Tilting at Windmills: BookScan Numbers Show Big Book Market Growth for Comics in 2014

Fri, February 27th, 2015 at 4:58am PST | Updated: February 27th, 2015 at 12:37pm

Comic Books
Brian Hibbs, Staff Writer
3

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

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

Some preamble:

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

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

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

If you go over here you can find a copy of the 2014 BookScan Top 750 year end report for the comics category.

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

2013: BookScan Report and My Analysis

2012: BookScan Report and My Analysis

2011: BookScan Report and My Analysis

2010: BookScan Report and My Analysis

2009: BookScan Report and My Analysis

2008: BookScan Report and My Analysis

2007: BookScan Report and My Analysis

2006: BookScan Report and My Analysis

2005: BookScan Report and My Analysis

2004: BookScan Report and My Analysis

2003: BookScan Report and My Analysis

For the last nine 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 2014 to 2006-2013 is probably as close to apples-to-apples as it can get, as is 2003-2005, but comparing the '06-14 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 nearly 2900 copies. (up from about 2600 copies in 2012 and 2013, and about 3200 copies in 2011) In '03-'05 there would be many items that didn't have YTD sales in that amount.

Also of major note is that starting in 2007, I have had 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 historically reported. 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 2014, I possess data on almost 27,000 items! We'll talk more about this later.

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

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

Story continues below

BookScan says "Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Costco, General Independents, Hastings, Target, BJ's, K-Mart, Hudson Group, Meijers, Follett Books, Books-A-Million, CEO Read, Powells, Toys R Us, Shoprite, SuperValu, Sam's Club and Walmart are among our many data providers." Walmart was only added to BookScan in 2013

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

There's also a certain amount of miscategorization going on. As an example, for the last twelve years the prose novel "Bloody Crown of Conan" appears on my list, while other books (see; "Dork Diaries" in a few paragraphs) might appear one year, and disappear another. I do not know what the actual extent of miscategorization might be and how it would impact any of the general data analysis! There are simply too many potential 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, but are not -- for example, I have to have "The Complete Persepolis" and "Maus" manually pulled for me every year because they are actually classified as (I believe) "Memoir" rather than comics. Because this relies on me thinking of things to get them on to the list -- each item apparently only has one classification -- there's almost certainly comics material missing that I didn't catch. I caught a few things this year ("Hyperbole and a Half," "Sisters") that were major books not on my leaked list, but could not identify any other 2014-released title that was mis-listed, and that I believe would have made the top 750. However, that doesn't mean that I didn't miss one or more; I am certain I missed something. If you can think of a book I might have missed, please email me, and I'll try to track down the sales for it, and update my listings for the future!

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

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

Again, I want to stress that I'm doing my primary analysis on the Top 750 items: the reason for this is that is all that I was able to get in the first four years of this analysis, and otherwise the percentage changes I'm discussing will be even more wrong than they would be otherwise. The Top 750 represents more than half of the total of the full list, and has consistently for years. While there are significant sales below the Top 750 (about $94.8 million in 2014!), the Top 750 probably represents the majority of items you'd be able to "easily" find on the shelf of a bookstore in America. I'd love to analyze the full "long tail" list, but I'm afraid that this might take these little essays to triple their current size, and keeping your attention just through this seems hard enough to me! Maybe if Jonah paid me by the word…

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

Story continues below


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

2014 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 #2 book of the year (and more on that below) is 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 DK Publishing's "Marvel Encyclopedia" (38,322 sold in 2014), which, while nominally about comics or comics culture, is factually an encyclopedic prose book with pictures. Or "Bizarro Day!" (22,716 sold in 2014) which the Amazon "Look Inside" clearly shows is an illustrated reader for 2nd graders. There is clearly an enormous market for this kind of material -- in fact, in many cases a larger market than for the actual comics themselves -- it just isn't the "comics" market, as I would define it.

In all, I removed 49 items from the Top 750 that didn't match my personal definition of "comics," to make room for 49 items that I think are comics. However, if there was a legitimate question about it, like our #2 book, I erred on the side of keeping it.

Here's the big picture for the Top 750 in 2014:

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%
2013 5,654,351 3.97% $96,062,709 6.83%
2014 6,659,031 17.77% $112,768,709 17.39%

Wow! Staggering 17% year-to-year growth in 2014 -- exactly the kind of results we want to see. Unit sales are strong (though well below the 2007 peak), but dollar sales are the single highest that they've ever been in tracking sales through BookScan reporters.

The trend for books in general through BookScan appears to be a general growth of 2.4% -- which makes comics-material far far stronger than the curve. Clearly both print is dead, and comics are doomed -- tell your friends!

(For what it is worth, overall book sales through Diamond in the Direct Market appear to be up by just 5.18%, although that's only counting the Top 300 for the DM. For comparison's sake, the Top 300s in the DM sums up to $88.82m. My own individual sales were up 18%.)

There's a lot of live action media based on comics and superheroes in 2014: Television has the continuing "The Walking Dead," "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," and "Arrow," as well as new shows "The Flash," "Constantine," and "Gotham," while movies were represented by "300: Rise of an Empire" (kind of), "Amazing Spider-Man 2," "Captain America: Winter Soldier," "Guardians of the Galaxy," "Sin City: A Dame To Kill For," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "X-Men: Days of Future Past" -- although, as always, it's pretty hard to see a direct line between media adaptations and book sales (with the exception of "TWD")

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 eight years of data to track. We refer to this as the Long Tail. Here's what the sales of all comics sales BookScan tracks in this category looks like -- but, seriously, let me remind you that the dataset changes enough each year this is a fairly meaningless set of comparisons! Prior to 2013, this didn't include Walmart.

Year # of
listed 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
2013 24,492 4.82% 10,153,628 6.18% $176,419,370.45 7.30% 415 $7,325.63
2014 26,976 10.14% 11,820,324 16.41% $207,598,355.60 17.67% 438 $7,695.56

In 2014, we're now tracking nearly 27k items -- about a 2500 copy increase from the previous year. Sales are also up nearly as much down here in the Long Tail as they are in the Top 750, which is a very heartening sign -- it isn't just "hits" driving the market.

Also, note that this is now the highest amount of dollars that BookScan reporters have ever generated for which we have a record.

Let's take a look at the Top 20 best-selling items on the 2014 chart; it looks like this:

Story continues below

176,197 -- SISTERS
152,220 -- TALES FROM A NOT SO FABULOUS LIFE
150,523 -- SMILE
129,679 -- HYPERBOLE AND A HALF
94,152 -- DRAMA
84,707 -- BIG NATE GRT MINDS THINK ALIKE
83,639 -- STAR WARS JEDI ACADEMY
78,132 -- STAR WARS JEDI ACADEMY RETURN
74,581 -- DORK DIARIES OMG ALL ABOUT ME
72,520 -- CANT WE TALK ABOUT SOMETHING M
68,064 -- WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM 1
67,849 -- BIG NATE THE CROWD GOES WILD
54,520 -- ATTACK ON TITAN 1
53,755 -- PERSEPOLIS 1
53,470 -- WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM V 2 TP
52,872 -- BIG NATE I CANT TAKE IT
45,316 -- WALKING DEAD V 20 ALL OUT WAR
39,446 -- BIG NATE GAME ON
39,367 -- AMULET 6 ESCAPE FROM LUCIEN
38,416 -- SAGA V 3

All I can say is: "Women and Children first!" Twelve out of 20 are aimed at kids or tweens. Nine out of the 20 are works by female creators. The revolution has already happened, just out in the bookstores.

If we were to pick a Person Of The Year for 2014, I think it would be pretty obvious that it would have to be Raina Telgemeier who absolutely ruled the roost with the #1, 3 and 5th best-selling books ("Sisters," "Smile," and "Drama") through BookScan. And it is fairly certain that this is just the tip of the iceberg, as the New York Times reports that "Sisters" has printed more than 1.4 million copies so far, and it only came out in August of 2014!

