Tag Archives: DMP

Going Digital: Three Things Every Manga Publisher Needs

I’ve been thinking a lot these days about what goes into publishing manga, mostly because I would love to begin publishing books on my own, but mostly because I feel like the market has begun to totally change. E-readers are becoming more prevalent for serious fans and even a number of the less serious fans have iPhones, Droids or other smart phones that make viewing manga on the go a lot easier. Of course, the manga industry, and the comics industry in general, has been a bit slow to fully embrace digital. Whether their reasons be because companies still favor print (and so do their readers) or because rights holders are still hesitant to give digital rights, I honestly don’t think the industry can turn away from digital comics any more. Sooner or later, almost everyone is going to own an e-reader just like suddenly almost everyone owned an mp3 player.

Of course, the future is unknowable to us mortals and we can’t predict what will change the industry next, but here’s a few things I think manga publishers need to adopt now to be prepared for the onslaught of fans who no longer want print copies.

1. Offer dirt cheap manga for just about every platform imaginable:

This one should be pretty obvious. The music industry survived it’s piracy wars by letting songs go for 99 cents a pop, the same thing should be possible for the comics industry in theory. Of course, 99 cents is a little low, but prices should be as low as feasibly possible. Why? Because the pirates don’t value manga now, just like pirates didn’t value music then. There will still be piracy, of course, but by taking a big gulp and doing whatever is possible to make prices low for readers, it might be possible to begin attracting some of the casual pirates back.

This, unfortunately, is made difficult by the e-reader wars going on. The best strategy is to just offer the manga on any platform that’s humanly (and financially) possible. Sites like ComiXology are obviously a great go-to site for multiple digital platforms and manga publishers like Viz, TOKYOPOP, DMP and Dark Horse are already there. Plus, you can read on the web in case you don’t have an e-reader, which solves the problem for that side of the market who hasn’t been able to buy the expensive gadgets yet.

2. Regular Online Serialization:

Oh man, do I think this is a great idea. A bunch of SigIkki series and Rin-ne became instant favorites when I discovered I could get chapters online for free. It was a ton of fun to get Neko Ramen strips in my mail box each day. But other than the Viz titles, I can’t think of any publisher who is doing regular online serialization with a large number of series. It’d be great to have more pubs jump on to give those people who want to “preview” their manga before they buy what they want. Solving the problem of people just being able to read a series for free all the time, Viz just pulls the chapters once a book goes out, leaving nothing but the first chapters of every volume for those “preview” pirate types.

There are a number of publishers who serialize online, but I find the problem with them is that they do so too infrequently to hold the attention of readers who are devouring manga at the pace of scanlation readers normally do.

3. An open mind and a better website:

It’s no big secret that most manga publisher websites suck. If they aren’t too busy and overwhelming, they’re hard to navigate and it’s difficult to find the information you want. Minimal web design is popular now for a reason- the faster users can find what they want, the faster they get gratification. I’m not saying that manga publishers can’t add flourishes here and there, but unnecessary content, tabs and whatnot should be taken down. We don’t need manga companies to be our social network stand-ins anymore, but every company should run a blog that publishes a bit more than just PR copy. I particularly like some of Viz’s blogs for Rin-ne and SigIkki and TOKYOPOP has some fun cultural content every week in its newsletter. (I used to write articles for it as an intern. It was great fun.) But there should be a blog and it should be the publisher’s hub for getting information out to the masses. And, most importantly, it should not  be written like a press release.

Technically having a open mind should be a fourth thing on this list, but it’s something that really applies to it’s predecessors on this short list. Without an open mind, publishers are going to want to give up and just stick to print. But that’s not going to fly anymore. Publishers need to realize that experimentation is going to be necessary. If a digital publishing venture isn’t making money, it might be best to drop it and turn to a new idea. Internet culture changes so very quickly and there’s always some new device, technology or service out there and surviving will definitely go hand in hand with the ability to be nimble and able to adopt new things.

Is there anything else you feel that publishers should think of when working on digital publishing? I admit, it’s late at night and I might have missed something. Share what you think manga publishers should be doing to accommodate online readers.

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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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Anime Expo 2010: Day One

Whoooo! Anime Expo time! Anime Expo is my home con, the one I’ve been going to through thick or through thin since I started going to cons, so I’m pretty used to the landscape. Although it just seems to me that the dealer’s room just gets bigger and bigger each year…

I was only at the con a short time today due to a night class I’m taking and needing to do important things this morning, but here are my highlights of the day.

HIGHLIGHTS:
Bandai Industry Panel- The big news here is that Bandai Entertainment has licensed K-On!, the anime about a musical group of adorable high school girls. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Bandai is also forming a group of voice actresses/singers to make up the “After School Tea Time” band in the show, much like they did with the ASOS Brigade for their release of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Yeah.

