Home » Graphic Novels/Comics » NY Times Removes Comics Bestseller Lists: Why This is a Problem

NY Times Removes Comics Bestseller Lists: Why This is a Problem

30 January 2017

From BookRiot:

When the New York Times bestseller lists for the week of February 5 went out this week, literary agent Charlie Olson noticed something odd: several of the usual categories of bestsellers were curiously absent. The only explanation was a brief message which noted that the Times had chosen to “eliminate a number of print but mostly online-only bestseller lists. In recent years, we introduced a number of new lists as an experiment, many of which are being discontinued.” Although the Times has not released an official list of the categories being cut, those on the chopping block so far appear to include middle grade ebooks, young adult ebooks, mass market paperbacks, and all three of the “Graphic Books” lists: graphic hardcover, graphic paperback, and manga. That’s right: in the eyes of the New York Times, graphic novels, comics, and manga no longer qualify as mainstream literary genres. (Let’s put aside for now the fact that comics are a storytelling medium, not a genre.)

Look, it’s literary gatekeeping. Let’s call it what it is.

. . . .

Shuffling categories around to manipulate what does or doesn’t make the bestseller lists isn’t exactly a new trick for the Times. Back in the simpler, more innocent days of July 2000, the Times did something it hadn’t done in 15 years: it added a new category to its bestseller lists. The reason? Some upstart of a children’s book series was hogging three of the ten coveted spaces on the Fiction bestseller list. With a fourth book in this outrageously popular fantasy series about to be released, and preorder numbers indicating that a fourth slot on the Fiction list was about to be stolen, the Children’s Bestseller list was created. The series in question? Harry Potter. That’s right: J.K. Rowling posed so much of a literary threat to the Fiction Bestseller list that her bestselling series was relegated to its own special category before Goblet of Fire even hit shelves. (The story doesn’t even stop there – Harry Potter’s perpetual squatting on the Children’s Bestseller list eventually led the Times to shunt it off even further to the new Children’s Series list, because even in its own genre Harry Potter can’t catch a literary break.)

. . . .

The Times’ decision to cut the comics lists has already been questioned on social media by a number of comics creators, librarians, publishers, and other industry professionals. Reigning Graphic Paperback bestseller queen Raina Telgemeier exchanged concerned tweets with Pamela Paul about the decision, citing the list as a powerful tool for librarians looking for graphic novels and for creators, both new and established, seeking recognition and validation. Publisher’s Weekly indicated that the decision has caused a stir among comics publishers as well, who rely on the Times‘ bestseller list as a key benchmark of a comic’s success, both in-house and in their marketing process.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

Graphic Novels/Comics

34 Comments to “NY Times Removes Comics Bestseller Lists: Why This is a Problem”

  1. This will hurt trad-pub far more than it will indie/self-pub.

    (It’s good to see the NYTs had still another round to fire into their feet, though after all those other shots I think they’re now having to aim above their kneecaps in order to hit anything.)

    • Except comics generally work a bit different than books as far as distribution and sales. It hasn’t translated as easily to electronic format as books have. Also, Diamond Comics does most of the distribution to shops. There are ‘indie’ comics that are put out by different publishing houses (Top Cow and Image come to mind). And books published by them HAVE hit bestseller lists (Sunstone hit Amazon’s list, but I can’t remember if it hit NYT).
      So yeah, there’s the indie movement in comics, but it works a bit different as far as getting things out to people.

      ETA: Apologies for generalizing. I’m posting while in a meeting. Because I’m smart like that 🙂

      • When I buy manga and graphic novels these days, I do so almost exclusively in Kindle format. Manga looks fine on larger-sized tablets, ereaders, and on laptops/chromebooks. I’m totally used to the digital format now.

        • Yeah, I definitely agree. Comics on a small screen are too hard to read, even if you’re using the panel by panel feature. But on a large screen they are pretty good.

          The only thing that bothers me about some of the regular comics is the fact that they don’t have many pages. It seems far less than the comics I collected as a kid.

          • There *are* less pages.
            Today’s comics run 17-20 pages.
            With lots of single and two-page spreads.

            In recent decades the more typical counts were 22-25 pages.