That's probably not a record for comics in general (we know that "Watchmen" printed something in the neighborhood of two million copies just in the year that the movie was released), but it seems pretty likely to be a record for a comic aimed squarely at kids; especially one aimed at girls.

BookScan shows a combined 424k copies of Telgemeier's books sold through their reporters. She's actually beaten a little by Robert Kirkman, who shows 515k combined copies sold, however, it takes Kirkman thirty-three different books in order to do that, while Telgemeier does it with only three.

Or to be a little more meta about it, Telgemeier represents 3.6% of all books on this chart sold (not just the Top 750, but all twenty-seven thousand books sold through BookScan reporters) -- that's an astonishing achievement with just three titles.

Both "Sisters" and "Smile" did not appear on the list that I was handed, and needed to be tracked down to get into this chart. But that means that I don't have any historical data for "Smile" ("Sisters" was released in 2014) -- however, "Drama" has always appeared on these charts, and it sold 82k copies in 2013, giving it an approximately 12k rise in sales year-over-year. Telgemeier's books are very likely to become permanent perennials in these charts from here on out. They're really good, too, so that's terrific.

Coming in at #2 is a book that was formerly the #1 for four years, from 2010 to 2013 -- Rachel Renee Russell's "Dork Diaries," now identified by its sub-title (Volume 1 is "Tales From A Not-So-Fabulous Life"), rather than the parent title. However, there are actually currently eight "Dork Diaries" books, and only volumes one and eight ("OMG, All About Me" -- which comes in at #9), so this is one of those ongoing cases of miscategorization.

In my personal opinion, "Dork Diaries" really isn't "comics" -- this is not a book of "sequential art," per se. However, it's more than "merely" illustrated prose, as the art is integral to the story, and so I decided to not Wish It Into the Corn Field like I did the prose-first miscategorizations. "Dork Diaries," for those of you who don't know, is essentially a distaff version of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," which, you will note, doesn't appear on the comics lists either. "DWK" also appears to sell in multiples of "Dork Diaries," with the latest volume of "DWK" (book 9, "The Long Haul"), selling 1.5 million copies in 2014. 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 152k is also just the merest tip of the iceberg. Still and all, it may be helpful to note that while this best selling "comic" really isn't, it's still selling substantially better than the overwhelming majority of what "we" produced this year, and that if we had hard data for all of the not-really-comics material, it would likely entirely dominate the Top 20.

Story continues below

(Also, I feel like I should probably observe that Rachel Renee Russell is African American woman, for those of you who worry about creator diversity)

Boxed sets of "Dork Diaries" v 1-3 (about 4500 units sold), and v 4-6 (about 4k units sold) also appear within the top 750, even if their component parts don't.

At #4, BookScan shows us Allie Brosh's "Hyperbole and a Half" with almost 130k copies sold. This is a print version of her popular webcomic / blog, which just goes to show that free digital presentations don't seem to be hurt print sales of that same work.

Coming in at #6, is Lincoln Peirce's "Big Nate: Great Minds Think Alike," his new release from April of 2014. Peirce is also in the chart at #12 for "The Crowd Goes Wild," his new release from October of 2014. He also places at #16 and #18 for his two 2013 releases. He also has five other books within the Top 750, plus a box set. That's a lot of "Big Nate" books, and all aimed squarely at kids.

#7 and #8 are both from Jeffrey Brown, and are both "Star Wars Jedi Academy" prose/comics hybrids (like "Dork Diaries" or "Diary of a Wimpy Kid")

BookScan's #10 book of comics is Roz Chast's "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant." Chast is a cartoonist for The New Yorker, and this book is about dealing with aging parents.

Falling out of the Top Ten for the first time in recent memory, #11 brings us the first $60 compendium of Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard's "The Walking Dead." It sells 68k copies, which is a pretty substantial drop from last year's 96k copies, but it is hard to feel bad for Kirkman and Adlard given that they place Compendium v2 at #15 and one of the latest "regular" reprint volume (v20) at #17. Altogether there are two compendia, all twenty-one regular softcovers, and nine of the ten hardcovers within the Top 750 (v7 is the only one that doesn't place) -- 515k pieces, and just a skoosh under a staggering fifteen million dollars of gross sales at retail in the Top 750; or more than 13% of the Top 750's total.

At lucky #13 is the first volume of Manga -- "Attack on Titan" v1. "AoT" has now replaced "Naruto" as America's Hottest Manga. We'll talk about it in some more depth a little below.

Coming in at #14 is the first (of two) volume of Marjane Satrapi's "Persepolis." What fascinates me about this book is actually two things: first, this first volume is steadily increasing in sales year over year -- BookScan reports 54k copies this year, up dramatically from 44k in 2013, 36k in 2012 and 32k in 2011. This is highly unusual behavior for an established book. Second, the second volume of "Persepolis" sells relatively poorly -- in case, at 4247 copies, it actually lost ground from 2013's sales where it sold 4414 copies.

How on earth can it be that the second part of a story (not a sequel) sells only 8% of that of part one? I'd normally think, "Well, people must not like it," but, then, v1 increased in sales by almost a quarter, and I just can never figure it out.

The book at #19 is the newest volume of Kazu Kibuishi's "Amulet"

And rounding out the Top Twenty at #20 is the third volume of Brian K. Vaughan' and Fiona Staples "Saga." I have to say, I am a little surprised to see v3 rank higher than v1 which is, instead, #25. V1 is up about 10% on last year's sales though, so this is definitely going from strength-to-strength

Once again, no superhero-driven book lands in the Top Twenty ("Batman: The Killing Joke" comes in at #27 for the overall chart), and only ten of the Top Twenty are by a white male (really 9.5, since I think much of "Saga"'s success stems from Fiona Staples as much as BKV.

What if you sort the chart by dollars grossed, instead? That changes the picture a little, here's the Top 20, and look, you can see the real financial impact of "The Walking Dead" Compendia's high cover prices

$4,083,159.36 -- WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM 1
$3,207,665.30 -- WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM V 2 TP
$2,592,283.21 -- HYPERBOLE AND A HALF
$2,129,557.80 -- TALES FROM A NOT SO FABULOUS L
$2,030,560.00 -- CANT WE TALK ABOUT SOMETHING M
$1,936,405.03 -- SISTERS
$1,654,247.77 -- SMILE
$1,086,470.61 -- STAR WARS JEDI ACADEMY
$1,072,412.25 -- PERSEPOLIS 1
$1,034,730.48 -- DRAMA
$1,014,934.68 -- STAR WARS JEDI ACADEMY RETURN
$ 968,807.19 -- DORK DIARIES OMG ALL ABOUT ME
$ 846,222.93 -- BIG NATE GRT MINDS THINK ALIKE
$ 679,286.84 -- WALKING DEAD V 20 ALL OUT WAR
$ 677,811.51 -- BIG NATE THE CROWD GOES WILD
$ 673,120.00 -- DIARY OF A WIMPY KID BOX 1-4
$ 663,795.29 -- WALKING DEAD BK 1
$ 652,575.00 -- SECONDS
$ 624,923.73 -- BATMAN DEATH OF THE FAMILY BK
$ 599,174.80 -- ATTACK ON TITAN 1

Story continues below

Eleven books in the "million dollars or more" club. "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" box sets makes the grade, as does Bryan Lee O'Malley's next project, "Seconds," and that Batman book is actually the boxed set of the third Snyder/Capullo volume that was packaged with a latex Joker Mask.

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

FARSHTEY, GREG -- 11
GAIMAN, NEIL -- 10
HOLM, JENNIFER L. -- 13
ISAYAMA, HAJIME -- 16
JOHNS, GEOFF -- 21
KATO, KAZUE -- 11
KIBUISHI, KAZU -- 10
KIRKMAN, ROBERT -- 34
KISHIMOTO, MASASHI -- 15
KUSAKA, HIDENORI -- 14
OHBA, TSUGUMI -- 10
O'MALLEY, BRYAN LEE -- 13
PEIRCE, LINCOLN -- 10
SMITH, JEFF -- 10
SNYDER, SCOTT -- 13
TAKEUCHI, NAOKO -- 15
TOBOSO, YANA -- 17
WILLINGHAM, BILL -- 10
YANG, GENE LUEN -- 13

These nineteen authors represent 266 of the Top 750, or 35%. Almost 5% of them are Robert Kirkman!

