Seize the Moment @ Wi5: Building on the Demand for Graphic Novels

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Graphic novels have reached a tipping point, and booksellers can position themselves to benefit, says Diamond Book Distributors sales manager John Shableski, a presenter at ABA's upcoming Winter Institute.

John Shableski

Sales of graphic novels are climbing dramatically, and at the Wi5 session "Graphic Novels: An Amazing Marketing Event & Opportunity for Independent Retail," Shableski will lead a panel discussion on the current state of the market and how booksellers can strategically buy, shelve, and promote graphic novels. Panelists include Dan Kusunoki of Skylight Books in Los Angeles, Gina Moon of Malaprop's in Asheville, North Carolina, and librarian Eva Nottage from Watsonville Public Library in California.

An interesting stat from the library world, Shableski said, is that "a young adult graphic novel collection that represents 15 percent of [an entire young adult] collection can generate 45 - 52 percent of its circulation numbers. Circulation is equal to turns in the retail language.... What the librarians know is that graphic novels represent more than a chance to increase circulation, they're an opportunity to develop a new audience for the library."

With the growing popularity of graphic novels, "now is the moment for the independent retailer," said Shableski. "The best thing indie booksellers can do is create a setting where they can become a resource for teachers and can partner with librarians to create book clubs."

Shableski is confident that the popularity of graphic novels will continue to grow in the next year. "These next 12 months are going to be amazing," he said. "The momentum kicked into gear with [last month's] American Association of School Librarians convention in Charlotte. Baker & Taylor had a graphic novel day in its booth and never imagined it would have nearly a thousand people standing in line to get graphic novels autographed." Programs at the Miami International Book Fair, also in November, "all went really well," he said, adding each session had more than 100 teachers in attendance. "The kids and teens programs literally drew thousands.... Miami rocked it. David Small's Stitches landed on the list of finalists for the 2009 National Book Awards, and now the American Library Association is looking to do some major programming for its show next summer.... It's going to be a busy 12 months."

Shableski, who has been a speaker, panelist, and program coordinator for library, educational, and retail trade shows and symposiums, including BookExpo America, Comic-Con International, New York Comic-Con, and the Miami Book Fair, will lead the Graphic Novels sessions at Wi5 on Thursday, February 4, from 10:15 a.m. - 11:45 a.m.

The Winter Institute, to be held from Wednesday through Friday, February 3 - 5, 2010, at the Doubletree San Jose in California, is now booked to capacity. ABA bookstore and provisional members who would like to add their names to a waiting list should send an e-mail to Booksellers who are no longer planning to attend Wi5, or who no longer need their hotel rooms, are also asked to contact ABA as soon as possible, so waiting booksellers can attend.

Full Wi5 program details, including session descriptions, are available on BookWeb's Wi5 Event pages. Questions about the education program and event registration may be addressed to --Karen Schechner