Sales Chart: Graphic Novel sales and Guardians of the Galaxy

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201408060306 Sales Chart: Graphic Novel sales and Guardians of the Galaxy
In yesterday’s comments on the Mike Dawson Mid-career assessment, retailer Brian Hibbs stepped in with some comments, including this one

Heidi: I’d argue that the sales charts show that it’s the prevalent* one? Exceedingly few OGNs succeed, and the field is littered with ones that failed.

This is a battle between Brian and I as old and busted as Batman vs The Joker. Brian thinks OGNS are useless from a sales viewpoint as far as the DM goes, and I think they are a magnificent channel for comics and sales. In fact, a few months ago out schism led to a rather spirited debate in this post: Retailer roundtable: Are graphic novels a “sh*tty* business model?
The upshot of that one was that comics retailers still sell more periodicals and collections of periodicals. Fair enough. But being snotty, I decided to take a look at the Amazon bestsellers charts for comics and GNs, a rolling average snapshot that reflects sales very definitely outside the DM. I have this on a feed and I check it every night, so I’m pretty familiar with the books that have been doing week for the last few months (Saga, Walking Dead). Today’s is quite different, but let’s take a look any way. I’ve highlighted the OGNs on the list (quirks in format are from how I copied the list.)

1. Guardians of the Galaxy by Abnett & L…
2.The Walking Dead Volume 21: All Out W… by Robert Kirkman
3.Batman Eternal (2014- ) #1by James T. Tynion IV
4. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
5. Seconds: A Graphic Novelby Bryan Lee O’Malley
6. Star Wars: Jedi Academy, Return of th…by Jeffrey Brown

7. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1: Lega…by Dan Abnett
8. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1: Cos…by Brian Michael Bendis
9. Goodnight Darth Vader by Jeffrey Brown
10. Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
11. Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father…by Art Spiegelman
12. Can’t We Talk about Something More Pl…by Roz Chast
13. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Sit…by Allie Brosh

14. Saga, Vol. 3 by Brian K. Vaughan
15. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxyby Douglas Adams (??)
16. Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Rif… by Gene Luen Yang
17. Saga, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan
18. The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia by Akira Himekawa
19. The Amazing Spider-Man (Marvel: Spide…by Frank Berrios
20. Thanos: The Infinity Revelationby Jim Starlin

Setting aside the ringers on the list (Hitchhikers Guide and Hyrule Hysteria ) eight out of the eighteen titles are OGNs. I suppose you could call that Spider-man Little Golden Book an OGN, but I won’t.

Even setting aside the perennials (Maus and Persepolis) there are still 6 recent works on the list. Roz Chast’s book has been a regular bestseller since it came out, and Hyperbole and a Half has been a monster seller. (That’s a hybrid work, admittedly.) I expect to see Bryan Lee O’Malleys Seconds on the list for quite a while. The big winner is Jeffrey Brown, who can’t miss with Star Wars, it seems. 



Anyway what does that prove? These could be the exceptional few that Hibbs mentioned, or the top of the iceberg. Anyway, throwing it out there. 



The other big news on the list is…Guardians of the Galaxy! In all the deserved attention to Jim Starlin and Bill Mantlo, it has barely been mentioned that the actual line-up of the GotG that the movie was based on was the version by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, a writing team now broken up but still a potent best seller. Their first collection is at #81 in the top 100 books, so it’s probably selling briskly. 


It’s pretty unusual when a comic book based movie comes out to see comics collections sell this well when there isn’t a direct connection with the source material. I don’t know how long it will last (guessing a few weeks) but I hope it gives some of the authors a nice boost.

Comments

  1. Leandro M. Duarte says:

    I’d just like to point out that Thanos: The Infinity Revelation is an OGN too.

  2. Maus was originally serialized in RAW.

    That Batman Eternal issue is on the chart because Amazon was giving it away to people who signed up for one of their email newsletters.

    The Roz Chart book spent nearly all of May on the top of the Amazon Comics & Graphic Novels chart, and climbed at least as high as #5 on the overall Amazon books chart.

    And Marvel should really take a hard look at the huge success of Jeffrey Brown’s Star Wars stuff; there’s apparently an audience for kid-friendly Star Wars comics.

  3. Michael P says:

    I dunno if I’d call Hyperbole and a Half a graphic novel. It’s more of a collection of personal essays illustrated with comics.

    Regardless, I am on your side for this one, Heidi. Just because the format doesn’t particularly shine in the direct market doesn’t mean it’s worthless. There are other distribution channels, and they’re worth making material for, even if they don’t put money in Brian Hibbs’s pocket.

