Crunchy numbers

As this manga thing starts to catch on, there has been a lot of talk about print runs, so I thought it would be interesting to do some compare-and-contrast.

What made me think of this was this article about the third Scott Pilgrim book. I haven’t written about Scott Pilgrim because I don’t regard it as manga, but it tends to be shelved with manga, presumably because of the trim size, and a lot of manga readers like it. A lot. I’d call Scott Pilgrim a critical success. So what’s the first printing?

10,000 copies.

That seems surprisingly small for one of the most talked about books in comics-dom, but then comics-dom is a small world. Here are some other numbers for comparison:

10,000: Go!Comi’s first printing on their first volumes, which sold out and have gone back for second printings.

25,000: Sound of My Voice and Celebrities, from BeBeautiful.Of course, BeBeautiful is owned by CPM, which seems to be headed for bankruptcy.

60,000+:Queenie Chan’s The Dreaming, which went back for a third printing of 45,000, thanks to being picked up by Scholastic. That’s after a second run of 7,000, so we can guess the first printing was also in the 10,000 range.

75,000: That’s where the Papercutz reworkings of Nancy Drew are expected to be by the end of summer, after they migrate to Target and supermarket clip racks.

So, what do we learn from this?

We learn that publishing a critically acclaimed, breathlessly awaited book is not the same as a license to print money. It has been ever thus.

A more useful lesson is the importance of marketing, not just selling to the comics crowd but reaching out to mass marketing outlets. Check out the top 100 graphics novels sales in comics stores. In any given month, the top book on the list shipped between 6,000 and 9,000 copies to comics stores, and the books at the bottom of the list sold barely 1,000. The fact that you can buy manga in bookstores has been a key to its success. But Nancy Drew isn’t in the manga section (because it really isn’t manga). It’s shelved with the Nancy Drew prose novels. Naruto is kicking butt because of the TV show.

My point? For sales to really balloon, manga needs to get out more, out of the comics section and under the noses of more readers. If The Dreaming and Peach Fuzz do well via Scholastic, that could really give manga a boost, from selling-well-for-comics to selling well, period. And since it’s a well-known principle of publishing that the blockbusters support the riskier titles, that would be good news for everyone.

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  1. There are so many manga being published each month that good titles get lost. My hope is that some of these blockbuster manga help readers find titles that are less mainstream and introduce them to some wonderful stories.

    Of course, I’m a little scared that some of the *meh* manga that gets picked up and published here might turn off readers, too. Such a thin rope….

  2. Peter Ahlstrom says

    These numbers are nothing new in any genre. Science fiction and fantasy are much the same.


  1. […] the third Scott Pilgrim graphic novel was 10,000. (If you’re curious, I wrote about the topic here a few years […]