Let's add some dollar amounts, with these being all of the authors selling over $1m combined in books, according to BookScan. That looks like this:

BROSH, ALLIE -- $ 2,592,283.21
BROWN, JEFFREY -- $ 2,101,405.29
CHAST, ROZ -- $ 2,030,560.00
GAIMAN, NEIL -- $ 1,323,505.68
ISAYAMA, HAJIME -- $ 4,051,280.52
JOHNS, GEOFF -- $ 2,302,619.43
KIBUISHI, KAZU -- $ 1,843,591.29
KINNEY, JEFF -- $ 1,582,437.00
KIRKMAN, ROBERT -- $ 15,108,195.86
KISHIMOTO, MASASHI -- $ 1,604,139.14
LOEB, JEPH -- $ 1,036,846.42
MARTIN, GEORGE R.R. -- $ 1,052,480.75
MILLER, FRANK -- $ 1,310,133.02
MOORE, ALAN -- $ 2,301,073.23
O'MALLEY, BRYAN LEE -- $ 1,862,308.35
PEIRCE, LINCOLN -- $ 3,660,581.81
RUSSELL, RACHEL RENEE -- $ 3,641,001.54
SATRAPI, MARJANE -- $ 1,614,273.80
SNYDER, SCOTT -- $ 3,355,701.09
SPIEGELMAN, ART -- $ 1,179,610.30
TAKEUCHI, NAOKO -- $ 1,286,137.72
TELGEMEIER, RAINA -- $ 4,658,759.91
TOBOSO, YANA -- $ 1,236,755.00
VAUGHAN, BRIAN K. -- $ 2,079,475.60
WAY, DANIEL -- $ 1,197,112.87
WILLINGHAM, BILL -- $ 1,141,030.87
YANG, GENE LUEN -- $ 1,497,658.69

This gives us 27 authors, who sell a combined $68.7m worth of books. That is almost exactly one-third of all comics dollars being spent on BookScan (all 26,976 entries!) from the pens of just a small number of people.

What you can take from this is that only a small number of creators drive the majority of the business in comics (and books in general, I think); and conversely, this probably means that most comics aren't actually significantly profitable any given year.

Let's switch our attention to looking how publishers performed.

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:

2014 Manga

Led predominately by "Attack on Titan," the American market for Manga finally starts to rebound in 2014. Despite having the fewest number of placing books within the Top 750, both Unit and Dollar sales are up by healthy amounts. That's a good trend.

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
2013 315 1,665,487 $21,256,777
2014 271 1,748,185 $22,601,720

After seven straight years of decline, Manga finally has an up year again! Finally!

As noted, the manga series of the year is absolutely "Attack on Titan," which places all fourteen released volumes, as well as all the releases from its three spin-off series, and a guidebook, within the Top 750. These twenty-one books represent 394k copies (23% of manga in the Top 750), and almost $4.7m in retail sales (21% of the manga in the Top 750)

In 2013, the first volume of "Attack on Titan" sold just 29k copies; in 2014 it nearly doubles that to 58k. It's a genuine hit at this point.

The numbers for Manga as a category down into the "Long Tail" paint the picture

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
2013 7024 10.93% 3,516,208 0.01% $44,651,823 9.06 % 501 $6,357.04
2014 7452 6.09% 3,914,385 11.32% $51,557,925 15.47% 525 $6,918.67

I count 76 distinct series among the 271 placing manga titles in the Top 750 -- manga tends to be dominated by a smallish handful of properties. Here is the Top 20 manga:

54,520 -- ATTACK ON TITAN 1
37,266 -- ATTACK ON TITAN 2
28,342 -- ATTACK ON TITAN 3
26,297 -- NARUTO VOL 64
25,747 -- ATTACK ON TITAN 10
25,122 -- NARUTO VOL 65
24,822 -- ATTACK ON TITAN 9
22,980 -- NARUTO VOL 66
22,906 -- ATTACK ON TITAN 11
22,047 -- ATTACK ON TITAN 4
19,555 -- ATTACK ON TITAN 12
19,440 -- ATTACK ON TITAN 5
19,354 -- ATTACK ON TITAN NO REGRETS 1
18,402 -- ATTACK ON TITAN 8
17,777 -- ATTACK ON TITAN 6
17,198 -- FAIRY TAIL 1
17,067 -- BLUE EXORCIST V1
16,582 -- BLACK BUTLER V1
16,376 -- SWORD ART ONLINE AINCRAD MANGA
16,207 -- ATTACK ON TITAN 7

This helps illustrate just how dominant "Attack on Titan" is for Manga right now in America -- thirteen of the Top Twenty manga are "AoT" volumes!

Story continues below

The former leader of the category, "Naruto," continues to drop this year -- "Just" 26k copies of its best-selling volume sell. This was more like 29k the year before. But, more revealingly, the total for all Naruto volumes in the Top 750 is about 162k copies combined. Compare this to six years ago in 2008 when the top selling volume of "Naruto" (v28 at that time) sold 104k copies all by itself!

Breaking down the manga portion of the chart by publisher, Viz takes 125 of the 271 manga spots in the Top 750, keeping them as the overwhelmingly dominant manga player with just under half of the placing titles. Within the Top 750, Viz charted about 725k pieces, for about $8.7 million -- Viz continues to control the manga charts as they have for a very long time now.

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
2013 3636 3.35% 1,853,211 -11.73% $21,586,923 -3.77% 510 $5,937.00
2014 3765 3.55% 1,855,161 0.11% $22,732,074 5.30% 493 $6,037.74

In second place among manga publishers, we have Kodansha Comics, which zooms forward this year and places 58 titles within the top 750, with 574k in sales, and $7.2 million dollars. This nearly doubles their performance from last year.

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

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

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

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

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

Year # of
listed 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
2013 320 30.08% 501,554 54.41% $6,299,487 56.44% 1567 $19,685.90
2014 442 38.13% 821,298 63.75% $10,481,008 66.38% 1858 $23,712.69

In 2014 Kodansha has one title over 50k ("Attack On Titan" v1), six more over 20k, and eleven more over 10k.

The #3 manga publisher is now Yen Press, which places 70 titles in the Top 750, with about 360k copies sold, and nearly $5.3 million retail gross. Yen is a division of Hachette (more on them later).

Here's the Long Tail for Yen, as they go into the red on pieces, but still manage almost a 3% growth in dollars.

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
2013 654 19.34% 692,380 6.86% $9,715,421 11.22% 1,059 $14,855.38
2014 776 18.65% 682,135 -1.48% $9,985,502 2.78% 776 $12,867.92

Yen has no books over 20k, and six over 10k. Their best-selling title is v1 of "Black Butler" at almost 17k sold.

The fourth largest publisher of manga in 2014, on the Top 750 of BookScan is Seven Seas, which drops down to 13 titles, for 67k and $886k 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
2013 223 47.68% 204,419 64.51% $2,942,608 74.64% 917 $13,195.55
2014 300 34.53% 284,484 39.17% $3,979,338 35.23% 948 $13,264.46

Their best-selling title is "Monster Musume" v2, which sells 9759 copies.

Remaining the fifth largest publisher of manga, as measured by the BookScan Top 750 is Vertical. They place just three books into the Top 750, 11k copies, for $302k

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
2013 159 34.75% 61,906 37.49% $1,128,252 68.12% 389 $7,095.92
2014 187 17.61% 83,312 34.58% $1,491,984 32.24% 446 $7,978.53

They, too, are having a solid year of growth. Their best-selling title is "Mobile Suit Gundam The Origin" v1 with 4453 copies sold.

