m. Star Wars? $1.9m. Spider-Man? Just $672k. Naruto? $2.9m. “The Walking Dead” is bigger than all of them, and even bigger than several of them combined.

So, yeah, all congratulations to Kirkman. “TWD” v1 comes in at #12, and v14 comes in at #13 for the year.

The #6 best-seller this year is the second volume of the manga-style adaptation of “Twilight”, with 34k copies sold. Volume one was number two best-selling book last year, and it sold 127k copies, making this quite a fall in volume between the two.

While this book is certainly done in a manga style, when it comes to the broken down categories below, I’m choosing to put this book with the “western” comics because it is my belief that the primary audience is the “TwiHards”, rather than manga-fans in particular. Feel free to disagree with me, but that’s the judgment call I made on this book.

The first volume of “Twilight” sells just 16k copies this year, placing down at #52.

#7 this year is the first volume of Jeff Smith’s “Bone”, with about 33k copies. We’re now at two years since the final color volume of “Bone” was released, so this is, at this point, selling steadily solely on the merits of the work, rather than active promotion for it. V1 is down a lot from 42k last year, but it also only placed #12 last year. Volume two (“The Great Cow Race”) places as the #20 best-seller for the year. All nine of the main “Bone” appear in the top 750 (v6 sells the lowest, at 14k copies), as well as “Tall Tales” (with 17k) and “Rose” (with 9k), all through Graphix. Plus, Jeff still self-publishes the complete edition, which sold another 8800 copies.

Altogether, “Bone” brings in $2.6m in retail sales as reported through the BookScan charts, and that’s likely just a fraction of what it does with Book Fairs and such — still, like “The Walking Dead” above, look at how many other franchises that “Bone” is selling more comics than. This is a true American success story, and it too is creator-owned.

#8 is the first volume of Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis” with 32k sold. (not quite 29k sold last year, coming in at #21) This is an wonderful book to see so high, and to continue to sell year after year. Like “Maus”, there’s a big fall-off for v2, which only musters a bare 4k copies sold. The Complete edition, meanwhile, sells about 17k.

#9 is our first real piece of Manga, with “Naruto” v50 just over 31k. Last year, v47 sold 53k copies, so the luster is clearly off the brand. Perhaps more importantly, “only” 40 of the 54 released volumes actually made it into the Top 750 this year. The lowest-selling volume (v23) sells just over 2700 copies (#905).

At “Naruto”’s peak, the best-selling volume (2008, v24) sold over 104k copies, so a large portion of the audience has just walked away, despite Viz making efforts to release the English version as closely as possible to the Japanese version to deter “scanlations”. The catch-up process doesn’t seem to have worked in the way they wanted.

Coming in at #10 is last year’s beauty, “Scott Pilgrim” v1. You may recall that the six volumes of “Scott” combined sold about 434k copies last year. This year it is down to 141k. This should be about where the book stays perennially now, as the distorting impact of the film wears off.

“Scott” is also pretty much as close as this portion of chart gets to for a “superhero” comic (which it isn’t, really, but it does have a lot of soap opera and punching!) until “Watchmen” down at #25.

Now we skip to spot #14, which is “Dragonbreath” by Ursula Vernon – like the initial Trifecta, this is work aimed at kids, and 100% not available through Diamond. Totally comics too, in this case. Three other “Dragonbreath” books also place on the Top 750 this year.

Spot #16 goes to the first volume of “Pokemon: Black and White”, while #17 goes to v4 of the adaptation of “Maximum Ride”. That’s your top 20 for the year. A very diverse list, I think, but smaller than 2010. This year the sum of the Top 20 is 738k, last year it was 1.24 million – almost a half million book drop. There just weren’t a lot of hits in 2011.

What if you sort the chart by dollars grossed, instead? That actually looks fairly different:


$2,121,546.35          WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM 1

$2,049,640.14         DORK DIARIES

$897,552.00            SCOTT PILGRIMS PRECIOUS LITTLE (box set)

$839,609.55            BIG NATE FROM THE TOP

$793,818.13            WALKING DEAD BK 1 (hardcover)

$688,660.00            HABIBI

$685,597.03            TWILIGHT GRAPHIC NOVEL V 2

$642,848.85            PERSEPOLIS 1

$544,718.20            MAUS I

$502,500.00            THOR BY WALTER SIMONSON OMNIBU

$477,998.39            WALKING DEAD BK 6 (HC)

$447,976.97            WALKING DEAD BK 2 (HC)

$434,404.45            COMPLETE PERSEPOLIS

$422,208.79            WATCHMEN

$409,515.14            V FOR VENDETTA NEW E

$391,403.89            WALKING DEAD V 14 NO WAY OUT

$380,633.08            BATMAN THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAY

$376,982.26            WALKING DEAD BK 5 (HC)

$370,311.15            SCOTT PILGRIM V 1 SCOTT PILGRI

$364,854.00            BATMAN HUSH


Then Craig Thompson’s “Habibi” soars forward to #6, and you see way more superhero comics on the list. Oh, and most of the Walking Deads are Hardcovers, not soft.

As you can see, there are only 2 “million dollar books” this year, while there were five in 2010.

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


MASASHI KISHIMOTO (Naruto)                            41

KIRKMAN ROBERT (Walking Dead)                   23

JOHNS GEOFF (DC Comics)                               23

OHBA TSUGUMI (Death Note)                              22

KUSAKA HIDENORI (Pokemon)                         21

KUBO TITE (Bleach)                                               19

HOLM JENNIFER L. (Babymouse)                      17

IKEDA AKIHISA (Rosario+Vampire)                    15

WILLINGHAM BILL (Fables)                                  13

HINO MATSURI (Vampire Knight)                        13

HERGE (Tintin)                                                        13

ARAKAWA HIROMU (Fullmetal Alchemist)         13

SMITH JEFF (Bone)                                                12

MORRISON GRANT (DC Comics)                       12

GAIMAN NEIL (Sandman,etc)                               12

TORIYAMA AKIRA (Dragonball Z)             11

SAKURAKOJI KANOKO (Blackbird)                     11

HIMEKAWA AKIRA (Legend of Zelda, etc.)         10


These 18 authors represent 301 of the Top 750 (40%) for 2.4 million books and $31 million in retail dollars. That’s almost 21% of all books sold on the chart (not just the Top 750)


Historically, I’ve arbitrarily divvied the Top 750 list into one of five categories: Humor, Manga, DC, Marvel, and the ever-wonderful Everything Else. While such categorization is horrifically subjective, I did it so to try and track the distinctions between “traditional” bookstore material (e.g., humor books like Garfield, or Far Side); Direct Market-driven material (i.e., Marvel, DC, and much of the “Everything Else” group); and Manga.

In 2008, however, I bowed to the inevitable and gave up on the “humor” category, because it only came in at 4 items that year (and only 2 in 2009 and 2010). It is virtually certain that this is because most of those kinds of items (typically strip collections like Calvin & Hobbes, etc.) have been recategorized to not appear on the charts I receive. I will now throw whatever comes into this category into the “Everything Else” section. That will throw the percentages off a bit, but I think it will make intent a good deal clearer. We’ll talk about that more, a few sections below.

I also split things into two over-arching categories: “Eastern” (Manga) and “Western” (America and Europe)

Let’s look at those now in slightly more depth:


2011 Manga

In 2011, Manga continued to dominate the top 750, taking 392 positions (52%), and selling a combined 2.6 million copies, for a gross of $27m.

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


Year # of placing titles Unit sales Dollar sales
2003 447 3,361,966 $34,368,409
2004 518 4,603,558 $45,069,684
2005 594 5,691,425 $53,922,514
2006 575 6,705,624 $61,097,050
2007 575 6,837,355 $61,927,238
2008 514 5,624,101 $53,033,579
2009 451 4,414,705 $41,068,604
2010 436 3,117,019 $30,212,561
2011 392 2,627,570 $27,017,081


While Manga is still the dominant “kind” of comic on the BookScan charts, the category is now down to its lowest level in the nine years we have been able to follow – all indicators are now significantly below 2003 levels, roughly the start of the “manga boom”, and while the drops are lessening, there’s no reasonable reason to suggest the manga market is poised to stabilize.

