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Selling Graphic Novels and Comic Books in Bookstores

Okay we haven't talked about this in awhile so I'm curious as to what folks experiences are at chain and local bookstores these days - how are they treating the comics?

Comixpedia has written about this from time to time (one of Iain Hamp's columns touched on it. I did in the old blog as well. Also Alexander Danner wrote about it in GNR

Bookstores don't have to be captive to direct market practices regarding comics - in fact they've got their own industry practices that do quite well in selling text-only books of all genres and styles. I'm interested in what a good bookstore is doing in selling comics or what a good bookstore should/could be doing.

Selling Graphic Novels and Comic Books in Bookstores

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

Okay we haven't talked about this in awhile so I'm curious as to what folks experiences are at chain and local bookstores these days - how are they treating the comics?

Comixpedia has written about this from time to time (one of Iain Hamp's columns touched on it. I did in the old blog as well. Also Alexander Danner wrote about it in GNR

Bookstores don't have to be captive to direct market practices regarding comics - in fact they've got their own industry practices that do quite well in selling text-only books of all genres and styles. I'm interested in what a good bookstore is doing in selling comics or what a good bookstore should/could be doing.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

spargs's picture

My local bookstore has two shelves set up: "Graphic Novels" and "Comic Books". Obviously though, they can't make the distinction between the two very well - they fill these two shelves in a seemingly random fashion. Superman can be found in both shelves, as can Garfield, for example.

The bookstore sells only hardback collections of comic series, mostly pretty thick (and thus expensive) collections. They seem to be aiming for people who are already fans of a particular comic than trying to draw in new readers.

[url=http://www.digi-comic.com][img]http://www.digi-comic.com/images/dcLilLink.gif[/img][/url]

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

The local Barnes and Noble has a GN/Manga section but they don't do a good job of organizing it - roughly it's one column superheroes, couple columns manga and one column everything else. I think a little more care would help - not to mention some good end column displays for what's hot or new

Also I still think putting GNs alongside books is a idea bookstores should pursue - put mystery comics in the mystery section, etc. (They can have them in both places actually) - I think that would help to grow comic readership in a whole new way. (Note a lot of bookstores did this with Perseopolis and that GN did very well).

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Greg Carter's picture

Diamond distributes to bookstores as well as the DM but they don't seem to do much with it. In the chain bookstores I go in there's usually one bookcase (maybe two) of the big DC/Marvel titles and four or five chock full o' manga. Sometimes, if you are really lucky, a couple big indy titles are thrown in. But mostly it's capes, mutants, Sin City, and Sandman. Not a good representation of the full comic market.

Print-only comic creators are battling this now, especially with Diamond's new policies making it even harder on anyone except their pets.

Take a tour through Warren Ellis' Engine to see plenty of distribution vitriol from people that live and die by dead-tree comics.

Greg Carter - Abandon: First Vampire - Online Graphic Novel

The William G's picture

The bookstores here in Korea usually have an aisle or two or three or an entire wing, dedicated to comics... You know, those big fat collections. It's the same method as in Japan. Even the small bookstores have a sizeable selection.

All in Korean

The large bookstores here have a shelf or two for comics in their English language sections. For the most part it's a random selection of comics that have been made into movies like Sin City, Superman, or X-Men, but there are some surprising selections like The Comics Journal, Shutterbug Follies (a webcomic!), and L&R's The Death Of Speedy. Plus a bunch of Darkhorse manga translations like Akira... which I was going to buy until I realized the entire thing would have cost me US$250. Also, there's a lot of newspaper strip collections as well. Baby Blues, Zits, Dilbert, The Boondocks, Doonesbery, and so forth.

All in all, not bad if you're starting out. But the selections, while diverse for a non-English speaking nation, are limited. I got The Hard Goodbye here, but I'm shit out of luck if I want the rest of Sin City. And I'm going to have to wait for my family back home to send me something like We3 if I want it... Which I do, and I'm still waiting for them to send me.

But I think that bookstores will continue to carry graphic novels/ trades as long as they make them money. But the comics as themselves arent the ones creating the interest in them, so I doubt placing them with the books will help create new readers. (what I mean is, they're not getting read just because they're comics)

Someone has to make a comic that's timely, relevant, and accessible. Perseopolis had all of that which is why it got noticed. Maus did the same thing, coming out at a time of renewed interest in the death camps.

and... there you go.


The William G's picture

Oh yeah... One other thing.

Every Walmart-type of big box store here has a large selection of comics aimed at kids in their book sections. Plus kid-sized seats.

While it doesn't win them any good-parenting awards, parents tend to plunk their kids down in these sections while they do their shopping. The kids spend their time reading the sample copy of the comics (the ones for sale are sealed shut). And these comics are squarely aimed at the kids. Big, 120 page magazine sized books in bright primary colors, with subjects ranging from Korean history to "Goosebumps" type-horror stories to mythology. A couple of years ago a series of manhwa-ized Greek Myths named Olympus Guardians was all the rage with the kids.

