A Professional Meeting of Comic Book Publishers - A Review


On Tuesday, May 26, 2015, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the French Publishers’ Agency hosted a professional meeting of comic book publishers. French and American publishers had the opportunity to meet and discuss a whole range of subjects, comparing the industry in the two countries, and raising common questions and challenges.

PART 1 | Comic Books in the French and American Book Markets

Speakers from each side of the Atlantic discussed statistics on both markets, with Sophie Castille (Mediatoon) and Étienne Bonnin (Glénat) delivering numbers on France and Paul Levitz (former DC Comics publisher) and Karen Green (Columbia university’s graphic novel librarian) giving statistics on the American side. Paul Levitz underlines that while the US graphic novel market seems to be bigger in size, per capita it's a different story. On average, French people are spending $8.66 against $0.36 for Americans. For French publishers, the "bande dessinée" is part of the culture. “In France every adult and child has read a graphic novel” said Etienne Bonnin. In the US, comics are still widely associated with superheroes or kids.

PART 2 | Franco-Belgian Comics in the North American Market: Successes and Difficulties from Different Perspectives

Moderated by PW’s Calvin Reid, the panel spotlighted publishers Mark Siegel (First Second), Adam Lerner (Lerner Publishing Group/Graphics Universe) and Terry Nantier (NBM Publishing), retailer Terence Irvins (Kinokuniya Bookshops) and Consortium Distribution president Julie Schapner. The American publishers highlited that in spite of the French comic book market's variety, it’s still been a slow road to bringing the material to the US But, the situation is evolving, and publishers choose to import more and more franco-Belgian graphic novels and comics to the US because "it just so happens that French graphic novels are wonderfully done," says Adam Lerner.

PART 3 | Comics and Digital Publishing

A conversation between David Steinberger (ComiXology), Claude de Saint-Vincent (Média Participations, Izneo) and Fabrice Piault (Livres Hebdo) showed that on the digital side, France is still far behind the US, representing about 1% of the market (where it was 5 years ago in the US). This might be in part explained by the fixed book price, a wide availabilty of bookstores, and older backlist material not having any digital rights available.

We would like to thank the BIEF for organizing this event, and allowing a translatlantic dialog that will, as we hope, soon bear its fruits.

To read and learn more about this comic books dedicated day, check out Livres Hebdo’s article (in French) or, in English, Publishers Weekly’s review!
Also, you can find a live stream recording of the different talks here!

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