Tilting at Windmills: Dissecting the 2012 BookScan Numbers

Thu, February 14th, 2013 at 11:58pm PST | Updated: February 15th, 2013 at 1:09pm

Comic Books
Brian Hibbs, Staff Writer

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

For the tenth (!) 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 2012 BookScan Top 750 year end report for the comics category.

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

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

2003: BookScan Report and My Analysis)

For the last seven 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 2012 to 2006-2011 is probably as close to apples-to-apples as it can get, as is 2003-2005, but comparing the '06-12 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 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 2012, 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 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 2004, I wish they'd check in on this story for the 2012 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, but I do know that Neilsen now claims that BookScan represents "80%" of all book sales. 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.

One big piece of news for next year is that, starting January 1st, 2013, WalMart will start reporting to BookScan, adding back one of the larger holes in retail sales. This may not have a significant factor on the comics charts, but it might, so watch this space!

There's also a certain amount of miscategorization going on. As an example, for the last ten 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's 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 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 2012-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. There's some more comics-specific discussion on why and by how much BookScan numbers might be off right here.

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 $55 million in 2012), 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…

Story continues below

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

2012 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. That specific title's sales would have qualified it to be the #6 best-selling item on the 2012 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.

In all, I removed 63 items from the Top 750 that didn't match my personal definition of "comics," to make room for 63 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 thing to consider for 2012 is that this represents the first year entirely without the Borders book chain. 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 we've been told. Borders, perhaps more importantly, really originally broke the manga category in America.

Here's the big picture for the Top 750 in 2012:

Year Total Units 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 5.27%
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%
2012 5,696,163 -4.53% $89,918,354 12.45%

Well, that's certainly a mixed message.

On the one hand, it's the lowest number of units we've been able to track over ten years; on the other hand, it's the fourth largest year in terms of dollars sold. Now, as we'll see in a little bit, a really insanely large amount of that can be put on the shoulder of one book ("The Walking Dead"), so it's hard to say this is a "healthy" result (even if it's pretty awesome for Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard!) for the market as a whole.

What we really can see is that while the top end of the market is looking better -- in some cases, amazingly, crazily better -- the problem is that the midlist, and the bottom, has become simply brutal for sales. A huge part of that has got to be the loss of Borders -- having physical display space for books clearly are (if not the) major factor in the ability of mid- and bottom-list books to sell. Amazon is, assumingly, better than anyone else at selling a major hit like "The Walking Dead," but I imagine that they are mediocre, at best, in selling material that people don't already know that they want/aren't already popular. The bookstore market for comics material, as measured by BookScan reporters in 2012 is down by more than a third of the units sold at its peak in 2007.

(It may or may not be worth mentioning that the comic book store market ended 2012 up 14.26% on graphic novels, and that's with extremely strong periodical sales [up 14.94%] as well, so the matter isn't "weak product" -- it looks to this observer to be clearly "fewer outlets = lower sales")

2012 was a strong year for media tie-ins -- not only was "The Walking Dead" doing extremely well ( 10.5 million people watched the third season's mid-season finale), 2012 also featured box office smash motion pictures for the third Christopher Nolan "Batman" film, as well as Joss Whedon's "Avengers" flick -- the first made just over one billion dollars, while the latter scored over $1.5 billion.

There was also (technically) "Men in Black 3," as well as "Amazing Spider-Man," "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance," "Dredd" (Based on "Judge Dredd") and "Chicken With Plums." That's a lot of films! Most of those, however, didn't really sell any books.

Manga took another significant plunge in sales this year (down another $6 million in sales from 2011) as a category, and is the largest factor in this year's unit sales drop. Without that, both stats would have been positive.

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 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
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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% 599.52 $11,327.40
2010 21,993 11.68% 12,130,232 -9.31% $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
2012 23,365 -2.42% 9,562,236

-18.22%

$164,415,366.07 -6.39 409

$7,036.82

This year we're tracking just over 23,365 items, about a 600 item drop from last year. A good chunk of that alone is the near-complete removal of now defunct publisher Tokyopop, which dropped from 2242 items listed in 2011, to a mere twenty books this year.

The bottom line numbers are significantly worse down here in the long tail -- both indicators went red, and, as a general rule, the average- and poor-selling books all took fairly significant hits as there are hundreds of fewer potential venues that could have sold those items.

Let's take a look at the Top 20 best-selling items on the 2012 chart; it looks like this:

145,365 - TALES FROM A NOT SO FABULOUS LIFE
94,424 - WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM 1
92,682 - BIG NATE WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?
70,615 - BIG NATE & FRIENDS
67,404 - BIG NATE MAKES THE GRADE
59,064 - WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM 2 TP
46,017 - CHALLENGE OF SAMUKAI
45,656 - WALKING DEAD DAYS GONE BYE
38,316 - WALKING DEAD BOOK 1
37,952 - DRAMA
35,567 - AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER
35,561 - PERSEPOLIS 1
34,217 - NINJAGO #02 MASK OF THE SENSEI
34,015 - BUILDING STORIES
33,748 - MAUS 1
31,553 - WALKING DEAD VOL 16
30,701 - WALKING DEAD V 2 MILES BEHIND
30,019 - WALKING DEAD VOL 15
27,985 - BATMAN THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS
27,903 - AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER VOL

That's a pretty diverse list -- nine titles aimed squarely at teens or young adults, eight titles on the list most likely because of pop culture media, and three titles that are there because of their literary credentials.

The #1 item this year is exactly the same as it was last year (and 2010, for that matter!): 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 six "Dork Diaries" books, and this is the only one to show on the list, so this is one of those ongoing cases of miscategorization.

Anyway, in my 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 (book 7, "The Third Wheel"), selling over a million copies in 2012. 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 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.

It's also firmly aimed at children.

"Dork Diaries" also sold roughly 12k copies fewer this year than in 2011.

The #2 best-selling item on this year's BookScan list is the first $60 compendium of Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard's "The Walking Dead." It sells nearly 95k 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 huge raise from 2011, where this book (#5 for the year) sold "just" 35k copies. A near tripling, year-over-year.

Further, if you look at dollars, that means $5.6 million dollars of Compendium v1 were sold this year alone.

"TWD" also takes spots #6 (Compendium v2, with 59k copies), #8 (TP v1, 46k), #9 (HC v1, 38k), #16 (TP v16, 32k), #17 (TP v2, 31k), and #18 (TP v15, 30k) -- that's a crazily dominant sales attack, and, of course, every other volume of the series makes the Top 750 -- seventeen TPs, eight HCs.

