Yaoi titles from Digital Manga and Central Park Media are a big part of the manga bestseller list at Amazon.com. They are three of the top five, four of the top ten, and six of the top fifteen manga titles as of November 7, 2004, as follow:
#2 Desire (Digital Manga)
#3 Selfish Love: Book 1 (Central Park Media)
#4 Golden Cain (Central Park Media)
#8 Passion: Volume 1 (Digital Manga)
#12 Only the Ring Finger Knows (Digital Manga)
#13 Selfish Love: Book 2 (Central Park Media)
Comparing this list to the most recent Bookscan list of the top graphic novels, the title at the top of both lists is the same, Del Rey's Tsubasa Volume 3, but none of these yaoi titles appear anywhere near the top of the Bookscan list. Amazon does provide numbers to Bookscan, but its numbers are apparently overwhelmed by the volume of sales through the brick and mortar chains. None of the Digital Manga or CPM titles listed above appear in the top 50. The top yaoi title on the Bookscan list is Tokyopop's Gravitation Volume 8, at #21.
Why the difference? We can only speculate, but we see a couple of factors at work. One is that purchasers of these yaoi titles may prefer the privacy and relative anonymity of purchases made through an online seller, rather than by interaction with a retail clerk. But perhaps more importantly, display and merchandising may be a factor in the brick and mortar stores. Neither Digital Manga nor CPM have the merchandising clout or number of titles as the publishers with titles at the top of the graphic novel lists, and it may also be that the Digital Manga and CPM yaoi titles are available in fewer stores or less prominently displayed because of their content. But given that Gravitation and Fake (another Tokyopop yaoi title) have done fairly well in bookstores, it seems that if display is a factor, it's probably more a matter of the publishers involved than the content.
The takeaway from this phenomenon should probably be that yaoi manga appears to be developing a growing audience in the U.S. (which we believe to be largely female, as it is in Japan), and that retailers of all types can probably get more sales by letting consumers know they have it and making a comfortable environment for purchasing it.