By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Why graphic novels may be the future for growth in book sales
If Americans really are looking to find their bearings in Americas new reality through fiction, graphic novels are one of the richest veins to mine both artistically and financially. - photo by Chandra Johnson
It's no secret that it's been a rough decade for the publishing industry. The rise of the internet and e-books (once thought a death notice for print books) led to the closures of many bookstores and many to wonder how much Americans value reading books when they spend most of their time on a screen.

Yet in an industry that saw adult fiction book sales drop across the board in 2016, there was a lone bright spot that experienced 12 percent growth, Publishers Weekly reported: graphic novels.

Then, last week, a plot twist: the New York Times announced it is culling its bestseller lists. Among the casualties are lists in middle grade fiction, some young adult fiction lists and to the chagrin of artists, illustrators, authors and fans graphic novels.

Moving to eliminate the Graphic Bestseller lists seems like a misreading of the mediums importance and its ever-growing interest to readers, First Second Books editor Mark Siegel told the Washington Post.

The decision is especially vexing for authors and publishers since one of the years most seminal graphic novels March: Book Three, penned by Congressman John Lewis chronicling his days as a young civil rights activist won the National Book Award for Young Peoples Literature in 2016.

"The timing of the cuts seem poorly timed, too, coming within a week of a historic landmark for comics: the third and final volume in John Lewiss graphic autobiography March received a record-breaking four ALA Youth Media Awards earlier the very same week, not to mention having already shattered barriers by being the first graphic novel ever to win a National Book Award," bibliophile website BookRiot argued.

Times book editor Pamela Paul told the Washington Post that despite the death of these lists, the Times is expanding its graphics-book coverage. She explained the resources required to maintaining a best seller list and the paper had to eliminate 10 of them.

Obviously, the bar will be raised a little bit higher for books to become New York Times bestsellers, she said.

Coincidentally, readers accepted that challenge last week. Lewis March: Book One became the first graphic novel to crack the Top 10 on the Times paperback bestseller list, more than three years after its publication and less than two weeks after the Times announced its decision.

The Times' decision on graphic novels is also puzzling given a surge in sales of classic dystopian fiction.

The New York Times reported recently that Margaret Atwoods The Handmaids Tale and George Orwells 1984, are enjoying renewed readership. The sales of Atwoods 1985 classic bumped 30 percent, the Times reported, while Orwells iconic novels 1984 and Animal Farm topped Amazons bestseller list.

Alex Woloch, a Stanford University English professor, chalked the uptick in sales to a public stunned by President Donald Trumps eventful first few weeks in office.

People are hungry for frames of reference to understand this new reality, he speculated.

If Americans really are looking to find their bearings in Americas new reality through fiction, graphic novels are one of the richest veins to mine. Characters overcoming dystopian societies is a topic plumbed regularly in graphic novels.

The wealth of graphic novels dealing with cultural sensitivity and oppression in dystopian societies (like Marjane Satrapis Persepolis," Art Spiegelmans Maus, Gene Luen Yangs Saints, or Brian K. Vaughans Saga," to name a few) alone is an indication of how much the medium has evolved well beyond the superhero-centric days of early comics.
Sign up for our E-Newsletters