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High Republic, Low Sales
Sales of DisneyWars' High Republic novels have seen a huge decrease in sales since the franchise's big 2021 launch
In February of 2020, Disney/Lucasfilm released a four-minute preview video on YouTube for the company’s next major Star Wars project, The High Republic.
The massive publishing-oriented project would set out to tell sweeping, interconnected epic stories across a series of comics, novels and magazines, all set 200 years before the events of the original films.
Fan response was varied, but a sizeable portion of it seemed . . . unenthusiastic.
One of the first things to grab the internet’s attention was the whiteboard.
It mapped out the way forward for the series. It appears at 1:24, upon which are written such things as “diversity”, “representation / diversity”, and “not pro-war”.
Yes. Let us keep out the war IN STAR WARS.
Combine this with the preview art that featured a cast of heroes ranging from masculine women to feminine men to a literal friggin’ rock (see image below).
Throw in the obligatory female of color Jedi Knight sporting the Gender Studies sideshave™ and it would seem that fan skepticism was well-earned. It appeared that this new epoch in the formerly beloved franchise would be one long writer-projected struggle session.
Then, ahead of the release of the first wave of novels, there was the sterling promotional work by the infamous Justina Ireland. Ireland, a celebrated traditionally published author, had bylines on six titles in the High Republic franchise. She is a woman of strong liberal convictions and isn’t shy about making them known, either in her public life or in the material she writes.
If nothing else, I have to give her credit for being up front with her potential audience: if you didn’t like her politics, you weren’t going to want to buy the product, which was excellent messaging that has definitely been effective in the past.
Her Twitter feed was also full of personal musings that were, shall we say, less than favorable to the leucistic, especially those with a Y chromosome, which was also bound to go over great with fans.
It seemed all the pieces were in place for this brave new era of storytelling in the Star Wars universe to unfold; the old EU had been jettisoned, the new sequel movies were in place, and comics, graphic novels, and books aimed at adult, YA and middle grade readers were set to be launched in an era with no Sith, and characters that looked as if they came right out of a tumblr fanfic blog.
As the internet meme goes, “That’s a bold move, Cotton. Let’s see how it plays out.”
So, two years on, how are things going for the galaxy’s least heteronormative entry in the franchise after a BILLION dollar marketing campaign?
We’ll let the Bookscan figures speak for themselves:
To avoid previous incidents where the screen capture did not hold up after uploading, the numbers look like this.
All numbers pulled from Circana Bookscan, accurate as of 6/26/2023:
Title Author (Release Date) HC or TP Sales/TP or PB sales
Phase I — Light of the Jedi
Star Wars: The High Republic – Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule (January 5, 2021) 119,855/38,208
Star Wars: The High Republic – The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott (June 29, 2021) 59,779/11,008
Star Wars: The High Republic - The Fallen Star by Claudia Gray (January 4, 2022) 35,317/3,638
Star Wars: The High Republic – Tempest Runner by Cavan Scott (March 15, 2022) 13,914
Young adult novels
Star Wars: The High Republic - Into the Dark by Claudia Gray (February 2, 2021) 58,249
Star Wars: The High Republic – Out of the Shadows by Justina Ireland (July 27, 2021) 22,539
Star Wars: The High Republic – Midnight Horizon by Daniel José Older (February 1, 2022) 21,723
A paperback boxed set of all three released in April 2023 has sold 503 copies
Star Wars: The High Republic – A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland (January 5, 2021) 37,782
Star Wars: The High Republic – Race to Crashpoint Tower by Daniel José Older (June 29, 2021) 19,270
Star Wars: The High Republic – Mission to Disaster by Justina Ireland (March 1,2022) 7,329
Young reader books
Star Wars: The High Republic – The Great Jedi Rescue by Cavan Scott (January 5, 2021) 13,603
Star Wars: The High Republic – Showdown at the Fair by George Mann (October 5, 2021) 5,337
Star Wars: The High Republic – Battle for Starlight by George Mann (February 1, 2022) 3,604
Star Wars: The High Republic – Trail of Shadows by Daniel José Older with art by David Wachter (April 12, 2022) 3,632
The Art of Star Wars: The High Republic (Phase One) by Kristin Baver (October 18, 2022) 6,997
Star Wars: The High Republic: An Illustrated Archive by Cole Horton (November 29, 2022) 2,867
Phase II — Quest of the Jedi
Star Wars: The High Republic – Convergence by Zoraida Córdova (November 22, 2022) 20,022/1,385
Star Wars: The High Republic – The Battle of Jedha by George Mann (February 14th, 2023) 8,524
Star Wars: The High Republic – Cataclysm by Lydia Kang (April 4, 2023) 9,723
Young adult novels
Star Wars: The High Republic - Path of Deceit by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland (October 4, 2022) 11,008
Star Wars: The High Republic - Path of Vengeance by Cavan Scott (May 2, 2023) 5,793
Star Wars: The High Republic – Quest for the Hidden City by George Mann (November 1, 2022) 5,935
Star Wars: The High Republic – Quest for Planet X by Tessa Gratton (April 4, 2023) 2,986
You Thought What They Did To Alderaan Was Bad . . .
Obviously, one can easily see that the numbers drop as time goes on. But let’s take a closer look.
The runaway success of the bunch is Charles Soule’s Light of the Jedi, the first High Republic book to be released. It boasts a total of 158,063 copies sold across hardcover and paperback formats to date.
The title casts a long shadow across the sales spreadsheet; not a single title released in Phase I came even remotely close. Each subsequent release in the novel series falls off precipitously, with Cavan Scott’s The Rising Storm moving a total of 70,787 hardcover and paperback copies to date. Claudia Gray’s The Fallen Star, 38,955 copies and Cavan Scott’s Tempest Runner trailing dead last at only 13,914 copies.