It isn’t just within the Top 750, either, here is a look at manga within the entire BookScan charts (The “Long Tail”)


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 6231        —— 11,323,487        —— $108,770,537          —– 1817 $17,456.35
2008 7842 20.54% 10,173,091 -11.31% $100,800,283 -7.91% 1297 $12,853.90
2009 8756 11.66% 8,148,490 -19.90% $81,770,442 -18.78% 931 $9,338.79
2010 8764 —— 6,239,725 -23.42% $67,092,668 -17.95% 712 $7,655.48
2011 8991 2.59% 5,690,327 -8.80% $62,810,728 -6.38% 633 $6,985.96


The best you can really say is that “at least we’re not looking at the third consecutive 20% drop” – but the problem is that the Long Tail of manga market is now selling only about half the number of pieces as it was in 2007, while at the same time there’s 44% more titles on the market. That’s not an attractive position to be in.

Another thing to bear in mind is that the entirety of manga is down by $46m since 2007, but the overall comics BookScan listings since then are only down by $8m – the market as a whole is down by 3.6m pieces, but manga is off by 5.6m pieces – so I think it might be reasonable to say that the entirety of the drop in the overall BookScan numbers can be attributed to the weakening of manga.

There’s little doubt that the loss of a strong Borders probably hurt manga more than comics in general, since Borders had been historically the strongest supporter of the style, but I’m also fairly certain that there was a dramatic amount of overproduction, relative to the actual size of the audience, going on. That is to say: a certain amount of the explosive growth that manga experienced a decade ago appears to have been a fad, or bubble, rather than a sustainable new market.

But, we have to say again, the majority of comics in the Top 750 that are being sold are manga, and the category still has life in it. The broadest strokes are the same as last year – “Naruto” is still, by far, the dominant comic, and Viz (with or without “Naruto”) is still, by far, the dominant player.

Looking only at “Eastern” comics, the best-selling manga title in 2011 is “Naruto” v50, selling 31,526 copies through BookScan reporters. As noted above, however, “Naruto” is far off its peak, both in terms of the individual best-selling volume (down 43%, year-to-year), and the collective: the 54 volumes of “Naruto” sold a combined 296k copies in 2011, down 28% year-to-year. But, even with that, “Naruto” still single-handedly represents 5.2% of all Manga sales this year. “Naruto” has three volumes in the manga Top 20 (also #4, and #11)

The second best-selling manga title in 2011 is “Pokemon: Black & White” v1 (24k copies). Volume 2 also places at #8 with 18k.

The third best-selling manga title is, upon reflection, probably shouldn’t be considered that way based upon my judgment that “Twilight” belonged more with “Western” comics than manga. It is the fourth volume of the adaptation of James Patterson’s “Maximum Ride”. The thing is, I’ve been considering those “manga” for the last two years already, and it would mess a lot of the math up if I retroactively change that, so I’ll wimp out and keep them here. Volume 4 sells 23k copies, and there’s also v1 at #10 (16k) and v3 at #16 (15k)

#5 is “Sailor Moon” v1 from Kodansha (23k), while #6 is “Black Butler” v1 from Viz (20k). Three other volumes of that chart at #8 (18k), #17 (15k), #19 (14k)

The rest of the Top 20 features a wider spread of titles than previous years: v1 of “Blue Exorcist” at #7 (20k), v1 of the omnibus version of “Death Note” at #12 (15k), the “Warriors” manga “Rescue” at #11 (15k), “Codename: Sailor V” v1 at #14 (15k), “Vampire Knight” v12 at #15 (15k), “Black Bird” v7 at #18 (15k), and finally v1 of “Soul Eater” at #20 (14k).

I count just 85 distinct series among the 392 placing manga titles in the Top 750. “Naruto” is the winner there with 40 volumes placing




Breaking down the manga portion of the chart by publisher, Viz takes 264 of the 392 manga spots in the Top 750, keeping them as the overwhelmingly dominant player with 67.3% of the placing titles! Within the Top 750, Viz charted about 1.8 million pieces, for about $16 million – Viz pretty much controls the manga charts

Looking at the Long Tail, this is what Viz’s recent performance looks like:


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 2018      —— 6,249,324      —— $55,123,347        —– 3097 $27,315.83
2008 2447 21.26% 5,536,286 -11.41% $50,311,791 -8.97% 2263 $20,560.60
2009 2793 14.14% 4,819,407 -12.95% $44,310,790 -11.93% 1726 $15,864.94
2010 3088 10.56% 3,576,671 -25.79% $35,041,305 -20.92% 1158 $11,347.57
2011 3393 9.88% 3,276,297 -8.40% $32,766,960 -6.49% 966 $9,657.22


As you’ll see below, Viz actually is doing relatively better than some of its peers, but were I running Viz, I’d be very concerned at those drops, particularly in the averages per title. Those numbers would seem to suggest that they need to produce far fewer titles and try to support them better.

Viz’s strongest performers are “Naruto”, and “Pokemon”, but they have no other manga series selling over 20k copies. The first volume of “Blue Exorcist” comes close at 19,593, but close only counts in hand grenades.




It’s another surge for the #2 manga publisher, as Yen Press places 53 titles within the Top 750, selling 486k pieces, and nearly $6.5 million dollars. And that doesn’t count the sales of Twilight as “manga” — Since it’s just the two books I’m probably going to change methodology next year, but I’d already done all of the math and created the charts before I started writing the piece this year and seeing how inconsistent this makes me with the James Patterson books. You live and learn.

Either way, it doesn’t impact the Long Tail, since that’s everything with them in the publisher field, and this is all wonderful black ink, here:


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 10        —— 12,896      —— $147,449      —– 1290 $14,744.90
2008 90 800.00% 110,126 753.95% $1,237,860 739.52% 1,224 $13,754.00
2009 211 134.44% 330,962 200.53% $3,697,113 198.67% 1,569 $17,521.86
2010 344 63.03% 560,983 69.50% $6,650,871 79.89% 1,680 $19,333.93
2011 460 33.72% 764,125 36.21% $9,953,966 49.66% 1,661 $21,639.06


This is wonderful wonderful growth for a down manga market. Hell, its wonderful growth anywhere! If the rest of the market can bottle whatever Yen’s got going on here I imagine everyone would be very happy.

Yen’s top series are much the same as last year: “Maximum Ride”, with v4 doing 23k, and “Black Butler” with v1 doing almost 20k. The next best-seller is the first volume of “Soul Eater” down at about 14k.

James Patterson “manga” adaptations collectively represent 95k copies, and $1.2m in sales, by the way – about an eighth of the total.




It’s a close race for #3, but the winner, in the Top 750, is Kodansha Comics, which places 16 books which sell 118k copies and $1.38m through the BookScan reporters.

This is particularly impressive because they just started publishing in 2010


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2010 9      —— 13,291         —— $322,717        —— 1477 $35,857.44
2011 108 1200.00% 197,021 1482.36% $2,537,221 786.21% 1825 $23,492.79


Kodansha only has one title over 20k (“Sailor Moon” v1), but they also do well with “Codename Sailor V” at a hair over 15k sold.

Kodansha’s growth is largely at the expense of other publishers, as these are primarily titles that used to be licensed out to other publishers – particularly Del Rey (with “Negima”, “Shugo Chara”, and “Fairy Tail”), but also Dark Horse, with “Akira”




Like I said, it was a close race for #3 in the Top 750, and Del Rey actually placed more titles, at 18 – but those books did slightly less well, with almost 96k copies sold, for $1.32m in dollar sales, as reported to BookScan, making them #4.

