Is There Adequate Manga Marketing for the Everyday Fan?

Last weekend, I went to visit my alma mater and hang out with some good friends. At brunch with two friends from my old anime club, we wound up talking about manga in depth. One friend was just a casual fan, picking up stuff that interested him here and there. He has a full-time job and the disposable income to pick up whatever he wanted regularly. The other friend was a scanlation reader largely by necessity as she doesn’t have a job and is a full-time student.

But as we discussed the manga industry in the local Barnes & Noble and I suggested manga they’d both like left and right, it became really clear to me that neither of them knew much about what the industry was offering. Neither of them had heard of SigIkki, Viz’s fantastic online serialization site for more mature titles. Neither of them knew about many great titles out in English, other digital offerings or even about the existence some of the smaller manga publishers. They were casual manga fans to a T.

It struck me, mostly because I think I’ve been living in an intense manga industry-focused bubble for the past year and a half or so, but also because it seems like such a spectacular failure on the industry’s part. Why the hell aren’t we doing more to tell these kinds of readers know what’s going on?

Some could argue that the industry is already doing all that it can. They’re reaching out to fans on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. There are in-book ads, company newsletters, even TV shows dedicated to reaching out to the fans. The only problem? I think they’re reaching out to only the hardcore fans, the otaku.

To be a hardcore fan of manga and anime means that you’re probably more than a little obsessed with the stuff. While these kinds of fans may know a lot about manga, there is certainly a focus on extremely popular manga and scanlations because both are easily accessible. There are lots of sites dedicated to both, lots of marketing put out (at least on the legal side of things) that’s devoted to Naruto (or Bleach or Vampire Knight, etc.) and almost no energy allotted for telling fans about the countless number of less popular manga out there. No wonder most fans don’t know they exist! (And sales are low.) Where’s the tweet reminding everyone that the next Butterflies, Flowers or Maid Sama is on sale? I really can’t recall much promotional information on such titles during the time I’ve been focusing on the manga industry. In fact, I think smaller pubs like DMP and Vertical Inc. are the only ones who really bother trying to give attention to each and every new volume of manga that comes out. But sometimes, for publishers like Vertical, the fans don’t even know they exist either because no one’s passed them an ANN article or because bookstore distribution for those publishers isn’t as heavy as it is for Viz, Yen Press or Tokyopop. I certainly knew nothing about tiny pubs like Fanfare/Ponent Mon before 2009, so it doesn’t surprise me almost no one else does either.

So how do we get back to the casual fan? Heavy distribution in large chain bookstores is a start. Certainly, the big American publishers take up most of the room, leaving the smaller pubs to fight for space or take their merchandise elsewhere. The problem with this is that I think a ton of casual manga readers find what they buy here in these Borders and Barnes & Nobles. So that leaves the responsibility of marketing to whatever is on the shelves. One thing that I always thought Viz did right is the in-book ads printed on the inside of the front cover listing the newest releases and when they’d hit the streets. They may have only done this with the Shojo Beat line, but hot damn it was effective when I wasn’t hyper-connected to manga news. What’s this? New volumes of Sand Chronicles, Love*Com, SA and Otomen are out? I WANT THEM ALL! Oh, and what’s this new series they have listed? I’ll see if they have it here and flip through it. A great, REALLY SIMPLE way to keep someone interested in buying your manga. It might be slightly more expensive because of where it’s printed, but at least the information has reached the fans right away.

Unfortunately, Viz doesn’t do this for some of the titles that probably need the most help selling– it’s Signature and SigIkki lines. Out of all the ones in my collection that I looked at, only one or two titles had these little inside front cover ads. More titles had ads in the very last pages. Many more had no ads at all, especially the SigIkki titles. The biggest shame is that the only places you could find the SigIkki URL were the places you were LEAST likely to look for pme, like underneath a barcode. Who looks there? Seriously?! Knowing Tokyopop’s process through my freelance work for them, I can tell you that the number of in-book ads depends on how many pages you have left over (page numbers go by increments of 16 unless you want to pay serious cash to do otherwise.)

If there are in-book ads, a lot of space is dedicated to showing off the shiniest new series that the publisher has with the shiniest art they can find that looks good in black and white and lots and lots of copy. As far as I can tell, pretty much every manga publisher is guilty of this. What I think would be more effective, an overall look at the new releases of the line or the company listed on one page with effective information like dates and websites, never actually happens. What the readers see is only what the publisher feels like pushing at the time. Again, energy is focused on the popular titles instead of showing off titles that readers might not even know about. No wonder there’s so much unloved manga out there. There’s not even any real marketing done for the shiny new digital venues that pubs are beginning to put out left and right. At least, not any that reaches all the fans!