Eastern Publisher #6 will be Dark Horse, with just 2 placing titles in the Top 750, for just 10,482 copies sold and $210k in dollar sales.

The better-selling of the two ("Unofficial Hatsune Mix") scores 7033 copies sold.

Story continues below

Looking at the Long Tail, this is what Dark Horse's (manga only!) recent performance looks like -- it isn't looking great:

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
2013 521 5.68% 103,538 -7.86% $1,678,563 2.91% 199 $3,221.81
2014 559 7.29% 100,894 -2.60% $1,617,251 -3.65% 180 $2,893.11

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

Now we have to get into some technical notes. Once again Tokyopop manages to make the Top 750, despite being out of business since 2011: "Warriors Manga v4: The Rise of Scourge" shows up in the charts with Tpop's name on it with 4251 copies sold in 2014. The thing is, I don't believe these are actually "Tokyopop" copies, because this makes nearly 20k copies sold since Tpop went out of business, and that doesn't seem like a rational amount of inventory to still have on hand. Further, Harpercollins appears to now be the publisher for the rest of the "Warriors" titles -- and they have a second placement on the Top 750 with 3515 copies of a boxed set of other "Warriors" titles. Ultimately, I think there is an error that no one at BookScan or Harper cares about 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…

There's another small problem: I kind of don't think that the "Warriors" comics are "really" manga. This is subjective, and, of course, several of the "Warriors" comics have the word "manga" in the title, but damn it, it's time for a little ideological purity here after all of these years, and I'm just going to call those "western" comics from this year forward, and you'll find their numbers in Harpercollins' list from here on out.

I've been building a long tail for Tokyopop for a very long time, and I'm not at all excited about throwing out data. But, there is a time to face facts and admit you've been keeping track of something out of sheer schadenfreude. So, for the final time ever, here is the Long Tail for Tokyopop which once symbolized the "manga revolution" in America. This data will no longer be presented after this year.

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
2013 25 25.00% 19,442 -35.82% $137,039 -35.67% 778 $5,481.56
2014 17 -32.00% 12,779 -34.27% $90,346 -34.07% 752 $5,414.48

Finally, we should probably talk a little about Del Rey's manga line, which used to publish what is now published by Kodansha. Del Rey has zero manga books in the Top 750, because Del Rey's license stopped in October of 2010. However, there are still copies trickling through America's bookstores -- some 256 different Del Rey manga titles sold at least a single copy in 2014. In this case, I'm electing to keep this going for at least another year -- if only because 256 titles is still eighteen more titles than the first year (2007) we have Long Tail data for Del Rey!

This is just the manga that Del Rey published -- their non-manga material (like "The Hobbit" and the Dean Koontz "Odd" books) are listed with the Western comics under their parent company Penguin Random House.

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
2013 433 -17.21% 29,665 -65.04% $434,935 -55.84% 69 $1,004.47
2014 256 -40.88% 3,491 -88.23% $45,099 -89.63% 14 $176.86

This is also probably the last year you'll see this data!

2014 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, BookScan can't seem to keep some sort of internally-consistent method of categorizing titles that doesn't seem to change in some fashion from year-to-year -- there was an influx of "strip" comics last year, and a few more this year too. It is a limitation of the charts.

Story continues below

Here comes some exceptional year-over-year growth in the Top 750!

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
2013 435 3,988,864 $74,805,932
2014 479 4,910,846 $90,166,989

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

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

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
2013 17,468 2.57% 6,637,420 9.67% $131,767,547 6.72% 380 $7,543.37
2014 19,524 11.77% 7,905,939 19.11% $156,040,431 18.21% 405 $7,992.24

Again, this is a great collective performance, given the general economy and the overall state of print books in 2014.

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

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

In 2014 they placed 131 titles in the Top 750, for 931k units, and just over $19m in retail dollars, from their two charting imprints. "DC" itself is 103 of those placements, while Vertigo represents 28. Unlike last year there are no books from Mad in the Top 750 in 2014.

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

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
2013 130 767,686 $15,620,981
2014 131 931,239 $19,207,755

DC has yet another banner year during 2014 in the book stores, according to the BookScan reporters -- that kind of growth is really exceptional, especially since DC's transmedia in 2014 was mostly on lower-key Television ("Gotham," "Flash," "Arrow," "Constantine") rather than any theatrical driver -- the big blips for DC (2008 & 2009) were largely a result of the sales of "Watchmen" around the movie adaptation's release.

DC continues to be the #1 publisher (west or east) with the BookScan reporters, and they continue to do that without a Top 20 hit in the overall BookScan list (their top-selling book, "Batman: The Killing Joke" is such while only being #27 overall) which shows a wide support for a large number of perennial books, a generally healthy position to be in.

As just noted, their #1 selling book is a Batman comic; as is the majority of their top 10 as listed -- #2 is "Dark Knight Returns," #3 is the first volume of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's New 52 relaunch of Batman ("Court of Owls"), #4 is the second volume of same ("City of Owls"), #6 is "Batman: Year One," #7 is "Hush" #10 is v3 of the new Batman ("Death of the Family"), #12 is "The Long Halloween," #14 and #15 is more Snyder/Capullo (v4 "Zero Year" and "Death of the Family" in a hardcover format), and #16 as a tie-in to that ("Joker: Death of the Family," which reprints the non-"Batman" bits of that storyline). People would seem to like this Batman fellow, especially when done by Snyder and Capullo.

All told, fifty-four Batman or Batman-related titles place within the Top 750, clearly making it DC's most popular franchise, and, the franchise with the most number of placing titles as well ("The Walking Dead" continues to sell more overall units, though) -- with a massive eleven of those being Snyder / Capullo collections or repackagings.

Now, if you're following along closely at home, you might be thinking, "Er, but where's 'Watchmen'? Isn't that usually DC's #1 book?" And that question would be accurate -- for six of the last eight years, "Watchmen" has been DC's #1 seller. Yet, it doesn't make an appearance here until #12. What's going on? The answer is: look just a little further down, and you'll see that "Watchmen" is also DC's #15 book. Also in softcover. Uh, whut?

Well, DC decided to repackage "Watchmen" in 2014, with a new edition. They actually removed the title of the book from the cover, and are using slightly different guts -- with some new sketches and an introduction by artist Dave Gibbons. This new edition has an entirely different ISBN number although it has the same exact cover price. There's still inventory of the "old" edition out in the stores and on distributor's shelves, and, is likely to be at least some chart-splitting going on for a year or two more.

If you combine the sales of the two different editions (14,985 and 13,217), you get 28,202, which would, in fact, make "Watchmen" DC's #2 book overall this year. Given that the new edition dropped in May, and that there was not, as far as I can tell, any gap in availability between the two versions, it would appear that this was a smooth passing of the baton. However, if DC thought that refreshing the look or guts of the book would increase sales, that didn't really appear to happen -- that's up a bit from 25k in 2013, but it's less of an increase that "Killing Joke" received (almost 32k in 2014 vs 24k in 2013). Actually, if anything, I would imagine that the new edition would cause a small amount of market confusion as some retailers don't realize they need to adjust their Point-of-Sale systems to the new ISBN.

Story continues below

It also makes "Watchmen" appear to be from 2014, rather than 1995, which I imagine could cause some confusion for future scholars who aren't paying close attention.

(Parenthetically, one should also combine the two editions of "Superman: Red Son," though at 5116 and 3253, the combined 8369 is a bit less significant -- it would become DC's #29 book if we combined them)

DC's #5 best-selling book (or #6, if you combine "Watchmen" editions, which we won't be for the purposes of this discussion) is also by Alan Moore, and the highest placing "Vertigo" book -- "V For Vendetta," while Vertigo also has books #9 (The first volume of "Sandman") and #19 (The first volume of "Fables")

#8 for DC is the first volume of the Geoff Johns / Jim Lee "Justice League," while #14 is the first volume of the relaunch of "The Flash." That latter is likely driven by the "Flash" television show, although we're certainly not seeing any real bounce for its companion show "Arrow."