Attendees were also treated to clips of The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan and Nyoro~n Churuya-san, trailers of Bandai’s various Gundam anime and other anime. We also got to hear Christina Vee sing two songs. I’ve personally never heard her sing before, but I figured she must have been sick or something because I wasn’t impressed.

DMP Industry Panel- I was only expecting to go for half of the DMP panel because of my class, but I decided to stay all the way through and it was worth it! They announced a slew of new licenses and gave us some new insight into Emanga.com, their supposed crowdsourcing manga project and a collaboration with Viz.

Their new licenses include:  Gochisosama by CJ Michalski, Boku no Shiru Anata no Hanashi by Tsuta Suzuki, Sabaku no Oujisama by Shushushu Sakurai, Houou Gakuen Misoragumi by Aki Arata, Border and Kusatta Kyo Shino Houteishiki by Kazuma Kodaka, Demon City Shinjuku by Hideyuki Kikuchi, Coundown 7 Days and Replica by Kemuri Karakara

Emanga.com has increased it’s rental times from three days to seven, bringing in gift cards (if you’ve got some yaoi-loving friends… what a perfect gift!), adding at least 30 new titles and including ten titles that will be in both Korean and Chinese! How cool! -Edit: I forgot to include (being rather tired last night) that Nao Yazawa, the creator of Wedding Peach, is creating an exclusive manga for Emanga.com called Mizuki. There is also another manga in the early development stages called Moon & Blood. You can catch Yazawa on her Twitter. She speaks English very very well.-

DMP also announced that they’ll be distributing limited edition Naruto animation cels. But wait, you say, isn’t Naruto animated digitally? Doesn’t Viz own the U.S. rights to Naruto? Like I said earlier, Viz (and Studio Pierrot) are allowing DMP to sell these hand-painted cels. They’re extremely limited in quality so if you are a rabid Naruto fan who MUST have these, catch the DMP booth at Anime Expo or the Viz booth at San Diego Comic-Con.

During the panel, Gia Manry of Anime News Network asked whether the representatives present could elaborate more on a project that would utilize scanlators to crowdsource the manga translation process and add 1000+ manga online legally. Michelle Mauk explained that the project was a massive undertaking, which was still in the planning stages, and that the concept had been mistaken by many bloggers and news sites. Mauk said that DMP was currently talking with their translators and other staff in order to see what could be done.  It seems to me much like Stu Levy’s comments on a December 2009 TOKYOPOP Insider webcast stating that he would work with scanlators, an idea that was quickly forgotten about and tossed out the window.

-Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa visits Anime Expo- DMP’s head of sales caught this image of Villaraigosa entering the exhibit hall (DMP’s booth is right at the front.) I wasn’t there at the time, but I certainly don’t envy anyone who was. Villaraigosa has a sort of sordid past and, well, the dealer’s room was already crowded enough without him and all the entourage/paparazzi/gawkers making it worse. Many who saw the mayor or pictures of him at the con wondered if the SPJA charged him admission and if he used tax-payer money to get in.

-If you looking for good deals on manga, there’s plenty of dealers that are selling manga for $5, including DMP and the newly-formed Manga Factory. I personally liberated quite a few CMX manga and some old Deux and Aurora titles before they disappeared from the racks completely. I also managed to find volume 1 of TOKYOPOP’s Beck manga, a license that was lost to Kodansha.

-I also saw this hilarious Hetalia shirt, which will give me the opportunity to share some excellent personal news with you. After contributing to TOKYOPOP’s upcoming release of Axis Powers: Hetalia, I have been declared the editor of the next volume! In the office that usually means I’ll be editor in perpetuity of the title until I’m no longer working for TP or the series is over. -EDIT: I AM A DUMB BUTT. There was a misunderstanding and I’m not the official editor of Hetalia, I am just working on PART of the editorial process again. DURHUR. I am little bit sad that I’m not the editor, but I know Cindy Suzuki will do an excellent job. Sorry for being a dork and bragging about it left and right! The next sentence is still valid however.- I am personally excited because I just *LOVE* Hetalia. I can’t wait to work on it again!

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Ten REALLY GOOD Ways to Buy and Not Steal Manga

There’s been a lot of debate going on lately about plagiarism, piracy and scanlations in the manga world. No doubt you’ve heard of the recent trouble Nick Simmons has gotten himself into. With everyone up in arms and the conversations starting to turn to the feelings of entitlement amongst fans who feel it is right to steal, I came up with a few ideas on how to not steal manga and ruin things for the rest of us who actually do buy manga.

1. Go to the library:
Some people have some misguided ideas about how libraries work and think that it’s akin to reading scanlations. WRONG. At some point the library either had to buy the book or it was donated by someone else who had bought the book. Also, if a book is worn out from frequent use, the library will (more likely than not) buy a new copy to replace the old one. Most, if not all, libraries are free. All you have to do is sign up and you can borrow manga for free! FREE!!!!!!!

