ABA Winter Institute Provides Tips for Graphic Novels in Indie Bookstores

ABA's Winter Institute has many amazing panels for booksellers to attend to gain insight into industry trends, merchandising tips, and more. This year, the ABC Children's Group presented a panel on how to successfully sell and merchandise graphic novels in bookstores. According to Publisher's Weekly, the panel was hosted by several independent booksellers including: Heather Hebert of Children’s Book World in Haverford, Pa.; Marika McCoola of Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Mass.; Michael Bender of Community Bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Michael Link (moderator) of Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, Oh.. Below is a list of the major points made during the panel. To download their full list of tips, click here.

  • Don’t overlook nonfiction. Titles like those from Smithsonian Science are appealing to all kids. (Hebert)
  • Graphic or illustrated versions of the classics can be a gateway. “Good art will sell it,” said Bender.
  • Graphic novels are good titles for language learners.
  • “Titles that appeal more to adults or are strange, odd, or peculiar get faced out on the top shelf,” said McCoola.
  • Give the section a quirky or interesting name that will appeal to adults and children alike: Graphica was suggested by the audience as one that parents go for because it sounds “classy.”
  • Check out Toon Books’s website for instructions on how to read a graphic novel with a child and grade-level appropriate titles.
  • Parents who are suspicious of graphic novels should turn to a book like Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics.
  • When selling through a school book fair, books cannot be priced more than $12.99 or people will not buy them.
  • “Re-readability is a key for graphic novels,” said Hebert.
  • Graphic novels are also often overtly “diverse,” primarily because they are visual.
  • Regarding manga: It’s best to have a sign up that says you will order anything people ask for. It’s impossible to keep the series in stock because they are long and difficult to keep track of.
  • The ALA has a good list for kid-friendly manga series and titles to recommend, as does School Library Journal, said Kuo-Yu Liang of Diamond Book Distributors.

Graphic novels have had a groundbreaking impact on the book market in the last few years, and their popularity is projected to continue growing as books like March, Book 3 and Monstress dominate best-seller charts and win prestigious literary awards. 

Are graphic novels a major point of sale in your store? Let us know about your success stories and how your graphic novels section is flourishing by contacting us here!


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