Tilting at Windmills: Looking at BookScan: 2015

Fri, March 4th, 2016 at 4:58am PST | Updated: March 4th, 2016 at 10:47am

Comic Books
Brian Hibbs, Staff Writer
11

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

It's Lucky Thirteen! Yes, for the thirteenth 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 semi-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 toBookScan, 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):

For the last ten 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 2015 to 2006-2014 is probably as close to apples-to-apples as it can get, as is 2003-2005, but comparing the '06-'15 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 3600 copies. (up from about 2900 copies in 2014 and 2600 copies in 2012 and 2013) 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 2015, I possess data on almost 23,000 items! We'll talk more about this later in some depth.

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.

Nielsen 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.

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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 thirteen 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. However, that doesn't mean that I didn't miss one or more books that didn't show up on the reports; 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 $120.2 million in 2015!), 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.

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Some notes specific to 2015 data!

One of the things I really never talk about is how I get this data each year. I certainly don't have a BookScan account (they're pretty expensive!), so I am dependent on leaks from industry sources. I've been using one primary source for some time now, but job positions changed this year and my source had to go to another source to get the data. Now, normally, I wouldn't worry about this very much: data is data, and it should all be to the good (I spot check multiple lines with other sources to try and prevent any shenanigans!), but this year it appeared to me that the methodology with which the data was generated was very different. The thing is, since I don't generate these, BookScan methodology is largely a Black Box to me. For a guy who writes these reports for 13 (!) years, I have only really a passing knowledge of how things work.

I learned a lot more this year.

Traditionally there's a steady growth in the number of items that the report covers, but in 2015, the report I was given dropped by nearly 40%! Whoa, whoa, what is going on? Looking at the numbers, I quickly found the first problem: virtually every "kids" comic was simply gone from the list. Reaching out to other sources I had a list of "kids" comics generated, but even that was wicked short... ah, this time it was missing all of the "Juvenile Non-Fiction."..

Here's where we learn a little bit about the Book Industry Standards and Communications (or "BISAC") codes. It turns out that the publishers assign them, themselves, and that (and here's the part that I never knew prior to this year), publishers are allowed to assign up to four different BISAC codes per item. For example: "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" is classified as "Juvenile Fiction: Humorous Stories"; "Juvenile Fiction: Comics & Graphic Novels: General"; and "Juvenile Fiction: Social Issues: General." But the kicker is that BookScan reports will only spit out for the first BISAC listed for any given book. That is why "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" never ever shows on any of our reports, because the "comics" designation of the BISAC is listed second for that series! Conceptually I could also ask for "Juvenile Fiction: Humorous Stories" report, too -- but that's going to have thousands and thousands of prose-only, not-even-slightly-comics items on it. This is also why I have to manually ask for titles like "Maus" or "Persepolis" or "Understanding Comics" each and every year -- not because they don't contain the BISAC for comics ("CGN00xxxx," for the record), but because that BISAC isn't listed first!

So, anyway, I found someone entirely different who was willing to generate a list of "JUV008xxx" and "JNF06xxxx" titles for me (that's "Kids comics" and "Kid's non-fiction comics," respectively) -- which took two or three tries as we figured out which codes belonged to what -- and I added that in to my original document.

But we're still missing something along the lines of six thousand items. Gr, what?!?!

I looked and compared and looked things up, and tried to figure it out, and, as near as I can possibly figure, the original "CGN00xxxx" list that was generated was somehow only generated for "in stock" works... at least for some publishers (it is wonky and inconsistent, though).

The easiest way to describe this is for me to focus on a single publisher that I know their stock backwards and forwards: I chose DC Comics. DC Comics has 1423 items on my 2014 list that are not on the 2015 list. All are, as far as I can tell, not available from the publisher or are not in stock at any distribution source, but there are copies out there "in the wild" on bookstore shelves that still sell, every once in a while. For example, the single highest tracking DC book in 2014 that is missing is the 2002 paperback edition of "Batman: Dark Victory" which was superseded by a new edition released in early '14. The '02 edition continued to sell 1110 copies in 2014, because there were copies "out there," but it isn't to be found on my 2015 list. It simply isn't plausible that no copies of the '02 edition would sell in 2015, because I'm positive there are still copies out on shelves (and will be there for another 2-3+ years to come) and the '14 edition sold 5756 copies in 2015.

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If you look at the 1423 "missing" DC books, the sum total of all sales reported in 2014 was 43,322 -- or about 30 copies per book. We would naturally expect that sum to be at least slightly lower in 2015 (again: these are "OOP" books, filtering slowly through the system. But, even if it doesn't? DC shows 1.9 million books sold on the "raw" sales charts, so missing 43K copies just isn't that significant -- it's only about 2.3% of the total.

My original source wasn't able to rerun the data, and, by the time I figured out what the problem was, I had my back up against the deadline-wall, and there wasn't time to do the cozying-up-to dance to find someone else to make me the list, so we're going to go with slightly skewed data points. What I can say is this: as far as I am able to tell, none of the "missing" books would have made the Top 750, nor do they appear to "completely blow" the vast majority of my calculations.

Bottom line: the 2015 BookScan data as expressed here needs to have an asterisk next to it that it is missing a large number of data points, and is under-reporting sales by some unknown amount -- but probably under 5%.

Hopefully next year will have the report back where it needs to be!


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

2015 Overview

An initial overall note on this year's chart: I continue to cut out anything that clearly wasn't a "comic" (though such definitions are sometimes difficult to make). For instance, the #1 & #2 books of the year -- The "Dork Diaries" volumes (and more on that below) are not really a "comic" -- they have words, they have 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" (47,9642 sold in 2015), which, while nominally about comics or comics culture, is factually an encyclopedic prose book with pictures. Or "Dork Diaries:OMG! All About Me! Diary" (33,811 sold in 2015) which is actually a branded write-in Journal, or "DC Super Heroes: My First Book of Girl Power" (18,189 copies sold in 2015) where 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 27 items from the Top 750 that didn't match my personal definition of "comics," to make room for 27 items that I think are comics. However, if there was a legitimate question about it, like our #1 book, I erred on the side of keeping it.

Here's the big picture for the Top 750 in 2015:

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%
2015 *8,762,983 31.60% $141,226,518 25.24%

So, yeah, that's an astonishing level of growth in 2015, and it brings the Top 750 to the highest numbers it has ever charted in the history of this exercise. Amazing performance, and perhaps the clearest sign we can show of the transformation of comics material to Legitimate Art Form.

The trend for books in general through BookScan appears to be a general growth of 2.8% -- 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's worth, overall book sales through Diamond in the Direct Market appear to be up by just 3.14%, so the book market is growing significantly faster. Diamond only directly reports the Top 300 best-sellers each month, and those Top 300s in the DM sum up to $89.43 million. Deep into the micro, my own individual sales were up 14.41%.)

