Comic Market Driven by Kids’ Books and Manga

If you’re interested in the comics business beyond just the superhero-focused direct market of dedicated comic shops, Dallas Middaugh’s look back at 2018 graphic novel sales is a must-read.

When you combine Diamond’s unit numbers with those of NPD BookScan, which tracks sales in the general book market, the graphic novel market is up by 11.7%. This is a marked difference from the 1.3% increase seen across all print publishing (not just graphic novels) in the U.S…. This double-digit growth is driven largely by a big jump on the juvenile side, which saw a massive 56.2% increase last year. On the adult side, there was a 7.1% drop in sales for adult graphic novels. What we’re learning from this data is that graphic novels aimed at kids and teenagers are dominating the graphic novel market even more than generally assumed.

This is why, for example, Random House has launched a kids’ graphic novel imprint and why DC is working hard to gain more traction in that market. Kids (and librarian book buyers who serve them) love comics. Particularly nice sturdy ones full of events that don’t require going to special shops every month to get a full story.

Note that these figures don’t include digital, which is still keeping its numbers secret, and outlets such as Scholastic Book Fairs which “can order anywhere from 1,000 to 200,000 copies of a book”.

In short, graphic novels for kids are the biggest area of growth for U.S. comics and the potential for the market continues to expand. I also found Middaugh’s comments on manga insightful.

Of the top 40 manga sold, all of them were published by Viz. It’s worth noting that the manga category, which often goes underestimated, captured 26% of all graphic novels sold in this country last year.

A quarter of the total market? So much for that manga bust, hunh? Based on these figures, if someone tries to analyze comics without mentioning the two biggest publishers, Graphix and Viz, then they clearly have an agenda and aren’t aware of the full picture.

Superhero sales, in case this needs to be said, are driven by media tie-ins.

Marvel overtook DC in both units and dollars in 2018. Marvel, which frequently trails DC in graphic novels sales, made a lot of great moves last year, capitalizing on a very successful Marvel film (Black Panther). DC, on the other hand, didn’t have any breakout movies, shows, or animation in 2018 (the Aquaman movie hit too late in the year to have a big effect), and so saw their unit sales drop by a massive 34% from 2017.

However, since superhero books are higher priced, the companies still make good money on fewer unit sales.

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