I’m pretty sure I’ve only rambled on about part of the manga marketing process and so much more could be done. But for the sake of the length of this post and a fast-approaching bedtime, I’ll stop here with a few questions.

Imagine, if you will, that you don’t read up on the manga industry on a regular basis, that you don’t read any manga-related blogs and that you’re not following Viz or whomever on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites. You get your news from your friends, maybe some livejournal communities and, most importantly, what you see in stores. What would be the most effective way of letting you know about other titles you’d be interested in? Do you even read the in-book ads at the end of manga you buy? Do you notice the websites and other information listed in odd places throughout the book? What, if anything, informs you about what else is out there? What do you think could be done to better impart that kind of information to you?

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58 Comments

Filed under manga, opinion

58 responses to “Is There Adequate Manga Marketing for the Everyday Fan?

  1. Pingback: Year-end lists begin; manga marketing; what fans want to see online « MangaBlog

  2. Interesting read. I do agree that it seems like the industry doesn’t do much to help past the word along about some of their things. To tell the truth I may not have known about the One Piece speed up movement ahead of time if it wasn’t for the fact that I had just became a blogger before then. I may not even have gotten those 20+ volumes either for the same reason.

    The industry (both manga and anime) really need to try to find ways to reach out to the everyday readers. Ads on ANN could help but it seems like only the people who visit the site regularly would know which is a certain level of fan would go to.

    I do remember back in high school seeing TV commercials from TokyoPop advertising their manga (like Kill Me, Kiss Me) which I think was the first time I ever heard about manga. I guess right now that could be consider expensive for the manga industry but it could be worth a try if they try this on popular internet streaming sites such as Hulu, Crunchyroll and such.

    • I think that would be a rather expensive idea. Just as expensive as TV ads. I’ve noticed that most of the ads on those sites are actually national ads from big corporations. Some of the Naruto video game ads on Crunchyroll aside, it just seems like manga companies don’t have the kind of budget to fit the high price rates for that kind of thing. Banner ads on the site, maybe, but the commercials in the anime/tv shows/whatever? Probably too expensive.

      • Yeah. I figure that. Still it would help but if it not in the budget then it isn’t in the budget. Maybe in the distant future we can see the return of video ads for manga and anime. For now the banner ads.

  3. Oliver

    You’re absolutely right, and I agree entirely about the in-book ads. Both Tokyopop and Del Rey are guilty of this. I actually like to see the in-book ads because they’re usually pretty to look at, yet only glimpse into a small fraction of the catalogue.

    One example is the complete lack of ads for RG Veda when it came out (there were a couple in some 2006 releases). I guess Tokyopop thought that it would sell because it was CLAMP but now it’s out-of-print (but still print-on-demand). I don’t think a company can count on the strength of the author alone because I think a lot more than CLAMP fans would have appreciated RG Veda.

    Not every fan scours mangaupdates, publishers websites, and scans to get the low-down. Like you, I agree Tokyopop needs to have a pictured list of all new titles it has that month (like it has on their website release schedule). Photos of the books on a nice clear inside cover would actually be helpful, especially for those titles that T-pop is starting to charge 12.99 for (like Karakuri Odette Vol. 5).

    • It’s really not just Tokyopop that does this. It’s every publisher I have on my bookshelf. Viz, Yen Press, DMP, etc.

      I just feel it would be more cost-effective to remind people what manga, new releases and older titles with new volumes out, on one page with things like dates and prices. And no one has to do it the old-fashioned catalog listing way either. Just a few similar titles with release dates would work well for those other titles.

      It’s just a simple way to utilize what publishers are already doing in a better way than what they’re currently doing.

  4. Nan

    If anything, I think Viz really tries hard to advertise their properties and reach casual readers. For instance, I was wandering (aka got lost) in San Francisco this past summer (or the summer before), and stumbled upon a large theater billboard advertising the online serialization of Rin-ne! Sadly, I didn’t take a picture of it, and I don’t know what street or building it was on – heavy traffic area but not near Japantown it seems. Still I thought it was really awesome. I suspect the board may have had advertised SigIkki, and other Viz properties as well.

    Personally I think pretty book ads and word of mouth are still going to be the most effective methods of getting me to check out a title.

