Diamond Book Distributors, a graphic novel and pop culture merchandise distributor, reports 2012 sales and revenue rose “in double digits across the board,” and that its returns for the year were down. Kuo-Yu Liang, v-p, sales and marketing at DBD, said the international distributor had a “spectacular year” and that results were up in every channel including indie bookstores, chains, libraries, online and international markets.
Noting that sales and revenue were up—although not necessarily by double digits in every category—Liang emphasized also that DBD returns were down, “which means we were shipping the right amount of stuff.” Liang also said he expected “another strong year in 2013.” He said the the international market “is still a huge growth area,” for graphic novels, toys, RPGs, manga and sci-fiction, “the whole pop culture universe,” noting particularly strong sales growth in Brazil, Malaysia and Europe.
Asked if the loss of Borders was reflected in DBD’s results, Liang said, he couldn’t find any impact. “There’s been no effect. Without Borders we’re still up in all areas. Maybe we would have been up even more if they were still around, but who knows?” Liang said that while losing 600 Borders stores “hurt,” he added that “consumers have never stopped demanding cool stuff, even in a recession they kept spending.” Liang credits the strong appeal of the pop culture category around the world for strong sales despite the economic climate. “Pop culture rules,” he said, quickly crediting his publisher-clients, and emphasizing, “if you have the books.”
“Pop culture geeks worldwide want the same things,” Liang said, “bestseller lists around the world are almost the same, so we can work on a global scale.” He emphasized the point by highlighting Dark Horse’s bestselling videogame artbook, The Legend of Zelda, “it’s dominating bestseller lists across the globe.” The title, Liang said, is the number one bestselling pop culture title on Amazon in the U.S., Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the U.K., China and Japan, and was among the top five bestsellers on Indigo Canada and BN.com. He also pointed to continued popularity and sales of the Walking Dead properties, “it’s the top TV show around the world.”
Just back from the American Library Association meeting in Seattle, Liang also reported strong results in the library market. He noted that DBD has a sales and marketing department dedicated to the library market and that the company also uses an outside consulting firm to target libraries. “Public libraries are longtime supporters of the graphic novel category and supported the category long before the bookstore market did,” Liang said. “Libraries are used to serving consumers. They want manga, for instance, because they know it’s what kids want and they said, ‘I better learn about it.’ Bookstores either they want it, or they don’t want it and it has nothing to do with their customers. Bookstores reflect the tastes of the store buyer, libraries serve consumers.”
He said public libraries “are climbing back from recent budget cutbacks. They have more money to buy books now and we’re thrilled. In the school library market, common core [curriculum standards that dictate what kinds of books can be used in schools] is the buzzword you hear. It’s a K-12 standard in 47 states and we’re working to put together a listing of graphic novel titles for common core acquisitions.”
The biggest selling titles for DBD around the world right now are the Legend of Zelda (Dark Horse), the Walking Dead line (Image), Saga (Image), and Avatar the Last Airbender (Dark Horse). Projecting ahead to likely big titles in 2013, Liang singled out two properties “from very different worlds”: comics and graphic novels based the wildly popular My little Pony franchise (IDW) and March (Top Shelf), the forthcoming three-volume graphic autobiography of longtime congressman and Civil Rights legend Rep. John Lewis, created by Lewis, his cowriter Andrew Aydin and award-winning cartoonist Nate Powell. The first volume of March will be published in August.
Liang singled out March and Rep. Lewis and called the memoir-in-comics a “big book. We’re producing a teachers guide for it and will give it a big push in the library market. Lewis will be a breakfast speaker at BEA and at the June ALA meeting and we’re going to pull out all the stops to promote it.”