With all of the year-end round-ups and lists of favorite comics, a common corollary seems to be “(Insert title here) probably would have been on my list if I could have found a copy of it anywhere.” That got me to thinking about which of the smaller publishers – the ones that aren’t an arm of a big book house or that have a distribution deal with one – are faring best in terms of bookstore distribution.
In my purely anecdotal experience, I think I’d have to put Drawn & Quarterly at the top of the list, with Fantagraphics an extremely close second, if not actually tied. I’d probably put Top Shelf in third place. The thing that strikes me most about Drawn & Quarterly, and maybe it does so with buyers too, is that their books are almost always really sturdy, attractive objects, so maybe that’s part of the equation… that they look like books, in other words.
These kinds of publishers generally do better at Barnes & Noble stores than Borders, and since B&N has the closest big chain store, that’s kind of my biggest criteria. It’s actually kind of odd to me, but in my experience, Borders is much less interested in anything that isn’t super-heroes or manga. Maybe it’s just a regional thing and that there are better selections in other places?
As far as smaller manga publishers go, the winner is almost certainly Go! Comi, though I always spot a fair amount of product from Seven Seas and Netcomics as well. I’m kind of puzzled by Dark Horse. Their non-manga books usually have pretty good representation in graphic novel sections, but not so much with the licensed material. In general, it seems like it’s easier to find their manhwa in a bookstore than their manga.