Bookscan: Women and Children Were The Big Comics Moneymakers in 2014
Brian Hibbs has put up his great yearly analysis of the Bookscan numbers over at Comic Book Resources, and they reflect a change that’s slowly dawning on many people in comics right now: books for women and children are where the money is. Nine of the top twenty books sold and tracked by Bookscan last year were by women, and twelve of the top twenty were books for kids.
When it comes to the bookstore market, the comics that have been the focus of the Direct Market for decades just aren’t cutting it. It’s starting to look like bookstores are the harbinger of what’s to come for the comics industry, as comics publishers who focus on the Direct Market seem to be increasingly aware that women and kids are where their future lies as well.
Hibbs has done a lot of analysis and it’s all very informative. Sales overall were up 17% in both units and dollars over 2013, which is the largest growth in sales since 2006. The top 20 chart looks like this:
176,197 — SISTERS
152,220 — TALES FROM A NOT SO FABULOUS LIFE
150,523 — SMILE
129,679 — HYPERBOLE AND A HALF
94,152 — DRAMA
84,707 — BIG NATE GRT MINDS THINK ALIKE
83,639 — STAR WARS JEDI ACADEMY
78,132 — STAR WARS JEDI ACADEMY RETURN
74,581 — DORK DIARIES OMG ALL ABOUT ME
72,520 — CANT WE TALK ABOUT SOMETHING M
68,064 — WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM 1
67,849 — BIG NATE THE CROWD GOES WILD
54,520 — ATTACK ON TITAN 1
53,755 — PERSEPOLIS 1
53,470 — WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM V 2 TP
52,872 — BIG NATE I CANT TAKE IT
45,316 — WALKING DEAD V 20 ALL OUT WAR
39,446 — BIG NATE GAME ON
39,367 — AMULET 6 ESCAPE FROM LUCIEN
38,416 — SAGA V 3
If you’re big on knowing the full breakdown of numbers, I encourage you to give Hibbs’ full post a read. The basic gist, though, is that Raina Telgemeier is our new queen and her comics (Smile, Sisters, and Drama) grossed more in bookstores in 2014 than anyone’s other than Robert Kirkman’s. In fact, at over $4.6 million, Telgemeier’s books grossed more than double such creators as Brian K. Vaughan, Geoff Johns, Alan Moore, and Bryan Lee O’Malley. That’s Bookscan numbers alone, and these are books aimed at young girls.
That top 20 list has no super hero books on it at all — and the only books there that were Direct Market darlings as well are The Walking Dead and Saga, which unsurprisingly appeal to the bookstore crowd.
Publishers like Image, Marvel and DC are represented in the Bookscan numbers — while they may not have a lot of individually top selling books, they are some of the top selling publishers because of the sheer volume of trades and graphic novels they put out each year. The companies that dominate the Diamond lists fade a bit into the background on Bookscan, although they’re still seeing growth along with the entire industry.
It’s interesting to compare these numbers to Diamond’s 2014 charts, where the top single issues are unsurprisingly dominated by super hero books like Amazing Spider-Man, Rocket Raccoon, and Death of Wolverine, and the top graphic novels are dominated by The Walking Dead and Saga (and by Image in general, who locked down 9 of the top 10 GNs in 2014) but without many of the graphic novels on Bookscan’s list. Yet Diamond reported sales were up just 4.39% in dollars and .64% in units — a far cry from the 17.77% and 17.39% increase, respectively, that Bookscan reported. In some ways, it’s like we’re looking at two different industries.
So is that the future of comics? Comics aimed at women and kids soar at the bookstore, while the usual monthly comics continue to dominate the Direct Market? The industry is in the midst of a shift towards diversity, and numbers like the ones Bookscan is reporting are the kind that could help comic shops — if only they could tap into those audiences. Meanwhile, companies who have long focused on the Direct Market and straight white guys are hiring more diverse creators and putting out more diverse books.
These numbers could look completely different next year, but it seems likely that we are not yet done with this upswing in sales — or the influence diversity may have on our industry.