There's now probably too many live-action media based on comics and super heroes. In 2015, Television alone had six continuing shows with "The Walking Dead," "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.", "Agent Carter, "Arrow," "The Flash," and "Gotham" while it added five new series: "Daredevil" "iZombie," "Jessica Jones," "Powers" and "Supergirl." 2016 is going to add six more: "DC's Legends of Tomorrow," "Lucifer," "Luke Cage," "Outcast" "Preacher" and "Wynonna Earp!" Sheesh!

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2015 movies brought us a smaller than usual crop -- just "Ant-Man," "Avengers: Age of Ultron," "Diary of a Teenage Girl," "Fantastic Four," and "Kingsman: The Secret Service."

It is often very difficult to draw a straight line between significant comic sales and adaptations, though there are some notable exceptions ("The Walking Dead" would be one).

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. Please please please read "Some Notes Specific to 2015 Data!" above!

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
2015 * 22,431 -16.85% 15,269,550 29.18% $259,807,532.36 25.15% 681 $11,582.52

Despite the 2015 asterisk of losing nearly 17% of the books on the list due to how it was generated, it doesn't seem to impact the bottom line as much -- unit sales are still up by almost a third, with dollars up by a quarter. These are entirely fantastic results, across the board, and show growth at both the "bottom" as well as the top.

Let's take a look at the Top 20 best-selling items on the 2015 chart; it looks like this:

352,791 -- DORK DIARIES 10
296,415 -- DORK DIARIES 9
263,932 -- DRAMA
240,045 -- SMILE
219,421 -- SISTERS
116,683 -- KRISTY'S GREAT IDEA: FULL-COLOR
115,424 -- DORK DIARIES 1
89,774 -- BIG NATE: SAY GOOD-BYE TO DORK
73,258 -- EL DEAFO
69,913 -- BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE HC
69,748 -- JEDI ACADEMY
68,081 -- THE TRUTH ABOUT STACEY: FULL-COLOR
66,898 -- BIG NATE'S GREATEST HITS
66,442 -- THE WALKING DEAD: COMPENDIUM V3 TP
62,666 -- BIG NATE: WELCOME TO MY WORLD
60,493 -- THE WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM V1 TP
60,485 -- BIG NATE: THE CROWD GOES WILD!
58,818 -- HYPERBOLE AND A HALF
58,338 -- PERSEPOLIS 1
58,261 -- DORK DIARIES 9 TALES FRO B&N EDITION

There are quite a number of take-away's from this year's Top 20. First and foremost: fifteen of the twenty are comics aimed at children; and at the top of the chart, the numbers these books are selling is exploding.

Let's start with Rachel Renee Russell's "Dork Diaries," which took places #1, #2, #7 and #20. "Dork Diaries" is only kind of vaguely "comics" to my eyes, but it is also not not-comics. In 2014 the best-selling volume that charted came in at 152K -- in 2015 the new released volumes showed up with more than twice that number of copies -- with 353K for vol. 10 and 355K for vol. 9 (#20 is a "Barnes & Noble Exclusive Cover" version of vol. 9 -- this would seem to suggest that retailer exclusives don't add that much in the book channel?).

Of course, the problem is we only get to find out how vol. 1, 9 and 10 sell. Vol. 2-8 are apparently not BISCED "comics"-first! One presumes that many of those also sold in the 100K range as well, in 2015. In fact, it's probably pretty safe to assume that far more than a million and a half combined copies of "Dork Diaries" sold through BookScan reporters in 2015.

(Of course, we know that the latest volume of Jay Kinney's very similar semi-comics "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" sold almost a million and a half copies all by itself in 2015 -- so there clearly are literally millions of comics sales that this sales report is not capturing...)

The next four places #3-6 on the Top 20 are owned by Raina Telgemeier, with "Drama" doing 264K (it sold just 94K in 2014), "Smile" at 240k (151K in 2014), "Sisters at 219K (it was the #1 book of 2014's report... At 179K!) and vol. 1 of the newly colored "Baby Sitter's Club" pulling down 116k. Raina also takes the #12 book with another "Baby Sitter's Club" volume at 68K. That's an astounding performance, and an absolutely incredible growth in sales year-over-year.

Where is this growth coming from? Is it coming from all quarters as more and more stores realize the strength of middle-school-age-oriented graphic novels, or is it coming from big players like WalMart going big on the category? Anecdotally, "Smile" and "Sisters" are both in my own store's Top 100.

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Raina has six books that chart altogether (though there are 27 entries in the full list, due to various editions and formats), and she sold 990k copies this year, for more than $11 million in sales -- almost 6.5% of all the sales of the comics report for BookScan were by Raina Telgemeier (and almost 4.25% of the dollars!) That's purely incredible (and just a little bit insane)

Coming in at #7, is Lincoln Peirce's "Big Nate: Say Goodbye to Dork City," his new release from March of 2015. Peirce is also in the chart at #13 for "Greatest Hits," his new release from Jan of 2015, and at #15 for "Welcome to My World," his new release from Sep 15. He also places at #16 for 2014's "The Crowd Goes Wild." He also has nine other books within the Top 750. That's a lot of "Big Nate" books, and all aimed squarely at kids -- almost $4.5 million dollars worth!

At #9, is Cece Bell's "El Deafo" -- that's eight of the top 10 books by a woman creator.

The first super hero comic book (as well as first comic that's aimed at adults, sort of oddly that they're the same thing?) comes in at #10 with "Batman: The Killing Joke" at almost 70K sold. This, too, is an enormous jump from 2014 sales, where it only sold 32K copies

The first volume of Jeffrey Brown's "Jedi Academy" semi-comics book comes in at #11, with almost 70K sold in the Year of Star Wars' return -- yet it is down from 83K in 2014.

Robert Kirkman makes the Top 20 with two Walking Dead Compendia -- #14 for the newly released vol. 3 at 66K, then vol. 1 coming in at #16 with 60K. That's down a little bit from 2014 when vol. 1 sold 68K.

Finally, the back of the Top 20 brings us Allie Brosh's "Hyperbole and a Half" at #18 at 59K (it sold nearly 130K the previous year), and, at #19, Marjane Satrapi's first volume of "Persepolis," at just over 58K. Like most years, the second volume of "Persepolis" takes a deep fall (all the way down to, ew, 5K!), while the complete edition of the book sells about 28K.

Female dominance of the sales charts is getting stronger, as only eight of the Top Twenty are by a male.

