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Comics Shops Fight Bookstores In the Race to Sell Graphic Novels

15 October 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

American comics and graphic novels (and media based on them) are more popular than ever, but the way these works are purchased is being transformed by a new wave of consumers looking for new material and new places to buy it. Pop culture trade news site ICv2’s Insider Sessions, an annual trade conference organized at New York City’s Javits Center to kickoff New York Comic Con, brought together industry constituents looking to understand a growing and quickly changing comics marketplace.

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American comics, especially superhero periodical comics, have been sold primarily through the comics shop market (also known as the direct market) since the 1970s. This distribution system is dominated by Diamond Comics Distributors, and the market consists of about 2,000 stores that buy their inventory wholesale on a nonreturnable basis from Diamond.

However, Griepp pointed out, the growth in popularity of book-format graphic novels and the rapid influx of a new generation of female comics fans over the past decade are beginning to produce a U.S. comics marketplace that looks a lot more like the book trade. “2017 has been a year of rapid change,” he said in his presentation. “The direct market is struggling with flat sales, while other channels are gaining new consumers.”

Sales of graphic novels via the book channel—which includes chains and independent bookstores, online retailers such as Amazon, mass market retailers like Target and even Scholastic book fairs—continue to grow. The direct market, on the other hand, is struggling. Rebounding from the recession years, graphic novels sales via the book trade grew from $250 million in 2011 to $405 million in 2016, according to Griepp. In the direct market (which sells periodicals as well as books) the growth was also significant, with graphic novel sales rising from $140 million in 2011 to $185 million in 2016.

The comics marketplace has become a contest between bookstores and the direct market, Griepp said, as well as “a battle of the formats” between traditional periodical comics and the growing popularity of graphic novels. He noted that comics shops are “struggling to accommodate their legacy consumers while appealing to new readers,” many of whom are either unfamiliar with comics shops, uninterested in traditional comics, or looking for new retail options.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Graphic Novels/Comics

One Comments to “Comics Shops Fight Bookstores In the Race to Sell Graphic Novels”

  1. and the market consists of about 2,000 stores that buy their inventory wholesale on a nonreturnable basis from Diamond.

    Meaning owners of the bookstores effectively get their books on consignment, while local comic shop (LCS) owners get stuck with unsalable garbage like “floppies” for Thorina or America or Captain Marvel.

    Though that “2,000 stores” figure is probably kind of a fudged number these days, in the sense that a lot of what used to be comic shops have essentially turned themselves into slightly hipper versions of Hop Topic. Last time I went into a Newbury Comics, a large chain in the Boston area, maybe five percent of their floor space was dedicated to comics. And that’s probably generous. Newbury Big Bang T-shirts would make more sense as a store name these days.

    Rebounding from the recession years, graphic novels sales via the book trade grew from $250 million in 2011 to $405 million in 2016, according to Griepp. In the direct market (which sells periodicals as well as books) the growth was also significant, with graphic novel sales rising from $140 million in 2011 to $185 million in 2016.

    Kind of a nifty bait and switch here, in the sense that there’s no distinction made between the explosion in popularity of non-Western titles (typically Japanese manga) and the junk being pumped out by Marvel and to a lesser extent DC these days, in whatever format. I’d be shocked if much, if any, of that growth on an inflation adjusted basis came from anything Western.

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