Del Rey’s manga best-sellers are all books that Kodansha is now selling, with their single best-selling title being “Shugo Chara” v1 for just 8266 copies. I’m assuming, but have no specific knowledge, that either within a certain time frame, or when the books go back to press that Kodansha will be taking back most/all of these specific volumes. If my assumption is correct, Del Rey will effectively not be publishing manga within a year or two.

(They publish other non-manga books, though, and we’ll see those a little later on)

Looking at the Long Tail, this is what Del Rey’s recent (Manga only) performance looks like:


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 238      ——    745,175      —— $8,332,276      —– 3131 $35,009.56
2008 373 56.72% 824,339 10.62% $9,375,440 12.52% 2210 $25,135.23
2009 480 28.69% 767,728 -6.87% $8,480,225 -9.55% 1599 $17,667.14
2010 534 11.25% 514,008 -33.05% $5,812,599 -31.46% 963 $10,885.02
2011 552 3.37% 350,957 -31.72% $4,077,519 -29.85% 636 $7,386.81


I’m not certain if Del Rey was only publishing Kodansha-derived titles or not, but if so, it might be wise to fold the two previous charts together, and if that is the case, then the strength of #3 would have been clearer with 34 placing titles in the Top 750, for 214k units, and $2.7m in sales.




Tokyopop went out of business on April 15 of 2011, yet despite this they still manage to be the #5 publisher in terms of dollar sales in the Top 750. Tokyopop placed 21 titles, for 129,101 units, and $1.2m in dollar sales, despite not being a going concern for two-thirds of the year.

I suspect we’ll still see detectable amounts of Tokyopop sales through at least 2012, if not 2013, due to inventory still being out there in the channel.

Tokyopop’s best seller was “Hetalia Axis Powers” v2 for just over 13k copies, but they also do well with “Warriors” manga, with the best-seller there coming in at nearly 11k. “Warriors” has passed back to HarperCollins, I don’t know the status of most other titles they published.

Tokyopop once symbolized the “manga revolution” in America, but it’s just been free-fall for years. Here’s the Long Tail:


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 1992      —— 3,073,193      —— $30,425,927      —– 1543 $15,274.06
2008 2397 20.33% 2,515,445 -18.15% $25,366,647 -16.63% 1049 $10,582.66
2009 2559 6.76% 1,431,424 -43.09% $15,135,598 -40.33% 559 $5,914.65
2010 2399 -6.25% 834,776 -41.68% $9,033,448 -40.32% 348 $3,765.51
2011 2242 -6.54% 544,067 -34.82% $5,918,569 -34.18% 243 $2,639.86



The #6 publisher on the Top 750 is Seven Seas, which places 12 titles, for 53k and $609k in sales.

Seven Seas’ Long Tail looks like this, also a pretty solid growth curve:


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 54        —— 50,641        —— $558,450          —– 938 $10,341.67
2008 76 41.74% 80,112 58.20% $833,667 49.28% 1,054 $10,969.30
2009 97 27.63% 74,967 -6.42% $807,666 -3.12% 773 $8.326.45
2010 93 -4.12% 75,764 1.06% $875,612 8.41% 815 $9,415.18
2011 118 26.88% 116,360 53.58% $1,426,618 62.93% 986 $12,089.98


Their best-selling title is the ninth volume of “Dance in the Vampire Bund”, with 5507 copies sold. “Toradora” v1 comes close at 5302.




Eastern Publisher #7 will be Dark Horse, with a bare 5 placing titles in the Top 750, for 202k copies sold and $409k in dollar sales.

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


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 341        —— 249,943        —— $3,329,464      —– 733 $14,744.90
2008 420 23.17% 248,981 -0.38% $3,176,870 -4.58% 593 $7,563.98
2009 455 8.33% 226,497 -9.03% $2,915,693 -8.22% 498 $6,408.12
2010 473 3.96% 194,494 -14.13% $2,633,077 -9.69% 411 $5,566.76
2011 497 5.07% 189,329 -2.66% $2,602,230 -1.17% 381 $5,235.86


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

Dark Horse is the new home of several books from Tokyopop, and three of their placing titles come from that direction: two volumes of the Omnibus versions of “Chobits” (v2 does 4894 copies sold) and one of “Cardcopter Sakura” (4158)




And the eighth largest manga publisher, as measured by the BookScan Top 750 is Vertical, as they place 4 books (All “Chi’s Sweet Home” with v1 selling a reported 4352 copies) for almost 15k copies and $207k in dollars.

Here’s a Long Tail report for Vertical over the years:


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 25      —— 23,444      —— $417,914      —— 938 $16,716.56
2008 34 36.00% 21,003 -10.41% $343,109 -8.21% 617 $10,091.44
2009 39 14.71% 19,434 -7.47% $325,437 -5.15% 498 $8,344.54
2010 62 58.97% 33,097 70.30% $494,098 51.83% 534 $7,969.32
2011 84 35.48% 49,062 48.24% $699,253 41.52% 584 $8,324.44


A nice growth over the last few years!




Clearly, the manga market is still in transition, and 2012 is going to bring many changes in ranking and position as titles consolidate and publishers consider their options.

I also want to observe there are a few more publishers publishing Manga, probably most notably Bandai and Digital Manga, but neither posted any sales into the Top 750 this year at all. Bandai’s best-seller would be a volume of “Lucky Star” coming in at #844 with 2890 copies sold, while DMP’s best-seller is a volume of “Finder” at #1240 for 2113 copies.

Still, I’ve calculated a Long Tail for Bandai in the past, and in case they make it back into the Top 750 again, here it is for posterity:


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 20        —— 32,710        —— $327,215          —– 1,636 $16,360.75
2008 27 35.00% 23,850 -27.09% $238,295 -27.17% 883 $8,825.74
2009 52 92.59% 67,174 181.65% $708,133 197.17% 1,292 $13,617.94
2010 84 61.54% 77,199 14.92% $857,927 21.15% 919 $10,213.42
2011 89 5.95% 52,663 -31.78% $592,996 -30.88% 592 $6,662.88


Looking at things more generally, manga as a whole represents one title in the overall Top 10, four of the Top 20, just nine of the Top 50, and thirty-three of the Top 100 for 2010 – substantial placing drops from 2010. Only a meager single manga title even beat 25k in 2011, and just fifty-seven beat 10k – again, substantially down from last year.


Let’s move on to the Western publishers…


2011 Western Publishers

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 “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.

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

This is a somewhat mixed year in the Top 750 – it’s the most number of placing titles, and dollars are up by a significant amount (42% up!), but pieces are down by some 7%. Almost certainly the former is partially an impact of there being 44 more placing titles this year, as Western comics generally have higher price points than manga.


Year # of placing titles Unit sales Dollar sales
2003 304 2,133,618 $32,360,644
2004 233 1,467,535 $22,713,802
2005 142 1,315,920 $21,537,155
2006 174 1,689,571 $29,314,852
2007 175 1,746,962 $33,247,187
2008 236 2,710,175 $48,327,594
2009 299 3,219,748 $52,147,410
2010 314 3,297,317 $54,515,605
2011 358 3,068,593 $77,254,870


Most of the action at the top of the Western publisher charts appears to either be aimed squarely at children, or has/is a multi-media tie-in of some sort. In fact, “Maus” is the sole top 25 Western comic on the BookScan chart where that wouldn’t be the case. Eleven of the Top 25 are aimed primarily at kids (and, interestingly, not a one of those is a superhero comic – all of the highest placing superhero comics are aimed squarely at adults!)

And obviously, the “multi-media” notice is dominated by “The Walking Dead” books, but there’s also things like “Twilight” and “Persepolis” and “Scott Pilgrim” and, heck, even “Watchmen” has been adapted.