What if you sort the chart by dollars grossed, instead? That changes the picture a little, but not as much as previous years -- now even "The Walking Dead's" $60 cover price can't offset the power of Rachel Renee Russell's "Dork Diaries," although all three Compendia now place.

$4,935,546.09 -- DORK DIARIES 10
$4,146,845.85 -- DORK DIARIES 9
$3,985,855.58 -- THE WALKING DEAD: COMPENDIUM V3 TP
$3,628,975.07 -- THE WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM V1 TP
$2,900,612.68 -- DRAMA
$2,732,964.43 -- THE WALKING DEAD: COMPENDIUM V2 TP
$2,638,094.55 -- SMILE
$2,411,436.79 -- SISTERS
$1,614,781.76 -- DORK DIARIES 1
$1,282,346.17 -- KRISTY'S GREAT IDEA: FULL-COLOR
$1,257,734.87 -- BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE HC
$1,233,792.00 -- CAN'T WE TALK ABOUT SOMETHING MORE PLEASANT? HC
1,175,771.82 -- HYPERBOLE AND A HALF
$1,165,833.48 -- CIVIL WAR TP
$1,163,843.10 -- PERSEPOLIS 1
$906,026.52 -- JEDI ACADEMY
$896,842.26 -- BIG NATE: SAY GOOD-BYE TO DORK
$869,005.02 -- BIG NATE'S GREATEST HITS
$815,071.39 -- DORK DIARIES 9 TALES FRO B&N EDITION
$802,175.10 -- EL DEAFO

Really, the biggest change here is that Roz Chast's "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant" places along with Marvel's "Civil War," now their best-selling title.

Fifteen books in the "million dollars or more" club, which is a new record for the chart.

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

KIRKMAN ROBERT -- 39
ISAYAMA HAJIME -- 21
SNYDER SCOTT -- 18
JOHNS GEOFF -- 15
PEIRCE LINCOLN -- 13
MASHIMA HIRO -- 12
TOBOSO YANA -- 11
KISHIMOTO MASASHI -- 11
KAWAHARA REKI -- 11
KIBUISHI KAZU -- 10

This is a lot smaller list than previous years -- only ten people who place more than ten books each, with Kirkman being the real winner here. Just over 2 million copies, total, of the Top 750 are by these ten authors, or a bit under 23% of the total sales volume -- in 2014 it was nineteen authors, taking 35% of volume, so things are widening out nicely as the market rises.

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:

KIRKMAN ROBERT -- $17,023,197.97
RUSSELL RACHEL RENEE $11,122,490.41
TELGEMEIER RAINA -- $10,970,503.74
PEIRCE LINCOLN -- $4,416,675.33
SNYDER SCOTT -- $4,395,252.34
ISAYAMA HAJIME -- $3,141,093.04
MOORE ALAN -- $2,939,866.66
VAUGHAN BRIAN K. -- $2,864,944.27
KIBUISHI KAZU -- $2,425,742.85
JOHNS GEOFF -- $2,186,577.95
SATRAPI MARJANE -- $1,962,652.35
MILLAR MARK -- $1,584,858.96
GAIMAN NEIL -- $1,565,773.85
BROWN JEFFREY -- $1,538,340.75
KISHIMOTO MASASHI -- $1,433,820.04
ISHIDA SUI -- $1,425,210.84
MILLER FRANK -- $1,383,524.40
YANG GENE LUEN -- $1,309,806.41
SPIEGELMAN ART -- $1,290,464.90
CHAST ROZ -- $1,233,792.00
BROSH ALLIE -- $1,175,771.82
MARVEL COMICS -- $1,133,398.43
O'MALLEY BRYAN LEE -- $1,128,915.31
LOEB JEPH -- $1,092,562.80
KAWAHARA REKI -- $1,077,240.00
STEVENSON NOELLE -- $1,049,896.71
TOBOSO YANA -- $1,042,626.00

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This gives us 27 authors, who sell a combined $83.8M worth of books. That is just under one-third of all comics dollars being spent on BookScan (all 22,431 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.

(The best one is "Marvel Comics" where the publisher is listed in the author field, sheesh)

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:

2015 Manga

No real clear dominance of series in Manga in 2015 -- sales are up for the second year in a row, but over a wider variety of titles than historically typical.

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
2015 *279 2,033,534 $26,191,474

Another up year for manga in America, though grow is slower than it is on the Western side. The top selling Manga in the US, via the BookScan reporters is "Tokyo Ghoul," with just a bit over 50K in sales.

While 2014 was led by the dominance of "Attack on Titan" (where vol. 1 sold 58K), that pulls way back in 2015, with vol. 1 only selling a relatively meager 34K. All 17 volumes continue to chart in the Top 750 (along with nine other spin-off volumes), but the bottom of the sales (vol. 7) is under 10k. Collectively "AoT" sells 286K copies, which is a pretty big drop from 2014's 394K sold.

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
2015 *4412 -40.79% 4,580,434 17.02% $62,253,624 20.75% 1038 $14,110.07

Scrub out all of the OOP books from Tokyopop and Del Rey (and others), and the title count crashes, yet sales sure still hold their own. Again, this is lower growth than the "Western" side of things -- but it is still sold and spectacular growth all things considered.

I count 89 distinct series among the 279 placing manga titles in the Top 750 -- sales continue to widen rather than just being dominated by a small number of series, as in the past. Here is the Top 20 manga:

50,541 -- TOKYO GHOUL V1 TP
34,107 -- ATTACK ON TITAN 1
30,110 -- TOKYO GHOUL, VOLUME 2
28,371 -- ONE-PUNCH MAN, VOLUME 1
26,756 -- THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: A LINK TO THE PAST TP
23,807 -- NARUTO, VOL. 72
23,730 -- DEATH NOTE BLACK EDITION, VOL.
23,340 -- NARUTO, VOL. 70
22,541 -- FAIRY TAIL V01
20,437 -- NARUTO, VOL. 71
20,125 -- BLACK BUTLER, VOLUME 1
19,814 -- TOKYO GHOUL, VOLUME 3
19,108 -- ATTACK ON TITAN 2
18,667 -- NARUTO, VOL. 69
18,633 -- ATTACK ON TITAN 15
18,532 -- ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM, VOL.
18,065 -- ONE-PUNCH MAN, VOLUME 2
15,977 -- BIG HERO 6, VOL. 1
15,898 -- BLUE EXORCIST, VOLUME 1
15,822 -- UNOFFICIAL HATSUNE MIX

These are solid results, though Manga is looking for it's "Next Attack on Titan" or "Next Naruto," both of which are seeing heavy declines -- in 2008 in the newest volume of "Naruto" sold over 104K copies by itself.

