Driven by continued growth in popularity of the graphic novel format, combined sales of graphic novels and periodical comics in the U.S. and Canada totaled roughly $1.21 billion in 2019, according to a joint estimate produced by trade news sites ICv2 and Comichron. The $1.21 billion estimate represents an 11% increase over total comics and graphic sales in 2018.
The increase in sales was led by the graphic novel book format, in particular continued growth in sales of children's graphic novels, sold via the bookstore channel, which includes chain bookstores, online retailers, mass market stores, and Scholastic Book Fairs. And while the book format led sales growth overall, sales of periodical comics in the comics shop market were also up by about 5%.
"The massive shift to graphic novels as the preferred format for comics continued in 2019, bringing sales in the book channel above the comic store channel in North America for the first time in the history of the medium," ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp said of the findings.
In 2019, North American sales of the graphic novel format were about $765 million, while sales of periodical comics were about $355 million, with sales of digital comics at about $90 million. Sales made through different retail channels totaled roughly $570 million via the bookstore channel (bookstores generally do not sell periodical comics); about $525 million in sales were via direct market comics shops (which sell both periodical comics and book format comics); and about $25 million in sales came via “other channels,” which includes newsstands and crowdfunding.
Sources for the data used to compile this report include NPD BookScan and Diamond Comics Distributors. Print figures are based on the full retail price of books sold and do not account for discounting or markup. Digital sales do not include subscription-based services.
Speaking to the findings, Comichron owner Jonathan Miller took note of the Covid-19 pandemic and said it will undoubtedly impact 2020 sales. "The comics industry has displayed resilience during many difficult times over the decades," he said. "While the pandemic may prove its biggest test yet, 2019 provided the business with a strong base."
Griepp also acknowledged the impact of the pandemic on retailers. “Demand for comics content remains high and retailers have been finding inventive ways to fill that demand," he said.