  4. Has Saga overtaken Walking Dead as the #1 Image property as far as trades go??? It sure would appear so with the past few months worth of results we’re given from Diamond and Book Scan. It doesn’t have a TV show to catapult it, either.

  5. @chris: No. From a sheer volume standpoint, The Walking Dead has so much more product: 21 trade paperbacks, 10 hardcovers, 2 compendia; compared to just 3 trades for Saga. TWD‘s long tail is quite long indeed, and every time the TV show starts and ends there’s a burst of demand for the collections.

    But Saga is doing very well for Image in the larger book market, especially for a property that has no tie-in to any other media. In that respect it is quite successful.

    (For those wondering how I can say these things with such confidence, I run a weekly column of snapshots of the Amazon top 50 comics over at my blog.)

  6. Skottie says:

    Hibbs is right.

  7. Torsten Adair says:

    Here’s the big question for comics shops:
    Are you a hobby shop, or an independent bookseller?

    Most are hobby shops, selling a diverse line of merchandise. (It’s really difficult to run a pure comics shop. The market isn’t there.)

    Independent booksellers have it just as hard. Many add a few sidelines, like coffee, stationery, and some gifts.

    I’ve not had the pleasure of visiting Brian Hibbs in his natural habitat.
    I would be curious how much of his sales are graphic novels and how much are periodicals, and how much of that GN number is OGN.

    But here’s another argument:
    If original graphic novels weren’t lucrative, then why are ALL Big Five publishers still producing new titles? Even Penguin, which just announced a new imprint last year, has the occasional OGN in their juvie catalog, as well as producing literate adult titles. Look at the number of non-comics publishers nominated for Eisners this year.

  8. Torsten Adair says:

    NYT BS GN TP August 10, 2014
    1 THE STAR WARS
    2 SAGA, VOL. 1
    3 THE SHADOW HERO
    4 SAGA, VOL. 3
    5 MARCH: BOOK ONE
    6 PERSEPOLIS
    7 THROUGH THE WOODS
    8 SMILE
    9 BOXERS
    10 THE WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM, VOL. 1
    6/10 are original. Smile… probably has sold 400K by now…
    HC? 6/10

    Wait… what?! Neil Gaiman writes an original graphic novel illustrated by Eddie Campbell, and NO ONE notices? (Okay… it’s more of an illustrated text. But still…)

  9. Torsten Adair says:

    One other question:
    How many Original Prose Novels sell in bookstores?
    They usually get three months on the shelf before being replaced by the next title.

  10. Torsten:

    Since you asked, we are 55% books, 40% periodicals.

    http://www.savagecritic.com/retailing/comix-experience-best-sellers-first-half-of-2014-books/

    Only 2 of our Top 20 is OGNs, and both of those would have sold more copies total if they had been serialized, I am fairly positive (In LOEG’s case, I have definitive proof of that, in BATTLING BOY’s case it is assumption based upon other Pope comics.)

    >>>If original graphic novels weren’t lucrative, then why are ALL Big Five publishers still producing new titles?<<<

    My argument has always been that serialization sells MORE copies, not that OGNs can't sell some/many copies. Just that serializing them moves more units.

    -B

  11. Okay first off, Paul Pope hasn’t done periodical comics in how long? And it was BATMAN, not an original series. So you have no proof whatsoever BATTLING BOY would have sold more if it has been serialized first. Since First Second doesn’t do that—although they DO do web serialization—we just can’t say if the audience for their books likes periodical at all.

    Brian, I don’t doubt that the serialization model + book model revenue is more profitable because it is a dual channel revenue. As I think lots of people have said here, however, non superhero/genre periodicals have no market any more and Diamond doesn’t carry products that sell that little. But let’s say that two channels always makes more money than one channel. Just because one sales method makes more than a different one does not mean the second channel should be eliminated!

    To put it anther way, I could make a lot more money from this site if I just ran Buzzfeed type surveys, showbiz news and photos of celebrities. It is undeniable that these kind of sites make more money than personal in-depth, behind the scenes industry news sites. Does that mean what I do is wrong?

    I know you and I will never agree on this point. And it doesn’t really matter. I am happy you have a model for success in your TWO stores! Hopefully there is plenty of product that is flowing in the channels you need to keep your store sales humming. It is because of the pioneering, visionary efforts of yourself and a few other retailers than we’ve been able to get this far.

