Shelf Awareness’s current issue on graphic novels discusses some different approaches to selling comics in bookstores:
Powell’s separates its graphic novels into Manga (and separately, the sexually explicit manga genre Yaoi), Superheroes, Graphic Novels General, Toons (comic strips like Doonesbury), Classic Toons (Little Orphan Annie, for example) and Toon History, which includes works like Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. Graphic novels for kids are shelved separately.A smaller store, closer to home, has gone the other way, consolidating all the comics titles together because their customers don’t separate out:
Notably, fiction and nonfiction are not separated, though [new book purchasing supervisor Gerry] Donaghy said that “as more different kinds of graphic novels continue to be introduced, it seems inevitable that we will be further sub-categorizing graphic novels.”
In 2007, when Riverrun Bookstore in Portsmouth, N.H., started to raise the profile of graphic novels, the store had separate sections for adults and young adults. Later, however, the store combined all the graphic novels into one section. “We thought at first that the kids graphic novel section would be more successful, but it wasn’t,” buyer Michele Filgate explained. “It’s mostly adults and older teens who buy comics” at Riverrun, so having them all in one place made for better sales among customers who weren’t likely to venture into the kids’ section.Of course, it has nothing to do with the maturity of comics readers.
Finally, one store even takes the daring approach of treating books in comics form like other books on the same topics:
Dan Kusunoki at Skylight Books in Los Angeles, Calif., has been experimenting with this approach, and said, “It works great.” For example, Darwyn Cooke’s noirish story The Hunter is shelved in crime fiction/mystery, and Kusunoki has been delighted to shelve Asterios Polyp (David Mazzuchelli’s graphic novel of philosophy, architecture and relationships) next to works by Ayn Rand.Of course, that’s in California.
Shelving in a good retail store is driven by what sells best for that store, which means it’s driven by what we customers expect and how we behave, which means it doesn’t have to follow any logic at all.