2007 French Comics Market Data and Analysis
The French association of comics, critics and journalists, Association des Critiques et des journalistes de Bande Dessinée, has released its annual report on the state of the comics industry in France. Below is a partial translation of the report by guest translator Loup Solitaire:
2007, VITALITY AND DIVERSITY
by Gilles Ratier, secretary-general of the ACBD
I. Production: growth continues for the 12th consecutive year: 4,313 comic books were published in 2007 (of which 3,312 strict novelties), a growth of 4.4 %.
Growth continues for the 12th consecutive year: 4,313 comic books were published in 2007 (of which 3,312 were strict novelties), a growth of 4.4 %.
Always more! The ones that already complained about the overproduction of the sector will be disappointed because, once again (for the 12th consecutive year), the production of comic books beats all the records with 3,312 new comic books (representing 76.79 % of the total of books concerned with this specialty) distributed in the French-speaking bookstores in 2007 (compared to 3,195 and 77.36 %, in 2006)! In the general book economy context, this sector gets by pretty well: the diversity of its catalog seems to bear fruit.
In addition, cinematographic and promotional exploitations of the 9th art are made durable. It has to be recognized that nowadays, the engines that drive consumption are more than ever cinema, television, cartoons, video games, the Internet and soon all the other applications of the numeric industry. The commercialization of this full-fledged art that is comics is changing: because of these new technologies, the different players of the book chain are forced to adapt.
Having in addition perfectly integrated the notions of marketing and merchandising necessary to its development, the 9th art market even seems to have eaten a hair of the dog that bit it with respect to the previous year, continuing to mark its dynamism in a sector that's very competitive: a general belief confirmed by the 2 main institutes of book marketing information, Ipsos and GfK.
This is mostly due to the exploitation of numerous new commercial niches and the voluntarism of the editors (who are at last free of their format constrains) which have permitted, in recent years, to gain new market shares; even if the different publics interested by this medium fall back on the safe bet and have, as it turns out, few curiosity for fields that are not, a priori, close to their concerns.
That's what could explain the difficulty to construct gateways between the 4 main readerships:
The usual categories proposed by the big publishers are always hard to break down (knowing that 839 titles, representing 82.66 % of the novelties, except mangas and comics, are part of series):
Today fully recognized, the comic book market represents, with all its components, a bit more than 6.5 % of publishing sales. It is also one of the book sectors that displays, in 2007, the best sales progression.
To these 3312 new titles still never published under this form, it has to be added:
So we arrive at a total of 4,313 titles part of the comic book world (4130, in 2006): representing an increase of 183 titles corresponding to 4.4 %, compared to 530 and 14.7 % the previous year. Knowing that near 60,000 titles have been published in 2007, comics account for 7.2 % of the production (7.5 % in 2006) of books published within the European French-speaking territory. This downturn can be explained by a general growth of the book sector faster than comics.
This situation of "always more" mostly profits the big publishers (concerning comics, they published 1,018 novelties, representing 30.74 %, compared to 1,045 and 32.7 % in 2006), at the expense of small publishing (less and less independent) and the alternatives that progress however strongly, totalizing 613 publications, representing 18.51 % of the novelties (compared to 493 and 15.43 % in 2006).
It does not prevent most of the players in the sector to continue to stigmatize overproduction, especially during the last 4 months of the year during which 1,606 titles –representing 37.24 % of annual production (compared to 1,150 and 35.99 % in 2006) – have been put in place. And the new comics season (inflated by blockbusters) starts increasingly earlier: 284 comic books were published during the last 10 days of August!
More players in the market, which is a sign of vitality: 254 publishers published comic books in 2007, while only 17 groups concentrate 74 % of the production.
Mutations of the communication world offer opportunities to different operators: rationalization, gatherings and centralizations are always on the agenda! Hachette Livre (who, on its own, represents 20.6 % of the book market) has bought the manga label Pika, while Soleil has resold its shares of Asuka to the video publisher Kaze. In the meantime, Panini has acquired the youth branch of Cyber Press Publishing (the newspapers with Bugs Bunny, Scooby-Doo !, Titi et Grosminet, Tom & Jerry, Tweety Girls, Schtroumpf...) and the group Glénat has eventually retook the firm Sefam (alias for the comics catalog of Albin Michel).