  12. >>> Just because one sales method makes more than a different one does not mean the second channel should be eliminated! <<>>>Okay first off, Paul Pope hasn’t done periodical comics in how long? <<>>we just can’t say if the audience for their books likes periodical at all. <<>>I think lots of people have said here, however, non superhero/genre periodicals have no market any more and Diamond doesn’t carry products that sell that little.<<>> It is undeniable that these kind of sites make more money than personal in-depth, behind the scenes industry news sites. Does that mean what I do is wrong? <<<

    All I can go by is my own behavior. I come here 10 times a day. I go to CBR once every other day.

    -B

  13. {Damn, sorry, forgot how your code works, let’s try that again…]
    *******

    ” Just because one sales method makes more than a different one does not mean the second channel should be eliminated! ”

    Can you show me any time, EVER, that I have ever even slightly suggested that OGNs should be “eliminated”?

    Honestly, it’s more a tilting my head and clucking my tongue, at WORST

    ” Just because one sales method makes more than a different one does not mean the second channel should be eliminated!”

    With all due respect, Ace, I beg you to show me where I’m every advocated for ANY channel to be ELIMINATED. We need every channel we can get!

    Now, I will freely admit and embrace a representation that my thinking is that (in a perfect, theoretical world) that the non-returnable DM is better for creators than just about anything else (except, hm, con sales? But throughput is clearly lower there in most cases), but that never ever means “well, eliminate that other channel”; and I am deeply frustrated that you would read my opinion as suggesting anything even remote to that.

    “Okay first off, Paul Pope hasn’t done periodical comics in how long?”

    My POS only goes back to ’07 (though I have paper records back to ’89), and I am home now with remote traffic, so I’ll choose to beleive Wiki: 100% was 2003; HEAVY LIQUID was 2000. God, I’m old, I don’t see that as all that long ago (though, if anything, work by Pope should sell BETTER today).

    Going back to paper, it tells me that in the first five weeks of release, I sold 78 copies of 100% #5 (the worse selling issue). Plus whatever we sold of the HC and SC editions (13 copies since ’07, no clear way to tell between ’04-’06, which would be prime sales period)

    For BATTLING BOY, we’ve sold 87 copies since the 10/13 release date, so about 9 months.

    (that’s FABULOUS, BTW, the *average* OGN sells like, if you’re LUCKY, two copies in nine months)

    Now, with BATTLING BOY, we have the wrinkle of “THE DEATH OF HAGGARD WEST”, which is basically just a chunk of BB sold seperately (the first 20 pages? I don’t recall?) which the POS tells me I sold 25 copies of in 7 weeks, at which point I sold out and didn’t reorder. However, I was actively recommending to people that they NOT buy it if they intended to buy BB, since it was just (the first 20 pages?), and there would NOT be any further serialization past then (who wants “vaporware”?)

    Given those sales (25 copies in 7 weeks, with an active “wait for the book!” mressage, vs 89 copies in 9 months of the book), I think I’m fair in thinking I could have sold more copies of serialization + book — if we had PUSHED “Haggard West” in the same fashion we pushed BB, I think we would have hit triple digits, easy, because people are more likely to try a $3-4 item than they are an $18 item, that’s just cold reality.

    Here is where Gina comes in and says something like “Well, HW sold like 5k, and BB sold like 50k” (or whatever), but HW was never a sincere attempt to sell a serialized comic anyway, so why be surprised?

    (And, yes, for a company that doesn’t sell “floppies”, it was a big big move; but c’mon!)

    (And, yes, I’m an exceptional store, in an exceptional market, etc. etc; but c’mon!)

    “we just can’t say if the audience for their books likes periodical at all. ”

    I mean, I know what you’re saying here, but are you honestly arguing that you think that a serialized boys adventure comic by Paul Pope wouldn’t have netted an audience, and, MUCH MORE IMPORTANTLY, the eventual collection would have sold a measurable number of fewer copies because there was a serialization? Because I don’t believe the second part of that at all, and I sell comics for a living.

    “I think lots of people have said here, however, non superhero/genre periodicals have no market any more and Diamond doesn’t carry products that sell that little.”

    Hell, Heidi, *I* say this — but BB is pretty squarely genre work, isn’t it? As so with LOEG.

    ” It is undeniable that these kind of sites make more money than personal in-depth, behind the scenes industry news sites. Does that mean what I do is wrong? ”

    All I can go by is my own behavior. I come here 10 times a day. I go to CBR once every other day.

    -B

  14. >>>Can you show me any time, EVER, that I have ever even slightly suggested that OGNs should be “eliminated”?