Breaking down the manga portion of the chart by publisher, Viz takes 124 of the 279 manga spots in the Top 750, keeping them as the overwhelmingly dominant manga player with a bit under half of the placing titles. Within the Top 750, Viz charted about 978K pieces, for nearly $12 million -- Viz continues to control the manga charts as they have for a very long time now, and it is a bit hard of envisioning anyone really challenging them much for that role.

Viz's best-selling titles are "Tokyo Ghoul" and the really fun "One Punch Man"

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
2015 2264 -39.87% 2,150,656 15.93% $28,134,971 23.77% 950 $12,427.11

Viz has one book (vol. 1 of "Tokyo Ghoul") that does over 50K in sales in 2015, another seven that do over 20K, and fourteen more that do over 10K.

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In second place among manga publishers, we have Kodansha Comics, which weakens a little this year and places 61 titles within the top 750, with 493K in sales, and $6.1 million dollars (compared to 574K and $7.2m in 2014).

Kodansha's licenses formerly were both the original backbone of Tokyopop, as well as being the majority of Del Rey Manga. Kodansha pulled Tokyopop'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.

Kodansha's current best-seller is "Attack on Titan," but, as noted above, the bloom is off the rose a bit there -- vol. 1 just pulls in 34K, while vol. 2 drops below 20k. The next best-seller is "Fairy Tail" at nearly 23K.

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
2015 455 2.94% 855,347 4.15% $10,938,531 4.37% 1880 $24,040.73

That's pretty weak growth, and well under the market as a whole.

In 2015 Kodansha has just two titles over 20K, and 19 more over 10K.

The #3 manga publisher is now Yen Press, which places 68 titles in the Top 750, with about 407K copies sold, and nearly $5.8 million retail gross -- they're within striking distance of Kodansha. Yen is a division of Hachette (more on them later).

Here's the Long Tail for Yen, reversing their prior sales drops, and showing their biggest sales to date.

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
2015 649 -16.37% 917,620 34.52% $13,248,445 32.68% 1414 $20,413.63

Their best-selling title is vol. 1 of "Black Butler" at just over 20K sold, followed by "Big Hero 6" at just under 16K. They have one title over 20K, and six more over 10K.

The fourth largest publisher of manga in 2014, on the Top 750 of BookScan is Seven Seas, which places 18 titles, for 110K and $1.4 million in sales. This is a solid rise on last year's 67K and $886K.

Seven Seas' Long Tail looks like this, another solid year for them.

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
2015 *304 1.34% 374,715 31.72% $5,177,568 30.11% 1233 $17,031.47

Their best-selling title is "Monster Musume" vol. 6, which sells just over 11K copies. It is their sole book over 10K.

Eastern Publisher #5 will be Dark Horse, surging forward a slot, with four titles placing in the Top 750, for 28K copies sold and $500K in dollar sales.

The best-selling is Unofficial Hatsune Mix," scoring 15,822 copies sold.

Looking at the Long Tail, this is what Dark Horse's (manga only!) recent performance looks like -- they finally reverse years of drops, to steady the ship greatly.

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
2015 *303 -45.80% 135,444 34.24% $2,238,167 38.39% 447 $7,386.69

Dark Horse Manga only has the one title over 10k.

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

Dropping down to sixth largest publisher of manga, as measured by the BookScan Top 750, is Vertical. They place just four books into the Top 750, 17K copies, for $354K -- that's also a rise from the previous year.

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
2015 *162 -13.37% 110,172 32.24% $1,956,167 31.11% 680 $12,075.10

Their best-selling title is "Ajin" vol. 1 with 5095 copies sold.

2015 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 -- I now know this is probably a change in BISAC codes! -- 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 how publishers assign BISACs and in what order.

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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
2015 *471 6,729,449 $115,035,044

Record breaking figures.

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
2015 *18,019 -7.71% 10,689,116 34.44% $197,553,909 26.60% 593 $10,963.64

Again, this is a great collective performance, compared to the overall state of print books in 2015.

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

Since we're tracking by the number of copies sold, 2015 brings us a large upset with the #1 Western publisher in the Top 750 now being Scholastic. Scholastic has several imprints -- besides the Graphix imprint, they also publish Arthur A. Levine and Blue Sky, and together, they place 31 titles in 2015 for almost 1.4 million copies, and $16.4 million in sales.

(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!)

Not only does Scholastic take this position with a relatively low number of placing titles (just over a quarter of our #2 publisher), but this is the first time that a primarily kids-focused publisher has taken over the #1 spot. Things are, as they say, changing.

In alphabetical order by imprint:

Arthur A. Levine places just one book into the Top 750: just over 10K 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 8500 copies sold.

The Graphix imprint has 23 placing titles, for just over 1.2 million in sales, and a bit under $14 million in dollars, nearly doubling last year. Obviously, Graphix's big hits are the Raina Telgemeier books ("Sisters," "Smile," "Drama," and the "Baby0Sitter's Club" adaptations), all of which are discussed up top.

Graphix also does extremely well with Jennifer Holm's "Sunny Side Up," which scores almost 29K copies sold in 2015. Kazu Kibuishi's "Amulet," continues to soar, with all six volumes and a box set of vol. 1-3 charting, with vol. 1 seling an incredible 24K copies. Jeff Smith's "Bone" slips a bit, with only six of the nine volumes appearing in the Top 750 this year. Vol. 1, "Out From Boneville," sells a bit over 15K copies this year.

Scholastic also publishes (without an imprint) the "Star Wars Jedi Academy" books by Jeffrey Brown which pulled down 79K and 49K for vol. 1 and vol. 2 this year. They also sell over 12K copies of "Adventures of Super Diaper Baby."

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

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
2015 *140 44.33% 1,449,296 71.26% $17,170,714 68.27% 10,352 $122,647.96

The last three years of growth for Scholastic has been nothing short of meteoric.

Scholastic has three books over 200K, another over 100K, three more over 50K, six more over 20K, and another four over 10K. Great year for them.

In 2015, it is an upset for DC Entertainment as they drop into the #2 position as the best-selling Western publisher in the Top 750.

In 2015 they placed 119 titles in the Top 750, for 1.07 million units, and just over $21.7 million in retail dollars, from their two charting imprints. "DC" itself is 100 of those placements, while Vertigo represents 19.

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
2015 119 1,074,304 $21,701,088

DC has yet another banner year during 2015 in the book stores, according to the BookScan reporters -- coming within striking distance of "best year ever." They still have a little way to go until they top that '09 performance (mostly driven by the incredible comics success of "Watchmen," which was driven by the film).