Let’s also note that Western comics are a much more competitive space – while Manga is primarily dominated by a single publisher (Viz, with over two-thirds of the titles placing), and only eight manga publishers placing any titles in the Top 750, I count fifty-four imprints, representing thirty-nine distinct publishers, on the Western side of things, which strikes me as a very good thing.

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


Year # of listed items % Change Total Pieces % Change Total Dollars % Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 6950 3,029,039 $74,595,605 436 $10,733.18
2008 9728 39.97% 5,368,678 77.24% $98,233,459 31.69% 552 $10,098.01
2009 10,936 12.30% 5,946,595 10.76% $107,263,294 9.19% 544 $9,808.27
2010 13,229 20.97% 5,890,507 -0.01% $105,342,577 -0.02% 445 $7,963.00
2011 14,954 13.04% 6,001,731 1.89% $112,823,763 7.10% 401 $7,544.72


It’s good to note that the bottom line numbers for Western books went up this year – nearly 2% in pieces, and 7% in dollars. Given the general publishing climate, and economy, this would strike me as solid overall movement for the market.

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




The largest publisher of Western comics is DC Comics. In 2011 they placed a strong 107 titles in the Top 750, for 661k units, and a hair over $13m in retail dollars.

Here’s a year-to-year comparison chart:


Year # of placing titles Unit sales Dollar sales
2003 74 336,569 $6,151,258
2004 39 179,440 $3,135,983
2005 42 298,484 $5,440,001
2006 59 551,160 $10,246,082
2007 58 487,467 $9,953,976
2008 71 1,015,864 $19,805,098
2009 93 1,223,733 $24,061,834
2010 96 648,403 $12,523,128
2011 107 660,706 $13,083,378


DC reverses last year’s post “Watchmen” drop, both placing more books, as well as totaling greater sales. This is a fine performance given the overall woes in publishing and the economy.

As has been the going trend for six years now, “Watchmen” is DC’s #1 best-selling title, selling just over 21k copies in 2011. That is down substantially from the 29k it sold last year, and the book’s lowest sales since 2005, when it sold 17k copies.

Still, given the fairly steady performance, at least relatively, over the last six years, it isn’t really any surprise that DC would like to publish a second (or third) volume of “Watchmen”, is it? If it even did only half as well as the original, it would be a perpetual top 20 success for DC’s backlist. “Watchmen” represents an almost half-a-million dollar gross sale in the bookstore market this year, and DC didn’t have to barely lift a finger to make that happen.

It’s also worth noting its performance relative to other DC-owned properties – “Watchmen” fairly consistently sells better than the best-selling “Batman” graphic novel.

Only the other hand, as I write this I’m checking Amazon (I know! But I don’t get access to those BookScan numbers!) for “Gone With the Wind” and it’s #8,248 in books, while it’s official sequel, “Scarlett”, is #839,112, so who knows if the bookstore audience will even cotton to a Watchmen prequel?

DC’s second-best-selling title this year, short by about 90 copies, is “Batman: Year One”, spurred, I’m sure, in no small part by the release of the animated DVD of the story.

#3, at just over 20k, is also Alan Moore with “V For Vendetta”. This book is down a smidge from last year (when it was #2), but it perhaps has a higher profile this year, what with the use of the Guy Fawkes’ masks by some people participating in the “Occupy” protests. What’s ironic is that most of the people buying the masks are likely buying the “official” ones which of course are manufactured by Time/Warner, one of the largest and most powerful corporations on the planet.

#4-6 are all Batman books (“Dark Knight”, “Killing Joke” and “Hush”) [20k, 19k, and 14k, respectively], as are #8 (“Arkham Asylum” – 13k), #9 (“Return of Bruce Wayne” – 13k), #12 (The “Noel” OGN HC, with 12k sold in just about 6 weeks’ time) #14 (“Long Halloween” – 8800), and #15 (“Batman & Robin” v3 – 8700) Batman is just a little bit popular, eh? In fact, nearly a full third (32) books that DC places in the Top 750 feature pointy-ears, selling almost a quarter-million books, and grossing $4.8m

#7 is “Superman Earth One” with nearly 14k copies sold. I am crazy super-curious to see what happens with the second volume of that story, as well as “Batman Earth One” debuting later this year.

#10 is the first Vertigo book, being v15 of “Fables” and placing a bit over 12k copies. (v14 is at #16 with not quite 9k) Interestingly, to me, v1 only has about half of that (6797) – I’m used to seeing much more of a bell-curve pattern on active and ongoing series (witness “The Walking Dead” or “Naruto”)

Vertigo also scores with “Sandman” v1 at #11 (and almost 12k copies), and somewhat surprisingly, but completely awesomely, “Daytripper” at #13 (just under 10k) Vertigo represents almost a third of DC’s placement in the Top 750 (32 books place) for about 173k, and $3m.

More generally, 11 of the 16 “Fables” books place in the Top 750, as does the hardcover of v1, the “Peter & Max” prose book, and the first volume of the “Cinderella” spin-off. Only eight of the ten “Sandman” books place, but that’s because they’re smack in the middle of a reformat right now. Also placing: the first two volumes of “American Vampire”, the first three of “Unwritten”, v1 of “Preacher”, and two hardcovers and three softcovers of “Y, The Last Man”

The rest of DC’s Top 20 is filled out with super-hero collections – “Brightest Day” at #17 (v1 – 8572), and #19 (v2 – 7888), “Final Crisis” at #18 (8270), and finally “Green Lantern: Rebirth” at #20 (7761)

It doesn’t appear that the “Green Lantern” movie did very much for the books, especially considering that “Secret Origin” was the volume they were pitching as the tie-in (photo cover and all), and it came in just below “Rebirth”.

Much of the rest of the DC title in the general Top 750 are Geoff Johns books – “Blackest Night”, “Green Lantern”, “Superman: Secret Origin” and “Infinite Crisis”, and even his three Flash-related books (“Rebirth”, v1 of the “ongoing” series, and “Flashpoint”) place. All-in-all, Geoff’s 23 placing books represent 123k copies sold and $2.7m in sales.

Other DC books that score over 5k in sales would include “The Joker” HC at 5467, “Kingdom Come” with 5161, and “All Star Superman” v1 at 5022 sold.

Some final notes on DC: There’s just one Wildstorm book in the Top 750 (“League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” v1 with 4761, and one Mad-branded book (“Insanely Awesome Mad”) at 3244 sold.

Overall, I’d say that I’d call this a “slow & steady wins the race” kind of year for DC, but one imagines 2012 will be much stronger, with the first releases of the “New 52” collections, as well as several strong-seeming OGNs, including the Earth One editions, as well as the “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”.

Looking past just the Top 750 down into the Long Tail shows a pretty flat year for DC:


Year # of listed items % Change Total Pieces % Change Total Dollars % Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 1644 1,181,218 $22,033,212 719 $13,402
2008 2057 25.12% 1,719,330 45.56% $33,609,704 52.54% 836 $16,339
2009 2264 10.06% 1,902,181 10.64% $37,816,864 12.52% 840 $16,704
2010 2442 7.86% 1,320,262 -30.59% $25,982,910 -31.29% 541 $10,640
2011 2423 -0.07% 1,323,630 0.26% $27,130,811 4.42% 546 $11,197


The drop in number of DC titles in the Long Tail appears to be primarily down to the end of the CMX, Wildstorm, and Zuda imprints, and books going out-of-print, and otherwise selling through the last stock-on-hand at retail. Despite the slightly smaller number of titles, overall, DC does marginally better this year.

DC has three books over 20k, and twelve books over 10k.




Who is the #2 largest Western publisher in 2011?

Well, that depends on a couple of things. First off is sorting through who owns what. I’ve done my best to sort-through the crazy tangle of publishers and imprints, spending a few hours on google plugging in names. For example, Random House appears to have no less than six different imprints that sell comics that appear in the Top 750 title list – Knopf, Ballantine, Del Rey, Pantheon, Random House, and Three Rivers. Trying to work each and every one of these threads out all the way along the long tail is a task that I am not 100% certain I’ve done perfectly because there are a lot of possible imprints and even sub-imprints along the way – I’m really not sure that I’ve untangled all of those skeins correctly.