      • I’ve bought more comics in the last year than I had in the decade before. Mostly because they’re now increasingly available in digital form.

        Though I think I need a bigger iPad so I can read them more easily with my aging eyesight.

  2. I guess they want to fiddle with lists so that the ones from authors/publishers that buy ads with them get to shine.

    Sheesh.

    • That would be Marvel, I suppose.
      They need all the help they can get on that front.

      DC bottomed out in 2015 and saw the error of their hopeless ways and have been killing it since last May.
      Marvel sales are reportedly tanking and lately they seem to be taking a lot of flak for much the same reason as DC was (the characters no longer being recognizable) but worse.

      They’re being accused of pandering to S.J.Ws…

      I wouldn’t know personally since I gave up on Marvel the moment I heard they were doing another Secret Wars. Those never end well.
      And the second Civil War…

      Brrr…

      • I’m not a big fan of US comics in the first place, but I’ve been boycotting Marvel since they went full-on S** a while back. I’ve seen a lot of other complaints about them online, too.

        • I saw six rants listed on youtube just today.
          All from the last week.
          The funny thing is the movies are pretty un-Politically Correct and nobody dares gripe about it. Disney!

      • Marvel is still outselling DC. They publish Star Wars…so there you go. They have tanked some of their old characters though by playing the identity politics game with them.

        Or so I’ve read.

        Here are the raw numbers and such:
        http://www.comichron.com/index.php

        I really like Kamala Khan and She Hulk. Spider Gwen also kicks a**. From what I’ve heard though they’ve over done it by identity politics flipping many of their big heroes. I just got the lady Thor trade but haven’t read it yet…

        Looking at sales though they seem to be doing fine. So I dunno.

        Side note: Lady Deadpool is hilarious, and she exists alongside of Deadpool…along with Dogpool, Headpool and this Deadpool kid with double freakin’ light sabers. 🙂

        • Star wars is a licensed property and belongs to Lucasfilm, not Marvel entertainment. And they could print an entire issue of all black pages and it would sell.

          Where it is all coming back to bite Marvel is with their core franchises that the studios are milking for the movies. The same franchises that used to outsell DC by a mile.

          From what I see/hear online it’s not even a matter of the new characters/stories being bad per se but rather the sheer pervasiveness and the aggregate picture they paint to the long time fans that keep the comics shops in business and to people who might wander in looking for stories about the characters in the movies and instead find:

          – Captain America is a black guy with wings (Falcon) and the white guy who used to be the living symbol of american liberalism is (and always was!) an evil racist Hydra sleeper agent. Probably voted for Trump, too. 😉

          – Iron Man is white evil male Doctor Doom or a teenaged black girl, take your pick. Tony Stark? In a persistent vegetative state with his mind playing disembodied adviser to the teenage girl, kinda like DC’s Martin Stein.

          – three Avengers teams (maybe four), one financed by Deadpool using the money accrued as a hitman; one financed by AIM, which used to be an evil mad scientist consortium run by a mutated white guy but reformed under the leadership of a black brazilian mutant, Sunspot; another is financed by billionaire industrialist Peter Parker (who’s come a long way from Queens)…

          – two Spider-Men, one old and boring Peter Parker and the other young, hip Miles Morales (black and hispanic: a two-fer!) Plus a horde of, three/four/more Spider-babes crawling around in anatomically dubious poses

          – Hulk? Bruce Banner is dead, killed by Hawkeye (the male one, not the young hot female one) after he lost his powers to a korean teenager who used to be sidekick to Hercules…

          – X-Men? Xavier, dead. Cyclops, dead. Wolverine, dead and replaced by a young female semi-clone. And an old white male version from a parallel universe. The rest of the XMEN? Scattered and being deprecated in favor of Inhumans.

          – Thor? Turns out Mjolnir is sentient and female and Nick Fury (the old white male version who was secretely killing aliens for over half a century, not his cool black son that looks like a young Samuel L. Jackson) whispered something to the hammer that made it deem Thor unworthy. So he lost his powers and even his name to Jane Foster. At least they didn’t make him a frog again. Last I heard he was tracking down the hammer of an evil Thor from another universe that only works for those deemed unworthy.