As noted toward the top of the report, DC's highest placing book is "Batman: The Killing Joke," which sold almost 70K copies, and was the tenth-best-selling comic overall for the BookScan reporters. It's probably no real surprise that Batman continues to be DC's most lucrative property, with 54 of their 100 placing titles being Batman or Batman-related ("Nightwing," "Batgirl," et al), totaling over 562K copies sold, larger than many publishers just with a single family. Those 55 titles are split with some 32 of them being "New 52"-era stories, and 23 of them being "classic" stories.

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For that matter, the "New 52" branding seems solid enough in book stores -- 55 of the one hundred DC Universe titles are "New 52"-driven titles.

Other notable "Batman" related books include Frank Miller's "Dark Knight Returns" at #3 (34K), "Court of Owls" at #5 (26K), "Year One" at #6 (25K), "City of Owls" at #7 (24K), and "Hush" at #10 (21K). I especially find the tight spread on Snyder & Capullo's first two volumes to be especially strong -- usually there's a big drop between first and second volumes. Frank Miller's sequel to "DKR," "The Dark Knight Strikes Again" manages to make the Top 750 with a comparatively weak 5690 sold.

DC's #2 title in 2015 is "Watchmen," coming in at over 34K in paperback, and another 5013 copies in hardcover (the older edition of the paperback shows up in the bottom of the chart with an additional 248 copies sold). Despite that, the "Before Watchmen" prequels do pretty poorly, with none showing up in the BookScan Top 750, and the best-selling of them ("Comedian/Rorschach") just selling a bare 2613 copies, and the worst-selling ("Ozymandius/Crimson Corsair"), doing a bare 1021.

Other significant DC sales are "Sandman: Overture" coming in as their fourth best-seller with 28K sold, despite only being on sale for a single month in 2015 (and compared to 18.5K sold of "Preludes & Nocturnes" for the entire year); "Suicide Squad" as their eighth best-seller, in advance of the upcoming film, with 23K (vol. 2 drops to just a hair over 10K); and "V For Vendetta" being their ninth-best-selling title with 22K.

DC also has a number of television projects in 2015 -- I think it is fairly easy to ascribe the just-under 20K copies of the first "New 52" volume of "The Flash" (it was just 13K in 2014), and the seven other flash-related titles as being driven by the success of the show. Ditto with the 7304 copies of "Hellblazer: Original Sins" is probably connected to the "Constantine" television show (though it sold more than 9K in 2014), although there's only a single "Green Arrow" book charting (5K of "Year One") -- and not a single "Supergirl" book in the Top 750 (not that they have anything substantial in print -- vol. 1 of the "New 52" run limps-in downchart with under 3200 copies sold) nor any clear bump from the "Gotham" television show (as procedurals like Brubaker and Rucka's "Gotham Central" aren't actually available from DC in 2015).

Here's DC's Long Tail; despite all of the missing (OOP) books as discussed toward the top of the column, DC still scores 21% better sales in 2015.

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
2015 *1690 -38.46% 1,997,577 21.89% $43,031,546 21.60% 1182 $25,462

DC has one book over 50K, nine more over 20K, and fifteen more that come in over 10K.

Our #3 Western Publisher in the Top 750 is Simon & Schuster, who is also the first of the mainstream book publishing so-called "Big Five." They take this position with just seven placing titles, which total just under 900K in units and $13.2 million at retail.

Five of these books are from their Aladdin imprint, while one each are from Margaret K. Elderberry and Touchstone.

From Aladdin comes Rachel Renee Russell's immensely successful "Dork Diaries," with the best-selling ("Tales From A Not So Fabulous Pet Sitter") selling 353K copies by itself. As noted toward the top, if all of the "Dork Diaries" books were in the database given to me, this would almost certainly change the charts a lot.

Touchstone books has just one title: Allie Brosh's "Hyperbole and a Half" which sells almost 59K copies, down quite a bit from 130K in 2014.

The Margaret K. Elderberry imprint also has one book -- Emily Carroll's "Through The Woods," which sells nearly 8K copies, compared to 5K in 2014.

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
2007 12 --- 8,317 --- $158,014 --- 693 $13,167.83
2008 26 116.67% 14,917 79.36% $211,798 34.04% 574 $8,146.08
2009 41 57.69% 109,558 634.45% $1,430,544 575.43% 2,672 $34,891.32
2010 46 12.20% 214,828 96.09% $2,660,094 85.95% 4,670 $57,828.13
2011 62 34.78% 187,531 -12.71% $2,383,491 -10.40% 3025 $38,443.40
2012 63 1.61% 165,831 -11.57% $2,844,453 19.34% 2632 $45,150.05
2013 67 6.35% 258,931 56.14% $4,165,350 46.44% 3865 $62,169.40
2014 71 5.97% 383,878 48.25%

26.55% 5,407 $91,842.54
2015 *75 5.63% 910,341 237.14%

205.29% 12,138 $178,486.15

Simon & Schuster has one book over 300K, one over 200K, another over 100K, and two more over 50K.

Image Comics, our #4 largest Western publisher via the BookScan reporters, has 71 titles placing within the Top 750, selling 878K copies and $22.6 million.

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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
2015 71 878,262 $22,587,672

That's a terrific level of growth for Image, and they hit their best year ever in the Top 750, and that's with a general softening of "The Walking Dead!"

Now "TWD" is still a great big money-maker -- adding the third Compendium (48 issues for $60) really helps that bottom line -- but the first "TWD" Compendia went from 68K in 2014 (and a crazy 96K in 2013) to "just" 60K in 2015 Further, new releases in the six-issue reprint series are slowing as well -- in 2014, the high point was vol. 20 did over 45K, while in 2015, the high point (vol. 23) did just over 34K.

With that said, "TWD" is still a chart-monster, with all 12 hardcovers (vol. 11 sells almost 15K), and all 25 regular softcovers charting alongside the three Compendia. "TWD" has a massive 38 spaces among the Top 750, or a full five percent of listings! Vol. 1 of the regular softcover of "TWD" reports in with another 27K sold in 2015.

Image's best-selling book in 2015 was "TWD" Compendium vol. 3 with 66K (and an additional 10K in a B&N "exclusive" cover down the charts), and vol. 1 & vol. 2 come in as #2 & #3.

After those three heavy-hitters, the spotlight changes over to Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' "Saga" with vol. 4 bringing in 41K copies, vol. 5 38K, and vol. 1 at 34K -- the best-selling "Saga" in 2014 did just 38K, so this looks like a nicely growing franchise in the book market. All five softcovers place, as does just over 10K copies of the first hardcover.

"TWD" and "Saga" trade placements after that, all through Image's top 12, but the first volumes of four more series manage to break into Image's Top 20: Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie's "The Wicked & The Divine" at #13 (16K), Scott Snyder & Jock's "Wytches" at #16 (15K), Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky's "Sex Criminals" at #18 (13K), and Kurtis Wiebe & Roc Upchurch's "Rat Queens" at #20 (12.5K).

