A little more than a year since the New York Times eliminated a number of bestseller lists—including the graphic novel and manga lists—literary agent Charlie Olsen has collected more than 900 signatures on a letter appealing to the paper to restore the comics lists.
In the letter, which was sent earlier this week, Olsen, a literary agent at Inkwell Management, appeals to the New York Times’s newly appointed publisher A.G. Sulzberger, to “increase coverage of the comics medium and bring back the graphic novel bestseller list.”
Olsen, who represents such acclaimed graphic novel artists as the NBA-nominated Noelle Stevenson, NBA-winner March artist Nate Powell, and writer Alex de Campi, told PW he hopes the letter will “open a dialogue with the New York Times.”
The letter has more than 900 signatures from a distinguished list of artists, writers, publishers, and editors from across the world of comics publishing. Among those signing the letter: cartoonist Raina Telgemeier, cartoonist Nate Powell, cartoonist Box Brown, Boom! Studios publisher Filip Sablik, Abrams CEO Michael Jacobs, IDW CCO Chris Ryall, Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch, cartoonist Julia Wertz, Graphix senior editor Cassandra Pelham Fulton, and Berger Books founder/publisher Karen Berger.
In something of a surprise to publishers, in January 2017 The New York Times cut the graphic novel/manga lists as well as the mass market paperback lists, middle grade e-book and young adult e-book lists. Many graphic novel publishers reacted with dismay, although several comics publishers questioned the impact of the lists on sales.
In the letter, Olsen notes the New York Times originally promised expanded “'coverage of these books in ways that we think will better serve readers and attract new audiences to the genres.' A year later we’re still waiting for that coverage to start." The New York Times graphic novel bestseller list debuted in 2009.
Olsen emphasized that the lists help “the visibility of our medium, and thus helps advance comics as serious literature.” He also writes that the lists “play an indispensable role in helping new readers discover books,” and without the lists, “it’s harder for us to sell books, which makes it more challenging for publishers to take chances on new voices.”
Olsen told PW “comics are a vibrant medium and shouldn’t be on the sidelines of the book world.” Olsen described the NYT lists as a “taste maker,” that helps readers, librarians and retailers around the country know, “what people are reading, what's popular and what’s the highest quality.”
Asked if PW’s bestseller lists can play that role, Olsen said the PW list, done in collaboration with NPD BookScan, was directed primarily to industry professionals rather than consumers.
Update: This story has been updated since it was first published in February 2018. The original number of signatures has grown from more than 400 in February to more than 900 signers in March 2018.