Can I tell you that "TWD" is doing well?

How well, you ask? Well, in the full BookScan list, there are forty-two books listed with "TWD" (including the $100 boxed hardcovers, or the book of just the covers, and so on), summing up to almost 685k copies all together -- almost 7% of all comics total sold to BookScan reporters. In dollars? A staggering $20.5 million dollars, which means that, hang on to your hats, nearly one dollar of comics in eight that was sold by a BookScan reporter went to "The Walking Dead." One in eight, that's insane!

What that means is "TWD," all by itself, is the #3 largest publisher on BookScan. Or, to put it another way, this single title sold more than the collective output of Marvel Comics on BookScan in 2012 -- they only sold $18 million collectively… and that's with their billion-and-a-half dollar "Avengers" movie.

Now, as we just noted, this isn't as big as things can get -- we know that "Diary of a Wimpy Kid v7: The Third Wheel" sold at least a million copies, and those are $14 a throw at retail, and just one of seven books, so "DWK" almost certainly topped "TWD" in all totals, but that runs on a different chart. Either way, it's still a pretty staggering growth for "TWD"

"TWD" is the Little Book That Could, the Proof-of-Concept for the Direct Market and Image comics, and it really shows the upside of creator control in the American comics industry -- these gains all go to the creators, and don't get siphoned off to a third party.

And the best part is, there's really very little chance of it flagging. Think of it this way: between the HC, the TP and the Compendium, something like 179k copies of the first six issues of "TWD" were purchased -- that's only like 2% of the audience of the TV show; there's still a lot more copies that can be sold. Compendium v1 even actually sold out entirely the last few weeks of December, so there's a reasonable chance it could have sold more than the reported 95k through BookScan venues, if the stock had been there.

#3 on the BookScan list for the year is Lincoln Peirce's " Big Nate: What Could Possibly Go Wrong" with 92k copies. Peirce also takes spots #4 and #5 with two other "Big Nate" books. Again, this is material aimed squarely at kids, showing us that the "all ages" market for comics to BookScan reporters is a very large one. 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.

The #7 best-seller for 2012 is a volume of "Ninjago," even if you can't see that in the listed title. It is Volume 1, "Challenge of the Samukai" with 46k copies sold. This is kind of "bursting out of nowhere" for BookScan, as v1 only sold 8606 copies the previous year. The second volume comes in at #13, and all five volumes are within the top 125 best-sellers for the year. Another All Ages line.

At #10, we have Raina Telgemeier's "Drama" with almost 38k sold. Another all-ages title, and one more aimed at girls. It's great to see this charting so high, because it's just a terrific comic.

Coming in at #11 is "Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise v1" with almost 36k. And the second volume of the series comes in #20 (28k). With the third and final part coming in at #42 (19k), I'd call that a solid hit for Dark Horse.

At #12, we have our first "literary" graphic novel -- Marjane Satrapi's "Persepolis" with almost 36k, this is up from 32k the year before, and I think the book is really now cemented as a graphic novel that almost any generalist book store can sell. Curiously, to me at least, while v1 does well, "Persepolis v2" the second half of the store sells about a tenth as many copies -- just 3616. The "complete" omnibus edition sells just over 17k copies.

#14 is Chris Ware's latest project, "Building Stories," with 34k sold, which is, I think, remarkable when you consider the format and the price of the work. Even more impressive is that it totally sold out over the holiday, with few/no copies available at retail for what is typically the busiest sales weeks of the month. This also makes it a multi-million dollar book -- BookScan alone shows $1.7 million in sales.

Book #15 is the first volume of art spiegelman's "Maus" (34k), that's down just a little bit from last year when it was 38k and the #4 best-selling title. That alone can show you how much growth there has been at the top of the chart this year. As usual, and similar to "Persepolis," the second and concluding volume sells just a fraction -- 15k in this case. The complete hardcover sells about 6k, while the multimedia "MetaMaus" shows 4200 copies. These are pretty great numbers for a book that is now 26 years old.

Finally at #19, we get "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns," Frank Miller's perennial Batman story with 28k sold. That's up a lot from the 20k of the previous year, but not as much as you might think with a billion dollar Batman film in the theatres.

What if you sort the chart by dollars grossed, instead? That changes the picture a little, here's the Top 20, and look, there you see the rising tide of the "Batman" movie a little clearer. Still no "Avengers," however.

$5,664,495.76 - WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM 1
$3,543,249.36 - WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM V2 TP
$2,033,656.35 - TALES FROM A NOT SO FABULOUS LIFE
$1,700,750.00 - BUILDING STORIES
$1,340,676.84 - WALKING DEAD BK 1
$925,893.18 - BIG NATE WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?
$795,287.71 - WALKING DEAD BK 2
$735,375.00 - AVENGERS VS X-MEN
$709,441.95 - PERSEPOLIS 1
$705,443.85 - BIG NATE & FRIENDS
$697,805.57 - WALKING DEAD BK 3
$689,725.88 - THE DORK DIARES SET DORK DIARIES
$678,523.75 - BATMAN KNITFALL V1
$673,365.96 - BIG NATE MAKES THE GRADE
$617,608.49 - WALKING DEAD BK 5
$588,986.67 - WALKING DEAD BK 7
$569,255.39 - BATMAN EARTH ONE
$559,420.15 - BATMAN THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS
$554,303.19 - BATMAN V1 THE COURT OF OWLS
$554,136.63 - WALKING DEAD BK 4

"Building Stories" soars to #4 in this view, Marvel gets one hit in this way, with the $75 "Avengers Vs. X-Men" collection, and you can see we had five "million dollar books" this year, which is much better than 2011's two.

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

HERGE - 15
HIMEKAWA AKIRA - 11
HOLM JENNIFER L. - 18
IKEDA AKIHISA - 18
KIRKMAN ROBERT - 28
KISHIMOTO MASASHI - 21
KUBO TITE - 22
KUSAKA HIDENORI - 24
MOCHIZUKI JUN - 11
MORRISON GRANT - 12
ODA EIICHIRO - 12
OHBA TSUGUMI - 22
OHKUBO ATSUSHI - 10
O'MALLEY BRYAN LEE - 10
PATTERSON JAMES - 10
SAKURAKOJI KANOKO - 15
SMITH JEFF - 12
TAKEUCHI NAOKO - 10
TOBOSO YANA - 11

These 18 authors represent 292 of the Top 750 (39%) for 2.3 million books and $38.5 million in retail dollars. That's about 24% of all books sold on the chart (not just the Top 750) from the pens of just eighteen authors. A little over a quarter of that is Robert Kirkman.

