Bookscan 2013: kids and zombies ruled the charts

201402250352 Bookscan 2013: kids and zombies ruled the charts
It’s that time of year! SF retailer Brian Hibbs has released his annual analysis of the Bookscan 2013 sales charts. This chart is subscriber only, so technically this is a leak, so if you want to download your own version of the top selling 750 graphic novels of the year, go here.

Now, as we all know, Bookscan IS NOT 100% of GN sales, even in bookstores. The numbers do not includes comics shop sales, and are billed as 85% of books sold in regular bookstore outlets. While Walmart has been added to the outlets reporting, I’d hazard a guess that those numbers are still low, as they do not include library sales, book clubs and so on.However, as I always say, these numbers do provide a metric. These are the books that sold in the stores that report to Bookscan, and while they should not be taken as final totals, they do provide a glimpse.

Hibbs is quite busy opening a second store so we should all be grateful for him taking the time to do all this. I know veteran chart watchers have probably read the whole thing already but here’s a bit of commentary. The top 20 books and are as follows:

146,483 — TALES FROM A NOT SO FABULOUS LIFE
113,301 — BIG NATE GAME ON
95,593 — WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM 1
94,329 — STAR WARS JEDI ACADEMY
89,901 — DORK DIARIES OMG ALL ABOUT ME
81,843 — DRAMA
81,559 — BIG NATE GENIUS MODE
75,132 — WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM V 2 TP
65,935 — BIG NATE I CANT TAKE IT
59,112 — BIG NATE MAKES THE GRADE
44,988 — WALKING DEAD V1 DAYS GONE BYE
43,890 — PERSEPOLIS 1
38,871 — WALKING DEAD V18
33,477 — MAUS I
32,796 — WALKING DEAD VOL 17 TP
30,904 — CHALLENGE OF SAMUKAI
30,336 — SAGA V 1 TP
30,244 — WALKING DEAD V 19
28,631 — NARUTO V 60 EYES THAT SEE IN T
28,512 — ATTACK ON TITAN

The Walking Dead, kids comics, backlist classics and a few manga. Pretty much a typical year. The #1 book, for the third year in a row is the first Dork Diaries book by Rachel Renee Russell. This is a little bit misleading as this is the distaff version of the hybrid Wimpy Kid which isn’t on the list, which sold a bunch more copies, but there ya go. Who says there are no African American women in comics?

I doubt too many industry watchers without children think of Lincoln Pierce’s Big Nate as the equal of Walking Dead in popularity but..it kinda is.

Jeffrey Brown’s Jedi Academy book is likewise a “hybrid” book of charts graphs and narrative, but it is adorable. (I gave it to a young cousin for Christmas and he immediately dived into reading it.) However, I’m thrilled to see the success of Brown and Raina Telgemeier on this chart.

I don’t mean to steal Brian Hibbs’ hard work but I’m going to reprint just ONE chart, which shows overall non-manga GN sales for the past few years decade:


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

Pretty sure that 3,000,000 piece count for 2007 is wrong but other than that this is a nice chart that shows a steady growth and decent sales. The $131,767,547 total for 2013 is not as much as it could be but it isn’t shabby either.

The main takeaway? KIDS LIKE COMICS. We all knew that. DC was the #1 GN publishers in bookstores for the year as they have been for awhile, but they were followed by Image, Scholastic, Penguin Random House, Andrews McMeel, Simon & Shuster, Marvel, Papercutz, Harper Collins and Dark Horse. Marvel is once again an underperformer given their dominance of the periodical market, but we’ve been singing that song for years. If I have time (ha) I’ll do a breakout of the chart by company that will reveal what their bestsellers were.

Hibbs has been doing this column for a decade now but the earliest Bookscan chart from 2003 isn’t online any more. Of course Heidi the Hoarder saved a copy, and as my special 10 year anniversary gift, here it is, unless they make me take it down. It isn’t a perfect comparison because this chart was only the year end totals in the last week of the year, but it’s what we have.

In case you are wondering, here are the top 20 books from 2003.

1. GET FUZZY EXPERIENCE ARE YOU B  76672
2. GET FUZZY BLUE PRINT FOR DISASTER 68772
3. LIZZIE MCGUIRE V1  49694
4. YU GI OH V1  48308
5. BART SIMPSONS GUIDE TO LIFE  44944
6. ULTIMATE X MEN REV  41040
7. CHOBITS V1  38951
8. LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLE  38714
9. CHOBITS V4  36910
10. HACK//LEGEND OF THE TWILIGHT V1  35889
11. FOXTROT YOUR MOMMA THINKS SQUARE ROOTS  35552
12. INU YASHA V1 2E  34777
13. THE BOONDOCKS RIGHT TO BE HOSTILE  32848
14. CHOBITS V5  32603
15. CHOBITS V2  32093
16. LOVE HINA V1  31290
17. RUROUNI KENSHIN V1 SHONEN JUMP  30627
18. ESSNTL CALVIN & HOBBES  30377
19. CHOBITS V6  29854
20. NARUTO V1 THE TESTS OF THE NINJA  29805

Ah the age of Chobits and Love Hina. It was so simple then. In 2003 the #20 book sold 29,805 issues; in 2013 it was 28,512. But in 2003 the total dollars in the top 750 was $66,729,053; in 2013 it was $96,062,709 even with the manga implosion and the death or Borders.