    • That was actually the Viz office building itself. Must have been an old theater or something, so I can’t blame them for using the marquee.

      But still, that’s only advertising in ONE city, the city they’re based out of, no less. It’s not very effective for reaching a larger amount of readers.

      Anyway, in-book ads are always going to be a great way of reaching people who actually buy books. I just think that it could be done in a much better manner and still be visually appealing.

  5. Sara K.

    I’m on the border between being a casual fan and devoted fan . I drift back and forth between the extremes.

    The catalyst for the most dramatic shift from casual to devoted fan that I ever
    experienced was finding a reference to an obscure (in the United States, not in Japan) manga in an Western comic book. That reference intrigued me enough to track down that obscure manga, and on the way I found a bunch other less-known manga.

    Little things like that, I think, could help market obscure titles to the casual fans (and maybe even some non-fans, though if I weren’t already a casual manga reader I don’t think that reference would have intrigued me as much). Why not advertise Real at a wheelchair basketball club, or even within the wheelchair-using and basketball communities at large? Why not try to get aquarium bookstores to sell Children of the Sea?

    I have been seeing quite a bit of manga advertising at webcomics lately, which is good, but if they tried to target ads for obscure manga at appropriate webcomics, it would probably be more effective (for example, Honey and Clover and Candi would be a good match). However, because many webcomic readers (myself included) have learned to overlook the ads, it would be even better if the webcomic artist would draw something especially to advertise the manga. Since most webcomic artists are unpaid, this probably would not be very expensive.

    • Hmmm… It’s more than a little hard to do marketing through references in other comics. I mean… first of all, the creator controls the content, not the manga publishing company that probably has nothing to do with the publication of said comic, let alone the creator. And having paid sponsorships in comics? Oh, boy, sounds like the movies! I wouldn’t be too excited to see paid cameos of manga and other comics like that. You probably wanted to pursue that obscure manga because the creator of the comic you read about it in had some passion for the manga. That’s just word of mouth taken to the next level.

      Pubs should definitely be advertising or at least reaching out to fringe communities like that if their manga can relate to that community. Viz lost a huge opportunity by not advertising Oishinbo to foodies who would have been totally enamored by it. Even just sending a few copies to food blogs instead of manga blogs would have done the trick. Instead, people like that would have had to find it on their own or heard about it from people with interest in both food and manga.

      As for the webcomic idea… I think you’re putting down webcomic artists a little there. There are many webcomic artists who do make money off of their work, even some who make a full-time living off of it. Any artist who knows the value of their work will actually charge a pretty penny for it and many CHOOSE to distribute their work online for free in order to build of their fan base so that they may sell their work later on. Advertising on webcomic sites is definitely possible, but I don’t think that exploiting webcomic creators is the way to go about it.

      • Sara K.

        The ones who make money are a distinct minority … but you are right that any webcomic artist who has a significant fanbase would be making some money, if not a living.

        And I don’t think it’s exploitation if the webcomic artist is free to reject any terms.

        • Indeed they are, but you also have to think about whether or not they want to be paid to market manga on their webcomics in such a manner. There may be some webcomic creators who would not even want to expose their readers or sell-out like that. I think banner ads would be more effective and less intrusive on the creators.

          Plus, you have to think about whether the creators have even read the manga and there might even been some legal issues involved with the publishers using fanart as promotional material. They could get in big trouble with the Japanese licensors.

          • Sara K.

            Ah … I had not considered that legal wrinkle.

            Still, I have seen webcomics do this, so obviously some webcomic artists are perfectly willing to do this. If it’s not a part of the main storyline, it’s generally not considered a sell-out – in fact, the reaction of readers is that they’re usually glad that the webcomic artist is making a little money.

            • I’ve seen it too, but the creators do it because they have a passion for whatever they’re making fanart of, usually. (Parody comics, excepted, obviously.) Legal wrinkles aside, getting paid by the manga pubs to draw fanart in order to promote that manga kind of makes it seem less passionate and would definitely be considered selling out by a large number of fans. If it were something like, Kate Beaton getting paid to draw Strange Tales for Marvel, that’s different. It’s not purely promotional material, it’s a creator being paid by a comics publisher to draw a comic. It’s how their product gets made in the first place. If it’s just Gina Biggs drawing Sailor Moon fanart because she wants to, it’s not purely promotional material. Does that make sense? I just get the feeling it would have the exact opposite effect because it’s fake word of mouth and most people are smart enough to catch on to that kind of thing.

              • Sara K.