The other question becomes: “Well, do you mean pieces or dollars?” because you come up with two different answers. In pieces, the #2 publisher would appear to be Scholastic, with their imprints of Arthur A. Levine, Blue Sky, and Graphix combined placing just under 392k copies. But, if you were to look at it in terms of dollars sold, Image is very squarely #2, with nearly $8.7m in retail sales this year – Scholastic would actually drop to #5 by that metric.

But, for the purposes of this column, I’m going to stick with units, because I tend to think that’s the most comfortable metric for the general lay public.

Which makes the #2 western publisher, for the second year running, via the stores that report to BookScan, to be Scholastic.

Which might therefore mean, since we assume that Scholastic’s retail sales through BookScan reporters are just a small fraction of their actual and ultimate sales (because of Book Fairs and school sales) that Scholastic may in fact be the largest publisher of western comics. Maybe not, we don’t have enough solid unimpeachable data!

Scholastic, of course, is really primarily about the kids comics, and the centerpiece of their line-up is Jeff Smith’s “Bone” – of the twenty-six books that Scholastic places, eleven of them are credited to Jeff Smith. They also do great with, as noted at the top of the column, Dav Pilkey’s “Ook & Gluk” from Blue Sky.

In addition to those standing hits the Arthur A. Levine imprint does impressively by Shaun Tan (with his best-selling of three placing books being “The Arrival” for nearly 15k copies), and Kazu Kibuishi’s “Amulet” which has four best-selling volumes. Volume three is the top placer, with over 20k copies sold via BookScan reporters, but even the “worst” seller of the series (v1) comes in nearly at 15k. That’s a remarkably tight range to sell within.

Other books that Scholastic places over 5k copies are Doug Tennapel’s “Ghostopolis” (5677) and v1 of Frank Cammuso’s “Knights of the Lunch Table” (5046)

The Long Tail for Scholastic looks like this:


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 28      —— 203,900    —— $2,018,694      —– 7282 $72,096.21
2008 39 39.29% 346,134 69.76% $3,498,012 73.28% 8875 $89,692.62
2009 52 33.33% 432,070 24.83% $4,654,686 33.07% 8309 $89,513.19
2010 60 15.38% 361,086 -16.43% $4,084,718 -12.25% 6018 $68,078.63
2011 72 20.00% 419,010 16.04% $4,708,860 15.28% 5819 $65,400.83


Scholastic has five books over 20k, and seventeen that sell more than 10k copies.




The #3 Western publisher by pieces in 2011’s BookScan report is Image Comics, with 27 placing books in the Top 750, for some 367k copies. Image also pulls in $8.7m in retail dollar sales, which, if we were ranking by dollars, would make them the incredibly solid #2.

This success is mostly “The Walking Dead’, which we talked about extensively in the top section (“bigger than Batman”, woo!), but three volumes of John Layman’s “Chew” also show up (v1 sells 4727). Other than that, nothing but “TWD”.

Image’s challenge in 2012 and beyond is how to shift some of that incredible velocity and attention over to other books they publish. That’s always a difficult task because of the general diversity of Image’s line, and that Image isn’t a “traditional” publisher in terms of the services they provide to most creators.

Even for Kirkman himself, the bookstore environment doesn’t seem to be biting on his other work – the best-selling single volume of “Invincible” (v14) only reports a paltry 1653 copies sold, v1 of “Haunt” comes in 1134, and “Astounding Wolf-Man” (v4 sold the best) musters up just 763 copies sold.

This is a knotty little puzzle to try and solve while Image and “TWD” is up here on top.

Last year, I did predict a single volume of “TWD” selling over 50k this year on the BookScan charts, which didn’t happen as such, but if you add the sales of the compendium to those of v1 you’ve got 62k copies of the first story arc going out in softcover. Add in the first hardcover and it’s up to 85k.

There’s every reason to think that 2012 will be equally good to “TWD”, and by extension, Image.

Image’s Long Tail:


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 438      —— 116,015    —— $2,313,477      —– 265 $5,281.91
2008 515 17.58% 121,001 4.30% $2,445,765 5.72% 235 $4,749.06
2009 571 10.87% 156,466 29.31% $3,207,033 31.13% 274 $5,616.52
2010 642 12.43% 359,238 229.59% $8,152,806 254.22% 560 $12,699.07
2011 749 16.66% 466,637 29.90% $11,041,187 35.43% 623 $14,741.24


Image has five titles over 20k, and a total of eighteen over 10k.




The #4 Western publisher goes, once again, to Random House, with 39 titles selling 342k units and $5.4m in the Top 750 between the six imprints I’ve been able to identify – Alfred A. Knopf, Ballantine, Del Rey, Pantheon, Random House, and Three Rivers.

Looking at those imprints in alphabetical order:

Alfred A. Knopf places 2 titles in the top 750: both Jarrett Krosoczka’s “Lunch Lady” comics. “The Cyborg Substitute” sells 7509 copies, while “The League of Librarians” comes in at 4689. These are comics aimed at kids. There are two more “Lunch Lady” books as well, but they don’t appear on the BookScan list I’m given – I suspect it’s more of that pesky mis-categorization.

Ballantine has two Peanuts-related titles: “It’s a Dog’s Life, Snoopy” and “Peanuts 2000”. Again, I think this ends up being mis-categorization, as this is nearly the only “Humor” books to be found on my BookScan list. The first sells right around 3800 copies, while the second is down around 3300.

Del Rey mostly publishes manga titles, but they also have a few Western books as well. They place four western titles in the Top 750 – “Exile, an Outlander Graphic Novel” will be the largest success, with a bit over 11k copies. There are also two Dean Koontz “Odd” books (“Odd is On Our Side” does nearly 8400, “In Odd We Trust” does just over 4k), and a graphic novel extension of something called “The Hollows” by Kim Harrison with 5816.

Pantheon is their “literary comics” brand, being home to “Maus” and “Persepolis” (discussed in the general year overview), but they also do very well with Craig Thompson’s “Habibi” at very close to 20k sold. None of the other five placing Pantheon books cross 5k copies, including the new-this-year “Mister Wonderful” by Dan Clowes (just 4095)

Random House (Books For Younger Readers) is all about the “Babymouse” and Jennifer Holm – fifteen volumes of this kids-oriented comic place, ranging from about 3905 copies on the low end, to just over 13k copies of v14. Holm also has two other books here: “Super Amoeba” with almost 11k, and “Squish” down at about 3700 copies.

Finally, Three Rivers is the home of the comics version of Max Brooks’ “Zombie Survival Guide” at almost 7912 copies.

These six imprints (minus the manga titles listed in the Del Rey section above) have a Long Tail that looks like this:


Year # of listed items % Change Total Pieces % Change Total Dollars % Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 74 216,580 $2,890,347 2,927 $39,058.74
2008 77 5.47% 383,105 76.89% $5,698,922 97.17% 4,975 $74,011.97
2009 109 41.56% 405,598 5.87% $5,398,890 -5.26% 3,721 $49,531,10
2010 132 21.10% 389,410 -3.99% $5,831,814 8.02% 2,950 $44,180.41
2011 144 9.09% 397,143 1.99% $6,356,212 8.99% 2,760 $44,140.36


But Del Rey does produce a lot of Manga, so here’s what it looks like if we consider all of the comics Random House produces (“east” and “west”):


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 312      —— 961,755      —— $11,222,623      —– 3083 $35,969.95
2008 450 44.23% 1,207,444 25.55% $15,074,362 34.32% 2683 $33,498.58
2009 589 30.89% 1,173,326 -2.83% $13,879,115 -7.93% 1992 $23,563.86
2010 666 13.07% 903,418 -23.00% $11,644,413 -16.10% 1356 $17,484.10
2011 696 4.50% 748,100 -17.19% $10,433,731 -10.40% 1075 $14,990.99


Random House has two titles over 20k, and a total of ten over 10k on the Western charts.




