The big five publishing houses are very bullish about the future of comic books and manga in the retail setting. They have been securing long-term agreements to get as many copies available to bookstores in Canada, US and UK markets.
IDW Publishing has just signed a multi-year book sales and distribution agreement with Penguin Random House Publisher Services for the trade bookstore market. IDW used to do business with Diamond Book Distributors, but found they could reach more bookstores and sell more copies of their biggest book hit ever with Top Shelf’s March series, which accounted for three of the top five graphic novel bestsellers.
Penguin Random House is now considered the largest graphic novel distributor to the book channel. They have five the ten largest publishers doing business with them, such as Archie Comics, Dark Horse Comics, DC, Kodansha, Legendary, Titan Books, Vertical. Wizards of the Coast also heavily leans on PRH to sell their role-playing books to major bookstores.
Diamond Book Distributor’s largest graphic novel publisher clients are Image Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, Oni Press, and Valiant Entertainment.
Other major players in graphic novel distribution to the book trade are other Big Five book publisher distribution divisions Simon & Schuster Distribution Services (which currently distributes #1 manga publisher VIZ Media, BOOM! Studios, and Andrews McMeel, among others) and Hachette Client Services (Marvel and others).
Manga is big business in North America
North American manga sales are down from the market’s peak in 2007, when they hit about $210 million. By 2012, North American manga sales had declined to $65 million, before beginning to rebound to about $70 million in 2013 and reaching $75 million in 2014. Figures for 2015 are not yet available, but in early 2015 sales were up about 13% over the same period in 2014.
Barnes and Noble has put a priority on manga since last summer. The bookseller has doubled the amount of retail space devoted to manga. They said that was primary due to strong customer demand.
Viz Media, the largest manga distributor in the US has been focusing on big box retailers. They have an agreement with Walmart to showcase their titles in over 2,000 stores. Every year they they place their bestselling titles such as Tokyo Ghoul, Yokai Watch, and One Punch Man in the book department just in time for the holidays.
Best Buy had a manga section at one point and also carried other graphic novels from time to time, but recently has not had any books in the stores. The chain has tried a some books through sales promotions in the past year, and is now going to take the next step with a multi-publisher, multi-category corrugated floor display in all 687 stores. With Viz and Bandai Namco the two major suppliers involved, the display will offer manga, including Naruto and Assassination Classroom, along with games and DVDs/Blu-rays.
Manga is starting to get popular again because of the big crossover appeal between anime and manga. Anime is very accessible now due to streaming services such as Crunchyroll and Funimation. You can normally watch new episodes the day after it airs in Japan. The manga that sells the best are normally continuations of the anime, so you can follow major story arcs before its made into a new anime season.
Why are publishers paying attention to manga right now? It is huge business. In a recent tweet from one of Kodansha’s Twitter accounts, they openly stated that Attack on Titan now has over 60 million copies in print. While this doesn’t specifically state this figure is worldwide, it’s very likely. This is because the last major release of sales figures for this manga listed it at 52 million worldwide sales.