                Well, I was thinking of this specifically. And as one of the fans who participates somewhat in the fan community, I can tell you that even though the artists were paid to do this, it was not considered a sell-out:

                http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20091027

                • Hmmm. That is the ONLY time I’ve seen a webcomic artist do that.

                  But that’s a game and this is publishing. And, might I add, territorial publishing. US pubs are only supposed to promote and distribute their work in the US unless they have bought the rights to do so in other territories. Since webcomic artists usually have a more worldwide audience, that kind of promotion could get a US pub in big trouble with the Japanese licensors. The Japanese pubs definitely want the mangaka’s artwork to promote the manga, not someone else’s work. The game company does not care as long as people pay them and they are the primary rights holders so there’s no licensing issues. I just don’t really see it working either because of fan response or legal issues.

                  • Chargone

                    “US pubs are only supposed to promote and distribute their work in the US ”

                    pretty sure this bit right here comes back to bite them in the arse fairly often.

                    honestly, adds in other books are the ONLY advertising i ever see for Manga around here, unless you want to go into borders (stupidly expensive compaired to other options) and look on their shelves…

                    (yeah, i don’t live in the USA, but in New Zealand we basically get the US releases… or sometimes British ones when they exist. sometimes even a choice between the two, randomly and for no apparent reason, when we buy online.)

  6. Great read!

    It’s very true. I’ve come to notice that the second I stop paying attention to the sites I visit online, it’s very easy to lose track of what’s coming out. I wonder what other steps can be taken…

    • Thanks, Jammer!

      It’s certainly very easy to not know the ins and outs of the industry when you’re not hyper-connected to it. I didn’t know half of what I know now before I really started connecting with the industry and I considered myself more knowledgeable then than I consider myself now!

      What would be the best way to let you know about new manga if all you really had was the book in your hands?

  7. Well Daniella if worse comes to worse.. word of mouth is always my safest bet. I always try to casually strike up conversations in Bookstores, or in Libraries with other library patrons.

    I like to read the ads at the end of graphic novels, because it prompts ideas for what to look for next.

    I never have issues with Vertical updates..

    Fanfare in my opinion only updates once a year with titles I even want to read. So I hit them up at conventions/conferences.

    Viz/Shonen Jump/Shoujo Beat titles.. I am still backlisting my reading for it.. so who know’s when will I catch up.

    Yet if you ask me.. Yaoi releases.. are always difficult for me to keep track of. I am an enthusiastic bl-reader.. but yeah some of the more hardcore fans I know, have disposable income.. that they purchase every month, since bl books in my experience always go out of print the fastest.

    • Don’t even know where my status on reading Yuri books are.. but mostly following specific tweeters helps someone… if not then there is an overwhelming sense of overload. >_<

    • Word of mouth is great, but as a publisher, you can’t control it. You can try to generate it more, but it only gets you so far. With this industry, someone’s likely to hear about a good series and then go read it via scanlations instead of buying the book.

      Still, you’re on Twitter and a manga blogger. You’re fairly connected to the news coming out of the industry. But think about how you would find out about news and new releases if you weren’t a manga blogger. That is the real question. How do you best access news if you’re a casual fan? And if you’re a publisher, how do you convey your news more effectively?

  8. I’d say I am exactly the kind of casual fan that you’re talking about. I don’t follow the industry and I don’t go out of my way to find out what’s new and interesting.  I just enjoy a good comic now and then.

    So how can someone as disconnected as me to decide what to buy?  The world of manga publishing, like anything suitably complex, is difficult to figure out if you don’t know where to start.  So I don’t!  I generally start reading a series because it’s related to something I already like.  Maybe a good friend really loved it, or it’s from an animation or author that I have liked before.  The cost of production of manga is very high, and so the books tend to be expensive as well.  It’s financially risky to start a new series because if it sucks (or it’s great but just turns out not to be your thing) you’re out $8-$13 a book.  But it’s not like publishers can just drop prices-they have a business to worry about.  

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head in this post.  Manga is marketed as an enthusiast’s medium, and so the “long tail” of casual or undedicated readers isn’t being caught by smaller publishers.  

    I think these people are most responsive to titles that they didn’t even know they wanted until they learned what they were.  Take me for instance: I’m usually most captivated by an interesting premise, not because I’m told it’s interesting but because it genuinely is on it’s own.  But even despite this, the #1 thing that will make me drop money on something is that my friends will be interested in it, and are talking about it (or are about to be).  This is how I got into all the series’ that I’ve purchased the full sets of.  Unfortunately, creating this is very hard in a casual market, and off the top of my head I can’t think of any good way for a small publisher to do this.  