Also debuting over 10K (11.4K, really!) is "Low" by Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini -- Remender also hits the BookScan Top 750 chart with "Black Science" (8K) and "Deadly Class" (4K). Other new series charting for Image are "Bitch Planet" (8.5K), "Descender" (7.4K), "Sunstone" (7.2K), "East of West" (5.7K), "Southern Bastards" (4.3K), "Trees" (4.1K), "The Fade Out" (4K), "Pretty Deadly" (4K), and "Autumnlands" (3.9K)

Here's what Image's Long Tail looks like; everything is right on track.:

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
2015 *842 -16.30% 1,070,299 28.84% $26,175,438 28.88% 1271 $31,087.22

Image has two titles over 50K, ten more over 20K, and another fourteen over 10K.

The #5 Western publisher within the Top 750 in 2015 is Marvel Comics, which places 63 titles for about 478K copies and $10.6 million sold.

Here is how Marvel looks in the Top 750:

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
2015 *63 478,076

$10,611,981

It is another big year of growth for Marvel, as they have their best year in BookScan since we've been tracking.

Having said that, "Marvel" is practically synonymous with "comics" itself amongst "civilians" -- and they had three movies with their brand in theaters in 2015 ("Ant-Man," "Avengers: Age of Ultron," and "Fantastic Four" -- and their Icon imprint handles the comic book of "The Secret Service" from which the "Kingsman" movie was made) as well as two television shows ("Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and "Agent Carter") so from that point of view, selling about 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 continue to believe, radically lags behind in book sales in any meaningful relative fashion.

But having said that, Marvel's growth is real and solid, and goes in some interesting directions. Marvel's #1 book in 2015 is "Civil War," and they shift almost 47K copies in advance of the third Captain America movie having a similar title and story (we think) -- this is more than triple the 15K copies it sold in 2014, as well as being twice the number of copies that they sold of last year's #1 title, the first volume of "Guardians of the Galaxy."

Coming in at #2 is the first volume of "Ms. Marvel," which sells almost 27K copies. That's a great, and just a tiny bit surprising (and a great improvement over the 10.7K copies it sold the previous year!) -- no movie, no toys, just pure comics driving that amazing success. Vol. 2 of the series comes in at #7, with 15.7K sold, while vol. 3 comes in at #10 and 10.7K sold, and vol. 4 even squeaks in with 4K sold just in December, so this looks like really sustainable sales in a very real way.

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At #3-5 for Marvel begins the (we assume) bookstore juggernaut for "Star Wars" -- remember that these only really get a month or two of sales in the calendar year of 2015, so next year they should be even larger as these should be pretty perennial sellers. "Journey to Force Awakens" does ever-so slightly better than vol. 1 of the continuing series (by just 43 copies on around 16.8K of sales!), and the first "Darth Vader" isn't much behind at 15.7K sold. A little farther down "Princess Leia" does somewhat disappointingly with just 7.3K copies sold, while "Kanan: The Last Padawan" sells a hair under 7K, and Marvel's first repackaging of Dark Horse-published material moves about 3700 copies.

The rest of Marvel's top 10 is filled out with the Jim Starlin, George Perez and Ron Lim "Infinity Gauntlet" with 13.8K sold as well as two volumes of "Deadpool" ("..Kills the Marvel Universe" takes the lead with 15.6K sold, while the $35 "...by Daniel Way" vol. 1 takes #2 with almost exactly 13K copies sold). There are 18 more "Deadpool" volumes throughout the rest of Marvel's Top 750 places -- nearly a third of the total! None sell even 10K copies though, which might be a direct result of the sheer number of in-print "Deadpool" books, and the lack of any clear roadmap of what to read and when and how.

What else? Hm, all four of Matt Fraction's "Hawkeye" continue to chart, with v1 selling about 8.4K. The first volume of "Jessica Jones" comes in modestly at almost 7.3K copies sold, showing very little bounce from the extremely well-reviewed television show. Heck, the first volume of "The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl" sells just sixteen copies fewer then "Jessica Jones." And that lack of "TV bounce" seems to follow through for "Daredevil," as the character's best-selling ("The Man Without Fear" by Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.) barely scrapes past 6K sold. For that matter, with "Avengers: Age of Ultron" acting as a $100m commercial, the "Age of Ultron" collection barely sells past 7K, and the best-selling "Ant-Man" volume moves barely 3K, not even placing in the Top 750 for the year. And you don't even want to know how badly "Fantastic Four" or "S.H.I.E.L.D." comics sell (about 500 copies on the higher ones). Even "The Secret Service" doesn't make the Top 750, with barely 3400 copies sold.

Here is Marvel's Long Tail:

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
2015 *1882 -43.85% 1,114,414 21.32% $28,021,290 14.98% 592 $14,889

Marvel has two books over 20K, and another eight 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.

Ultimately, I have 19 Andrews-published titles in the Top 750 in 2015, for 445K copies and $4.9 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 "Big Nate" books -- ten of them chart this year, selling almost 90K at the high end ("Say Good-Bye to Dork Island"), with another three selling over 60K, and four more selling between 16 and 20K. Altogether the "Big Nate" books sell about 372K copies, for over $3.9 million.

Other than that, Andrews' other big books are "The Oatmeal's The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run" which does nearly 16K copies sold. While there are also two volumes of the "Phoebe and Her Unicorn" books, one selling 14K, the other moving 11K.

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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
2015 *76 28.81% 502,061 34.34% $5,950,368 35.63% 6,606 $78,294.32

Andrews McMeel has four books over 50k, and seven 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 2015, 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 eleven distinct imprints that sell comics in some fashion that appear in the Top 750 list -- Alfred A. Knopf, Ballantine, Bantam, Broadway, Del Rey, Dial, G.P. Putnam's Sons, Pantheon, Random House, Ten Speed, and Viking.

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, Razorbill, Riverhead, Schocken, Schwartz & Wade, Three Rivers, Tundra, 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 2015 place 30 titles, for a bit over 338K units, and nearly $6.2 million 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 over 10K. The four volumes combined are about 22K copies, and $149K in retail dollars.

Ballantine places just one title in the Top 750: Bryan Lee O'Malley's "Seconds," which sells 14.8K copies in its second year of release.

Bantam co-produces (with Dynamite) the comics adaptations of George R. R. Martin's "Game of Thrones." The first two place, with vol. 1 selling 4366 copies.

Broadway Books has just one placing title this year: Max Brooks' "Harlem Hellfighters" that sells 4223 copies.