It might be worth noting that sixty-two of DC's 131 placing books are "New 52" branded titles, and while one can certainly give a lot of weight to the success of the Snyder / Capullo "Batman" within that, it does appear to me that this branding and ease-of-entry that it implies from lower volume numbers, has had a certain level of success as a result -- only forty-nine "New 52" books were in last year's chart. We'll see, in a decade or so, what goes on to be a true perennial title, but at year five of the branding, it's very hard to argue that it doesn't appear to be working in the bookstore environment. (I'm talking to you, Torsten!) -- 8.3% of the Top 750 are "New 52"!

Finally, DC's Top 20 is brought up at the rear with #20 being the second hardcover volume of the video-game driven "Injustice Gods Among Us"

Looking past just the Top 750 down into the Long Tail shows another strong year for DC, with extensive growth by all metrics.

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
2013 2551 4.04% 1,369,850 13.57% $29,881,153 11.79% 537 $11,714
2014 2746 7.64% 1,638,901 19.64% $35,388,570 18.43% 597 $12,887

DC has six books over 20k (seven if you smoosh the two "Watchmen" editions together), and fifteen more over 10k (or thirteen if you remove the two "Watchmen" listings).

The #2 Western publisher in the Top 750 for 2014 is Scholastic. Though, note that this is exclusively through BookScan reporters -- there is a working assumption that whatever retail bookstore sales we're seeing here are just a tiny fraction of their overall sales -- between Book Fairs, school sales, Library sales and such, Scholastic might be racking up much more impressive numbers, but I can only analyze what data I actually have!

Scholastic also has several imprints -- besides the Graphix imprint, they also publish Arthur A. Levine and Blue Sky, and together, they place 28 titles in 2014 for 806k copies, and $9.7m in sales. Again, in alphabetical order…

Arthur A. Levine places just one book into the Top 750: just over 11k copies of "The Arrival" by Shaun Tan.

Blue Sky is also just one book in the Top 750 -- Dav Pilkey's "Ook & Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen," comes in just a notch under 10k, which is a pretty severe drop from the 23k in sales it did in 2013.

The Graphix imprint has 22 placing titles, for 608k in sales, and a bit over $7 million in dollars. Obviously, Graphix's big hits are the Raina Telgemeier books ("Sisters," "Smile" and "Drama), all of which are discussed up top. Graphix also does extremely well with Kazu Kibuishi's "Amulet," with all six volumes charting, (v5, "Prince of the Elves" does not have the word "Amulet" in BookScan's listed title), with the sixth and latest volume ("Escape From Lucien") doing almost more than 39k (v5 did 22k last year). Jeff Smith's "Bone" also continues to do well, with 9 Bone-related comics on the Top 750 chart. Volume 1, "Out From Boneville" sells just over 14k copies this year, down from 18k last year.

Scholastic also publishes (without an imprint) the "Star Wars Jedi Academy" books by Jeffrey Brown which pulled down 84k and 79k for v 1 and v2 this year. They also sell 11k copies of "Adventures of Super Diaper Baby."

The Long Tail for Scholastic looks like this -- really an astonishingly great growth this year:

Story continues below

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
2013 91 19.74% 437,590 34.61% $5,365,921 35.67% 4809 $58,966.16
2014 97 6.59% 846,277 93.39% $10,204,175 90.17% 8725 $105,197.68

Scholastic has two books over 150k, three more over 50k, another two over 20k, and a total of seven more that sell more than 10k copies.

Image Comics, our #3 largest Western publisher via the BookScan reporters, has 47 titles placing within the Top 750, selling 692k copies and $17.5m. They actually sell more units in the Top 750 than in 2013, but they take a fairly large drop in revenue because of the softening of the $60 "The Walking Dead' compendia.

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

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
2013 38 651,390 $19,371,269
2014 47 691,804 $17,554,492

A great deal of Image's success is still being drawn by "The Walking Dead," but "TWD" is clearly softening after several years of insane growth. As noted above Image's #1 title, the first volume of the "TWD" compendia, dropped from 96k in 2013 to 68k in 2014, but it's still an incredible money maker. The good news for "TWD" is that this year's new volume releases (2014 dropped three "TWD" volumes -- v20 in March, v21 in July and v22 in November) appear to still be climbing in sales -- v20 (with most of the year to sell) did over 45k, compared to v18 selling 38k in 2013

"TWD" dominates Image's lineup, with thirty-four out of their forty-seven titles, but Image is clearly growing its bench as Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' "Saga" comes roaring up the charts. Somewhat oddly v3 does the best (with 38k), but v1 is not far behind at 34k, v2 at 25k, and v4, which was only released in December, and so has just a single month's worth of sales, scoring a very impressive 13k out of the gate. One imagines these sales will do nothing but vastly accelerate over the next few years as word of mouth spreads. The $50 deluxe hardcover, also with only a month to sell, manages a strong 8181 copies sold through BookScan.

Image also does will with Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky's "Sex Criminals" (14k), and the first volumes of "Rat Queens" (8671), "East of West" (6072), "Pretty Deadly" (5956) and "Black Science" (5672). Under the 5k line, but within the Top 750, is "East of West" v2, "Lazarus" and "Nowhere Men"

Here's what Image's Long Tail looks like; it is a slightly mixed bag with a growth in pieces, but a drop in dollars:

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
2013 14.52 994% 776,507 -2.25% $22,085,860 -3.12% 781 $22,219.18
2014 1006 1.21% 830,735 6.98% $20,309,973 -8.04% 826 $20,188.84

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

Our #4 Western Publisher in the Top 750 is Simon & Schuster, who are also the first of the mainstream book publishing so-called "Big Five." They take this position with just seven placing titles, which total 374k in units and $6.44m at retail.

Four of these books are from their Aladdin imprint, two are from Margaret K. Elderberry, and one is from Touchstone.

From Aladdin comes Rachel Renee Russell's immensely successful "Dork Diaries" (four placing books), with the best-selling ("Tales From A Not So Fabulous Life") selling 152k copies by itself. As noted above, if all of the "Dork Diaries" books were in the database given to me, this would likely change the placements a bit, but I'm not chasing them down because they are, kind of, not "properly" comics: "Juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence"

Touchstone books has just one title, but it's a big one: Allie Brosh's "Hyperbole and a Half" which sells almost 130k copies.

The Margaret K. Elderberry imprint has two books -- a hardcover version and a softcover of Emily Carroll's "Through The Woods." The SC sells just over 5k, while the HC does 3523.

Here is Simon & Schuster's Long Tail, which includes the imprints that I'm aware of (Aladdin and Simon-named ones, as well as Atria, Atheneum, Gallery, Margaret K. Elderberry, Pocket and Touchstone)

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % Change Av. Sale
per title
Av. $ per title
2013 282 ------ 447,174 ------ $7,259,364 ------ 1,586 $25,742.43
2014 71 5.97% 383,878 48.25%

26.55% 5,407 $91,842.54

Simon & Schuster has one book over 150k, another over 100k, and one more over 50k.

Moving way up to become the #5 Western publisher within the Top 750 in 2014 is Marvel Comics, which places 53 titles for about 343k copies and $8.3m sold.

Story continues below

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 twelve 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
2013 39 187,598

$4,229,242
2014 53 342,706

$8,341,787

It is a big, big year of growth for Marvel, as they have their best year in BookScan since 2003.

Having said that, "Marvel" is practically synonymous with "comics" itself amongst "civilians" -- and they had four successful movies with their brand in theatres in 2014 ("Amazing Spider-Man 2," "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "X-Men: Days of Future Past") as well as two television shows ("Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and "Agent Carter"), so from that point of view, selling less than half of the books that Image does in the Top 750 hardly seems like a triumph. Further, Marvel absolutely dominates periodical releases, which absolutely should translate into best-selling collections as well. For all of their amazing advantages, Marvel, I believe, radically lags behind in book sales in any meaningful relative fashion.