This consolidation and this diversification of catalogs of the main players, along with the massive coming of literary operators not hesitating to hunt in their lands (such Actes Sud, L'Atalante, Denoël, Gallimard, Grasset, Laffont, Lattès, Le Seuil...), oblige the small structures to be very pertinent. However, their vitality is not anymore to demonstrate: that is they explore different graphic and narrative ways for other readers (L'Association, Atrabile, La Boîte à Bulles, Cà et Là, La Cafetière, La Cerise, La 5ème Couche, Cornélius, Le Cycliste, Dynamite, Ego comme X, L'Employé du moi, Les Enfants Rouges, FLBLB, FRMK, Groinge, Les Impressions Nouvelles, Lagarde, Matière, Rackham, Les Requins Marteaux, Les Rêveurs, Sarbacane, 6 Pieds sous Terre, Tartamudo, Vertige Graphic, Warum...), or they have a more classical publishing policy (Akileos, Attakus, Clair de Lune, Daric, Des Ronds dans l'O, Flouzemaker, Graton, Hugo, Joker, JYB, Kymera, Lécureux, Marsu, Mosquito, MPF, Nickel, Pavesio, Theloma, Toth, Wetta, Zéphyr...). Nonetheless, in 2007, these difficulties didn't prevent 254 different publishers (225 in 2006) to publish comic books, while only 17 groups concentrate, on their own, more than 2/3 of the activities, representing 74 % of the production.
The biggest producers of 2007? The house Delcourt that published 484 titles under its own label or under its subsidiaries Akata and Tonkam – representing 11.22 % of production (compared to 412 and 9.97 % in 2006).
The group Média Participations, who is the 5th most important group of the book market and who controls about 40 % of the French-speaking comics market, published 747 titles under its subsidiaries Dargaud, Kana, Le Lombard, Dupuis, Lucky Comics, Le Caméléon and Fleurus – representing 10.99 % (compared to 421 and 10.19 % in 2006).
The group MC Productions published 428 titles under its subsidiaries Soleil, Quadrant Solaire, Soleil Manga, Iku comics and SEEBD (that is to say Tokebi, Saphira, Kabuto, Akiko) – representing 9.92 % of the production (compared to 624 and 15.25 % in 2006).
The group Flammarion (the French subsidiary of the Italian communication group RCS) published 316 titles under its subsidiaries Casterman, Fluide Glacial, Jungle and Librio – representing 7.33 % (compared to 262 and 6.34 % in 2006).
The group Glénat published 295 titles under its own label or under its subsidiaries Glénat Mangas, Caravelle, Vents d'Ouest and Vent des Savanes – representing 6.84 % (compared to 305 and 7.38 % in 2006).
The group Panini published 250 titles under its labels Manga and Comics – representing 5.8 % (compared to 214 and 5.18 % in 2006).
Note that this order based on the productivity does not exactly reflect the sales order. Thus, according to Livres Hebdo, in 2006, Albert-René (whose main activity is the exploitation of Astérix) was ranked 5th, while Delcourt, Soleil, and Panini occupied, respectively, the 4th, 6th and 7th positions, behind Média Participations, the group Glénat and the subsidiaries of Flammarion.
In addition to these 7 market tenors are some outsiders:
90 series enjoyed enormous mises en place and continued to rank among the best sellers, all genres of books considered.
According to the professional weekly Livres Hebdo, comics are part of the publishing sectors whose sales have increased the most in 2007, with the extracurricular, essays and the youth.
However, this has only been sensible in big stores, the current system mostly profiting blockbusters and mangas, works that can be found more easily in the hypermarkets, the FNAC, Virgin and other superstores of cultural consumption: all the more so the book exposition duration never was so short. Particularly at the end of the year where the mise en place, in 4 months, of 32 titles of big commercial potential, requiring huge marketing effort, may have contributed to exploding budgets.
Finally, as the return rate continues to increase, in reaction to the inflation of production, the average run keeps on decreasing: even one from certain "powerhouses" is earnestly revised down. Nevertheless, 90 series were run at more than 50,000 copies (compared to 85 in 2006 and 77 in 2005): here goes, permitting a boost in the global comics market!