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:

2012 Manga

In 2012, manga is a very weak market, compared at least to its historical highs, yet manga is still the dominant "kind" of comic, if only barely, with just under half of the Top 750 (367 titles, 49%) being manga. Taken collectively, manga in the Top 750 is reported as about 1.9 million books sold, for a gross retail dollar amount of $21.3 million dollars.

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
2012 367 1,908,186 $21,324,368

It's pretty much a full retreat for manga at this stage of the game, with the sixth consecutive year of decline on display. Manga largely peaked in America in 2007, and the top 750 is down to just 28% of that peak -- nearly ¾ of the market for manga has vanished over the years, which is just brutal. The manga "boom" started roughly in 2003, when I first started doing these charts, and 2012 levels are just 58% of where we started. I keep looking for signs of stabilization, and I don't see them coming -- in fact, all of the moves that seemingly were intended to increase consumer confidence (getting publication closer to Japanese release times, primarily) simply don't seem to have worked. Manga is still, clearly, a very significant category, but it is hard to see how it could come roaring back, especially without a chain bookstore with significant internal motivation to push the category.

It isn't just within the Top 750, either, here is a look at manga within the entire BookScan charts (The "Long Tail"), where things look far worse:

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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 11.6% 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
2012 6332 -29.57% 3,510,057

-38.32%

$40,943,613 -34.81% 554 $6,466.14

That's a really terrifying crash, losing about an entire third of volume in the course of a year, and not with any better underlying trend to offset that. Now, a good chunk of this is the near-complete removal of Tokyopop as a publisher (they went out of business in April of 2011) -- that's some 2000 titles removed from circulation, but another chunk of it is the absence of any huge hits, and the full-throated retreat of what hits there used to be.

The single best-selling manga title ("Sailor Moon v3") comes in at just #33 on the general chart, and "only" sells 22,400 copies among venues that report to BookScan. This is a far drop from previous highs that manga used to achieve.

Nowhere is this better represented than by "Naruto," which was once the golden boy of manga sales. The best-selling volume (v55) is now only the 4th best-selling manga, and it manages to move just over 17k copies. Contrast that to the previous year, where "Naruto v50" was the #1 manga title with about 32k copies sold, or 2010 when v47 of "Naruto" sold 53k. In fact, "Naruto" has dropped enough that it is no longer the top manga in America, it's not even the Top property in the top 750 -- that distinction has returned to "Pokemon" which places 35 volumes.

I count just 74 distinct series among the 367 placing manga titles in the Top 750.

But for individual volume sales, "Sailor Moon" really is the top title for 2012, with the first seven volumes appearing in the top 20 best-selling manga titles, and sweeping the Top 3. (As well as places, #5, #6, 11 & 18)

"Naruto," as we said, comes in at #4, followed by #7, #10, #12 and #16.

#8 is "Blue Exorcist v1" with 15k copies sold, followed extremely closely by "Black Butler v1" at #9 also with 15k copies sold. The latter also takes spot #15 for volume 8. The balance of the Manga Top 20 is rounded out with volumes of "Maximum Ride v5" (#13, with 14k), "Twilight v2" (#14, also with 14k), "Durarara v1" (#17, with 12k), "Death Note Black Ed v1" (#19, 11k), and finally at #20, "Soul Eater v1" (11k)

Breaking down the manga portion of the chart by publisher, Viz takes 232 of the 367 manga spots in the Top 750, keeping them as the overwhelmingly dominant manga player with 63% of the placing titles! Within the Top 750, Viz charted about 1.1 million pieces, for about $11.5 million -- Viz pretty much controls the manga charts.

However, Viz has now lost its status as largest publisher overall -- in fact, they dropped to #3. More on that at the end of the column.

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

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 3518 3.68% 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 the larger trend.

Viz no longer has a title selling over 20k, and has just ten that sell over 10k. "Naruto," "Death Note" and "Blue Exorcist" are Viz's strongest individually-performing titles in 2012.

The #2 manga publisher, like last year, is Yen Press, which places 84 titles in the Top 750, with about 473k copies sold, and $6.3 million retail gross. Yen is a division of Hachette (more on them later).

This year, I'm giving in to laziness and inertia and just keeping things that probably should be considered "Western" ("Twilight," "Interview With a Vampire," more in the future?) here as "manga." I really should have done that the last two years as well, sorry, I was trying to be too clever by half.

Either way, it doesn't impact the Long Tail, since that's everything with them in the publisher field. However, Yen has its first encounter with the color red.

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 548 19.13% 647,948 -15.20% $8,735,264 -12.24% 1,182 $15,940.26

Obviously, the non-stop growth had to cease at some point, and this point would seem to be now. In addition to the general weakening of the American manga scene, Yen is knocked around a bit by the softening of "Twilight," which sold 20k+ copies fewer this year.

Yen's highest placing titles are "Black Butler" (v1 did just a hair over 15k), "Maximum Ride" (v5 did just over 14k), the aforementioned "Twilight" (v2 did 14k), "Durarara" (v1 did 12k), and "Soul Eater" (v1 did almost 11k).

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


In third place among manga publishers, we have Kodansha Comics, which places 23 titles within the top 750, with 189k in sales, and $2.1 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 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 items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 246 127.78% 324,827 64.87%

$4,026,770

58.71% 1320

$16,368.98

Kodansha only has one title over 20k ("Sailor Moon" v1 sold 22k this year), and seven more volumes of that series sell over 10k. Other than that, everything else stays stubbornly below that arbitrary line. But that volume of "Sailor Moon" is the single best-selling Manga of this year, so if Kodansha can build upon that success, they're likely to continue to show strong growth as a native publisher.


The fourth largest publisher of manga in 2012, on the Top 750 of BookScan is Seven Seas, which places 11 titles, for 49k and $655k 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 items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 151 27.97%% 124,262 6.79% $1,684,994 18.11% 823 $11,158.90

Their best-selling title is the "Alice in the Country of Clover" (v1, I think? Sells 8605 copies)


Eastern Publisher #5 will be Dark Horse, with a 6 placing titles in the Top 750, for just 19k copies sold and $335k in dollar sales.

