In spite of incredible headwinds in the book business, during the first half of 2011 the graphic novel sales trend was up for the first time in several years. After eight years of solid and at times spectacular growth, which saw graphic novel sales to grow by a more than a multiple of 5 from $75 million in 2001 to $395 million in 2008, sales dropped to $370 million in 2009 and fell further to $340 million in 2010.
But a 7% growth in the bookstore market, which includes Amazon (apparently the biggest beneficiary of Borders' decline), has pushed graphic novel sales into positive territory for the first half of 2011. In spite of a 6% decline in graphic novel sales in the comic shop market, the overall total of graphic novel sales is up 3% for the first six months of this year, because roughly twice as many graphic novels are sold in bookstores than in the direct market.
Two media-driven hits Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim and Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead really help fuel graphic novel sales as the popularity of these two properties spread from the comics market where they were “cult hits” for years into the mainstream bookstore market thanks to exposure in other media (a movie for Scott Pilgrim and a cable TV series for The Walking Dead). In addition increased sales of graphic novels aimed at kids and tweens helped offset declines in adult titles in the bookstore market where many outlets have created special sections of graphic novels for younger readers..
Manga sales, which peaked at $210 million in 2007 continue to decline, dropping by 15% in 2010 to an estimated $120 million. But in the first half of 2011 that decline slowed to 10%, which is a positive sign for an important market segment.