    But I hope they keep trying, because I love it when a good one finds me. :)

    • Lol, you are literally one of the people I mentioned in the first paragraph, I hope you noticed. Now you’ve inspired two posts on this blog! Congrats!

      It certainly is a challenging topic, but I think the best place to start is to just show off what’s being published. Obviously, you won’t find advertise with other publishers so much, but say you’ve got big digital initiatives that you want to reach more people who buy your manga. Why don’t you advertise it in the back of your own books? I find that a lot of publishers just totally fail to mention stuff like that. For example, the SigIkki line. Why not mention somewhere, like the back of the book ads, that you can find MORE awesome manga like this online that you can read for FREE! Oh man, I bet SigIkki would be ten times more popular if they bothered to put that ad in a few of their seinen or shounen titles. Why no one thought to do that… I really don’t understand.

      Like you said, you can’t really control word of mouth, but if you can get the casual reader into the manga section buying one of your books through word of mouth, why not use that book to show off other stuff they might like and raise their awareness? That’s an effective way to say: hey, we’ve got this title out from this author you like. Which might make you look for it on the bookshelves and buy another book.

  9. Sara K.

    You know, I’ve thought about this some more and … I cannot think of a single instance when an in-book ad has ever increased my interest in reading a manga (except for a manga I never heard about, so I went from having zero interest in that manga to have a microscopic modicum of interest in reading it, which is not very helpful for publishers). And I generally do see all of the in-book ads, so it’s not because I ignore them.

    Thinking about it some more, I realize that when I see in-book ads for manga I haven’t read, I tend to think of them all as ‘oh, that’s just another manga’. Which is bad, because I almost never want to buy ‘just another manga’. I think it might be behavioral economics at work – studies show that when a consumer is given more choices, the consumer is often less likely to buy anything at all.

    What I have occasionally seen – and what has actually managed to pique my interest – is instead of advertising a slew of manga, devoting all of the advertising to one other manga, even including a brief excerpt if space permits. That makes that one manga really stand out, and it shows that the publisher thinks this manga is good enough to devote, say, 5 pages to it. It also gives me a lot more information to help determine if it might be my cup of tea.

    Of course, it might be possible to have the best of both worlds. For example, instead of having an ad for each SigIkki manga within a volume, have five pages talking about the SigIkki website itself, doing as much as possible to encourage the reader to visit the website itself, and letting the reader explore the specifics of each manga from there.

    • Actually, I’m surprised since most in-book ads tend to have copy telling you what it’s about. Not necessarily large amounts of copy like you suggested, but small summaries at least. What I meant by the suggestion of having more volumes on one page of ads is to remind readers that new volumes of a continuing series are out and also if there’s a new series coming out. It’s really just a little reminder and it works best with publishers that have imprints like Shojo Beat because you’re more likely to hit the target audience for these books. So, if you are following those series and you see this ad, it reminds you that you want to buy the next volume. I find it effective, at least more effective than leafing through ad copy.

      Going back to your suggestion of devoting more pages at the end… just what would you recommend? Small essays about the manga? Preview pages of the manga? If the former is the case, what would you want people to write about? That’s a really tough job for an editor to do because let me tell you, we don’t always have a ton of passion for the titles we’re given. Even five pages about the SigIkki website is a little rough to do. Would you really want to read five pages of someone trying really hard to sell you on a title because they have to and it’s their job or just one page that tells you when it will be out? (Or in SigIkki’s case, that it exists, what’s on it and the site’s URL?) On top of that, a lot of people really hate people trying to sell to them like that. One page can show all the information you want about a manga and coming from the publisher’s side of things, even one page is the pub letting you know they want you to know about this manga. (Page space is precious.) Five pages, unless it’s preview pages, is going to be overkill in most cases.

      • Sara K.

        Well, let me demonstrate with one of those one-page ads – (pulling out a random manga to find a random example) “STRAWBERRY 100%: Junpei Manaka is a man on a mission: to turn his strawberry fantasy into reality”.

        Those words, plus some pictures of the characters and the cover, tell me so little about the manga that I have little reason to try it. And where there are four or five manga ads with some pictures and a catchphrase which actually tells me very little about the manga, it makes all of the manga seem the same. So, at least as far as customers like me, those pages are a waste of paper.