          -Fantastic Four? Disbanded. No longer published.

          And on and on it goes.

          Just reading the plot summaries week after week is cringe-worthy. And then add in prices running $3.99-$4.99…

          (In a world with Indie ebook superhero fantasies by the thousand at $2.99 or lower…)

          But they do have the STAR WARS license. That saved them from bankruptcy in the late 70’s. Just like selling (instead of licensing) the Movie rights to Spider-Man, XMen, and Fantastic four saved them in the 90’s.

          They have a…colorful… history and now they’re adding another chapter.

          • Star Wars comics are published by Marvel and all of it is owned by Disney.

            So when you see Marvel numbers next to DC numbers right now you’ll see Marvel outselling DC. It’s not the classic Marvel supers doing that, those titles aren’t doing well overall, but rather it’s the Star Wars titles selling like crazy that are putting Marvel over DC.

            For Example: In December, by dollars, DC had 6 of the top 10 books. 4 were by Marvel. 2 of those Marvel books were Star Wars.

            • Right. That’s what I said: STAR WARS is bailing them out.

              But, while both Marvel Entertainment and Lucasfilm are owned by Disney they are run independently. And judged independently.

              The issues at Marvel Entertainment aren’t financial (because of the Star Wars license) but creative and managerial. They have taken a series of decisions that, independently, in a vacuum, look just fine but collectively present an image that is…annoying to their core long term fans.

              At some point, senior management is going to wonder why Star Wars is the only line doing well. And do something about it.

          • One thing to keep in mind is that Marvel did a similar restart of the line up in the 60’s under Stan Lee when they updated/recreated the characters into what an older generation feels is the way these characters should be forever.

            The 60’s reboot got comics in tune with the times and made them cool and iconic with a younger generation.

            Longterm, Marvel needs to appeal to today’s younger generation to be relevant and have a future.

            Older whiter, predominantly male fans may think a modestly dressed brown skinned Miss Marvel and a mixed race Spidey is pandering to the pc-crowd, but if you take a minute to look at the demographics of that younger generation and the issues they care about this had to happen for superhero comics to continue to matter for a wider audience.

            Disney isn’t conspiring to pc proof the franchises. The American public don’t go to movie theaters anymore. The only way to make these tentpole movies profitable is the global audience. On average that global audience is 50% female and of various skin tones. Wider representation ensures that the widest possible audience will come.

            I’m a life long older comics fan and the reason I never got into superhero comics in the 80’s and 90’s is that there was no stories with relatable female heroes. None. If there had been even one female lead like today’s Miss Marvel my pasty white teen self would have been all over it. Say Marvel and to this day I think ‘men in tights’ (Batman – or in my reading, Bruce Wayne, hot guy with dark secret – and Spidey excluded <3).

            Just because superhero comics now come in more flavors than vanilla doesn't mean there's no place for vanilla. Enjoying Vanilla is great, go ahead, just let the cinnamon lovers enjoy their flavor too.

            The Marvel pantheon displayed a fossilized graphic worldview relic from the 1980's. Good on them to toss it all up in the air and see what sticks today and where to go next.

            • I’m sorry Tina but you have a lot of things incorrect here:

              Fans are mostly hearkening back to early 2000’s or 1990’s. Not the 60’s. If message boards and Youtube is any indication. That could be the younger nature of the internet I guess. Facebook polls have about half of comics readers under age 30. And that age has remained constant for 10 years. Men are the majority of readers but to what extent is hard to nail down.

              I’m not sure what % are whiney old white men. But that phantom group sure gets blamed for a lot of things. Like in gaming, sci/fi awards and conventions, now comics, etc…

              What’s really going on is they are getting rid of the old favs too quickly, just like DC did with the New 52. Sales are showing, again, how that’s a bad idea.

              When DC did the same thing their sales slipped without any dirty old white bigots to blame.

              Ms. Marvel is clearly 100% pandering. Just like Luke Cage and Black Panther. That’s okay if the stories are good. MM is embraced by new people but also the old because her stories were good (G. Willow Wilson, killing it). That’s why her character will survive, she is selling well.