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

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 493 -0.80% 112,373 -40.65% $1,631,038 -37.32% 228 $3,308.39

There's more about Dark Horse down below in the "Western" section.

Dark Horse, too, seems to be badly stung by the general market's weakening for manga, with Long Tail losses below even Viz. Dark Horse's best-performing Manga title is the omnibus of "FLCL," which manages 5,100 copies sold through BookScan reporters.


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 few things. First and foremost, the overwhelming majority of Tokyopop books went "poof!" this year -- some two thousand different books are completely gone. Normally, I would attribute that to "out of print books finally selling out of any copies anywhere on the shelves," but, even then, I'd still expect a few single copies to straggle through somewhere. What I think happened was that TokyoPop's stock was returnable through its distributor, HarperCollins, and that the nearly $6 million in sales for them last year was primarily from the final deep discount sales at Borders. Still, you would have thought some potentially-returnable books would have been missed or overlooked, or just kept on the shelf until they finally sold because they had just enough velocity, which makes going from two thousand to twenty look like a "delisting" of some sort. I simply don't know enough about the inner workings of BookScan to determine which is right.

The second problem with the remaining five books listed with "Tokyopop" as publisher in the Top 750, is that they're 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…

Mostly because I'd like to make a "final" report for Tokyopop (except they may start publishing again?), 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 5 titles for almost 28k copies sold, and $193k in retail dollars. The best-selling one is that "Warriors Manga #04: Rise of Scourge" with 8,729 copies sold. (that's really why I think it would have to be a new printing at this point…)

Tokyopop went out of business in April of 2011, and once symbolized the "manga revolution" in America, but it's just been free-fall for years. Here's the final (?) Long Tail chart for Tokyopop:

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 20 -99.11% 30,294 -94.43% $213,038 -96.40% 1515 $10,651.90

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.


The #7 publisher for "manga" on the Top 750 is then HarperCollins, with three other "Warriors" books, selling combined just a hair over 12k copies, for about $116k 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.


Position #8 in the manga charts goes to Del Rey, which used to publish Kodansha's books. They have two books in the Top 750, for a massive 6950 copies combined. However, Del Rey's license stopped in October of 2010, so I'm assuming that everything still listing here is simply copies still left on the shelf, and these will trickle down to nothing over the next year or so. 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:

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 523 -5.25% 84,861 -75.82% $984,903 -75.85% 162 $1,883.18

If this isn't the final time listing Del Rey here in the Eastern section, then it is likely to be the penultimate.


Finally, we come to the ninth largest publisher of manga, as measured by the BookScan Top 750 -- Vertical. They just place a single book into the Top 750: "5 Centimeters Per Second" which sells just 2943 copies.

The Long Tail:

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 118 40.48% 45,026 -8.23% $671,086 -4.03% 382 $5,687.17

They were growing nicely, but seem to have flattened out at this stage.


Clearly, the manga market is still in transition, and 2013 will probably continue to bring more of the same

I also want to observe there are a few more publishers publishing manga, but none posted any sales into the Top 750 this year at all; and therefore I will sadly have to dismiss as "not currently very significant."

Looking at things more generally, manga as a whole in 2012 represents no titles in the Top 10 or 20, and just four titles of the Top 50. Manga places eighteen of the Top 100 -- that's a massive downwards shift from the previous year. Only one title beat 20k in sales, while just twenty-six beat 10k. That last one was fifty-seven last year.

Let's move on to the Western publishers…

2012 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!

It is our first year where there were more Western comics than Eastern ones in the Top 750, and, in a reversal of the previous year, pieces are up substantially (about 15%), while dollars dropped (about 12%).

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
2012 383 3,530,143 $68,593,986

As is usual, 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. There are a couple of exceptions: Maus, Building Stories, but they're exceptions.

One thing I find intriguing is that, despite the bullet-train performance of "The Walking Dead," and its domination of the dollars with two incredibly strong performances from the $60 compendia -- "TWD" at $20.8 million is nearly a third of the "Western" dollars in the Top 750 -- the overall dollars in the Top 750 actually declined from the previous year, while pieces sold went up. We're actually selling more copies of less expensive product, mostly the kids material, with a lot of it aiming at an under-$11 price tag.

Western comics are a much more competitive space than manga. While there are only nine publishers of manga, with one (Viz) absolutely dominating in sales, I count forty-two different imprints or publishers jostling for space in the top 750 of the Western market

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 3,029,039 --- 74,595,605 --- $558,450 --- 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
2012 17,031 13.89% 6,052,179 0.84% $123,471,753 9.44% 355 $7,249.82

Both of the bottom line gross metrics went up this year -- pieces by under a percentage point, dollars by more than 9%. That doesn't suck in this economy, or when compared to print books sales over all, which appear to have dollars down 0.8% overall for the year. Western comics appear to be performing well.

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


How do you measure the relative performance between publishers? One metric you could use is the number of titles placing within the list (in which case DC dominates Western publishers with 105 of the Top 750 best-selling BookScan titles), or you could measure by the dollars sold, or even the size of their long tail. But in the ten years I've been doing this, we've always measured it by units sold ("Number of asses in seats"), and by that measure, 2012 is a major upset as it means we have a brand-new #1 Western Publisher among the Top 750…

Image Comics

Wow.

With just 33 tites placing within the Top 750, Image powers down more than 701 copies sold for a gross retail dollars total of almost $20.4 million. That's about a third more than the next largest Western publisher.

This is what Image's performance has looked like, in the Top 750, over the last decade, in a chart that is actually making its first appearance right now.

Year# of placing titlesUnit salesDollar sales
200312,328$30,148
20041402$5,206
200538,699$100,236
200615,311$113,465
2007428,349$344,026
2008955,033$830,574
20091178,874$1,210,094
201022289,044$6,479,930
201127367,265$8,670,917
201233701,050$20,389,762

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 94k and 59k sold for v1 and v2 respectively. Those would be great sales, even if it wasn't on a $60 book.

The interesting question next year will be to look at the performance of v17, which will be the first individual volume that follows the second compendium -- will it take the big jump up that we might expect following the nearly 60k copies of Compendium v2 on the market? Both of 2012's new single volumes of "TWD" (v15 & 16) scored over 30k in sales, which says to me that v17 has the potential to add the post-Compendium audience with the current TP audience, and possibly sell as many as 90k copies. But, to do so, the audience will have to be educated about the reading order. Can the bookstores accomplish that?