Del Rey hits the Top 750 with two books this year -- both well under 5K copies -- Doug Wenzel's adaptation of "The Hobbit" and Diana Gabaldon's "Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel."

Dial places a single title -- the YA focused "Roller Girl" by Victoria Jamieson which racks up over an impressive 31k sold.

G.P. Putnam's Sons has a single book: a comic adaptation of Marie Lu's "Legend" with 3847 sold.

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 above, as it makes the entire Top 20 of the list, with 58K copies of vol. 1, while "Maus" vol. 1 sells 36K in its 29th year in print. As usual, that drops to 16K for vol. 2, while the complete edition sells 14.5K. Richard Maguire's "Here" racks up 10.8K in sales this year, while the debut of "The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage" does decently at 8623 sold.

Random House Books For Younger Readers is mostly the domain of Jennifer L. Holm and her multiple series: "Babymouse" (of which "Queen of the World" is the best-seller, at an impressive 17K copies sold), as well as "Super Amoeba," but Judd Winick cracks the Holm club with the first volume of "Hilo" which notches sales of just over 6K.

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Ten Speed Press brings us a single tile: "The Comics Story of Beer," which sells 7.6K.

And finally, Viking makes the list with "The Last Kids on Earth," a juvie-"Walking Dead"-style book, at just under 7.5K, whew.

Here's what the Long-Tail for the merged company looked like in 2015:

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
2015 *450 78.57% 513,611 19.83% $8,517,761 14.49% 1,141 $18,928.36

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:

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

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

The #8 largest publisher with Western comics in BookScan 2015 is another of the "big five": HarperCollins. Harper has twelve books in the Top 750 this year, summing up to 120K copies sold, for $1.8 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 Noelle Stevenson's "Nimona," which racks up an impressive 32K sold (as well as nearly 10k more in hardcover), while they also have two "Big Nate" volumes (which, yes, is published by two different publishing houses) -- "Triple Play" sells 16.5K, while "Genius Mode" sells 13.6K copies. The perennial "Understanding Comics" shifts over 13.5K copies.

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
2015 *109 -5.22% 188,181 18.96% $2,646,378 10.32% 1726 $24,278.70

Harper has one titles over 20K, and three more over 10K.

#9 on this year's list will be Dark Horse Comics, as they place 16 titles for 112K and $2.3 million.

Dark Horse's #1 book of the year, like last year, is "Plants Vs. Zombies: Lawnmageddon" which nearly racks up 18.3K copies. They also sell over 10K copies of another "PvZ" book, "Bully For You." Their other strong selling for the year is "Serenity: Leaves On The Wind" with 10.5K sold.

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

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % Change Av. Sale
per title
Av. $ per title
2007 597 --- 413,022 --- $7,607,264 --- 692 $14,744.90
2008 734 22.95% 552,815 33.85% $9,329,828 22.64% 753 $12,710.94
2009 798 8.72% 455,924 -17.53% $7,757,240 -16.86% 571 $9,720.85
2010 955 19.67% 445,248 -2.34% $7,852,063 1.22% 466 $8,222.06
2011 1025 7.33% 389,514 -12.52% $7,102,710 -9.54% 380 $6,929.47
2012 1133 10.54% 377,322 -3.13% $6,907,772 -2.74% 333 $6,096.89
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
2015 *947 -33.31% 376,231 -10.78% $8,120,937 -9.59% 397 $8,575.44

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
2015 *1250 -36.84% 511,675 -2.09% $10,359,104 -2.27% 409 $8,287.28

Dark Horse has three titles over 10K.

To round out this year's Top 10 publishers, we have at #10 Henry N. Abrams, which publishes both as Abrams Comicarts as well as Amulet Books, though everything charting this year is just Amulet. They place seven books into the Top 750 for almost 109K in sales and $1.2 million.

Amulet publishes the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books, but as noted before, these don't show on our BookScan list because of how they list their BISACs. Their best-selling book is "El Deafo" which racks up a very impressive 73K sold.

Other than that, they sell OK (sub-10K) numbers of three of "Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales" and three volumes of "Explorer."

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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
2015 *92 4.55% 145,633 96.58% $1,898,267 -18.35% 1583 $20,633.34

Henry N. Abrams has one book over 50k, and none 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.

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 over 4700 copies), which seems crazy low to this observer. They do much better with a volume of "Monster High," which sells 12.4K copies.

Even better than that, Yen, which mostly prints Manga, has a "western" hit with Svetlana Chmaova's "Awkward," which sells 16.9K.

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
2015 *93 290.63% 76,787 97.63% $1,066,510 79.65% 826 $11,467.85

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
2015 *742 -8.17% 994,407 37.92% $14,304,955 35.22% 1340 $19,278.92

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

Holtzbrinck, which owns Macmillan, has (at least) these imprints: FirstSecond, Metropolitan, Picador, 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 Farrar Straus Giroux, Henry Holt, Hill + Wang, 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 sixteen titles in the Top 750, for about 98K and a bit under $1.5 million combined.

The best-seller here from First Second is 14.3K copies of Scott McCloud's "The Sculptor," followed closely (like "28 copies" closely!) by Mariko Tamaki's "This One Summer." They also do very well with Corey Doctorow and Jen Wang's "In Real Life," which moves almost 12K copies.

Square Fish's top title is Gene Yang's "American Born Chinese" (just over 29K), followed by Hope Larson's Adaptation of "A Wrinkle In Time," which sells just over 12K. Picador's best-seller is "The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil" (just over 5K), while Metropolitan's best-seller was "The Arab of the Future" which sold 4453.

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
2015 *104 -53.15% 99,223 -47.96% $1,804,001 -41.75% 954 $17,346.16

Holtzbrinck has one book over 20K, and four more books over 10K.

While not one of the "Big Five," there are other publishers that I would consider both "significant" as well as bookmarket-first who did well in the Top 750: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2 titles), and Hyperion (5) Joe Books (4), and Papercutz (2).

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishes comics both as HMH and Mariner. They place two titles into the Top 750 that total 61K and $926K in sales.

Mariner's best-seller is Alison Bechdel's "Fun Home" which surges insanely forward thanks to a stage play adaptation up to 52K sold (it was 18K last year). They also place 8911 copies of Bechdel's "Are You My Mother?"

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
2015 *33 22.22% 78,357 239.25% $1,214,786 219.72% 2374 $36,811.70

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has just the one book over 50K.

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 56K, and $744K. All are Rick Riordan adaptations -- the most successful is "Percy Jackson" ("Lightning Thief" does almost 17.5K). At least we can no longer say they outsell Marvel.

Story continues below

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
2015 *57 50.00% 63,290 -17.85% $831,477 -18.10% 1110 $14,587.32

Hyperion has two books over 10K.