The #5 largest publisher within the Western portion of Top 750, while looking at total units sold is Simon & Shuster. They take this position with just two placing titles, which total 161,499 units and just over $2m at retail.

The first title is the #1 book, “Dork Diaries” (discussed above), from their Aladdin imprint, while Simon itself places “Frankie Pickle” for 3713 copies.

Other than the observation that there are more “Dork Diaries” books (if they’re actually even comics), then the one 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 % Change Total Pieces % Change Total Dollars % Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 12 8,317 $158,014 693 $13,167.83
2008 26 116.67% 14,917 79.36% $211,798 34.04% 574 $8,146.08
2009 41 57.69% 109,558 634.45% $1,430,544 575.43% 2,672 $34,891.32
2010 46 12.20% 214,828 96.09% $2,660,094 85.95% 4,670 $57,828.13
2011 62 34.78% 187,531 -12.71% $2,383,491 -10.40% 3025 $38,443.40




The sixth largest publisher in the Western comics space, by the BookScan Top 750, is the crew from Portland: Oni Press. Oni places 8 books on the chart (all Bryan Lee O’Malley books) for 146k copies, and $2.5m in retail dollars.

The film version of “Scott” came out on DVD in November of 2010, so these numbers are, largely, unimpacted by the film at this point. And these continue to be great numbers – certainly not as good as the combined 434k copies from last year, but I don’t think that anyone would say that 30k copies of v1, about 18k of v6, and another 12k of the boxed set is anything to sneeze at, whatsoever. Last year, I had predicted numbers would fall back into the “normal” sub-10k range, but first blush here would seem to indicate a “new normal” here for Scott of something like twice that. That’s just wonderful!

Even the sole non-“Scott” book (O’Malley’s “Lost at Sea”) comes in over 5k (5515, to be exact)

Here’s Oni’s Long Tail:


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 125      —— 11,294    —— $141,829      —– 90 $1,134.63
2008 138 10.40% 21,843 93.40% $320,799 126.19% 158 $2,324.63
2009 149 7.97% 51,584 136.13% $713,121 122.30% 346 $4,786.05
2010 156 4.70% 446,791 866.14% $5,882,247 824.86% 2864 $37,706.71
2011 177 13.46% 162,275 -63.68% $2,786,438 -52.63% 917 $15,742.59


Oni has two volumes of “Scott” over 20k, and all seven books (all “Scott”!) over 10k.




The #7 Western publisher within the BookScan Top 750 goes to Dark Horse Comics, as they place 26 titles for 146k and $2.1m.

As has been common the last few years, Dark Horse in the bookstore is all about the licensed titles; more specifically, things from Joss Whedon and George Lucas.

A little surprisingly to me, Dark Horse’s #1 book this year is “Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale” at just over 12k (almost exactly the same volume last year), while a volume of “Buffy” (v8) comes in about a thousand copies under that. All in all, there are sixteen Joss Whedon comics on the list – Nine “Buffy” (volume 1 only pulls in 4446, though), five volumes of “Serenity” (though, that’s only three different stories, so you have books placing in both hard and soft), and “Doctor Horrible”, which slides in at 5266. Altogether, Whedon-created series sell some 86k books and $1.4m in retail dollars.

On the “Star Wars” side, only five place, the fewest number since I’ve been watching these charts, with the best-selling being “The Old Republic” v1 with just 6495 copies. Also of surprise to me is that one a single kid-oriented “Clone Wars Adventures” places (at just 3537 copies), given the otherwise kid-dominant nature of much of this year’s charts.

Dark Horse licensed titles that also place include “Avatar the Last Airbender” with 6702 copies, Felicia Day’s “The Guild” with 5528 sold, the first “Mass Effect” volume (3182) and exactly 3600 copies of the second volume of “Troublemaker”, the extension of Janet Evanovich’s “Barnaby” stories. Volume 1 doesn’t show in the Top 750 (it is #1030 with 2500 copies sold. Very very strange that both books have round numbers like that), and that volume did almost 21k in 2010.

Despite Dark Horse’s roots as a creator-owned friendly publisher, the only books in that category they manage to place in the Top 750 are the two volumes of Gerard Way’s “Umbrella Academy” (4121 on v1) – no “Hellboy”, no “Sin City”.

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


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 597    —— 413,022 —— $7,607,264          —– 692 $14,744.90
2008 734 22.95% 552,815 33.85% $9,329,828 22.64% 753 $12,710.94
2009 798 8.72% 455,924 -17.53% $7,757,240 -16.86% 571 $9,720.85
2010 955 19.67% 445,248 -2.34% $7,852,063 1.22% 466 $8,222.06
2011 1025 7.33% 389,514 -12.52% $7,102,710 -9.54% 380 $6,929.47


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 items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 938      —— 662,965    —— $10,936,728      —– 707 $11,659.62
2008 1075 14.61% 801,796 20.94% $12,506,698 14.36% 746 $11,634.14
2009 1253 16.56% 682,421 -14.89% $10,672,933 -14.66% 545 $8,517.90
2010 1428 13.97% 639,742 -6.25% $10,485,140 -1.76% 448 $7,342.54
2011 1522 6.58% 578,843 -9.52% $9,704,940 -7.44% 380 $6,376.44


Dark Horse has two books over 10k in the Western lists.




The #8 Western publisher within the Top 750 is Marvel Comics, which places 27 titles for about 128k copies and $3.3m 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 nine years and don’t want to throw away:


Year # of placing titles Unit sales Dollar sales
2003 73 455,553 $8,428,962
2004 50 227,985 $3,756,764
2005 26 153,317 $2,459,027
2006 33 294,852 $5,702,307
2007 37 376,918 $7,599,057
2008 38 303,639 $6,446,359
2009 34 226,541 $5,019,216
2010 33 206,273 $4,979,323
2011 27 128,364 $3,303,496


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. I already discussed some of the reasons I thought that this was in last month’s column, and I think they’re just as true for the bookstore market where they don’t have any kind of natural, inherent love for Marvel.

The even more dire thing, to my eye, in these numbers is that Diamond just switched their bookstore distribution away from Diamond Books to Hachette in September of 2010, which makes this a full year of their new distribution arrangement, and it doesn’t seem to have helped at all – this is, in fact, Marvel’s worst placing on a Top 750 as long as I have been able to track it. Hachette, you understand, is the second largest book publisher in the world, and have significantly stronger distribution options that Diamond does.

This is also while Marvel had not just one, not just two, but three successful films featuring their characters in 2011. Those three films together grossed nearly 1.2 billion (with a “b”!) dollars at the box office, and yet Marvel doesn’t even be able to seem to sell more than 7158 copies of a book (“Siege”) that features any of those characters. In fact, that’s not even Marvel’s best-selling title!

I mean, I get that it is unseemly to backseat drive, but holy cow they’re doing something majorly wrong over there with how they are managing their backlist! Marvel is arguably a bigger brand name than DC has ever been (seriously, I’ve had people ask me for the “Marvel comics’ character Superman”), and yet they can’t even muster a third of the sales of their best-selling book into the same channel? That’s crazy-making.

Let me give you what I happen to think is the most plus-perfect example one might be able to name. As we established earlier, “The Walking Dead” is one of the hottest Western comics today. That is a money-printing machine right now, and Robert Kirkman can do no wrong. Even a book just reprinting the covers of “TWD” managed to sell 2700 copies in the BookStore market.

Marvel has a book by the same writer; in the same genre, even, one might argue, with a clearer and more branded name in “Marvel Zombies”, and Marvel can only shift 3239 copies – just five hundred copies more than a book of the covers, for crying out loud. Plus, and here’s the bonus, it’s not even a cash-in work – it’s good comics that are a ton of fun to read.