    No, but calling it “A shitty business model” IMPLIES a certain level of disdain and perhaps contempt that is the opposite of an endorsement, don’t you think. You’ve stated many times that you feel it is an ineffective business strategy that one wonders why anyone even bothers? Granted there is some inference here, but it’s a pretty consistent stance from you.

    Your choice of Battling Boy as the example is interesting. It was marketed as a YA OGN, which is, as you yourself admit, the fastest growing segment of the GN market. I compared the top 150 of the Diamond 2013 books and the Bookscan 2013 books taking the YA titles only from each. (I may have missed a ocuple as this was dashed off not a day long project) Books that were not serialized are in yellow. Serialized are in green. (I didn’t count manga as serialized because they were not available in the US in English for the typical reader in that form.)

    Here’s Bookscan:
    http://comicsbeat.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Bookscantopya.pdf

    And here’s the DM:
    http://comicsbeat.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/DBDya2013.pdf

    As you can see a zillion times more YA books sold very well in bookstores and only TWO serialized books (both Adventure Time) are in the top 150.

    By contrast, in the DM, only a relative handful of YA books are in the top 150 at all, and only the Avatar series and one manga book aren’t serialized.

    I was a bit surprised to see the big sellers in bookstores — Big Nate, Wimpy Kid—sold so badly in comics shops. But it has ever been thus! Comics shops customers are clearly trained to buy serialized books, and like both formats. The success of variant covers proves that.

    A different audience in a different channel doesn’t give a fig about variants or serialization, but just wants a good book to shut the kids up.

    So what if…we’re BOTH right?

  15. We probably are!

    Two more comments:

    1) I’d caution reading TOO much into Diamond sales charts for non-DM-focused publishers. I’m fairly certain that any DM store moving any significant quantity of Random House or Scholastic or Macmillan (or or or) books is probably NOT ordering them from Diamond — because Diamond is pretty much the most expensive wholesale source for those goods. For “F” discount and under publishers, you’re likely to be seeing a minority of DM sales represented in the Diamond charts — in my own case, about 25% of my purchasing dollars are “anywhere but Diamond”

    2) You’re inferring, I am not implying that. I gave a pretty substantial number of reasons (single dip, time off market for creators, speed-of-creation, etc etc) WHY I think OGNs are a shitty model, but I don’t “want them eliminated” — I merely want publishers / creators to think through their choices rather than blindly rush in search of new markets in ways that may hurt them in the short or long term.

    (I especially think OGNs are pernicious for talent that “hasn’t yet broken”)

    -B

  16. (Also? I would *always* count Manga as “serialized”. Why? Because Viz and Kodansha and whoever else are not paying “page rates” for US publication — if they were, the amount of manga published in the US would probably drop by half or more)

    (same thing with Persepolis and Maus for that matter)

    -B

  17. >>>(Also? I would *always* count Manga as “serialized”. Why? Because Viz and Kodansha and whoever else are not paying “page rates” for US publication — if they were, the amount of manga published in the US would probably drop by half or more)

    I thought we were talking about the US market here? Are we judging this as profitable from the PUBLISHER’S standpoint or from a STORE’s standpoint? Because I guarantee you no reader bases buying habits on the P&L of the books he or she is buying. If there was no profitability to publishing OGNs, publishers wouldn’t do it, period.

    Serial publishing adds another revenue stream and grows a readership base for the title. Viz and Kodansha could do that here if they wanted, but they don’t, and all attempts at serializing manga here have proven unprofitable.

    Also the market has changed immensely since Maus came out in RAW. I don’t think that model is even arguable any more. Otherwise you’d be selling a million copies of Anders Nilson after his work was published in Kramer’s Ergot.

    Maus sells year after year after year because it’s an enduring classic, not because of how it was published 20 years ago. Persepolis was published by L’Assoc as four smaller BOOKS, not as a periodical, as I recall.

    Anyway, let us both watch our language, old friend. We have learned something this week and now let us return to the X-Mansion as we do after every scuffle in the Danger Room.

  18. When I argue about business models, I think that pubs, creators, and retailers are all in it together — what helps one leg inherently helps the other.

    No consumer audience anywhere really gives a damn about a title’s provenance. WATCHMEN is “new” to the kid who sees it on the shelf for the first time, and may have always existed as a book only.

    I wish someone still published the equivalent to WEIRDO or ZAP. But those kinds of anthologies have to be within the regular range of normal periodical price points — $20 anthologies with spines don’t fly so much.

    I rather less think that periodicals abandoned the alternative market as the alternative market abandoned the periodical.

    You go to the X-Mansion, I’m hanging out in the Justice League cave!

    -B

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