Updated on December 10, 2021
The websites ICv2 and Comichron have released their annual joint report on North American comic sales.
For 2019, comic, graphic novel, and digital comic sales totaled $1.21 billion, up 11% from 2018.
2019 comic sales information
Here’s Comichron’s infographics summarizing 2019 comic sales by various categories. To repeat the usual criteria:
- Information is based on estimated or actual sales figures.
- Comic shop/direct market figures are mostly from Diamond reports; figures for book channel vendors are from BookScan reports.
- “Book channels” include sales from bookstores (like Barnes and Noble), online stores like Amazon, as well as Scholastic book fairs. Library purchases aren’t included.
- Digital sales are estimated and based on venues like Comixology. Subscription services like Marvel Unlimited and DC Universe aren’t included. Neither are library based digital services like Hoopla.
- The “Other Channels” category consists of what’s left of newsstand sales (which is very little) and fundraising channels like Kickstarter.
Statistics by percentage
Below, I break down the various categories by percentages. Note all of the figures have some rounding.
Sales by channel:
- Book channels: 47.1%
- Comic stores: 43.4%
- Digital download: 7.4%
- Other channels: 2.1%
Sales by format:
- Graphic novels: 63.2%
- Comic books: 29.3%
- Digital comics: 7.4%
Graphic novels are responsible for virtually all sales growth
This year’s reported graphic novel sales figures was a surprise to me. Last year, I expected graphic novels to see a continued rise, but I didn’t think it’d be by this much. Graphic novel sales this year hit an estimated $765 million, up a whopping 20% over 2018. As this year’s book channel sales report indicates, books like Scholastic’s “Dog Man” and manga like “My Hero Academia” are very popular.
Single issue comic sales are flat
Meanwhile, single issue comic sales are basically flat. The 2019 report notes sales of floppies hit $355 million, supposedly down 1% from last year.
Comichron’s Brian Hibbs notes that there was a slight change in how singles are calculated this year; in his words:
Even allowing for this, a 4% rise in sales isn’t a huge boost. Hopefully this means the days when singles were considered the be-all and end-all of comic sales have finally passed. Which in my opinion’s a good thing, given the direct market’s massive flaws.
Digital sales are down
Meanwhile, digital sales dropped to $90 million, or a 10% decline from 2018. It’s not clear why this is the case; Comichron theorizes a slowdown in catalogue title growth on digital platforms.
Again, I wonder if digital comic readers prefer subscribing to all-you-can-read subscription services like Marvel Unlimited, DC Universe (which launched in September 2018), Shonen Jump, and Comixology Unlimited. Just as Netflix and Hulu are preferred by the general public over buying digital videos from iTunes or Amazon? Also, $10 a month for Marvel Unlimited gets access to everything Marvel ever printed; that might seem like a better buy than singles, even with the six month delay in titles. Meanwhile, the same $10 buys a whopping two single issue comics.
Book channels, not comic shops, hold a plurality of comic sales
Last year, comic shops still held a plurality of comic sales, albeit no longer a majority. However, as of this year, shops no longer even hold that. Book channels now hold the largest share of comic sales.
While book channel sales aren’t a majority, I suspect they’re heading in that direction.
Overall, comic sales are looking stronger than ever, with a strong future thanks to graphic novels and manga. Single issue comics, meanwhile, look like they’re treading water. Digital comics are down, but again, I’d wonder if digital subscription services are where the real action lies.
Given this year’s ongoing pandemic and stay-at-home orders/lockdowns affecting comic shops and bookstores, it’s hard to say what 2020 sales figures will look like. I expect graphic novels to fare better than single issues, given the wider availability and accessibility of the former.
Photo by the University of Illinois Library (Flickr / CC BY / cropped from original)