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A Year On, The New York Times Still Won't Return Comics Industry's Texts

Written by Tim Midura on Friday, February 09 2018 and posted in News with Benefits

A Year On, The New York Times Still Won't Return Comics Industry's Texts

The paper removed its comics bestseller list in January 2017.

Source: Publisher's Weekly

It's been a little over a year since The New York Times deemed itself too good for comics and struck its bestseller list from the paper. This seemingly innocuous move had the comics industry in an uproar as they viewed the list as legitimization of the medium and showed the world at large what titles were selling.

At the time, a spokesperson told Vulture:

"This change allows us to expand our coverage of these books in ways that we think will better serve readers and attract new audiences to the genres."

A year on, The New York Times hasn't made any headway in this endeavor, leading literary agent Charlie Olsen to pen a letter to The New York Times appealing to the paper to restore the bestseller list. This letter includes over 400 signatures of industry heavy-hitters from Raina Telgemeier to Chris Ryall to Nate Powell.

Hopefully this letter will sway the publisher of The New York Times to restore comics to the forefront of the public's consciousness.

The letter to The New York Times is reprinted below.

February 5, 2018

Dear A.G. Sulzberger,

We are writing to you as the publisher of The New York Times, the paper of record and the vital center of many cultural conversations.

A year ago, The New York Times Book Review announced that it would cease reporting a number of bestseller lists. Among them, the hardcover graphic, paperback graphic, and manga lists. A few months before, the medium had reached a new pinnacle: March by Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell had just won the National Book Award, becoming the first graphic novel to do so. The book also won most of the awards at the American Library Association Midwinter Conference. March rocketed to the top of the Amazon rankings. Days later, those of us in publishing who get an early look at the list noticed that the Times had ceased graphic novel coverage. The response online was one of horror. At a time when the perennial question about graphic novels ("Yes, darling, but is it art?") seemed to have been answered affirmatively and conclusively - a joyous moment - we were suddenly sitting outside of the larger conversation of literature. The Times made the following statement: "This change allows us to expand our coverage of these books in ways that we think will better serve readers and attract new audiences to the genres."

A year later, we're still waiting for that coverage to start.

Meanwhile, hundreds of authors (and their publishers) have watched their readership decline. Works from new authors have failed to find enough of a readership to stay in print. These people are deeply concerned about what this means for their future, while direct market store owners and librarians have lost a cultural touchstone – the bestseller list – that helps them better serve their community by anticipating what their patrons want to read.

The bestseller list is not the be-all-end-all of comics publishing, nor is it an indicator of literary quality, but it does help with the visibility of our medium, and thus helps advance comics as serious literature. The list plays an indispensable role in helping new readers discover books and making the storytelling that we love more visible in the cultural conversation about literature. Without the list, it's harder for us to sell books, which makes it more challenging for publishers to take chances on new voices.

Each graphic novel is the product of a time-consuming, and often expensive struggle on the part of many people whose livelihood depends upon the book finding readers. If sales suffer, how will a young author get the support she needs to tell a new story? And what about the livelihood of the publishing professionals who ensure that what ultimately ends up on the shelf is of the highest quality?

We urge you to review the names at the bottom of this letter. We are award-winning comic book writers and artists, cartoonists, and graphic novelists. We are book publishers, editors, literary agents, and store owners. We are librarians, teachers, and journalists. We have written many readers' favorite books. Our stories have been adapted for screens large and small. Your children might carry a lunchbox to school with one of our characters on it. Many of us are Times subscribers.

We are confident that you value freedom of expression and literature as much as we do. Since its founding, The New York Times has been the epicenter of intellectual coverage of the printed word. In a recent editorial, you wrote that the Times had to answer "an essential question: How can The Times hold on to the best of our journalistic traditions while also evolving to meet the changing needs of our readers and taking advantage of powerful new ways to find and tell stories?" If the Times continues to ignore one of the fastest growing mediums in literature, it's also ignoring the needs of a growing readership.

We appeal to you as the new publisher of the Times to change course and live up to the paper's reputation as the paper of record: increase coverage of the comics medium and bring back the graphic novel bestseller list.


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About the Author - Tim Midura

Born in the frozen tundra of Massachusetts, Tim Midura has long possessed a love for comic books and records. After stealing the beard of Zeus and inventing the pizza bagel, a much more heavily tattooed and bearded Tim Midura has finally settled in San Diego. He's the world's first comics journalist who doesn't want to become a comics writer. Find him on twitter, facebook or by email.

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