Remember these are still only rough comparison, given outlets, formats, etc. One number makes pie, the other breakfast juice. Still given all the crashes, publishing woes and the rise of digital, the fact that there has been significant growth in graphic novels can only be seen as a good thing.

Comments

  1. So why does Marvel suck so much in this market segment?

    Is there simply no demand for their products here as in the direct market, or do they manage to screw up the logistics or something?

  2. Torsten Adair says:

    Marvel hasn’t gotten the hang of:
    1) Publishing and marketing comics to kids. (See: Marvel Age; the frequently-out-of-print Runaways, the few tie-ins to television series)
    2) Licensing characters to publishers.

    Compare Lucasfilm to Marvel. There’s a Star Wars Reads Day. There’s comics. There’s chapter books for older kids (Young Jedi Knights). There’s Jedi Academy, Origami Yoda, LEGO beginning readers…

    What does Marvel do? Prose fiction? Chapter books? Anything not tied in to a movie? Disney Publishing has tried a few things, but it’s paltry.

    Oh, and Marvel’s other problem: availability. They prefer for a title to go out of print instead of paying for warehouse space. So, in a universe with sequential volumes, it’s hard to follow the story if you can’t read the previous volumes. How popular would The Walking Dead be if certain volumes went out of print?

    Also, Marvel’s backlist is crap. And what is worthwhile can’t be ordered because it’s OOP.

    I don’t read a lot of Marvel, but they do have good stories.
    But even something as easy to sell as “bedbugs infest Manhattan and give everyone Spider-Man powers” barely registered in the general media.

  3. Hey, wait, I thought Print was dead?

    -B

  4. Torsten Adair says:

    No, print is undead. Zombies, vampires…

    Also, children’s books are on the same track Young Adult graphic novels were back in 2001.
    Librarians already are comfortable with GNs, but they need quality books.
    Publishers are finally figuring out the market (see: First Second and picture books) and beginning to exploit it. In the next five years, you’ll see phenomenal growth.

  5. Oh, Bookscan! The Ninjago book that charted here was the first volume, released in 2011. There were three new titles in 2013, on top of a five-title backlist, and each new volume sells more than the last in the channels reporting to Bookscan, yet they’re nowhere to be found.

    And Heidi already pointed it out, but when a book with a 5.5-MILLION-copy launch is entirely missing from your best seller list, I just don’t know what to say anymore, Nielsen! At least sales researchers know that Big Nate is killing it in the low six figures.

    I do like that there are some noticeable heartening trends, even if more accurate data would add, subtract, and reshuffle titles on the list. Mainstream books (meaning books about things that mainstream people care about) are holding steady, and growth in children’s, as usual, dependably keeps the boat afloat. The only mildly worrying thing is that total unit sales are more or less flat across the chart-able years, with bigger ticket items delivering the dollar increase. I wonder if, after five years, we can say that that’s the size of the graphic novel market.

  6. Hey, Jesse, I have a question that you might be in a position to know: who codes those categories for BookScan to use? I was sort of assuming it was the publisher as part of the normal solicitation processes, but you seem to be implying that it is Nielsen that does so?

    -B

  7. MBunge says:

    Just for comparison…

    Annual Bookscan sales
    #100 10,900
    #300 5,174

    Comic sales in January 2014
    #100 23,071
    #300 4,877

    Those numbers seem to validate what we “pamphlet people” have whined and cried about for years. The sales you can get through the periodical format are much better than through the book format.

    On the other hand, that Bookscan saw less than a 50% sales drop from #100 to #300 while comics saw a decline of over 75% would support the idea that the book format does allow you to reach a wider audience.

    Mike

  8. @Brian — I’m actually not sure how Bookscan categorizes things, and as far as I know we don’t have any influence on the publisher side. I used to think Nielsen used the publisher-supplied metadata that’s sent to retailers, but Abrams definitely includes “graphic novel” in Wimpy Kid’s BISAC categories and I know it’s the same for Ninjago (I entered that metadata myself when I was at Papercutz), yet both are missing from the list. I haven’t looked at Bookscan graphic novel sales in a while, but I remember it would often pull in non-comics superhero titles, like the DK encyclopedias — is that still the case?

    Their process is very arcane! :)

  9. @MBunge — I think what you’re seeing there is an example of why the Direct Market is the most dependable and supportive channel for comics sales in any format. Comics shops sell comics almost exclusively, so every transaction in the store counts towards that “total comics sales” column, but in bookstores and other channels there are so many other items to be purchased that comics becomes just one slice of the business.

    It’s not to say that sales outside the DM channel aren’t worthwhile. It is a different and larger audience with a lot of opportunity, especially for breakout hits like the Walking Dead. But DM customers are predisposed to want to buy a comic, so your sales chances are improved. Even more so if the shop is well-run and staffed by smart people.

  10. JoeC_Mommy says:

    As a parent, I’m not surprised that children’s books charted so high. Books are cheaper, more durable, and more easily replaced than a tablet. (I refuse to buy Joe a tablet until I can trust him to unload the dishwasher.)

    And I’m not surprised that the likes of Big Nate and Dork Diaries are what charted. Yes, children like comics, whether hybrid or, what, purebred? They like comics that much more when the comics are well-done, with heart. I think that most of the children’s books that feature brand-name superheroes are dreck. But they’re the brand-name superhero stories that the bookstores sell. (I’ve never found a Tiny Titans TPB or Superman Family Adventures TPB at our local Barnes & Noble, and I’ve really, really looked.)

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