Publishers Weekly recently reported on AMP.
“In early 2020, we were holding our breath—we didn’t know what to expect,” said Andrews McMeel Publishing president and publisher Kirsty Melville. “It turned out to be a very good year, and 2021 just continued that momentum.” Sales last year were up 25% from 2019, she added.
AMP, a division of Andrews McMeel Universal, is best known as the publisher of the bestselling Doonesbury, Calvin and Hobbes, and Far Side comics strip compilations, and it remains preeminent in the comics and humor category. But Melville noted that sales are spiking in the poetry and children’s categories as well, both of which the company entered approximately 10 years ago.
While the move into poetry has had a profound impact on AMP and has “changed the emphasis of the company,” accounting for 20% of its list, Melville maintained that humor remains the core of AMP’s publishing program. Humor backlist sales have been “phenomenal” over the past two years, she said, led by Calvin and Hobbes and Far Side compilations.
Decades after Bill Watterson ended the comic strip those Calvin and Hobbes collections currently account for almost a quarter of the titles making up Amazon’s Top 50 best sellers in the Comic Strip category (almost a fifth of the Top 100).
Publishers Weekly continues:
Along with the evergreen bestsellers, women’s humor also is driving sales in the category, Melville said, citing cartoonist Catana Chetwynd, the author of several humor books she called “very relatable.” AMP is publishing Chetwynd’s next humor/comics collection, You’re Home, in October. “And readers are going back to Sarah Andersen,” Melville added, noting the resonance of the cartoonist’s graphic novel series Sarah Scribbles among angst-ridden millennials.
Andrews McMeel Publishing Kids, which launched in 2010 and now accounts for 30% of AMP’s list, has been another growth driver. “We’ve been publishing graphic novels for children long before everybody else, before it was fashionable,” Melville said. “It’s an outgrowth of our heritage, which is humor and comics.”
ViacomCBS is partnering with AMP to develop a new series of Lincoln Peirce’s Big Nate graphic novels for middle grade readers. Nickelodeon Animation Studio adapted an animated series based on AMP’s Big Nate books that debuted in February on Nickelodeon/Paramount+, and the new book series will comprise 12 volumes per year based on the story lines of the streaming series, as well as two activity books. The books will launch in late August with the release of Destined for Awesomeness, which will include stories from three episodes of the show. AMP’s Big Nate graphic novels for middle grade readers have been bestsellers for the press for the past decade, Melville said, selling 250,000–300,000 copies each year. “So when ViacomCBS wanted to do a graphic novel series, we jumped on that.”
The calendar component of AMP’s humor list has also grown in the past two years. “I think people thought calendars would just disappear,” Melville said. “But people want that daily joke, they need that daily joke—and we have the content for that.”
Melville noted the success of the Far Side Off the Wall day-to-day calendar, which sold 300,000 units when it debuted in 2020; this year’s calendar sold 400,000 units.
disclosure: TDC and AMP are both part of AMU