Joe Books is something you don't see all that often -- a new publisher that cracks right into the Top 750. They mostly just do screen-cap fumetti. But their screen-caps of "Inside-Out" sells 22.4K, while "Frozen" moves 21.5K. All together, they placed four titles for 56K and $907K.

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % Change Av. Sale
per title
Av. $ per title
2014 1 --- 22,740 --- $340,873 --- 22,740 $340,873
2015 *13 1200% 66,375 291.88% $1,047,511 307.30% 5,106 $80,577,77

Joe Books has two titles over 20K, and no more over 10K.

Papercutz, which has two titles placing, for 14K copies and $99k. Both are Lego's "Ninjago," the best-selling being vol. 9 ("Night of the Nindroids") with just under 10K copies sold.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
2015 *187 -47.18% 80,223 -44.37% $707,383 -39.72% 429 $3,782.80

Papercutz has no books with sales over 10K this year.

Outside of those bookstore-native publishers, we have several Direct Market-native publishers who placed more than three titles into the Top 750. Those would be: IDW (9), Oni (6), BOOM! (4), Drawn & Quarterly (4), Archie (2), and Titan (1).

IDW places nine books into the Top 750 for nearly 94K and $1.3 million in sales.

IDW bought Top Shelf in 2015, so a significant portion of that is from the sales of Congressman John Lewis' "March" -- vol. 1 sells 29.7K, while vol. 2 does 22.7K. In 2014, Top Shelf alone didn't quite manage 17K for "March" vol. 1, so that's excellent growth in distribution.

Past that it's kids comics, with 8.9K of "Skylanders: The Kaos Trap" (and almost 7K of "Champions") and 7.7K copies of "Angry Birds" vol. 1, and 6.9K copies of "My Little Pony."

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).

This is IDW's Long Tail, now including Top Shelf beginning in 2015:

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
2015 *959 -15.43% 310,512 35.66% $6,478,023 22.00% 324 $6,754.98

This is what Top Shelf looked like own their own, prior to the purchase:

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

IDW has two books over 20K, and no more over 10K.

Oni Press continues to do solidly with Bryan Lee O'Malley's "Scott Pilgrim," although the book doesn't sell as well as it once did, with only vol. 1, 2 and 6 in various formats charting in the Top 750 any longer. Vol. 1 sells 6.9k in (black-and-white) paperback, and just over 5K in (full-color) hardcover, and the (b&w) boxed set moves 4.8K as well. "Scott Pilgrim" is joined by "Rick and Morty" as Oni sells 4513 copies of vol. 1.

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
2015 *165 -22.54% 65,254 5.96% $1,478,997 11.35% 395 $8,963.62

Oni has no books over 10K.

BOOM! Studios sells four titles into the Top 750, for almost 40K and $588k in sales. "Adventure Time" mostly collapses for some reason in the book channel, making only one appearance with the fourth OGN selling just 4K copies -- no, the big hit is the first volume of "Lumberjanes," which sells 22.6K copies.

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
2015 *295 -23.97% 126,029 16.15% $2,159,071 13.96% 427 $7,318.88

BOOM! just has the one book over 20K, and nothing further over 10K.

To my sudden surprise, we've never had a Long Tail for Drawn & Quarterly in the past. That should change since they placed four tittles into the Top 750 this year, with their top book being 11.4K copies of Kate Beaton's "Step Aside Pops!" ("Hark A Vagrant" also charts with just over 4K sold). Adrian Tomine's newest book, "Killing and Dying," also charts for 9.2K sold.

Story continues below

Year # of
listed items
% Change Total Unit Sold % Change Total $ Sold % Change Av. Sale
per title
Av. $ per title
2007 62 --- 24,689 --- $500,764 --- 398 $8,076.84
2008 82 32.26% 42,038 70.27% $912,774 82.28% 513 $11,131.39
2009 107 30.49% 42,957 2.19% $920,014 0.79% 401 $8,598.26
2010 126 17.76% 44,737 4.14% $1,009,387 9.71% 355 $8,011.01
2011 145 15.08% 62,286 39.23% $1,399,793 38.68% 430 $9,653.74
2012 155 6.90% 43,098 -30.81% $926,233 -33.83% 278 $5,975.70
2013 189 21.94% 41,887 -2.81% $893,905 -3.49% 222 $4,729.66
2014 205 8.47% 46,030 9.90% $1,032,032 15.45% 225 $5,034.30
2015 *219 6.83% 73,471 59.62% $1,680,878 62.87% 335 $7,675.24

Drawn & Quarterly has one book over 10K.

Archie Comics places just two books in the Top 750, selling 7474 copies combined and $81K. Probably not worth even mentioning if I hadn't already built them a chart and everything. Their best-seller was a "Sonic" collection with 3869 copies.

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
2015 *165 11.49% 75,222 -19.08% $892,756 -23.73% 456 $5,410.64

Archie has no books over 10K.

Titan Comics' multi-title appearance in last year's list caused me to build them a Long Tail, but this year they only place a single title, "Minions," which sells 12.2K copies. Still, why waste a chart?

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
2015 *175 -17.84% 58,544 34.06% $887,084 3.44% 335 $5,069.05

Titan places one book over 10K.

No publisher that has not been mentioned placed more than three titles within the Top 750, which leaves me with 20 from 16 different smaller publishers.

There are two comics that sell 20K or over in this cohort: just over 44K copies of Roz Chast's "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant" from Bloomsbury (down from 73K in 2014), and 30.1K copies of "Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made" from Candlewick. Them's big numbers.

Then there are four titles that sold over 10K -- "Username: Evie" (15.6K) from Running Press, "Quest For The Golden Apple" (13.8K) from Sky Pony Press, "The Odyssey" by Gareth Hinds (12K) from Candlewick, and George R.R. Martin's "The Hedge Knight" (10.2K) from Jet City Comics (which is a wholly owned imprint of Amazon).

The remaining fourteen titles came in under 10K, and include 7878 of Jeff Smith's complete "Bone" and 6899 copies of Phoebe Gloeckner's "Diary of a Teenage Girl," which was also a motion picture in 2015.

One final little bit of number crunching before I go for the year. If we look at the entirety of the 22K-long "Long Tail" BookScan list, how do the publishers stack up in 2015? 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 -- $43.0 Million
#2 Viz -- $28.1
#3 Marvel Comics -- $28.0
#4 Image Comics -- $26.2
#5 Scholastic -- $17.2
#6 Hachette -- $14.3
#7 Simon & Schuster -- $13.4
#8 Kodansha -- $10.9
#9 Dark Horse -- $10.4
#10 Penguin Random House -- $8.5

And that's pretty much what BookScan in 2015 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..

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