Despite the steady sales of growth of graphic novels and book-format comics, many book retailers remain ignorant of the category, mistakenly treating it as a single genre, or are confused about where to shelve the books. Indeed, many retailers continue to believe erroneously that comics are either primarily about superheroes or are intended only for children.

Looking to address the problem, a group of publishers led by Chris Oliveros, publisher of Drawn & Quarterly, a Toronto-based graphic novel publisher, have sent an open letter to Ed Ramsey, head of the BISAC committee of the Book Industry Study Group, asking the group to establish a Graphic Novel subject heading with appropriate sub-headings that will "accurately reflect the diversity of the comics medium." BISAC categories assist retailers in categorizing and shelving books and, according Oliveros, Bowker and Barnes & Noble are pushing for BISAC codes to become an industry standard.

The publishers calling for the new subject heading include Pantheon, W.W. Norton, Fantagraphics, Dark Horse Comics, Top Shelf and D&Q's new distributor, Chronicle Books. Oliveros told PW that the current BISAC categories simply are inadequate.

Oliveros is also out to help retailers who need guidance on selling book format comics. He's published a small pamphlet called "Selling Graphic Novels in the Book Trade," handsomely illustrated by D&Q artist Jan Van Der Veken.

The booklet is written by three booksellers who have had great success selling book-format comics and graphic novels. The retailers are Carson Hall of Virgin Megastores in New York, Paul Constant of Seattle's Elliot Bay Book Co. and Jaz Williams at the Borders Bookstore in Bloomington, Minn.