That, you will forgive me for editorializing, is sad.

Marvel’s largest success in the bookstores this year isn’t anything featuring any of their characters – it is “Castle: Deadly Storm”, a meta-tie-in to a mildly-rated television show. That book sells 9634 copies to BookScan reporters.

Marvel’s #2 best-seller is the latest from Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” tie-ins, “The Journey Begins”, with 8619 copies sold. This is about half of what last-year’s best-selling “Dark Tower” book, “The Fall of Gilead”, sold. Four “DT” books placed in the Top 750, and they are, for Marvel, #4, #7, and #11. Down to 4482 there at the end.

#3 for Marvel is the aforementioned “Siege”. Its companion, “Siege: Battlefield” is #14, with 4196 copies sold.

Three of Marvel’s best-sellers are adaptations of Public Domain work – “Wonderful Wizard of Oz” is #5 with just over 6k copies sold, while “Marvelous Land of Oz is down with 3277 copies sold. They are joined at #12 with “Dracula” and 4413 copies sold.

#6 is Mark Millar’s “Wolverine: Old Man Logan” (5942), and Millar’s “Civil War” is #8 (5733). Millar also takes #10 with “Nemesis” (4918), #13 for “Kick-Ass” in hardcover (4211), and again at #20 in softcover (3508). Last year the “Kick-Ass” hardcover sold a bit over 38k copies, thanks to the film.

Marvel’s #9 book is a semi-random collection of Avengers-related #1s “The Heroic Age”. This is also Marvel’s last seller over 5k for the year, with 5166 copies sold.

The best-selling book with “Thor” in the title (“Thor” having grossed $449m in world-wide box office, you understand) is actually the $125 Walt Simonson Omnibus (only 4020 copies, but that cover price makes it the #10 dollar book for the entire year with a gross retail of just over half-a-million dollars.

The best-selling “X-Men” titled book is “X-Men: Age of X” (3237) sold, though it’s is beaten by “Uncanny X-Force: Apocalypse Solution” (3807). Neither is even remotely akin to the film “X-Men: First Class”.

No “Captain America”-titled book makes the Top 750 – “Reborn” comes in at #837 with 2903 copies. Again, no apparent bounce from the film.

I think it is worth mentioning that Marvel flooded the market in advance of “Cap” and “Thor” with mini-series, where it was stated the goal was to have a wide backlist in place when the films came out. Not a single one of those books that were purportedly created with the film-goers in mind, made the Top 750. Marvel harmed its own brand in its core market by flooding out more material than the market could support, and it appears to have gained absolutely nothing from it on the back end.

I firmly believe that, with proper inventory management, Marvel could easily sell enough material to become the #1 Western publisher in the book market (and, do it in such a way that would not increase their risk-to-return ratios to any large degree), but clearly they’d need to abandon this plan predicated on “what’s in the theatre”, because it simply isn’t working for them, in either market.

Here is Marvel’s Long Tail. Marvel strategy to try and shift more of their business to the hardcover format seems to be “working” – their dollars finally erase the downwards slide, but pieces continue to drop, even as title count continues to soar.


Year # of listed items % Change Total Pieces % Change Total Dollars % Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 1230 1,034,023 $19,947,737 841 $16,218
2008 1559 26.75% 1,032,394 -0.001% $20,128,825 0.01% 662 $12,911
2009 2067 32.58% 954,335 -7.56% $19,608,696 -2.58% 462 $9,487
2010 2551 23.42% 870,597 -8.77% $19,485,662 -0.06% 352 $7,638
2011 2852 11.80% 852,187 -2.11% $20,225,728 3.80% 299 $7,092


Marvel has no books selling over 10k.




The #9 largest Western publisher, through the BookScan Top 750 is Andrews McMeel, with just three whole books (selling 112k and $1.2m) – two volumes of “Big Nate”, as discussed at the top of the column, as well as a “Far Side” book that shows up with 4654 copies.

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, and I apologize for the weakness of my data, in this instance.


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 22      —— 29,835    —— $461,238      —– 1,356 $20,965.36
2008 20 -9.09% 25,115 -15.82% $388,965 -15.67% 1,256 $19,448.25
2009 21 5.00% 26,205 4.34% $401,982 3.35% 1,248 $19,142.00
2010 19 -9.52% 47,181 80.05% $544,852 35.54% 2,483 $28,676.42
2011 17 -10.53% 116,850 147.66% $1,222,171 124.31% 6,874 $71,892.41


Andrews McMeel has one book over 50k, and a total of two over 20k.




Finally, the #10 Western publisher in 2012, by the BookScan Top 750 data is Penguin Putnam. Penguin has not popped up on our BookScan radar in previous year, but their placing imprints include Dial, Grossett & Dunlap, and Razorbill. Other imprints down in the Long Tail include (deep breath: Ace, Berkley Books, Dutton, Hudson Street, New American Library, Penguin, Philomel, Plume, Price Stern Sloan, Puffin, Putnam, Riverhead and Viking. Good lord!) (But not, Brian writes down here so he remembers this research for next year, the Penguin distributed-only Overlook Press). Penguin’s 7 placing titles total to nearly 96k copies, and $1.1m in retail sales.

Dial is on here for four volumes of Ursula Vernon’s “Dragonbreath”, where the best-selling volume (v1) is the #14 best-selling book of the overall year, with just a hair over 24k copies sold. The poorest-selling of the four “Dragonbreath” books still manages to rack up 14k sold.

Grossett & Dunlap places two books – v1 of “Club Penguin Comics” (for almost, but not quite, 10k copies) and v1 of “Daniel Boom” (3512)

Razorbill is here for 4441 copies of “Vampire Academy”.

Before now I’ve never built a Long Tail for Penguin Putnam, but let’s slap one together right now, shall we?


Year # of listed items % Change Total Pieces % Change Total Dollars % Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 18      —— 13,545      —— $178,260      —— 753 $9,903.33
2008 28 55.56% 28,606 111.19% $310,856 74.38% 1022 $11,102.00
2009 39 39.29% 40,288 40.84% $444,928 43.13% 1033 $11,408.41
2010 45 15.38% 50,628 25.67% $623,650 40.17% 1125 $13,858.89
2011 53 17.78% 123,749 144.43% $1,576,161 152.73% 2335 $29,738.89


Penguin has two books over 20k, and four books 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 Six” – that would be: Hachette, HarperCollins, Holtzbrinck/Macmillan, Penguin Putnam, Random House, and Simon & Schuster. We’ve covered three of those below, but we should at least glance at the other three, I think. In alphabetical order (but also, coincidentally, #11, 12, and 13):


Hachette includes the imprints of Little, Brown, Grand Central, and Yen. As we mentioned a little earlier, they’re also distributing Marvel (though, that’s not counted in their Long-Tail data, naturally)

Yen, as noted before, puts the adaptations of “Twilight” in the Western charts

Little, Brown is the home of “Tintin”, and I sort of find the results for “Tintin” this year to be oddly inexplicable. “Tintin” is a slow-and-steady seller, to be sure – most years the first 3-in-1 HC volume sells 6-8k. Nothing to light the world on fire, but certainly a nice steady drumbeat on a classic work that’s some 70 years old.

Back in 2010, for example, four “Tintin” volumes placed, with the v1 HC selling the best with 6190 copies.

“Tintin”, however, has a film in 2011 – a film by Steven Spielberg, for that matter – that’s made at least $75m domestically, and the best-selling “Tintin” volume (HC v1, as usual) only goes up to just over 14k.

The worst-selling of the HCs that places (v6, because v7 doesn’t place at all) comes in at a meager 3606 copies, not hardly any growth over the previous year’s 2314.

I don’t know, maybe the general public had no idea it was a comic? Spielberg certainly didn’t even mention Herge at the Golden Globes…

I just certainly didn’t personally imagine any of the HCs selling under 10k this year, and was thinking we’d see more like 30-40k on the highest one. Guess that’s why I’m not a publisher, then.