After "TWD," Image's best-selling book is the debut of "Saga" (8375), followed closely by, er, "TWD Survivor's Guide" (8370). No other Image title racks sales of over 5k, under that there are four titles in the Top 750: Brandon Graham's "King City," two volumes of Layman and Guillory's "Chew" (v1 and v5), and Scott Snyder's "Severed."

Clearly, the ongoing challenge for Image is just how they can get some of those "TWD" readers to see the wider range of Image published material. Comparing "Saga's" first volume to that the first "TWD" trade to place in 2004 shows that Image has come quite a distance since then, but they have miles more to go -- it isn't even like other Kirkman-written material like "Invincible" or "Super Dinosaur" is burning up the BookScan charts (the top selling single volumes of those series? "Invincible" v15, for 1448 copies, and "Super Dinosaur" v1 with just 606 copies sold)

I, for one, think there's a ton of potential in the Image line far beyond what has charted so far, but as with most things that aren't low-hanging fruit, it takes individual people to champion those books, and I don't think Image is particularly well-structured to natively undertake that kind of effort.

Here's what Image's Long Tail looks like:

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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 43.09% $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
2012 868 15.89% 794,419 70.24% $22,797,279 106.47% 915 $26,264.15

Image has two titles over 50k, eleven over 20K, and a total of twenty-seven over 10k. All "TWD."


The #2 publisher of Western comics is DC Comics. In 2012, they placed 104 titles in the Top 750, for 689k units, and almost $15m in retail dollars, from their three charting imprints. "DC" itself is 79 of those placements, Vertigo represents 24, and the other two are from Mad.

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

Year# of placing titlesUnit salesDollar sales
200374336,569$6,151,258
200439179,440$3,135,983
200542298,484$5,440,001
200659551,160$10,246,082
200758487,467$9,953,976
2008711,015,864$19,805,098
2009931,223,733$24,061,834
201096648,403$12,523,128
2011107660,706$13,083,378
2012104688,870$14,811,979

This is another strong performance for DC in the Top 750, but unfortunately for them, they don't publish "TWD"!

Usually, the best-selling DC published comic is "Watchmen" (it has been for six years running, in fact), and while that book still does well (in fact, it's actually up from the previous year with 23k sold vs 21k in 2011), it's actually only #4 this year. The big winners are the bat books.

"Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" is DC's #1 book this year, with almost 28k copies (up from last year's 20k), with "Batman: The Killing Joke" at #2 with (also almost 28k, 19k last).

Those look like decent enough bumps, and Batman is the star of a pretty large forty-nine out of one-hundred-and-four DC placing books in the Top 750 (47% of 'em!), which sum up to 390k copies and $8.7 million retail dollars. In 2011, that was almost 250k and $4.8m, so that's substantial growth, but you can very much see the flattening impact that multiple entries can have with a huge media hit. In 2008, the "Watchmen" movie was considered a flop, but that shifted 45k copies all by itself -- it's hard to find more than 10, maybe 12k, copy bounces on any "Batman" TP in a year with a billion-dollar film backing up the sales opportunity.

Here's a possible example, last year the first volume of "Superman Earth One" did about 14k copies; this year "Batman Earth One" was DC's #3 selling comic with almost 25k sold. But, you'd expect a "Batman" comic to natively do a little better than a "Superman" one, giving this a natural target of, mm, 18-20k, maybe? That's not a large bounce coming in the wake of the film, and it would really seemed like a natural target for a post-film customer to find appealing.

On the other hand, DC's #5 book is the first volume of the rejiggered "Batman: Knightfall," the Bane-centric book. This places almost 23k copies, not a number you might naturally associate with such a collection of mid-80s work. (I bet it will drop to 6-8k next year?) The lion's share of that can certainly be placed on the back of the movie.

DC's #6 comic is also "Batman" -- this time the first of the "New 52" collections to show in the Top 750, "Batman v1: The Court of Owls," with just over 22k copies. In fact, a somewhat surprising eighteen "New 52" volumes make this year's Top 750, though only seven of them place in at over 5k. (I have to admit I was a little surprised to see "Catwoman v1" come in at 5,357, even above the first "Green Lantern" volume by Geoff Johns) "Justice League v1" is DC's #9 best-selling title at almost 17k

#7 for DC is "V For Vendetta" at a smidge over 19k, down a teensy bit from last year's 20k, while #8 goes back to the pointy-eared guy, with "Batman: Hush" (17k) -- that's up from 14k -- while #10 is "Batman: The Long Halloween" (16k), way up on the previous year's 9k.

Outside of the Top 10, and with sales over 10k, we have what I considered a small surprise in "Batman Year One" which bucked the trend and actually declined from last year (21k) to under 16k. There are four more "Batman" titles over 10k ("Knightfall v2," "The Black Mirror," "Arkham Asylum" and "Dark Victory"), as well as this year's sole natively Vertigo book in that range, "Sandman v1: Preludes & Nocturnes."

Finally, over 10k, is the second volume of "Superman Earth One" (10,488). The first volume launched in 2011 at nearly 14k, but dropped below 9k this year, suggesting it may not have the perennial legs that might have been hoped for?

Scanning the rest of the DC placing list, I'll note with some personal surprise that the Anthony Bourdain-driven "Get Jiro" failed to cross 10k in the bookstores. We did fabulous with that book in 2012 -- it was my #25 dollar book -- and I would have thought it would have succeeded even better in the "civilian"-driven bookstore market.

Other than that, I'm not sure that there's much else here that's all that notable to discuss -- last year, I had thought that the adaptation of "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" seemed like a pretty sure thing, but it barely clocked into the Top 750 with just 3,389 sold.

It's certainly a good enough year for DC, but not one that is setting any records. Next year could be a little stronger with a full slate of "New 52" collections, and, of course, the "Superman" movie, which has far fewer SKUs to be diffused amongst. And, of course the big big wildcard will be what happens with the "Before Watchmen" collections, of which there will be four.

Looking past just the Top 750 down into the Long Tail shows a down year for DC. Not scary and horrendous or anything, but not the direction you want to be going (especially when you have billion dollar movies happening):

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 2452 1.20% 1,206,198 -8.87% $26,729,997 -1.48% 492 $10,901

The midlist and bottom list at DC really clearly is feeling the pinch.