              As for the Marvel Movies. They are much less diverse than the comics. Movies are way behind in that because the general population is far less accepting than the comic book community. Or maybe movie makers are more risk averse. I dunno. But you say they need diversity to sell overseas, so far they haven’t needed much of that to make billions.

              No relateable female heroes in the 80-90’s? Jesus. I guess that’s personal preference, not liking X-Men. Maybe they sucked for you. A ton of the noisiest fans on the web started in that era, with Batman The Animated Series and X-Men cartoon. Then switched to comics.

              It’s hard to talk about this stuff without someone trotting out the ‘old white guys’ meme, who can’t handle anything new, just gotta get over themselves I guess. Sure. Comic book fans are as accepting a group as I can imagine, though perhaps a bit distrustful having had their hobby crapped on as uncool for so long.

              And that’s, essentially, what DC did and what Marvel is doing. Telling the fans what they liked isn’t cool anymore. They need to jump on board with the new hip thing. There’s a balance to be struck there. Marvel will get it back. They did it with Spider Gwen and Kamala Khan, for sure. I have faith.

              • Yup.
                The rants on youtube are 20-30 year olds.
                The “old white males” holding on to silver age memories gave up back in the grim-n-gritty 90’s when the speculators’ bubble imploded.

                The bulk of the gripers are the cohort that grew up with Marvel’s ULTIMATE COMICS which was itself a reinterpretation of the 60’s characters for the new century but done right: the characters were fresh but recognizably themselves. Which is the difference between DC’s current successful Rebirth and the NEW 52 which, like Marvel’s “All-New, All-Different” went out of its way to make changes for the sake of making changes. (And most of the changes were adopted from Jim Lee’s Wildstorm sensibilities rather than classic DC.)

                So the complaints aren’t from “reactionary old geezers” but from people who have been actively following and supporting Marvel and are now finding all the characters they grew up with replaced en-masse.

                Here’s a cussword-free summary of the issues:
                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmFSq4fBxt0

            • Uh, the 60’s comics reboot of note was DC, not Marvel.

              Most Marvel franchise characters as of 60’s origin. Unless you think of Namor or Human Torch as prominent, the only prominent Marvel hero with golden age roots is Captain America. (If you’re thinking of the original Captain Marvel, he was a Fawcett character and is owned now by DC.)

              What Jack Kirby and Stan Lee did in the 60’s was build Marvel up from near-nothing to a cultural (but not economic) powerhouse.

              Impressive and notable but until this century their finances were up and down and they flirted with bankruptcy repeatedly. Once they almost merged with DC, whose finances were always solid (even when sales dropped) because of licensing of the iconic Trinity.

  3. Their content reflects their readership. Probably most of the readership isn’t into manga or comics (why? I don’t know! It’s freaking fabulous.) or YA and mass market paperbacks. I don’t know what the demographic of the NY Times is, but I imagine a bunch of old white men…

    • Could be. Maybe theur decline in circulation has left them with mostly “literary culture” snobs. Wouldn’t think there’s enough of those to float even the trimmed down book section but, hey, it’s NY!

  4. It’s not gate keeping. The NYT just laid off eight floors of employees. They are in serious financial trouble.
    Having enough employees to keep the paper going means prioritizing. Most adults who buy the paper are probably interested in non fiction, or bestseller hard backs, and that’s it.

    • So they’re just sharing the pain?

    • lisa grace, can you give a link to “laid off eight floors of employees” … I cant find that online? My eyes are old, maybe I[ve overlooked it on my browser. Thanks

    • lisa grace, can you give a link to “laid off eight floors of employees” … I cant find that online? My eyes are old, maybe I[ve overlooked it on my browser. Thanks

  5. The New York Times had a comics bestseller list?

  6. I’ll admit to never having seen a New York Times list of any kind.

    Maybe I should google it…

    Looks like the new Patterson Press title has the top spot for combined Paper/e-Book.

    https://www.nytimes.com/books/best-sellers/?_r=0

  7. I read this with a bit of a head-scratch; they’re also dumping genre mass-market and we’re not talking about this, only graphics/comics/manga? Seems to me the mass-market issue is a bit farther reaching.

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