2006 was a 'Banner Year' for graphic novel sales in both the bookstore and direct markets according to research conducted for the recently published ICv2 Guide #40: Graphic Novels.  The best-selling graphic novel of the year (in units), Naruto Vol. 9, sold over 100,000 copies in bookstores alone in 2006 according to Nielson's BookScan, while no graphic novel title topped 70k in 2005.  But manga was not the only growth category in the bookstore market, if anything sales of non-manga titles grew at a faster rate.  Alan Moore and Dave Lloyd's V for Vendetta was the top-selling non-manga release in the bookstores with a BookScan total of nearly 80,000 copies, though Moore's Lost Girls with its $75 price tag may have been the top dollar book.


One of the noticeable trends in 2006 was the success of big-ticket volumes such as Lost Girls, DC's Absolute Sandman ($99), and Absolute Kingdom Come ($75), the Marvel Encyclopedia ($40) and X-Men: The Characters and Their Universe ($75). The success of these high priced volumes demonstrated a considerable elasticity of pricing that was especially evident in the bookstore market.


Graphic novel sales were also up in the direct market with Diamond Comic Distributors reporting a 9% year-over-year gain in 2006.  The 9% figure is probably a considerable understatement since that number (compiled by ICv2 from monthly data provided by Diamond and publishers) only includes the bestselling 100 graphic novels from each of the 12 months and totally ignores sales from the growing backlist of graphic.  With over 2,700 volumes of manga and graphic novels released by Diamond in 2006 plus titles from previous years that still sell at varying rates, it becomes clear that sales of backlist titles are seriously underestimated in ICv2's 9% graphic novel growth figure.


The mammoth number of releases of all types of graphic novels has led to another trend that was very evident in 2006 -- compiling back list series of graphic novels into 'omnibus' editions, thus reducing (somewhat) the number of skus a retailer has to carry in order to provide a representative graphic novel backlist.


With plenty of graphic novel movie tie-ins ranging from Ghost Rider, Spider-Man, Transformers, Fantastic Four, Stardust, 28 Weeks Later, and Nancy Drew to One Missed Called, 2007 might be able to match the movie-fueled success of V for Vendetta in 2006, though the most likely candidate to do so is Zack Snyder's film of Frank Miller's 300, which is due to debut on March 9th.  300 is already the top-selling graphic novel of the first two months of 2007, and has a considerable head start on the field.


Frank Miller, creator of 300 (and Sin City), is the subject of the 'Writer's Spotlight' section of ICv2's new Guide to Graphic Novels.  With Dark Horse reprinting a number of other Miller-created volumes this spring, 2007 could be a very big year for his work, especially if the 300 movie is well-received in theaters and on DVD.


For more information on obtaining the ICv2 Guide #40: Graphic Novels, which is free to retailers and also identifies the best prospects from the hordes of graphic novel releases set for October, November and December, see 'ICv2 Releases ICv2 Guide #40: Graphic Novels.'