Pointing to strong titles, a growing backlist, and retailer optimism, Diamond Book Distributors, the trade book unit of Diamond Comics Distributors, reported that its 2013 sales rose by “double digits” over 2012 in the U.S., Canada, and international markets. U.K. sales rose by “triple digits,” due to the addition of DC Comics in the region last year, though the company said U.K. results would have been up even without the boost from DC. DBD v-p sales and marketing Kuo-yu Liang called 2013 the company’s “best year ever,” citing “a convergence of favorable conditions in the marketplace.” Not to mention that “comics geeks are now in charge,” he added. “And not just booksellers and librarians; increasingly we’re seeing that geeks are now the [store] managers or even owners.”
“It’s not one region—sales are up across the board,” Liang said, attributing the gains, in part, to the release of several strong titles this year, among them Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga series, Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground, Matt Fraction’s Sex Criminals, and March Book One, the bestselling Civil Rights memoir by John Lewis. “Strong titles always matter,” Liang observed, adding that Lewis’s memoir generated “tremendous media attention—from Maddow, Colbert, NPR—and Lewis is still out there signing.” He pointed to the development of a solid backlist of quality graphic novels and nonfiction works as a factor that contributed to the gains this year as well. DBD’s growth also resulted from “a lot of special sales,” Liang said, citing large orders from schools, foundations, and even some retailers. “Walmart ordered a couple hundred copies [of March Book One] to give to employees,” he noted.
Sales were up in e-commerce channels, libraries, and schools, as well as at Walmart and Costco, he said. Liang was at the annual meeting of the Educational Book and Media Association in San Diego, Calif., earlier this month, and he attended the ABA’s Winter Institute in Seattle and the American Library Association’s Midwinter meeting in Philadelphia last weekend. “Every channel has done well, so we have to be everywhere,” Liang said. “Different channels want different stuff. Now there is a wide range of content—including TV tie-ins to literary graphic novels— and our publishers have it.”
DBD distributes about 45 publishers, and while they lost a big one—Dark Horse moved its distribution to Random House Publisher Services beginning in 2014—the company has picked up several new publishers, including Z2 and Avatar Press. “You move on to the next free agent,” Liang said. “There are lots of great comics coming out; I expect 2014 to be even better [than last year].”
Liang listed new Saga and Sex Criminals collections from Image; Red Sonja from Dynamite, with new writer Gail Simone; from Z2, a revised, full-color edition of Paul Pope’s Escapo and a Billy Dogma collection by Dean Haspiel; Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriquez, from IDW; and Letter 44 by Charles Soule and Alberto Alburquerque, from Oni. Liang thinks that Hollywood will continue to boost comics and graphic novel sales in 2014: new seasons of Walking Dead and Dr. Who are slated to air, and DC and Marvel have new movies and TV shows in the works. There’s also a spate of anniversaries coming in 2014: IDW will celebrate its 15th, Zenescope its 10th, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy turns 20, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles turn 30, and Batman turns 75. “The graphic novel market is robust,” Liang said, “and the marketing possibilities in 2014 may be even bigger.”