DC has six books over 20k, and seventeen books over 10k.


The #3 largest publisher of Western comics in 2012, in the BookScan Top 750 is member of the so called "Big Six" in book publishing -- Random House. The "Big Six" 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!

Random House, as best as I can tell, has seven distinct imprints that sell comics in some fashion that appear in the Top 750 list -- Alfred A. Knopf, Ballantine, Bantam, Broadway, Del Rey, Pantheon, and Random House. They're also, in the long tail, Crown, Doubleday, Schocken, and Three Rivers.

Combined, Random House imprints in the Top 750 place 42 titles, for 323k units, and $6.3m in dollar sales. Looking at those imprints in alphabetical order:

Alfred A. Knopf Books For Younger Readers places six 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 six is "Lunch Lady & The Cyborg Substitute" with sales just over 6k. The six volumes combined are about 24k copies, and $166k in retail dollars.

Ballantine places a single title in the Top 750, "It's a Dogs Life, Snoopy," which appears to be a collection of all of the "Peanuts" strips from 1998, colorized. It sells 2816 copies.

Bantam also places a single title in the Top 750, its co-production (with Dynamite) adaptation of George R. R. Martin's "Game of Thrones." It does well at almost 17k copies, and about $414k in retail dollar sales.

Broadway also places a single book in the Top 750: about 4500 copies of the comic book extension of Max Brook's "Zombie Survival Guide" -- this is down substantially from last year, when it moved about 7900 copies, and was said to be from the Three Rivers imprint.

Del Rey was once mostly about Kodansha-derived manga properties (see up above), but they also do what look to be straight adaptations/extensions of regular prose books also published by Random House. In the Top 750, I mark "Fever Moon" with almost 7500 copies sold as their strongest one. There are three others as well, with combined sales of almost 19k copies, and $344k in dollar sales.

Pantheon is the "literary" comics wing, and has some of RH's best-sellers. There are eleven different Pantheon books within the Top 750, the best-selling being Marjane Satrapi's "Persepolis," Chris Ware's "Building Stories," and art spiegelman's "Maus" in various permutations. Those are all discussed up the page, and they lead Pantheon's 171k in sales, with $4.6 million in retail dollars, making them the bulk (73%) of Pantheon's dollar sales at the top of the charts.

In addition to the books we've already discussed, Pantheon also has a strong seller in Craig Thompson's "Habibi" which does just over 11k this year in sales, as well as Charles Burn's "Black Hole" which just barely misses the 5k mark by a mere 86 copies.

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 8700 copies sold), "Super Amoeba" (which sells just over 7500 copies), and "Squish" (v2 sells about 6300 copies… I don't see v1 listed at all, however). In all, Holm has 18 placing books, selling about 86k combined copies, and almost $606k in sales.

It's probably worth noting here that there is a proposed merger in this next year between Random House and another "Big Six" publisher, Penguin. If that merger had already happened, the combined company ("Random Penguin?") would still be #3 as Penguin is not huge into comics. But it would put them that much more ahead of #4, and could have impacts on 2013 and beyond, if it occurs.

These seven 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 Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 185 28.47% 375,254 -5.51% $7,124,794 12.09% 2,028 $38,512.40

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
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 708 1.72% 460,115 -38.50% $8,109,697 -22.27% 605 $11,454.37

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


The #4 Western publisher in the Top 750 for 2012 is Scholastic. This is a significant drop for them, as they spent the last two years at #2. Now, having said that, there's 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 main Graphix imprint, they also publish Arthur A. Levine and Blue Sky, and together, they place 24 titles for 299k copies, and $3.6m in sales. Again, in alphabetical order…

Arthur A. Levine places 3 books in the Top 750, two of them by Shaun Tan ("The Arrival" at just over 9500 copies, and "Lost and Found" with just 3149), as well as "Sidekicks" by Dan Santat, just under 4600 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 27k in sales.

The Graphix imprint has 20 placing titles, for 255k 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 38k copies, though you could argue that the centerpiece of Graphix's lineup continues to be Jeff Smith's "Bone," with 11 Bone-related comics on the chart. Volume 1, "Out From Boneville" sells almost 23k copies this year, not bad for a series which has been concluded for eight years now. Graphix also is doing extremely well with Kazu Kibuishi's "Amulet," with the latest volume, "Prince of the Elves," doing over 20k copies. None of the other four books in that series sell under about 15k (well, OK, 14,909, but that's close enough for the point!)

Graphix also does OK with a couple of Doug Tennapel titles ("Ghostopolis" and "Cardboard"), as well as "Knights of the Lunch Table" by Frank Cammuso, but none of them crack 4k.

The Long Tail for Scholastic looks like this:

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 76 5.56% 325,088 -22.42% $3,955,249 -16.00% 4277 $52,042.75

Scholastic has four books over 20k, and a total of twelve that sell more than 10k copies.


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 comparable. And, for the most part, comic strip reprints have stayed out of these charts for half a decade. But, this year, all of a sudden I have multiple "Pearls Before Swine" collection, a "Dilbert," a pair of "Get Fuzzy" books, and more. 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 12 Andrews-published titles in the Top 750, for 214k copies and $2.4 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 three "Big Nate" books -- with the best-selling one ("Big Nate & Friends") racking up almost 71k in sales. "Makes the Grade" does about 67k, and "From the Top" does about 27k. Additionally, another "Big Nate" book is published by HarperCollins ("What Could Possibly Go Wrong?"), and does almost 93k in sales, although that isn't counted here.

The strips listed here don't do as well as that -- "Pearls Before Swine: Pearls Freaks the #*%# Out" is the top performer at about 9300 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 items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 31 82.53% 225,546 93.02% $2,737,935 124.02% 7,276 $88,320.48

Andrews McMeel has two listed books over 50k, and a total of three over 20k.


#6 on this years list will be Dark Horse Comics, as they place 27 titles for 179k and $2.6m.

Dark Horse's big winner this year is the comics based on "Avatar: The Last Airbender" with the first volume of the three-part Gene Yang-led title coming in with almost 36k copies (v2 does 28k, v3 scores almost 19k), while the "Lost Adventures" volume is almost 14k copies -- more than twice as many copies as the next-best-selling title ("Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale" at 6081 copies… also about half of what it sold the previous year). Dark Horse actually has no other Western title that scores over 5k.