Also... a photocomic using dolls was popular with the girls last year. Actually, I stole it from some students for reading it in class.... I'll be back with some scans.

But yeah, you want comics to become more widespread, hooking kids is how you do it.


Xaviar Xerexes's picture

[quote:b3fa95236c="TWG"]But I think that bookstores will continue to carry graphic novels/ trades as long as they make them money. But the comics as themselves arent the ones creating the interest in them, so I doubt placing them with the books will help create new readers. (what I mean is, they're not getting read just because they're comics)

Someone has to make a comic that's timely, relevant, and accessible. Perseopolis had all of that which is why it got noticed. Maus did the same thing, coming out at a time of renewed interest in the death camps.

We actually agree from what you wrote - the future of comics is not necessarily in people buying comics because they're comics - it's in more people buying interesting stories that use comics because it's suited to tell that story. Putting these stories in their proper category in the store alongside the text-only books is going to draw in people (if there is a real effort to market well) who would never linger for a second in the "comics" aisle of the store let alone step foot in a direct market shop.

Perseopolis was marketed perfectly. Granted it was an excellent work, but there's no guarantee that a good work, let alone a good comic, is going to sell well. The people backing that comic made sure it got treated like a BOOK which in American culture is generally a higher level of respect and is taken more seriously by the general cultural press. Plus they did everything else right like tell the author's story and tie it into current events.

Plus they got it on the "new books" shelves at many stores I saw - those are the one when you're walking in the door that everyone sees, you know...

It doesn't have to be a weighty tome on a serious subject to get marketed like this. You could do a chick lit story really well as a comic and you could market it in the same way. The trick is to get the bookstores to give it the full press/sales job they do for text-only books.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

The William G's picture

I'm glad we agree.

And now, I'm going to hijack the thread with Korean comics. Sorry to you dial-uppers:


Here we have "Children of Paellains" which I think means "Creepy doll comics". It's a 150 page magazine with comics such as the one below. They also have photo spreads of these dolls modeling fashionable clothes.


Enjoy their souless eyes.


But the comic in the magazine is a pretty water-colored thing.


Just for a bonus, this is a popular Korean comic called... can you guess? That's right! DVD, which seems to be about what Korean highschool girls think going to university in Seoul must be like.


I actually like the art inside. It's pretty typical of the "girly" type comics here.

Oh yeah, comics that come from Japan are read right to left as they are in Japan, while Korean made comics are read left to right as we do. They seem to have no problem switching between the two modes here.

And this has been thread hijacking scans daily...


Tim  Demeter's picture

[quote:b9cc56ce28="TWG"]And this has been thread hijacking scans daily...

Made possible by a generous grant form the Comixpedia corporation and viewers like you.

Those dolls creep me the EFF out, dude.

On the subject of funny-books in the not-so-funny book stores, did ya'll know the book distributors get their stuff to book stores a week or more earlier than Diamond gets the same product to comic shops? True story. If you want a certain comic and you want it now, your local Barnes and Noble will have it first, unless your comic shop also orders from the scary non-Diamond distributors that other bookstores use, which not many do.

Tim Demeter
does a bunch of neato stuff.
Clickwheel
GraphicSmash
Bustout Odds

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

Wow - brawling post on Tom Spurgeon's Screw the Mainstream post - sort of touches on the whole bookstore thing so here you go:

http://www.the-engine.net/forum/messages.php?webtag=ENGINE&msg=1324.1

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Greg Carter's picture

Also a thread about distrubutor FM closing/changing practices. http://www.the-engine.net/forum/index.php?webtag=ENGINE&msg=1380.1

Greg Carter - Abandon: First Vampire - Online Graphic Novel

Wow-- Im reminded how gay manga type art is... or whatever they call it in Korea.

Interesting to look at though.

That's just because William reads girly comics for women.

I think those things people were talking about about comics being integrated into the general book market will happen a little more as the big publishing houses get more and more into making graphic novels. I can't see them all being put in the general book aisles becoming a normal thing though.

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Greg Carter's picture

Oh, and I assume this conversation is so far concerning GN size books. Don't even mention the monthly "floppies" at a book store. They'll have X-Men, Batman, and Archie and not much else if they have any at all.

I have to make a special trip to a real comic shop to get Warren Ellis' Fell or Brian Woods' Local and any of the other series I like. Awesome series that should be on racks in the magazine section of book stores.

Jennie Breeden of The Devil's Panties is going to have a monthly book of her webcomic and, like every other indy, she's fighting to hit Diamond's pre-sale mark so they will actually distribute the book to the DM shops.