I believe that the problem with Marvel, as always, is that current management is extremely inventory adverse, and there simply isn't a good way to sell books without taking strong and aggressive inventory positions.

Witness Marvel's #1 best-seller this year -- "Guardians of the Galaxy" v1, at just under 20k copies, is their strongest seller in years, but with the #1 movie of the year, in fact what I might argue was the single hottest film of the summer, and host to a wealth of culture-conversation and -awareness, it's hard to understand how it only can sell two-thirds of a twenty-six year old "Batman" story, or under a third of a sixty dollar collection of "The Walking Dead." Looking at other things on the chart, and Marvel's pop culture status, and the immense unfamiliarity of the general audience for "Guardians of the Galaxy," it's hard to argue that it is even slightly rational that "GotG" v1 should be selling under 50k in the bookstores.

What we "know" of mass media hits as they relate to comics sales is that the more permutations of product out on the market, the lower the comics sell -- "Watchmen" sold a million copies in 2008 because that was really the only media tie-in available. "GoG" really, really should have followed a similar pattern, in my considered opinion. I find it increasingly hard to accept that "Marvel" graphic novels sell only a fraction of "DC," when you consider the market-awareness and love for the two brands. I think Marvel should be doing at least twice as well in the Top 750.

Still and all, Marvel appears content with this level of sales, so who am I to second guess them?

Marvel's #2 title is "Civil War" for just over 15k, #3 is "Infinity Gauntlet" with just under 15k, #4 and #5 are "Deadpool" volumes for a bit under 13k, #6 is "X-Men: Days of Future Past" at just below 11k sold (the film of the same name grossed nearly $240 million domestically alone), while #7 is the first volume of the new "Ms. Marvel," at just a little under 11k sold. #8 & #10 are "Deadpool" books (with sub-10k sales), while #9 is the first volume of "Hawkeye" (9514, down from about 15k last year)

Here is Marvel's Long Tail. Very strong relative gains this year down there.

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
2013 3203 3.89% 730,826 0.59% $17,820,299 -5.45% 228 $5,564
2014 3352 4.65% 918,595 25.69% $24,369,961 36.75% 274 $7,270

Marvel has seven books that are over 10k.

The #6 publisher goes to Andrews McMeel. Andrews is a publisher that sometimes frustrates me by how they've been represented by BookScan -- as I noted, it used to be that "humor" books like "Far Side" and "Calvin & Hobbes" used to rule the BookScan charts. Until, one day, poof! All of those books disappeared entirely from the dataset I was given, throwing off a whole lot of my comparables. And, for the most part, comic strip reprints have stayed out of these charts for half a decade. But, they've started creeping back into the listings for the last two years. I'm actually fine with comic strips and comic books co-existing in the same places -- at least they're both comics -- but the inconsistency just drives me nucking futz.

Story continues below

Ultimately, I have 13 Andrews-published titles in the Top 750 in 2014, for 340k copies and $3.7 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 seven "Big Nate" books -- each and every one does over 11k in sales, with the best-selling one ("Great Minds Think Alike") doing an excellent almost 85k in unit sales. Altogether the "Big Nate" books sell about 286k copies, for almost $2.9 million.

Other than that, Andrews' other big book is "Oatmeal's" "The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run" which does over 35k copies sold. Diamond doesn't even carry that book for Direct Market stores. Andrews doesn't have anything else that scores even 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 really 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
2013 43 38.71% 343,681 52.38% $3,747,799 36.88% 7,993 $87,158.12
2014 59 37.21% 373,713 8.74% $4,387,252 17.06% 6,334 $74,360.21

Andrews McMeel has three books over 50k, two more over 20k, and three others over 10k.

In 2013, there was a significant merger between Random House and Penguin Putnam, making the once so-called "Big Six" of mainstream book publishing now just the "Big Five." The resulting publisher is known as Penguin Random House, and was formally born on July 1, 2013. This entity is the #7 largest publisher of Western comics in 2014, via the BookScan reporters.

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

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

They're also, in the long tail: [deep breath!] Ace, Berkley Books, Crown, Doubleday, Dutton, Emblem, Golden, Gotham Books, Grossett & Dunlap, Hudson Street, InkLit, McClelland & Stewart, Montena, New American Library, Penguin, Philomel, Plume, Price Stern Sloan, Puffin, Putnam, Riverhead, Schocken, Schwartz & Wade, Ten Speed, Three Rivers, Tundra, Viking, Villard, Watson-Guptill and Yearling. [whew!] However, they are not (Brian writes down here so he remembers this research next year) the PRH-distributed-only Campfire, Frog In Well, Library of America, Overlook Press, Powerhouse, Quirk, Shambhala, Universe or Verso

Combined, Penguin Random House imprints in the Top 750 in 2014 place 40 titles, for almost 321k units, and just over $6m in dollar sales. Looking at those imprints in alphabetical order:

Alfred A. Knopf Books For Younger Readers places four books into the Top 750, all from Jarrett J. Krosocza's "Lunch Lady" series. Aimed squarely at, as the imprint's name implies, younger readers, the best-seller of the seven is "Lunch Lady & The Cyborg Substitute" with sales just under 8k. The four volumes combined are about 23k copies, and $164k in retail dollars.

Ballantine places four titles in the Top 750. Their real success is with Bryan Lee O'Malley's newest book, "Seconds," which places twice -- just over 26k of the regular edition, and just under 10k of a "Barnes & Noble Exclusive" edition. Together, the book moves almost 36k copies. Ballantine also has a pair of "Garfield" strip collections, these being packages of previous "Garfield" books, rather than individual ones. Neither sells even 5k.

Bantam co-produces (with Dynamite) the comics adaptations of George R. R. Martin's "Game of Thrones." V1 sells 8620 copies, with the next two volumes doing under that.

Broadway Books has just one placing title this year: Max Brooks' "Harlem Hellfighters" that does respectfully with over 15k copies sold. The comics extension of Brooks' "Zombie Survival Guide," which did 15k in 2013 doesn't make the Top 750 this year, selling just 1404 copies. Wow, 90% drop!

Story continues below

Del Rey, which used to house a lot of their Manga publishing (see above for more on that), hits the Top 750 with two books this year -- both under 5k copies -- Doug Wenzel's adaptation of "The Hobbit" and Diana Gabaldon's "Exile: And Outlander Graphic Novel"

Dial places a single title ("Life of Zarf") for just 3749 copies.

Pantheon is their "literary" comics wing, and has some of PRH's best-sellers. There are ten different Pantheon books within the Top 750, the best-selling being Marjane Satrapi's "Persepolis," and art spiegelman's "Maus." "Persepolis" is discussed up top, but "Maus" failed to hit the overall Top 20 this year -- v1 does 38k, v2 does almost 17k, and the complete edition does just over 10k.

Pantheon also launches a new book this year: Richard McGuire's "Here," which debuts at 5210 copies. They also do fairly well with Charles Burns' "Black Hole" which sells 5048 copies. Last year's darling, Chris Ware's "Building Stories" drops pretty precipitously to 4629 copies sold.

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, at just under 10k copies sold), as well as "Super Amoeba" and "Comics Squad recess." Additionally, the adaptation of the "City of Ember" hit towards the bottom of the chart for almost 2900 copies sold.

Finally, there's Razorbill, with 2912 copies sold of "Shadow Kiss: A Graphic Novel"

Here's what the Western (only) Long-Tail for the merged company looked like in 2014:

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % Change Av. Sale
per title
Av. $ per title
2013 282 ------ 447,174 ------ $7,259,364 ------ 1,586 $25,742.43
2014 252 -10.64% 428,634 -4.15% $7,415,712 2.15% 1,701 $29,427.43

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

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % Change Av. Sale
per title
Av. $ per title
2013 715 ------ 476,839 ------ $7,694,299 ------ 667 $10,761.26
2014 508 -28.95% 432,125 -9.38% $7,460,811 -3.03% 851 $14,686.64

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

Year # of
listed items
% 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

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

Year # of
listed items
% 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 publishes a lot of Manga, so here's what the former Random House looked like if you added that "Eastern" manga in as well:

Year # of
listed 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

Penguin Random House has one title over 50k, two books over 20k, and another three books over 10k.