        As for copy … if the editors don’t have the time/enthusiasm/etc, why not try to find something in the blogosphere and ask for permission to reprint? Preferably something that, rather than just saying the manga is awesome, explains a little why that manga is awesome.

        Five pages without a preview probably is overkill … but I think a single two-page spread that focuses all of the attention on one manga, and then possibly a page or two devoted to the publisher’s website and/or catalog would be a vast improvement over the typical array of one-page ads.

        I also think that, as a supplement to a more in-depth look at one manga, the idea of having a release schedule is also a good idea, especially to remind readers of upcoming releases which already got in-depth treatment. But by itself, if I’m not already a devoted fan (and this is not about devoted fans), I don’t see why I would track down a manga just because it appeared in a release schedule.

        In fact, I remember the in-book advertising actually made me pick something else up. It was the Ice Kunion edition of One Thousand and One Nights. The first volume had a preview of Cynical Orange that I liked, which was the main reason I picked up Cynical Orange. They also included a release schedule in most of their books, and had no one-page ads devoted to a single manga which is typical of just about every other publisher. Of course, no other Ice Kunion preview had that effect on me, but that’s probably because those series were not my cup of tea. In fact the more I think about it, the more I think that Ice Kunion did this way better than anyone else.

        • Ok, that one is admittedly light, but looking at various copy from Viz, Tokyopop and Yen Press last night as I wrote, I found a lot more copy over all. (Especially in Tokyopop books…)

          Publishers do use pull quotes from reviews, but do you really want to read a whole paragraph or more of that in the ads? No, and because of that, most pubs just take a sentence or two. As it is, a two page spread is mostly going to be artwork and whatnot because it is *difficult* to fill that many pages with enough ad copy that readers care enough to read.

          The release schedule idea is really just a sneaky reminder for people who are already fans, but it’s not like a list. The Viz example I am using, shows you the covers, but doesn’t focus on copy. It’s definitely for fans of the Shojo Beat imprint, however. But if you’re LOOKING for more shoujo manga to read when you pick up this volume, well that’s a great place to start looking, right? It may not be for everyone, but so far I still think it’s the simplest, most cost-effective and wide-reaching method of in-book ads that any publisher is using at this moment.

          I couldn’t really say whether or not I liked Ice Kunion’s stuff. I don’t have any of their manga and they were publishing at a time where I was ignorant about their existence. Which is really telling. How are we going to become interested in your manga when we don’t know it exists? (The main point of this post.) Please, publishers, just tell us a little bit, even if you only include the price, title and release date.

          • Sara K.

            Well, in-book ads don’t solve the problem of reaching readers who don’t know that you (the publisher) exist.

            I also remember the early Viz, when they sometimes included essays about manga which would usually discuss the manga it was published with as well as other manga. They did that partially because manga was so unknown in the United States that they felt they had to educate the readership … but it can be used today to educate the casual reader, and the devoted fan can skip it if it’s too basic. For example, in the Shojo Beat line, they can include essays on the original Japanese magazines, and which Shojo Beat offerings originated in those magazines.

            • I know… and that’s the real challenge that I couldn’t really address in the post. I went too general. I might have to do something more specific if I can think of any solutions for smaller pubs. But at the same time, some of those smaller pubs are also indie comics pubs and they have a built in audience, whom might want to sample manga of a more mature stance than most manga released by pubs that only do manga.

              I remember the essays you’re talking about. They were usually in the more cerebral manga than most of the manga now published and back then there were a lot of newcomers too. But, actually, Tokyopop has begun to do a little bit of the same with the CEO and editor Cindy Suzuki and I think Dark Horse does it too. (But anything Carl Gustav Horn works on is usually given very lavish treatment.) But focus is usually on the manga you just bought, not other manga from the company (or even from Japan) that really makes it weird to go off on another manga suddenly. It’s tough to make it sound sincere and not like you’re trying too hard to sell manga. You can’t really just keep borrowing wholesale from bloggers, either… Just imagine writing 1-2 pages essays about manga for every volume you publish, about 10-20 volumes a month. That’s a lot of content to come up with. It’s tough and takes up too much time for editors. That’s probably the biggest reason it’s a practice that’s largely disappeared.

  10. samkusek

    Great post! Right up my alley. Here’s a thought that relates to the word-of-mouth point thats been coming up a lot from everyone. What about properly educating retailers about what products are coming out, from who and helping them to keep up on the business? I know for most speciality comics shops this isn’t much a problem (although one time I got in a fight with a publisher that was convince Vertical no longer existed), as most of them are involved heavily but educating Borders and Barnes & Noble might have a bigger impact in persuading the shoppers by generating an educated opinion about the content amongst the people who sell it.

