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.
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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.)
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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