Thus, according to the numbers communicated by the publishers, the 10 biggest runs (that are not manga) of 2007 are:
Up next are Les Profs by Erroc and Pica, La quête de l'oiseau du temps by Le Tendre, Loisel and Aouamri (200,000 copies), Trolls de Troy by Arleston and Mourier, Les tuniques bleues by Cauvin and Lambil (170,000 copies), Kaamelott by Astier and Dupré (160,000 copies), Gaston : 1957-2007, compilation of gags by Franquin (150,000 copies), Adèle Blanc-Sec by Tardi (140,000 copies), Le cycle de Cyann by Bourgeon (135,000 copies), Les Schtroumpfs by studio Peyo (125,000 copies), and many more series – already often well established or pure marketing products – that also contribute to the good health of the 9th art market, permitting some authors to make a decent living, as well as the whole book sector, and to pay off the least profitable titles.
On the manga side, the situation is even tenser since there's only 9 series (published by 4 publishers, only) insuring more than half of global sales (still according to Livres Hebdo/Ipsos): Naruto represents on its own 19 % of the volume market share, representing 5 million copies sold in total, of which more than 1 million were sold during the last year, with a run that now reaches 220,000 copies for each new volume (and there was 7 of them in 2007)! Trailing far behind we can find the evergreen Dragon Ball with 9 % of the market shares (15 million cumulative copies sold, and reissues run at 120,000 copies each), One Piece with 5 % (in 2007, 5 new volumes were run at 65,000 copies), Fullmetal Alchemist with 4 % (6 volumes run, on average, at 83,000 copies in 2007), Samurai Deeper Kyo with 3 % (6 volumes at 66,000 copies in 2007), Fruits Basket with 3 % (4 volumes at 90,000 copies in 2007), Death Note with 3 % (7 volumes at 137,000 copies in 2007), Bleach with 2 % (5 volumes at 50,000 copies in 2007) and Détective Conan with 2 % (2 volumes at 30,000 copies in 2007)!
According to those numbers (not far from what could be the real sales once a series has found its cruising speed), we notice that the gap still widens between the best-sellers and the sales average bunch: which is, now, set at around 6,000 copies, considering the whole comics publishing.
Being more and more difficult to do strong mises en place on the new series and on the odder titles, publishers continue to strengthen their brand policy.
Of course, it's the alternative publishers that strive the most in this context where the retailers and the distributors are the strongest links of the book chain: that's what could explain, in part, why some publishers said independents (Cornélius, Les Requins Marteaux, but also Les Humanoïdes associés) leave certain retail structures for more economically attractive skies.
And even if the book market always favors the novelty at the expense of the back, the publishers give value to the latter by multiplying the reissues under unabridged versions (246 titles, compared to 216 in 2006), of "new-look" versions (380 titles, compared to 268 in 2006) or of deluxe runs (86 titles, compared to 71 in 2006).
1,787 foreign comic books (of which 1,371 come from Asia and 253 from USA) have been translated: a slight decrease of 0.67 % compared to the previous year.
With structural costs less expensive, content close to the concerns of a different and involved public, and a diversified offering, Asian comics still dominate production with 1,371 comic books (compared to 1,418 in 2006), which corresponds to 528 translated series (compared to 509 in 2006): 1,152 titles come from Japan (1,110 in 2006), 130 from Korean (259 in 2006), 74 from China and Hong Kong (41 in 2006), and 15 from Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and India (8 in 2007).
Note that new volumes of series (32.3 % of translated Asian titles, compared to 35.9 % in 2006) follow each other in short time periods: this is one of the main reasons of the increase in production.
It has to be said that the growth and the dynamism of manga – even if it seems that a kind of stagnation is in the making – stay stable: 1 sold comic book out of 3 is still from Asian, and manga still accounts for ¼ of the sales of specialized publishers. This is not done at the expense of any of the other sectors of the market: this is explained by the fidelity of each readership.
Outstanding fact this year, we witnessed an increase in attempts made by European authors inspired by the different graphic and narrative codes of manga. Publishers, such Akiléos, Ankama, Le Caméléon, Carabas, Delcourt, Les Humanoïdes associés, Pika or Soleil published 57 ones, in 2007.
On the other hand, at Soleil (where a label Fusion Comics is in the making, in association with Panini), Asian graphic artists illustrate the scenarios of French-speaking authors.
Those attempts (run at best at 30,000 copies) are still far from vying with the 9 main stars that represent 50 % of the sales of the sector; but, like the Korean manhwas (the biggest runs are close to 30,000 copies) and like the Chinese manhuas (7,000 copies), they succeeded in developing a younger and more female public loyalty than the one of the traditional French-Belgian comics.
