Although a few graphic novels have shown up on the New York Times extended bestseller list over the years, of late the Times has had a policy to not include comics and graphic novels on their myriad lists of bestselling books. That all changed last week when NYT reporter (and not-so-secret staff comics maven) George Gene Gustines announced on the NYT Arts Beat blog that the paper of record has started a “graphic books” bestseller list. The newly launched weekly New York TimesGraphic Books Bestseller list (really lists) features three categories of betselling titles: hardcover, softcover and manga. Diane McNulty, New York Times executive director of community affairs and media relations, answered a few quick questions via email.
PW Comics Week: Why did the Times start a graphic novel list?
Diane McNulty: The ranking of Graphic Books has been an ambition of The New York Times for quite a while. The unveiling of these rankings is in keeping with the ongoing evolution of the Best Seller Lists, which have expanded to include Childrens' best sellers in four categories and the reimagining of Trade and Mass Paperback best sellers as separate entities.
PWCW: Why were these three categories (hardcover, softcover, manga) chosen over others?
DM: Our own research and feedback from retailers and publishers—as well as basic observations of the growth of these shelves—real and virtual—where people purchase their graphic books—led us to conclude that these three graphic categories are a natural place to start.
PWCW: Is this a test or will these three categories remain the basis for the Times comics bestseller list.
DM: These weekly lists may indeed evolve in response to what retailers report
as their best selling titles, and as publishing trends dictate. We embrace the emergence of other logical groupings. That said, these are not a test. We're confident that this is the array that our readers would like to have us reporting.
PWCW: I assume the lists are determined using a computer model that samples the sales results of a wide network of retailers. Is that correct and does it also take results from the comics shop market?
DM: Your assumptions about methodology are correct. The explanatory text that appears every week with the Graphic Books rankings sets forth our standards and practices. (I have pasted it below).
Rankings reflect sales of graphic novels, for the week ending —, at many thousands of venues where a wide range of books are sold nationwide. These include hundreds of independent book retailers (statistically weighted to represent all such outlets); national, regional and local chains; online and multimedia entertainment retailers; university, gift, supermarket, discount department stores and newsstands. In addition, these rankings also include unit sales reported by retailers nationwide that specialize in graphic novels and comic books.
Of course, we do not disclose who does or does not report sales to us. The standard of confidentiality of our reporting is the same as with all other categories of best sellers which we report. This is done to preserve as best as is possible the integrity of the atmosphere in which books are sold and reported to us. We aim to share with our readers what consumers bought of their own free choice, each week, when presented with a wide array of options.