DH's Joss Whedon-based comics take a big fall off this year -- last year there were 16 Whedon-derived titles in the Top 750 for nearly 86k sold, but this year there are just six that do 26k total. That's a large drop-off.

Similarly, the "Star Wars" comics are also showing a steep fall-off. Only four manage to place on the BookScan list this year, with the best-seller being, somewhat unbelievably, the adaptation of "The Phantom Menace" with just a bare 4251 copies sold.

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 a single volume of "Hellboy" (v12, 4250 sold), a single volume of "Umbrella Academy" (v1, 2665), and the fourth "Blacksad" title, "A Silent Hell" with 3067 sold.

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

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 1133 10.54% 377,322 -3.13% $6,907,772 -2.74% 333 $6,096.89

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
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 1626 6.83% 489,695 -15.40% $8,538,810 -12.02% 301 $5,251.42

Dark Horse has two books over 20k in the Western lists, and a total of four over 10k.


Our #7 Western Publisher is Simon & Shuster. They take this position with just three placing titles, which total 157k in units and just over $2.7 m at retail.

The first title is the #1 book, "Dork Diaries" (discussed above) with 145k copies, from their Aladdin imprint, as well as a boxed set of the series with 8212 sold, while Simon itself places "Frankie Pickle" for 3522 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 Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 63 1.61% 165,831 -11.57% $2,844,453 19.34% 2632 $45,150.05

Simon clearly has a book over 100k!


The #8 Western publisher within the Top 750 is Marvel Comics, which places 32 titles for about 141k copies and $3.9m 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 ten 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
2012 32 141,145

$3,872,683

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.

This, to me, is nutso-crazy 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!

I think it is very difficult to look at Marvel's backlist business as anything other than an abject, deeply embarrassing failure, especially when you consider that there was a film that grossed a billion-and-a-half dollars, and was not only also a critical hit, but a near perfect encapsulation of what's awesome about comic books serving as the greatest advertisement for their comics that one could possibly imagine, and Marvel's best-selling comic in BookScan is… "Kick Ass 2."

Listen: Not a single comic book featuring a character owned by Marvel comics sold even ten thousand copies.

That's insane. That's you-are-doing-everything-wrong levels of crazy, and if I were a Disney shareholder, I'd be storming the meetings, demanding that they actually attempt to reach out for what is clearly low-hanging fruit. Marvel could clearly be grossing tens of millions more dollars every year if they had a backlist program aimed at delivering books that people want, in formats and at prices that they want, and actually kept them in print.

I hate to repeat myself from last year, but as I've spent a huge chunk of this column saying, the single hottest property in the entire industry is that zombie comic book by Robert Kirkman; the highest grossing media presentation of the year was "The Avengers" film -- they have a book that is literally zombie versions of those same exact Marvel characters featured in "The Avengers" that is actually written by Kirkman himself, and just how many copies of "Marvel Zombies" sold this year via BookScan? 2814, that's it. That's fewer copies sold than "The Cartoon Guide To Chemistry," for god's sake!

And, worse? It actually dropped in sales this year, down from 3239.

That is some epic-level ball dropping, if you ask me.

Marvel's #1 book this year, as I said, is "Kick Ass 2," scoring just below 11k copies sold.

At #2, there's the expensive hardcover of "Avengers Vs. X-Men," with just 9805 copies sold.

At #3 is the collection of "The Infinity Gauntlet" which is nearly exactly the precise comic book I'd want to put in the hands of someone walking into the lobby after seeing "The Avengers" -- it's self-contained, epic, intensely action-filled, yet with a deep emotional heart. And they can only sell 7266 copies through BookScan reporters. They should have been able to shift 20-30k of those, in my opinion!

#4 for Marvel is "Civil War" (6927), while #5 is a sadly waning "Dark Tower" volume with just 6698 sold. You know the number one question I get from civilians about those comics? "What order should I read them in?" Confusing your customers is seldom the path to success….

Here is Marvel's Long Tail. The only message to take from this performance is: it's not working. "The Avengers" and "Amazing Spider-Man" movies in the theatres (to say nothing of "Ghost Rider"), and sales dropped pretty sharply.

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 3083 8.10% 726,542 -14.74% $18,848,013 -6.81% 236 $6,114

Marvel has one book that is over 10k.


The #9 publisher of Western comics in 2012 via BookScan is Papercutz has six titles placing, for 137k copies and $995k (oh, so so close to a million). All six are from Lego's "Ninjago," the best-selling being v1 ("Challenge of the Samukai") which roars in with 46k copies sold. Great performance!

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 258 22.86% 172,744 126.88 $1,343,044 104.11 670 $5,205.60

Papercutz has three volumes with sales over 20k, and five total over 10k.


Finally, for the #10 largest publisher with Western comics in BookScan 2012 is another of the "big six": HarperCollins. Harper has eight books in the Top 750 this year, summing up to 129k copies sold, for $1.6 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 the before mentioned "Big Nate" volume -- "What Could Possibly Go Wrong" which does an epic 93k in sales. #2 for them is the perennial "Understanding Comics" (just over 10k copies sold). #3 is a "Warriors" volume "Ravenpaws v1" with just a hair over 6k.

Their William Morrow imprint places 1 book into the Top 750 -- "The Cartoon Guide to Calculus," which sells 5787 copies.

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 80 60.00% 159,573 111.65% $2,113,744 95.07% 1995 $26,421.80

Harper has one title over 50k, and two total 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 above, but we should at least glance at the other three, 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) -- they would have been publisher #11 this year, and is the last publisher with combined sales in the Western portion of the Top 750 over 100k (they did 102k, actually ) and $1.5 million.

Little, Brown is the home of "Tintin," and it would appear that the video release of the film version of the comic has helped -- fifteen different "Tintin" volumes appear in the Top 750 this year, with the best-selling one (the 3-in-one "Adventures of Tintin v1" selling a smidge over 13k

Here's the Long Tail of just the Western books for Hachette,

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 28 16.67% 110,897 25.83 $1,565,744 22.95 3,961 $55,919.43

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

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % Change Av. Sale
per title
Av. $ per title
2007 25 --- 52,077 --- $836,832 --- 2,083 $33,473.28
2008 180 332.00% 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
2012 576 19.01% 758,845 -10.96% $10,301,009 -8.25% 1,317 $17,883.70

Hachette has two titles over 10k, on the Western charts.