Long criticized, Japanese comics found its place in the cultural landscape. As proof: the success of the Japan Expo festival at the Parc des expositions de Paris-Nord Villepinte (83,000 visitors in 3 days, and the emphasizing of numerous editorial prizes of which the Prix Asie-ACBD (Asia Prize-ACBD) was awarded to Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa, from the publisher Vertige Graphic).
In addition, the reissues of comic books from Far East are more and more numerous, reaching, this year, the figure of 138 (compared to 72 in 2006). Thus, numerous classics, still never published in the French language, are from now on in the catalogs of the 40 French-speaking publishers publishing Asian comic books (they were 30 in 2006).
According to Ipsos, in the period of January-May 2007, 7 of them represented the majority of the manga market translated into French. These 7 ones were Kana (which celebrated its 10 years and which represents 33 % of the market), Glénat Mangas (25 %), Delcourt with its Akata and Tonkam labels (11 %), Pika (10 %), Kurokawa (7 %), Panini Manga (5 %), and Soleil Mangas with its subsidiaries SEEBD or Iku comics (3 %) : the latter ones having represented 94 % of the manga sales in volume.
Which means that Akileos, Asuka, Imho, Ki-Oon, Le Lézard Noir, Taïfu, Hentai Dojin, the Asian labels of Bamboo, Carabas, Casterman and Milan, Drakosia, Toki, Xiao Pan or You-Feng (Chinese comics specialists), and the generalists Actes Sud, Clair de Lune, Cornélius, L'Erudit, Paquet, Picquier, Seuil, Tête Rock, Vertige Graphic... represent, all together, only 6 % of the market!
At last, the public passion for manga (anime and comic books) can be found on websites that talk about their center of interest (animeland.com, animint.com, mangagate.com, mangavore.net, manga-news.com, manga-sanctuary.com, mangaverse.net, the-ryoweb.com, and also webotaku.com) – which ones have sometimes much higher activity than the ones of classical comics, especially if they propose never before published comic books online (often pirated by the way) – or in the 15 essays that were devoted to them in 2007.
As in the previous years, after Japan, the USA remains the main provider of comics: 253 in 2007, representing 7.64 % of the novelties, compared to 239 and 7.48 % in 2006.
The leader of this sector is more than ever Panini, a multinational company of which activity is booming and that own, for Europe, the exclusive rights of the Marvel comics (the American publisher of X-Men and Spider-Man of which the French-speaking runs are 55,000 copies in the best cases), DC (Batman and Superman), Wildstorm, ABC and Vertigo.
In addition, we can count 63 Italian translations (compared to 54 in 2006), 24 Spanish (27 in 2006), 13 English, 9 German, 6 Dutch, 5 Argentinean... thus, in total, 1,787 translations (1,799 the previous year) – coming from 26 different countries -, representing 53.95 % (56.3 % in 2006) of the novelties.
Note at last, that French-speaking comics are being exported increasingly better abroad notably thanks to the graphic novels of which format (close to the manga one) is much cheaper.
V- Adaptation and Media Influence
Comics adapted literary works (96 comic books in 2007) while they inspire more and more other means of expression.
To enroll more readers and conquer new markets, most of the publishers continue a rivalry of imagination to create new spaces or formats of creation: the collections Punaise and Puceron for the children from Depuis, the ones hosting esoteric or economic thrillers as Terres secrètes or 12 septembre from Soleil, Politics from Seuil, the rock label KSTR from Casterman, the monthly serial at 1 euro and the one-shots at 5 euros from Paquet...
Nonetheless, the 2007 trend is to come back to a process dating from the origins of comics: the adaptation and the image setup of the classics of the literature and of the theater (which is the case of 96 titles in 2007, 47 in 2006), via new labels : Adonis, Ex-libris from Delcourt, Fétiche from Gallimard, Théâtre en BD from Petit à petit... en attendant Noctambule from Soleil.
However, the 9th art, itself is more and more a source of adaptations and the commercial weight of the derivative rights or of the adaptations in animations, movies, novels... grows every year; as what's happening in Japan where manga provides, for a while now, about 60 % of the world production of cartoons (source : Matsumoto Kubo).
Moreover, 2007 is even a year quite outstanding for these media involving the French-speaking comics authors; thanks to:
- the phenomenal success of Persépolis by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud (alias the cartoonist Winshluss)
* du9 has an analysis of the same report.