    Your thoughts?

    • That sounds like a great idea in theory, but in practice would actually be quite expensive and difficult to enforce. Ideally, there would be someone passionate running the graphic novels/manga section, but I know that is definitely not always the case in a big chain store like Borders or Barnes & Noble. Plus, in comparison to all the other books in the store that probably sell ten times better, manga isn’t widely accepted, even by booksellers. (Even comic book sellers!) Plus, some shoppers might find it annoying to have someone from the store standing over them and chirping in their ear about how they should buy this title or that one. If it was just a matter of making the sellers more knowledgeable in order to help the customers… that wouldn’t affect sales much.

      Perhaps somethings like small flyers or booklets full of information from publishers and given at purchase would be more effective… It would be expensive, yes, but it would certainly better educate buyers as to what’s out there.

      • Oh crap, I got lazy and didn’t read this before I made my post ^^;; XD

      • Margaret

        Viz actually used to have a free pamphlet/mini-magazine called “Animerica Anime & Manga Quarterly” that was displayed on racks in the manga sections of some Borders–and Waldenbooks, presumably, since “available at Borders and Waldenbooks” was part of the publication’s subtitle. This pamphlet was sort of mini-digest-sized–a little bit smaller than the old *TV Guide*/*Reader’s Digest* format–and about 38 pages long. It included ads for various current manga and anime releases (a lot of them are full-page ads, although in the Fall ’06 one that I happened to have handy, there’s a three-page ad for Naoki Urusawa’s manga series “Monster”); short, one- or two-paragraph reviews and news items; and brief articles on themes like “The Best, Worst and Scariest Schools in Manga.” (The writer proclaimed the duel-happy Ohtori Academy from “Revolutionary Girl Utena” and the “Twilight Zone”-ish Yamato Elementary School from “The Drifting Classroom” the scariest, while labelling Ouran High School of host club fame the best, largely on the basis of the gorgeous campus. I’m not sure too-popular-for-her-own-peace-of-mind token scholarship student Haruhi Fujimiya would agree, but even she would probably prefer the wacky hijinks of her Ouran buddies to the literal battles engaged in by the student council at the equally elite Ohtori Academy.) In other words, it was a lot like a pocket-sized version of Viz’s now defunct pre-*Shojo Beat* manga-and-manga commentary anthology magazine *Animerica Extra.*

        The pamphlet-size “Animerica Anime & Manga Quarterly” may have been discontinued, too. I don’t recall seeing any new installments of it lately, and if it is still being produced, I suspect it’s now a lot shorter than 38 pages. But if Viz ever does start spending money on PR outside the covers or end pages of their own manga again, this publication seems pretty effectively designed to provide a wider range of information to casual manga fans who are more apt to browse the bookstore stacks–or pick up a free pamphlet displayed at the checkout counter–than scour the blogosphere for news of upcoming releases.

        • I am almost 100% sure that they’ve discontinued it because it cost them too much money. (Just like Shojo Beat, Animerica and Animerica Extra did before it.) Sadly manga distribution through magazines has largely failed unless your magazine happens to publish Naruto.

  11. How expensive would it be to include extra booklets in a manga? Something, maybe in color, that shows a listing of new manga volumes and maybe some sample chapters. I only thought of this because I remembered picking up the mini Animerica booklet at a Best Buy a couple years back, and one of the biggest features in it was a full-color sample of Solanin. It got me hooked on the manga, so that I bought it, and for the first time became aware of the Signature line. Maybe different publishers could have small booklets like these on the end caps in the big bookstores, or include them in a volume of an already popular series like Naruto or Ouran.

    • It used to be done, but seeing as it can be easily stolen from inside unwrapped manga. Also, full color always equals more expensive. If it were full color preview pages in the back of the manga (meaning, it’s not a separate booklet), I could see it being effective. But again, money is a big, big issue and pubs may not be willing to part with the cash.

  12. Sara K.

    I’m starting a new comment tree because the old one is making me dizzy.

    Generally, it is far cheaper to market to somebody who is already a customer than to somebody who is not, which is probably why much (most?) marketing is focused on core fans. It also gives older and/or bigger publishers an advantage, because they have more customers.

    The only marketing strategy I can see which would help bring in those fresh readers which can be done on a small-to-modest budget is to target the marketing so finely that you get a lot for your precious marketing buck. This has been discussed earlier – better PR targeted at relevant niche communities, and being very picky about web advertising, such as carefully picking webcomics to advertise with. There may be other ways to try well-targeted marketing, those are just the only two I can think of.