Either way, thirteen “Tintin” books place within the Top 750 this year, with total sales of just under 80k and gross dollars of just under $1.2m.

Looking at the Long Tail of just the Western books for Hachette, things look nearly-brutal with a not-as-successful second volume of “Twilight”:


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 15 —— 39,181 —— $689,383 —— 2,612 $45,958.87
2008 18 20.00% 37,519 -4.24% $596,609 -13.46% 2,084 $33,144.94
2009 18 —— 40,172 7.07% $642,935 7.76% 2,232 $35,718.61
2010 19 5.56% 160,992 300.76% $3,097,996 381.85% 8,473 $163,052.42
2011 24 26.32% 88,131 -45.26 $1,273,500 -58.89% 3,672 $53,063


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


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 25        —— 52,077      —— $836,832      —– 2,083 $33,473.28
2008 108 332.00% 147,645 183.51% $1,834,469 119.22% 1,367 $16,985.82
2009 229 112.04% 371,134 151.37% $4,340,048 132.78% 1,621 $18,952.17
2010 363 58.52% 721,975 94.53% $9,748,867 124.63% 1,999 $26,856.38
2011 484 33.33% 852,256 18.05% $11,227,466 15.17% 1761 $23,197.24


Hachette has one title over 20k, and two more over 10k, on the Western charts.




HarperCollins. Harper has twelve books in the Top 750 this year, including perennial “Understanding Comics” (9673 copies sold). 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 (which brought out the “Cowboys and Aliens” comic), William Morrow, and Zondervan.

Harper looks to be taking back the license for the “Warriors” comics back from the now defunct Tokyopop, and one of those books “Rescue” is their best-seller for the year – it pulls in just over 15k copies. There are two other Harper’s-listed “Warriors” books here as well.

Harper also does reasonably well with a graphic novel version of Paolo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”, with just over 9500 copies, while the William Morrow imprint has the original GN “Griff” just under 7500 copies.


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 18      —— 36,940    —— $600,540      —– 2052 $33,363.33
2008 36 100.00% 48,264 30.66% $863,808 43.84% 1341 $23,994.67
2009 42 16.67% 81,774 69.43% $1,308,891 15.53% 1947 $31,164.07
2010 41 -2.38% 64,429 -21.21% $719,328 -45.04% 1571 $17,544.59
2011 50 21.95% 75,394 17.02% $1,083,609 50.64% 1508 $21,672.18



Finally, the last of the “traditional” book publishing’s “big six” is Holtzbrinck, which owns Macmillan, which has (at least) these imprints: FirstSecond, Hill + Wang, Metropolitan, Square Fish, St. Martins and Tor. Those imprints all made the Top 750, but there are others down into the Long Tail as well – I have also identified Henry Holt, Roaring Brook, Times books, and, on the Eastern side, manga publisher Seven Seas. Holtzbinck placed ten titles in the Top 750, for about 55k combined.

The best-seller here is “American Born Chinese” with almost 13k this year, listed from Square Fish, but First Second also has a strong book in “Feynman” at 8663 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) – this is without Seven Seas:


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 39      —— 31,452    —— $559,681      —– 806 $14,350.79
2008 66 69.23% 63,473 101.81% $1,132,767 102.40% 962 $17,163.14
2009 88 33.34% 84,090 32.48% $1,438,044 26.95% 956 $16,341.41
2010 108 22.73% 68,599 -18.42% $1,085,311 -24.53% 635 $10,049.18
2011 139 28.70% 114,243 66.54% $1,794,084 65.31% 822 $12,907.08


If you include Seven Seas and the manga, it looks like this:


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 94      —— 82,093    —— $1,118,131      —– 873 $11,895.01
2008 143 52.13% 143,585 74.91% $1,966,434 75.87% 1004 $13,751.29
2009 185 29.37% 159,057 10.78% $2,245,711 14.20% 860 $12,138.98
2010 201 8.65% 144,363 -9.24% $1,960,923 -12.68% 718 $9,755.84
2011 257 27.86% 230,603 59.74% $3,220,702 64.24% 897 $12,531.91




Two other publishers placed more than five titles into the Top 750: Papercutz has six, all kid-oriented, the best-selling being “Ninjago” (based on the Lego brand) with 8606 sold, and a Long Tail that looks like this:


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 65      —— 20,121    —— $179,373      —– 310 $2,759.58
2008 103 58.46% 39,949 98.54% $368,008 105.16% 388 $3,572.89
2009 141 36.89% 60,911 52.47% $594,199 61.46% 432 $4,214.18
2010 190 34.75% 76,986 26.39% $772,290 29.97% 405 $4,064.68
2011 210 10.53% 76,139 -1.10% $657,997 -14.80% 363 $3,133.32




There is also IDW, who places eight books into the Top 750. Their best-seller this year is the first volume of “True Blood” just under 10k with 9976.

IDW’s Long Tail is just large enough that it pushes them a smidge ahead of Scholastic in dollars (see down another page or so):


Year # of listed items Percent Change Total Unit Sold Percent Change Total $ Sold Percent Change Av. Sale per title Av $ per title
2007 233      —— 102,118    —— $2,090,647      —– 438 $8,972.73
2008 335 43.78% 146,125 43.09% $2,766,505 32.33% 436 $8,258.22
2009 477 42.39% 215,907 47.76% $4,346,836 57.12% 453 $9,112.86
2010 623 30.61% 161,578 -25.16% $3,653,680 -15.95% 259 $5,864.65
2011 785 26.00% 206,136 27.58% $4,884,606 33.69% 263 $6,222,43




No publisher that has not been mentioned placed more than five titles within the Top 750, which leaves me with forty books from twenty different smaller publishers. Across the 10k line we see the following:

The adaptation of “Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief” from Hyperion is over 22k sold. Now, here’s the thing that I only realized after I’d written a bunch and done most of the math – Hyperion is an imprint that is owned by Disney (and there’s also Disney Press), and really sort of technically, I should lump all of the Disney-owned imprints together, shouldn’t I? I really doubt I will do that, since it throws some of my historical charts way into “must refigure them” territory, but it’s something to consider at least.

The other thing to consider is that the performance of this book is better than any book published by Marvel comics! By like twice as much.

Another Disney-published book, “Nothing But Trouble”, a “Phineas & Ferb” comic also passes 10k and any other Marvel-published book – it’s from Disney Press this time and sells 10,305.

Also in the over-10k club are Kate Beaton’s “Hark a Vagrant” (almost 14k), and Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home” with 10,091 sold.

Finally, to look at significant books from the previous year, Robert Crumb’s “Book of Genesis” adaptation (which tracked in with nearly 25k copies sold in 2010) does just 6548 in 2011, while the math-oriented “Logicomix” (almost 14k in 2010) does just under 7k in 2011. Lastly, Jason Shiga’s “Meanwhile” did just over 12k in 2010 and 5527 in 2011. Whew!

Western comics are pretty astonishingly diverse in subject and theme, if you ask me, and each year I feel just a little better about the choices we’re presenting the world.




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 2011? We’ll consider it in dollars, this time, including both “east” and “west” comics, and round everything to the nearest million, just for ease of presentation

#1 Viz                                     $33 million

#2 DC                                                $22

#3 Marvel Comics               $20

#4 Hachette                          $11

#5 Image Comics               $11

#6 Random House             $10

#7 Dark Horse                     $10

#8 Tokyopop                         $6

#9 IDW                                   $5

#10 Scholastic                     $5

And that’s pretty much what BookScan in 2011 looks like to these eyes.

How does it look to you?



Brian Hibbs has owned and operated Comix Experience in San Francisco since 1989, and is a founding member of the Board of Directors of ComicsPRO, the Comics Professional Retailer Organization, even if this column and every other one is purely and entirely his individual viewpoint as an individual retailer! 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.