Every year, comics retailer Brian Hibbs writes a lengthy and informative article on graphic novel sales, based on BookScan figures for the entire year. He posted this year’s column last week, and while he makes a lot of good points, I want to pick out the one that’s most relevant to this blog: The top 20 list was dominated by graphic novels for children and teens.
Here’s the list, with kids/YA titles bolded:
1. Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not So Fabulous Life
2. Big Nate: Game On
3. Walking Dead Compendium 1
4. Star Wars: Jedi Academy
5. Dork Diaries: OMG All About Me
7. Big Nate: Genius Mode
8. Walking Dead Compendium 2
9. Big Nate: I Can’t Take It
10. Big Nate Makes the Grade
11. The Walking Dead, vol. 1
12. Persepolis, vol. 1
13. The Walking Dead, vol. 18
14. Maus I
15. The Walking Dead, vol. 17
16. Lego Ninjago vol. 1: Challenge of Samukai
17. Saga, vol. 1
18. The Walking Dead, vol. 19
19. Naruto, vol. 60
20. Attack on Titan, vol. 1
As Hibbs points out, eight of the top ten graphic novels are aimed at kids, which may reflect the fact that BookScan has started picking up sales from WalMart. I would add that the remaining books on the list may not be targeted at teens but probably have a big teen readership.
The top selling book is the first volume of Dork Diaries, which one could argue is more an illustrated book than a graphic novel. It basically has the same format as Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which is not classed as a graphic novel by BookScan; if it were, it would lead the pack by an order of magnitude because those books sell in the millions, while the first volume of Dork Diaries sold just shy of 150,000 copies. The fifth volume (reviewed here by Esther) also charts, and the other volumes seem not to be classified as graphic novels by BookScan. (That’s the sort of anomaly that makes this sort of analysis so challenging.) If they were, the list would probably be even more kid/YA heavy. And Star Wars: Jedi Academy (reviewed here by Caleb) also is in that hybrid comics/diary format. It may be hard to classify, but it sure sells well.
It’s also had to ignore the popularity of Big Nate; this is a comic strip that is being reprinted in trade paperback format in Andrews McMeel’s AMPKids line. (Esther reviewed Big Nate and several other AMPKids books here.) Again, it suggests the magnitude of what’s not on the list, as BookScan doesn’t usually include comic strip collections on this chart. Thus AMP’s Fox Trot and Peanuts books aren’t counted, but again, they would probably chart if they were.
The upshot is that as far as bookstore sales go, children’s and teens’ graphic novels are a very robust category—and if you want to hit the best seller list, hybrids are the way to go.