    Well, I can think of one other small-to-modest budget strategy, but it’s so unethical I don’t even want to suggest it.

    I think you’re on to something in bringing in the casual readers – people who are customers (lower marketing costs), but missing a lot of manga they might enjoy. I don’t think it’s possible to have cheaper marketing that sending out review copies and press releases, so reaching the casual readers will almost certainly be more expensive per reader than reaching readers who read manga blogs, but it’s probably still significantly cheaper per reader than trying to bring in new manga readers.

    • I’m really not talking about fresh readers so much as the more casual fan who doesn’t always pick up manga every time they go into a book store. I don’t want to turn them into otaku per say, but inform them better of less-loved titles and digital initiatives that may not reach them through their regular means of learning about manga. But I’d even go to say that most manga readers don’t read the blogs, even though word of mouth from them might trickle a long way down.

      That’s sort of why I focused on in-book ads as a low-cost method of informing such readers. I mean, the companies are already doing it, so it’s just a matter of making new ads (which they do anyway) and changing the ads’ focus. I was just kind of stunned that my friends knew NOTHING about stuff like SigIkki when it’s FREE and ONLINE and so easy. You’d think more people would have jumped on that boat, but not when Viz didn’t bother to cover all their bases.

  13. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been having so much fun playing around with their ad creator, but I wonder if Facebook ads (the kind that show up beside every other page there, not Like pages and such) would be worth a shot.

    The target audience can be customized down to within a hundred people, based on age, gender, geographic location, and interest (as well as some sexuality and relationship status options that are probably just there for the dating service ads to make use of.)

    Is there a new title out that might appeal to 20-something foodie women? Track them down. Rereleasing an omnibus of a classic cyberpunk-y series? Focus on people who’ve listed, say, Blade Runner as their favorite movie.

    Seems fairly inexpensive – it’s easy to trim the potential reach into something that costs less than half a dollar per thousand impressions. It might not have quite the flash of a big magazine or internet campaign, but it could be a way to reach people even when they’re not on a site devoted to manga.

    • That is a pretty good idea, one of the best low-cost ideas yet. You could certainly draw people in easily with the lure of free manga. And actually, I’m almost positive scanlation sites have used facebook ads before…
      The only downside is that those facebook ads are definitely kind of iffy, so it might be wasted money nonetheless. I mean, have you ever clicked on a Facebook ad because you were interested?

      • Actually, I have from time to time . . . though that may just be because I’ve built up some relative goodwill towards them after nuking all the dating site and Farmville ads from my feed. And I tend to prefer ones that seem to lead to a Facebook Like page, rather than something on a different domain.

        I may just be a total outlier here, though. It’d be smartest to survey the potential audience before spending anything more than pocket change on a campaign. “Have you ever clicked on a Facebook ad?”, “What was it about the ads you clicked on that appealed to you?”, etc.

        I don’t know about Facebook ads, but I do recall a certain scan aggregator tossing up Google banner ads that seemed to follow me everywhere.

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  18. Nice.. Thankyou very much..

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  21. As a longtime but casual fan who’d really like to get more into manga as soon as I have free time, I’d love to see more advertising, especially for smaller publishers. The in-book ads sound like a great idea, as well as the clearer advertising site names (I’d also add social media to that, even just of the “find us on twitter/facebook/whatever” variety – even sticking that on the top or bottom of an ad page would be fine.) And, yeah, if they’re going to encourage people to follow them, they should be advertising as much of their library as possible. (also, retweeting/sharing links to people reviewing new releases! seeing real people get excited about things makes me more likely to check it out.)

    One other thing I’d suggest would be trying to work more with anime sites like Crunchyroll. Nothing big, but if an anime’s been licensed I’d assume it’d be fairly easy to have, say, a sentence tacked on to the end of a description saying “manga licensed in NA by so-and-so pub,” and the reverse on the publisher website. I do follow a couple anime blogs, but I’m more of a manga person myself, so being able to look up an anime that sounds interesting and see that it has a print version would be nice – and I’m sure there’s plenty of fans out there that would be happy to read/watch both versions. Of course, that would depend on getting anime sites to work with them, which may or may not be possible.

    Other than that, I’m not sure! A lot of manga’s struggles in NA seem to me to stem from it being seen as inferior in both book and comic circles, which is something that publishers have no real control over.

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