So, notice anything strange? Yes, it's dominated by manga titles, but at this point that should be expected. No, it's the almost total lack of any titles from the Big Two (DC & Marvel), save for Marvel's 1602, which sneaks in at #25.
Remember, this isn't a list of top sales from just bookstores, it's a combined listing from pretty much all outlets that sell graphic novels in the U.S.
This leads me to some observations:
- Yes, since it covers GN sales for the calendar year, it's going to be weighted towards titles that appeared earlier in the year. 1602 just came out a couple of weeks ago, so its performance so far is quite good, and I fully expect that it will rapidly climb up the charts.
- Given Neil Gaiman's following as prose author (mostly in genre circles, though he also gets a good deal of attention from the 'mainstream'), 1602's appearance on this chart is more likely due to his name than to the Marvel characters in the book.
- Even though this is a combined sales chart, it looks almost exactly like you'd expect a chart that tracked only bookstores, and looks almost nothing like the charts we see from Diamond for comic shops. From this, we can deduce that the sales of GN's in bookstores is much greater than in comic shops; and that manga & other non-super-hero titles probably have a long shelf life (or at least the most popular ones do).
- Interestingly, sales to libraries don't appear to be covered by this chart. However, given what I know about the ordering practices of public libraries with graphic novel collections--that they focus on a teen audience and are heavily weighted towards manga--I doubt that their inclusion would change much.
- DC, despite having what is probably the most diverse GN backlist in the industry, has no titles on the list at all. (But with their new manga line, that may be about to change...)
- Pantheon, a mainstream publisher, has slots 1 and 4, with Art Spiegelman & Marjane Satrapi respectively. These two titles got a lot of mainstream press attention, which has translated into sales.
- Weighing in at #13 is something called The Book of Bunny Suicides by Andy Riley; before looking at this chart I'd never heard of it. Now after looking it up on Amazon, I want to read it. What are chances that my LCS will have it in stock, or even be able to get it if I ordered it?
- In addition to some of their manga titles, Dark Horse also has a couple of Hellboy collections on the chart. Apparently by having a good stock of GN's ready and in stores, Dark Horse was able to capitalize on the Hellboy movie. Note the complete absence of Spider-Man titles on this list...
- There's no accounting for the taste of the mainstream manga audience. There are a lot of great manga titles, but those that appear on this list have little or no attraction to me. Actually, there is accounting for the taste: it's the taste of 14-year-olds. It would seem that the tastes and interests of these consumers will dominate, which is bad news for those of us who want more sophistication in our GN's.
- In fact, with the exception of Fruits Basket (and maybe Inuyasha) all the manga titles on the list are targeted at teenage boys. So despite the great attention being paid to teenage girls reading manga, there's a huge audience of teenage boys reading manga geared towards them.
- All of this leads me to the conclusion that the 'mainstream' GN market and the 'direct' comic book market are far apart. Given that the mainstream market seemingly outsizes the direct market, the demise of the direct market, should it someday come, will not mean the deminse of the comic book as a form of entertainment or art in America. But it may mean the demise of super-heroes and other types of genres that are traditionally thought of as comic books, in favor of manga and artsy/literary comics.
Those are just some observations of mine; your milage may vary...