It was a good weekend for comics. The New York Comic-con garnered a huge turnout while an industry report released during the convention reported that total graphic novel retail sales rose 18% in 2005, to $245 million.
With an overflow crowd that forced the organizers to close the exhibit hall for several hours on Saturday, the first annual New York Comic-con is estimated to have attracted nearly 30,000 fans over three days. The convention was the first national comics convention held in New York City in many years, and the turnout virtually guarantees that next year's convention will need a bigger exhibition hall at the Javits Center. (The show was organized by Reed Exhibitions, a sister company to Publishers Weekly.)
And while the rate of growth may have slowed a bit, the sales of book format comics in the U.S. and Canada continue to grow at an impressive rate, according to ICv2.com, a trade news Web site covering the market for comics, manga, anime and pop culture merchandise.
In an annual report delivered during the conference, ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp said that the graphic novel market has more than tripled over the last four years, rising from about $75 million in 2001 to $245 million last year. Griepp's study examines the sales of book-format comics in both the general bookstore market and the comics shop market.
The general bookstore channel (which includes online and nontraditional book outlets in the ICv2 study) was instrumental in this growth, recording more than twice the dollar sales of the comics shop market: $168 million to $78 million. And while manga's phenomenal growth rate over the past few years has also slowed, the category still accounts for $145 million of total graphic novel sales in 2005. Manga sales grew 25% in the bookstore channel, Griepp estimates, and slightly less than that in comics shops.
There were about 2,500 book-format comics in fiction and nonfiction published last year, including about 1,088 manga titles and about 815 American comics. While the number of titles continues to grow, shelf space remains an issue. Top-selling titles are selling more than ever, while new titles are having problems breaking into the market. Griepp said bookstores are not adding space as quickly as in the past and titles do not remain on the shelves as long. Comics shops are now adding space and beginning to see graphic novels as a better product than back issues of comics periodicals.
But Griepp pointed out that more than two-thirds of all graphic novel sales, including an increasing number of backlist sales, are made through the bookstore channel. "This represents an opportunity for the category to become an even bigger part of the book industry," he said.