#8 on this year's list will be Dark Horse Comics, as they place 29 titles for 182k and $3.4m.

A lot of ink has been spilled about the loss of the "Star Wars" license, but Dark Horse only has a single "Star Wars" comic in the Top 750 in 2014, and it sells just 5478 copies. In the long tail there are a total of 282 "Star Wars" titles listed, and they sum up to 65,491 pieces and $1.5m in sales. This is under 8% of Dark Horse's bookstore sales for the year. Losing that will hurt, to be sure, but it need not be fatal.

Dark Horse's #1 book of the year is actually "Plants Vs. Zombies: Lawnmageddon" which nearly racks up 15k copies. Dark Horse also scores hugely with "Avatar: The Last Airbender" with twelve different volumes charting. The best-selling moves almost 14k copies. Dark Horse also does well with "Serenity: Leaves On The Wind" which moves just over 10k copies.

Despite there being two Frank Miller-derived films in the theatre, there's next-to-no bounce for Frank Miller comics. The first "Sin City" collection moves just 4256 copies, while the eponymous "A Dame To Kill For" doesn't even crack the Top 750 with 2734 copies sold. Further, in a year with a "300" sequel in the theatres, "300" sells just 2026 copies.

Story continues below

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
2013 1238 9.27% 383,391 1.61% $7,391,831 7.01% 310 $5,970.78
2014 1420 14.70% 421,708 9.99% $8,982,411 21.52% 297 $6,325.64

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
2013 1759 8.18% 486,929 -0.56% $9,070,394 6.23% 277 $5,156.56
2014 1979 12.51% 522,602 7.33% $10,599,661 16.86% 264 $5,356.07

Dark Horse has five titles over 10k.

The #9 largest publisher with Western comics in BookScan 2014 is another of the "big six": HarperCollins. Harper has thirteen books in the Top 750 this year, summing up to 120k copies sold, for $1.9 million. There's a lot of imprints with the word "Harper" in the title in the Long Tail (Harper, Harper Paperbacks, Harper Teen, Harper Festival, Harper Teen and so on), and Harper is also IT books, William Morrow and Zondervan.

Harper's biggest hit is a "Big Nate" volume (which, yes, is published by two different publishing houses) -- "Genius Mode" sells more than 32k copies, while "What Could Possibly Go Wrong" sells about 12k copies, and a boxed set moves 21k. The perennial "Understanding Comics" shifts over 11k copies sold.

Their other imprints don't show in the Top 750.

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
2013 68 -15.00% 197,595 23.83% $2,667,933 26.22% 2906 $39,234.31
2014 115 69.12% 158,193 -19.94% $2,398,836 -10.09% 1376 $21,042.42

Harper has two titles over 20k, and two more over 10k

The #10 publisher of Western comics in 2014 via BookScan is Papercutz, which has eleven titles placing, for 87k copies and $623k. Nine from Lego's "Ninjago," the best-selling being v9 ("Night of the Nindroids") with over 23k copies sold, which is down substantially from last year's 31k sold (and 48k the year before).They have nothing that charts in the Top 750 that isn't "Ninjago"

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
2013 298 15.50% 220,048 27.38% $1,670,814 24.41% 738 $5,606.76
2014 354 18.79% 144,206 -34.47% $1,173,414 -29.77% 407 $3,314.73

Papercutz has one volume with sales over 20k, and one more over 10k.

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

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

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

Little, Brown is the home of "Tintin," and they place three books into the Top 750 for a total of 12,579 copies and just over $160k in sales. However, only one of those is "Tintin" (the 3-in-one "Adventures of Tintin v1" sells just under 3800 copies), which seems crazy low to this observer, while the other two placing books are "Monster High" graphic novels. The better selling ("Hopes and Screams") sells 5087 copies.

Here's the Long Tail of just the Western books for Hachette, which is very mixed this year

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
2013 24 -14.29% 39,093 -65.75% $584,783 -62.65% 1,629 $24,365.96
2014 32 33.33% 38,853 -0.61% $593,667 1.52% 1,214 $18,552.10

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
2013 678 17.71% 731,473 -3.61% $10,300,204 ----% 1,079 $15,192.04
2014 808 19.17% 720,988 -1.43% $10,579,169 2.71% 892 $13,093.03

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

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

Story continues below

The best-seller here is listed as Square Fish: "American Born Chinese," selling just almost 23k copies. Farrar Straus Giroux's best-seller is the adaptation of "A Wrinkle In Time," with 7488 sold. First Second's strongest title is "The Return of Zita the Space Girl" (8433)

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
2013 187 13.33% 142,375 12.33% $2,395,569 15.33% 761 $12,810.53
2014 222 18.72% 190,682 33.93% $3,096,858 23.27% 859 $13,949.81

Holtzbrinck has one book over 20k, and nothing else over 10k.

While not one of the "Big Five," there are other native-to-the-bookmarket publisher who placed more than three titles into the Top 750: Henry N. Abrams, Inc (8) and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (5), and Hyperion (5)

Henry N. Abrams publishes both as Abrams Comicarts as well as Amulet Books. They place eight books into the Top 750 for almost 51k in sales and $1.9m.

Amulet publishes the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books, but as noted before, only the boxed sets appear here. The set of books 1-4 sells a hair over 12k copies.

Abrams places a single book over 10k: "El Deafo" which does just over 11k

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % Change Av. Sale
per title
Av. $ per title
2008 10,031 --- $148,675 --- $148,675 --- 3344 $49,558.33
2009 25 733.33% 24,116 140.41% $640,635 330.90% 965 $25,625.40
2010 41 64.00% 48,240 100.03% $1,109,444 73.18% 1177 $27,059.61
2011 49 19.51% 31,846 -33.98% $731,054 -34.11% 650 $14,919.47
2012 62 26.53% 37,522 17.82% $756,650 3.50% 605 $12,204.03
2013 70 12.90% 72,538 93.32% $3,278,063 333.23% 1036 $46,829.47
2014 88 25.71% 74,083 2.13% $2,324,820 -29.10% 842 $26,418.41

Henry N. Abrams has two books over 10k.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishes comics both as HMH and Mariner. They place three titles into the Top 750 that total 27k and $446k in sales.

Mariner's best-seller is Alison Bechdel's "Fun Home" which just barely misses 18k sold (down from 20k last year). While HMH does best with the 2014 edition of "Best American Comics" for a bare 3427 copies sold.

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % Change Av. Sale
per title
Av. $ per title
2007 4 --- 20,474 --- $434,495 --- 5119 $108,623.75
2008 6 50.00% 14,183 -30.73% $307,019 -29.34% 2363 $51,169.83
2009 14 133.33% 24,568 73.22% $436,328 42.12% 1755 $31,166.29
2010 17 21.43% 29,163 18.70% $532,539 22.05% 1715 $31,325.82
2011 18 5.88% 24,239 -16.88% $450,536 -15.40% 1347 $25,029.78
2012 21 16.67% 23,562 -2.79% $402,575 -10.65% 1122 $1,9170.24
2013 29 38.10% 44,558 89.11% $687,920 70.88% 1536 $23,721.38
2014 27 -6.90% 44,558 26.50% $552,884 -19.63% 1213 $20,477.19

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has just the one book over 10k.

Hyperion is, like Marvel, also owned by Disney. Technically, that probably means I should fold them together, but I resist, how I resist (largely because they are distributed separately). However, if we did that, the combined entity would move one place forward, to #4. Hyperion has five placing titles, doing 68k, and $889k. All are Rick Riordan adaptations -- "Percy Jackson" ("Lightning Thief" does almost 16k) and "Red Pyramid" (just under 9k) -- but their most successful book in 2014 is "Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero," just over 18k, and outselling everything from Marvel itself except "Guardians of The Galaxy."

