Book channel graphic novel sales increase guarantees that 2016 was a growth year

The final report on comics sales to the Direct Market will surface this week, but here’s a nice thing: whatever happens, the entire comics and graphic novel market will be up for 2016, yet again.

That’s the nugget of news from Publisher’s Weekly today as turned up by The Beat: while sales of books were up 3.3% while the adult fiction category was down 1%, “the lone bright spot in fiction was comics and graphic novels, which had a 12% increase on the year.”

Since Comichron and ICV2 found the book channel in 2015 was responsible for $350 million in sales — more than 37% of the print market, excluding library sales, that increase would be more than enough to put the entire genre well ahead for 2016. The Direct Market was running slightly ahead of flat through November, meaning that pretty much regardless of December’s outcome, a $42 million increase in the book channel would cover almost any eventuality.

It also means there’s at least a slight chance that the market might hit $1 billion print, particularly if the PW measure is later seen to underestimate the book channel increase. The unit counts from PW’s category breakdown in 2015 — which likely come from Bookscan — significantly undershot the unit counts observed in March by Brian Hibbs in his annual Bookscan report, so they may be looking at a different grouping.

We’ll see shortly what, if anything, the Direct Market adds to the increase. 2015 was going to be a challenging year to compare against for the DM, since Star Wars alone had a 6% market share in comics and graphic novels in that year, thanks to its return to the publisher and The Force Awakens. The book channel didn’t have that multimillion-dollar first quarter boomlet the comics market saw in 2015!

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