Holtzbrinck owns Macmillan, which has (at least) these imprints: FirstSecond, Hill + Wang, Square Fish, and St. Martins Griffin. 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, Times books, and Tor. Holtzbinck placed twelve titles in the Top 750, for about 63k and $947k combined.

The best-seller here is "Health Care Reform: What It is" with over 13k, from the Hill & Wang imprint. This is followed closely by Square Fish's "American Born Chinese" just under 13k. First Second's strongest title is "Anya's Ghost," at 5611 copies 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 items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 165 18.71% 126,745 10.94% $2,077,143 15.78% 768 $12,588.75

Penguin Putnam also has several placing imprints: Penguin has not popped up on our BookScan radar in previous year, but their placing imprints include Dial, Grossett & Dunlap, Philomel, and Putnam. Other imprints down in the Long Tail include (deep breath: Ace, Berkley Books, Dutton, Gotham Books, Hudson Street, InkLit, New American Library, Penguin, Plume, Price Stern Sloan, Puffin, Razorbill, Riverhead and Viking. Good lord!) (But not, Brian writes down here so he remembers this research for next year, the Penguin distributed-only Library of America or Overlook Press). Penguin's nine placing titles total to nearly 98k copies, and $1.2m in retail sales.

Dial is on here for four volumes of Ursula Vernon's "Dragonbreath," where the best-selling volume (v1) is a bit over 27k copies sold. The poorest-selling of the four "Dragonbreath" books still manages to rack up 13k sold. Very strong performance.

The other Penguin placers are also all kids books -- "Club Penguin" from Grossett & Dunlap, "Stickman" from Philomel, and "Fang the Barbarian" from Putnam. None of them crack 5k in sales, however.

Penguin is possibly going to be merging with Random House next year, potentially rendering this Long Tail moot.

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 60 13.21% 121,769 -1.60% $1,499,660 -4.85% 2029 $24,994.33

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


Outside of the "Big Six" (soon to be "Big Five") we've got several Direct Market native publishers who placed more than five titles into the Top 750. Those would be: Oni (10), Archie (8), IDW (6), and Top Shelf (5)

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 items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 171 -3.39% 80,560 -50.36% $1,594,016 -42.79% 471 $9,321.73

Oni has one volume of "Scott" over 10k.


Archie Comics is a newcomer in the talk-about-them-meaningfully portion of the charts here, and, interestingly, most of their placements are for "Sonic The Hedgehog." The best seller there is "Sonic Universe v1: The Shadow Saga" with 4873 sold.

I've never built a long-tail for Archie before, so let's do that now!

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % Change Av. Sale
per title
Av. $ per title
2007 18 --- 12,443 --- $103,998 --- 691 $5,777.67
2008 26 44.44% 25,046 101.29% $220,207 111.74% 963 $8,469.50
2009 33 26.92% 26,998 7.79% $246,557 11.97% 818 $7,471.42
2010 43 30.30% 24,828

-8.04%

$227,014 -7.93% 577 $5,279.40 2011

62

44.19%

51,551

-107.63%

$528,353

132.74

831

$8,521.82

2012

85

37.10

66,988

29.95

$797,165

50.88

788

$9,378.41


IDW places six books into the Top 750. Their best-seller is the fifth volume of Joe Hill's "Locke & Key," with 6395 copies sold.

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % 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
2012 937 19.36% 162,599 -21.12% $4,329,973 -11.35% 174 $4,621.10

And this leaves us with Top Shelf, who, also, has never before made it into the "named" section of this conversation before. Their best-seller is Craig Thompson's "Blankets," which comes in at 4362.

Behold: A newly constructed Long Tail for them!

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % Change Av. Sale
per title
Av. $ per title
2007 88 --- 23,317 --- $768,122 --- 265 $8,728.66
2008 96 9.09% 24,494 5.05% $583,498 -24.04% 255 $6,078.10
2009 105 9.38% 46,438 89.59% $1,025,119 75.69% 442 $9,763.04
2010 112 6.67% 28,911 -37.74% $702,241 -31.50% 258 $6,270.01
2011 135 20.54% 35,047 21.22% $791,941 12.77% 260 $5,866.23
2012 136 0.74% 35,433 1.10 $739,701 -6.60% 261 $5,438.98

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

Alison Bechdel's "Fun Home" from Mariner sells nearly 16k. Literally 10 minutes before I pressed "send" on this column, I realized I missed this year's "Are You My Mother," and frantically called around to find out it sold 30,127 copies, which would have made it one of the top 20 (#18, in fact)... But would have also meant that I'd need to rewrite a whole, whole lot of things, and I'm past my deadline, and I'm just deciding to throw up my hands and give up at this point. I know: this means I really suck, but I don't have the extra three hours it would take to fix that one. I suggest you blame BookScan for having the goofy system where "memoir" is counted with prose material rather than with other graphic novels. Sorry!

Hyperion Books (which is, y'know, Disney, the same company that owns Marvel), has two hits with Rick Riordan-driven comics -- "Red Pyramid" does just over 14k, while "Percy Jackson" does almost 12k. I'm a little surprised that last one hasn't had a sequel yet, since there's plenty of Riordan "Percy Jackson" books to adapt. Either way, those sell better than anything actually from Marvel, go figure.

Hope Larson's adaptation of the classic "A Wrinkle In Time" hits with 11k. This is likely to be a permanent inhabitant of the charts from here out, I'd wager.

Below that 10k mark, the only real stories in the remaining titles that would seem to me to really stand out would be to me that BOOM!'s "Adventure Time" comic only manages to pull in 5088 copies sold, given how well it is selling in the DM. The only Judge Dredd material (which had quite a good film adaptation this year) is "Complete Case Files v1" which only pulls down a meager 3590. ("Ghost Rider," meanwhile, one of the other easy-to-forget comics films of this year, never shows up at all in the Top 750, with the best-selling GR collection ("Fear Itself Ghost Rider") selling a meager 661 copies; "Chicken With Plums" is the other comics adaptation this year that fails to sell comic books -- only 766 copies sold), and finally, Robert Crumb's adaptation of the "Book of Genesis" almost vanishes entirely from the charts with just 2727 sold.


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 -- $28 Million
#2 Image Comics -- $23
#3 Viz -- $22
#4 Marvel Comics -- $18
#5 Hachette -- $10
#6 Dark Horse -- $8.5
#7 Random House -- $8.4
#8 IDW -- $4.3
#9 Scholastic -- $4
#10 HarperCollins -- $3.7

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, 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.

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