You’ll notice a distinct pattern as we go along; A series’ initial release tends to be its best seller, with sales roughly halving with each following title, no matter the audience.
Let’s fast-forward to Phase II’s novel releases and compare, shall we?
As expected, the first title released for this phase, Convergence by Zoraida Córdova released November 2022 sold a mere 21,407 copies across hardcover and paperback formats to date. The Battle of Jedha by George Mann released in February of this year has sold 8,524 copies, and April’s Cataclysm by Lydia King moved 9,723 since its release.
This is the sorry state of a franchise that not long ago commanded legions of rabid fans, and whose novels moved six figure sales without breaking too much of a sweat.
How did the YA novels fare? For Phase I Claudia Gray’s Into the Dark, released in February 2021, has sold 58,249 copies to date; Justina Ireland’s Out of the Shadows (Hi Justina!), released July 2021, sold less than half that at 22,539 copies and Midnight Horizon by Daniel José Older released February 2022 sold 21,723 copies.
A boxed set of all three titles has, to date, sold 503 units.
The two Phase II YA novels released so far, Tessa Gratton’s Path of Deceit and Cavan Scott’s Path of Vengeance have sold 16,801 copies combined.
In summary: this is a 90%-95% drop in sales between the launch with Light of the Jedi, and the current High Republic novels IN BARELY OVER TWO YEARS. Please observe that the children’s book line has gone the way of the Dodo. Some of these books do not even have paperbacks.
These are numbers for one of the biggest IPs in history, in one of the biggest publishing markets, with one of the biggest promotional pushes behind it in recent memory. It truly is a dead brand. And bittersweet though it can be to express the thought, it deserves to be.
Jedi With Plastic Lightsabers
This High Republic universe is set in a time so far back it bears no resemblance to what fans are familiar with; it is, functionally, a skinsuit strategy. Between this and the removal of the stories in the classic extended universe, Disney puts the finishing touches on one of its grandest failures. The decision to have it take place during a period of peace and prosperity in the republic speaks to the creatively stunted minds behind the effort who fear tension, don’t have the life experience to write conflict and are too busy making sure to push bland characters whose most significant traits are immutable physical characteristics.
The Big Bad of this flavorless tripe is a group called “the Nihil,” who amount to nothing more than a band of raiders, the most generic possible antagonist; the announcement trailer above even goes so far as to refer to them as “space Vikings”, which was probably the sum of all creative effort likely put into them.
It may even be insulting to Vikings.
Contrast this with the treatment of the original trilogy as source material for Timothy Zahn’s original Thrawn trilogy; released in 1991 and set five years after the events in Return of the Jedi, his novels Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command have gone on to sell a lot. How much is a lot? The original Thrawn Trilogy sold 15 million as of 2014. And then, after the Star Wars Extended Universe was jettisoned by Disney and Kathleen Kennedy, it went on to sell five million more copies. A new boxed set of the original Thrawn Trilogy released in May 2022 has sold 13,031 copies by itself.
The Fandom entry on the trilogy states:
”The Secret History of Star Wars by Michael Kaminski credits the Thrawn trilogy with rekindling public interest in the Star Wars franchise after it had faded following the release of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi in 1983. According to Kaminski, it is possible that this renewed interest was a factor in George Lucas' decision to create the prequel trilogy.”
In a 2014 interview with Florida radio station WUWF, Zahn said:
“Nobody knew whether these books were even gonna sell. I remember sitting around one day trying to figure out how many libraries there are in the U.S.- and if they all buy two copies how many can we sell? Can we earn out this book? And as we now know Star Wars fans were simmering there below the surface and just boiled up as soon as there was something to grab onto. And they’ve been going strong ever since.”
Funny what happens when you write stories that appeal to fans, isn’t it?
And the reality of these dismal sales figures isn’t just restricted to the High Republic books; since Disney’s takeover of the property, only four books have broken 100,000 copies in sales besides the aforementioned Light of the Jedi; three of them were written by Zahn. The fifth and final was the first Chuck Wendig novel, whose sales wibbled and wobbled their way into a ditch with each of his titles following Aftermath.
We won’t even go into the numbers of Zahn’s Thrawn books written post-Disney. But the five of them have easily outsold every High Republic novel, and the sixth is only outsold by Light of the Jedi.
How does the High Republic match up in terms of fan reaction?
Deliah Dawson, author of Disney’s similarly doomed Galaxy’s Edge novel, didn't have a single signing or sale at DragonCon.
Meanwhile, at Timothy Zahn’s table…
Let’s crunch some numbers. Zahn’s non-Star Wars books, including both the Cobra series and his new Icarus series, have outsold all the High Republic novels but Light of the Jedi. The same is true of other former Star Wars Expanded Universe authors, such as Kevin J. Anderson’s Dune novels, or Michael Stackpole’s Battletech novels.
Pick a well-known science fiction author, they’ve had a book or two outsell the High Republic novels the past couple years: Brandon Sanderson, Sarah J. Maas, Andy Weir, David Weber, Larry Correia, V. E. Schwab, TL Klune, or Anthony Doerr, to name but a few. Hell, even John Scalzi has better numbers.
And not one of these authors had the billion-dollar marketing campaign behind it that Disney gave The High Republic.
Two months ago titles were announced for Phase III. Releases for Young Adult and Middle Grade audiences were noticeably absent.
The Disney+ TV show Acolyte had barely been reported on before its cancellation last week.
In the immortal words of Joaquin Pheonix’s Joker, You get what you f**king deserve.
Do not mourn the death of The Rat, or of the terrible bilge it produced. Fight it by creating and supporting the creators that know what makes for good storytelling and genuinely compelling art. We’ve got plenty of examples here at Upstream.
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