Greg Carter - Abandon: First Vampire - Online Graphic Novel

rabbitpie's picture

[quote:ac3033ffe9="YIRMUMAH"]Wow-- Im reminded how gay manga type art is... or whatever they call it in Korea.

Since I'm assuming that you're using the word gay in the Scott Kurtz sense, I won't call you on it. =)

I've noticed that my "local" (as in the cloest, which is like 30 minutes away) Waldenbooks stocks untranslated manga. Yes, they have an entire bookcase of untranslated Japanese manga. They also have about 8 to 10 bookcases of comics and manga. And since they were placed right between the entrance and the mystery, sci-fi, fantasy sections (in other words, in a slightly more prominent section---which makes sense since 50% of the stores patrons at the time were teenagers and younger adults looking for/at comics/manga) lots of book fans were also attracted by the shiny displays and the intriguing art.

The William G's picture

[quote:871ec4b8c6="YIRMUMAH"]Wow-- Im reminded how gay manga type art is... or whatever they call it in Korea.
Got wood, did you?


AbbyL's picture

[quote:2338388233="rabbitpie"]
I've noticed that my "local" (as in the cloest, which is like 30 minutes away) Waldenbooks stocks untranslated manga. Yes, they have an entire bookcase of untranslated Japanese manga. They also have about 8 to 10 bookcases of comics and manga. And since they were placed right between the entrance and the mystery, sci-fi, fantasy sections (in other words, in a slightly more prominent section---which makes sense since 50% of the stores patrons at the time were teenagers and younger adults looking for/at comics/manga) lots of book fans were also attracted by the shiny displays and the intriguing art.

Yeah, I just noticed that too. I would have bought some to cut my teeth on, but it was all stuff I don't care to read.

Do they price them the same as the translated comics, or are they closer to the very lower prices they sell for in japan?

<a xhref="http://www.kiwisbybeat.com" target=blank>Kiwis by beat!</a>

Erik Melander's picture

I'm not so certain about the idea of putting GN in the same shelves as books of the same genre. The pros are that someone looking at mystery novels might give a GN a look, but the thin spines of most GNs would mean that they have a hard time catching the eye of a browsing customer. The sizes manga uses would probably have a better chance since they are more like the dimensions of a small paperback. Still it is hard to judge how it would work without anyone trying it.

The Jenny Breeden news is pretty darn interesting, but both Rowland and DJ Coffman has also recently talked about putting out a monthly/bimonthly comicbook. In Coffmans case sparked by anger from Joey Manley and Shaennon Garritys comments in the Beats roundtable about "pamphlets". What Im curious about is if they also intend to use the Diamond/Direct Market route.

Finally, wouldn't it be a neat thing if we could collect some images of how comics are sold in different countries? William could snap a couple of pictures of Korean places (bookstores, comicbookstores, kiosks perhaps), I could do the same of Sweden and maybe we could get people to do it of other countries as well?

No, I won't be using the Diamond route myself. Not unless another publisher comes along who wants to put my books through there. It's been my experience, and many other indy creators I know, they can actually sell more copies AND make more money selling their comics direct at shows their websites, etc. Diamond is a REALLY lousy system for independents.

Besides, who would want to WAIT to get their comics. I mean right out the gate you're asking people to order abook that won't be available and in their hands for 2-3 months!-- I've been involved in several books that went through Diamond by the way-- so I'm not just talking out of my ass here like some OTHER webcomic people do.

With Diamond's new required numbers, I dont see how any indy right now can afford to use them.

I can totally do this myself and make clear profit without any losss or practically no overhead. Just a little more physical work and elbow grease in shipping the things out.

[quote:701a5feb91="YIRMUMAH"]so I'm not just talking out of my ass here like some OTHER webcomic people do.

Who does? Who?

I have a scornful glare prepared, but nowhere to direct it!

<a xhref="http://www.kiwisbybeat.com" target=blank>Kiwis by beat!</a>

blinky's picture

Things to look into:

You can always list your graphic novel on Amazon- as long as you have an ISBN number.
Amazon also has a paid placement program for those of you feeling a bit ambitious. They also have on-demand publishing since they're partnered with Booksurge.

Barnes & Noble also has a program for selling your books through them.

<a href="http://www.nekkoandjoruba.com"><img src="http://home.comcast.net/~yocchi/njmar07.gif"></a>

Tim  Demeter's picture

[quote:f8e1a3b5f5="YIRMUMAH"]It's been my experience, and many other indy creators I know, they can actually sell more copies AND make more money selling their comics direct at shows their websites, etc. Diamond is a REALLY lousy system for independents.

I can vouch for this. Even with the smaller distributors, the margin is ridiculously low, and you can make more selling one book online or at a con then you will selling 5 through a distributor, depending on how you price things, but at standard comic book page counts/prices this about the case.

Tim Demeter
does a bunch of neato stuff.
Clickwheel
GraphicSmash
Bustout Odds