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % Change Av. Sale
per title
Av. $ per title
2007 10 --- 39,121 --- $336,771 --- 3912 $33,677.10
2008 19 90.00% 41,005 4.82% $409,051 21.46% 2158 $21,529.00
2009 24 26.32% 23,301 -43.18% $234,078 -42.78% 971 $9,753.25
2010 26 8.33% 30,860 32.44% $314,067 34.17% 1187 $12,079.50
2011 29 11.54% 46,553 50.85% $392,652 25.02% 1605 $13,539.72
2012 31 6.90% 33,105 -28.89% $376,735 -4.05% 1068 $12,152.74
2013 33 6.45% 102,537 209.73% $1,298,672 244.72% 3107 $39,353.70
2014 38 15.15% 77,045 -24.86% $1,015,188 -21.83% 2028 $26,715.49

Hyperion has four books over 10k.

Outside of those bookstore-native publishers, we've got several Direct Market-native publishers who placed more than three titles into the Top 750. Those would be: IDW (11), Oni (11), Boom (7), Archie (7), and Titan (3)Top Shelf (2)

IDW places eleven books into the Top 750 for over 56k and $987k in sales.

Their best-seller is "Skylanders: The Kaos Trap," with nearly 12k sold. They also did well with the final "Locke and Key" hardcover (8602 sold) and "My Little Pony" digest (7753 sold)

At the very beginning of 2015 IDW bought Top Shelf (see below), and so starting next year, we'll combine those charts. For now, here is IDW's Long Tail alone, showing excellent growth:

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
2013 1059 13.02% 180,694 11.13% $4,443,372 2.62% 171 $4,195.82
2014 1134 7.08% 228,895 26.68% $5,309,992 19.50% 200 $4,641.40

IDW has one book over 10k.

Oni Press is the home of "Scott Pilgrim" and Bryan Lee O'Malley continues to be their only charting author. Eleven different titles, worth 46k copies, and $968k in retail dollars. Not as much as the height, but still solidly profitable numbers.

Here's Oni's Long Tail, still largely dropping as "Scott Pilgrim" softens over time:

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
2013 195 14.04% 68,140 -15.42% $1,401,748 -12.06% 349 $7,188.45
2014 213 9.23% 61,584 -9.62% $1,303,069 -7.04% 289 $6,117.70

Oni has no books over 10k.

Archie Comics places seven total books in the Top 750, selling 29k and $410k. Their best-seller is the Sonic / Mega Man crossover which sells 5450 copies.

Story continues below

Here's Archie's Long Tail:

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
2013 110 29.41% 79,978 19.39% $974,889 22.29% 727 $8,862.63
2014 148 92,953% 79,978 16.22% $1,170,486 20.06% 628 $7,908.69

Archie has no books over 10k.

BOOM! also sells seven titles into the Top 750, for almost 44k and $627k in sales. It is mostly "Adventure Time" books, with the best-seller being v4 with just over 13k sold.

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % Change Av. Sale
per title
Av. $ per title
2007 21 --- 10,462 --- $246,984 --- 498 $11,761.14
2008 44 109.52% 10,943 4.60% $394,361 59.67% 249 $8,962.75
2009 93 111.36% 25,378 131.91% $485,485 23.11% 273 $5,220.27
2010 202 117.20% 64,770 155.22% $1,140,019 134.82% 321 $5,643.66
2011 253 25.25% 75,472 16.52% $1,435,514 25.92% 298 $5,673.97
2012 307 21.34% 59,758 -20.82% $1,160,894 -19.13% 195 $3,781.41
2013 347 13.03% 86,637 44.98% $1,650,374 42.16% 250 $4,756.12
2014 388 11.82% 108,504 25.24% $1,894,658 14.80% 280 $4,883.14

BOOM! just has the one book over 10k.

New to the BookScan Top 750 this year is Titan Comics, who place three titles for 16,367 copies and $266k. Their best-seller is the first volume of "Snowpiercer" which sells 6234 copies.

Which means I need to build a brand-new Long Tail for this year, though I am going to include information both from "Titan Comics" as well as "Titan Books (UK)," which, as far as I can tell, are in fact the same entity, distributed by Random House.

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % Change Av. Sale
per title
Av. $ per title
2007 104 --- 10,782 --- $284,570.90 --- 104 $2,736.26
2008 114 9.62% 15,627 44.94% $478,790.65 68.25% 137 $4,199.92
2009 125 9.65% 12,957 -17.09% $225,008.15 -53.00% 104 $1,800.07
2010 134 7.20% 11,766 -9.19% $227,861.70 1.27% 88 $1,700.46
2011 133 -----% 11,199 -4.82% $227,059.05 -0.04% 84 $1,707.21
2012 142 6.77% 17,612 57.26% $367,913.49 62.03% 124 $2,590.94
2013 158 11.27% 25,980 47.51% $529,217.08 43.84% 164 $3,349.48
2014 213 34.81% 43,669 68.09% $857,608.68 62.05% 205 $4,026.33

Titan places no books over 10k.

Also of note, and with a previous Long Tail built is Top Shelf, who places just two books into the Top 750, for 20k in sales, at $369k in gross retail sales. As noted, they sold to IDW as of 1/1/2015, so next year we'll combine charts there. Their best-selling book is Representative John Lewis' "March" v1, which scores nearly 17k copies sold.

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
2013 147 8.09% 47,565 34.24% $900,059 21.68% 324 $6,122.85
2014 148 0.68% 40,565 -14.72% $785,952 -12.68% 274 $5,310.49

Top Shelf has one book over 10k.

No publisher that has not been mentioned placed more than three titles within the Top 750, which leaves me with twenty-one books from eighteen different smaller publishers.

There are five comics that sell 10k copies or over in this cohort: the 73k copies of Roz Chast's "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant" from Bloomsbury, 23k of the "cinestory" adaptation (using frames from the film) of Disney's "Frozen" from Joe Books, two George R.R. Martin adaptations from Jet City Comics (which is Amazon's print comics arm) -- "Hedge Knight" sells almost 17k copies, while "Sworn Sword" does almost 16k -- and almost 11k copies of Gareth Hinds adaptation of "The Odyssey" from Candlewick.

Between 5k and 10k, we have these five books: 9519 copies of Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattotti's "Hansel and Gretel" from Toon Books, 7290 copies of Jeff Smith's complete edition of "Bone" from Cartoon books, 6994 copies of Jules Feiffer's "Kill My Mother" from Liveright Publishing, 6910 copies of Julie Maroh's "Blue Is The Warmest Color" from Arsenal Pulp, and 5815 copies of "The Ultimate Minecraft Comic Book" published through CreateSpace.

The remaining eleven titles all sell below 5k copies.

One final little bit of number crunching before I go for the year. If we look at the entirety of the 27k-long "Long Tail" BookScan list, how do the publishers stack up in 2014? We'll consider it in dollars, this time, including both "east" and "west" comics, and round everything to the nearest hundred-thousand just for ease of presentation

#1 DC $35.4 Million
#2 Marvel Comics $24.4
#3 Viz $22.7
#4 Image Comics $20.3
#5 Dark Horse $10.6
#6 Hachette $10.6
#7 Kodansha $10.5
#8 Scholastic $10.2
#9 Penguin Random House $7.5
#10 Simon & Schuster $6.5

And what if we sort it instead by who distributes those comics? Then it looks like this:

#1 Random House $68 million
#2 Hachette $34.8
#3 Simon & Schuster $31.6
#4 Diamond Books $31.3
#5 Macmillan $11.5
#6 Scholastic $10.2
#7 Andrews McMeel $4.4
#8 Henry Abrams $2.5
#9 Harpercollins $2.5
#10 W.W. Norton $2.1

And that's pretty much what BookScan in 2014 looks like to these eyes.

How does it look to you?

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

Discuss this story in CBR's CBR Community forum.  |  3 Comments

TAGS:  tilting at windmills, bookscan

Tilting at Windmills Home | Tilting at Windmills Archives

 
Tilting at Windmills