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.

13 Responses to Saturation

  1. […] David Welsh ponders the availability of indy publishers’ work in […]

  2. […] Welsh talks about publishers whose books are hard to find in chain […]

  3. I usually shop at Borders rather than B&N, and I find plenty of non-superhero material, although out of two Borders in my area, one carries more than the other. For instance, I bought Exit Wounds at Borders, and I see quite a bit of books like Alias the Cat, The Arrival, or Will Eisner volumes there. But that’s anecdotal, of course…

  4. Kouros says:

    I’ve seen some Tatsumi manga in Barnes and Nobles, but in general, I’ve found that my Borders have a better selection. I’ve seen titles like Reptilia, Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators, Times of Botchan,and New Engineering at Borders.

  5. davidpwelsh says:

    My rare bookstore sightings of Fanfare titles have been split between the two chains. I saw The Walking Man at a Borders, and Blue at B&N. B&N wins a slight edge for putting a stack of the Nananan books on a tabletop display.

  6. David Wise says:

    [Typo fixed — I have the flu!] David, I’m confused. Are you saying we (Go! Comi) are “the winner here” because our books are widely available, or because they’re hard to find?

  7. davidpwelsh says:

    Widely available! Sorry, I thought that was clear by the context.

  8. John T says:

    I was under the impression that the problem wis the big box book stores don’t want to sell shrink-wrapped titles, so Dark Horse manga (which leans toward a more mature audience) doesn’t get shelf space.

  9. davidpwelsh says:

    That makes sense, John, since the manhwa titles like Banya tend to skew younger and not be wrapped.

  10. David Wise says:

    Thanks! It probably IS clear in context, but as I said, I have the flu.

  11. davidpwelsh says:

    No problem. Feel better.

  12. Erin F. says:

    Fanfare is way hard to find! I ended up most of my Fanfare books at the very poorly attended Fanfare table at New York Comic Con. I think there was only one employee at the con, and we kept going to the table when he was on break or checking out the rest of the con.

    DMP’s unique trim size means that they are shelved separately at my local comic shop – yaoi or not!

  13. davidpwelsh says:

    In fairness, I’m pretty sure Fanfare only has one full-time employee, which makes the quality of its books extra amazing.

    Good point on the trim size. I was putting stuff away over the weekend, and I thought, “Man, Garden Dreams is HUGE.”

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