2. Make Friends, Borrow Their Manga:

Again, unless your friends are kleptos, they bought the manga at some point, so it’s not like scanlations either. Not only does this method allow you to read manga for free (FREE, YOU GUYS!!!), but it encourages you to read manga that you may not have read before because your friends suggested it or something. And it’s always good to have friends, especially ones with similar interests. If you’re still not convinced, look at your mom. Does she lend and borrow books from her friend? If so, you see anyone getting upset over it? Nope. Why’s that? Because this method of sharing allows word of mouth to spread and word of mouth is a GOOD thing for publishers.

3. Watch for deals and sales at retailers that stock manga:

I buy a LOT of manga. I have to save money somewhere, right? Right. So I sign up for every reward benefit thing at every store I go to that sells manga. Barnes & Noble gives members a little bit off each purchase and coupons; Borders often has coupons or buy 4, get 1 free deals; the local comic book shop in my hometown takes $1 off every $10 spent; RightStuf has amazing deals every single week and a well-stocked bargain bin. Those are only a few examples, but most every retailer uses such tactics because they know you’re more likely to come and buy one or two books from them if you have a coupon in your hand.

4. Contests and giveaways:

Let’s start with TOKYOPOP because I know them best. They keep giving away free copies of their new releases if you follow them closely on twitter. There’s plenty of other contests through their website. DMP also gives away free previews online manga to their followers on a regular basis. I’ve seen a number of manga blogs do the same thing. I’ve already gotten a few manga this way myself. VERY USEFUL. Even if I don’t enjoy the manga, I’ve read something and kept myself from being bored for awhile. Again: FREEEEEEEEEEEE!

5. Publisher-endorsed online manga:

Publishers are getting the hang of the whole online manga thing. Viz has it’s SigIkki website, as well as Rin-ne and Arata: the Legend. I know TOKYOPOP is already releasing a few chapters of manga here and there (most notably Re:Play) and is looking interestedly into getting digital rights to put more online. Netcomics has everything online for pretty low prices. So does DMP. Vertical has previews up (the glory of their print editions really demand that you purchase the hard copies, however.) Even Marvel is putting more comics online. Not all of these online manga are free, but most of the prices are pretty reasonable in my opinion.

6. Used Book Stores:

There are a number of used manga book stores in my area, but I’m lucky because there are large populations of Asians in Los Angeles and Orange County. Still, when I lived in my small college town, I was able to find used manga every once in awhile in the many used bookstores the town held. You might have to be pretty diligent, but I think it’s worth it for cheap manga.

7. Go to Cons:

Cons are great places to buy manga because retailers always have great deals going on so you’ll buy THEIR manga. In fact, I just went to Long Beach Comic Expo a few Saturdays ago and got some manga for $1. That’s an AMAZINGLY GOOD DEAL. Sure, it was a little hard to find something I was interested in, but my friends who got there before me kind of cleaned the place out of stuff I really wanted. I also got 40% some hardcover graphic novels! At Anime Los Angeles, I bought so much manga, the retailer gave me an even better discount than posted and gave me a box to carry it all in. Any manga fan who knows where their towel is will be walking out of a con with armfuls of deeply discounted manga.

8. Learn Japanese:

This is the most expensive and time-consuming way to buy and not steal manga, but it has other non-manga related benefits. If you are around the average age of manga and anime fans (high school- or college-age), then you could actually do with a foreign language in your repertoire. A lot of colleges and certain jobs really really like bi- or multi-lingual people, so it’ll increase the chances of you getting hired in the recession. Hey! You could even get a job in the manga publishing industry. Wouldn’t that be a dream?

9. Turn off your computer:

Being on the computer a lot is actually really bad for your health. It deteriorates your eyes and causes a lot of joint problems in your hands. I know so many people who are slowly going blind or have carpal tunnel from too much computer time. These are pretty young people too. So you might as well save a little bit on your health care bills by turning off the computer and reading a print edition of something.

10. Feed me:

By buying manga you are essentially allowing me to eat. Since you’re reading this blog, I assume that you might care whether or not I live or die. Since I’m currently working in the American manga publishing industry, buying manga (TOKYOPOP manga, but I won’t judge if you buy Viz) inevitably puts food on my table. Now just think of all the hundreds of other employees like me who publish  manga in order to buy their daily bread. If all of  you keep reading scanlations all the time instead of buying the manga, the companies we work for will STOP PUBLISHING MANGA. Sure you may think that’s a good thing, but just wait until you want to read your favorite series and the scanlation group has decided to disband, leaving you in the dark. And what if no other groups take it up? Huh? Well, guess what: publishers (YES, EVEN TOKYOPOP) try REALLY REALLY hard not to do that to you. Yeah.

I’m not going to lie: I don’t really have problems with anyone reading scanlations of unlicensed series. That’s one of the very few nice things about scanlations, you can read some manga that aren’t licensed yet or might never be licensed in the U.S. BUT IT’S NOT COOL TO STEAL FROM PEOPLE WHO ARE JUST TRYING TO MAKE A LIVING. (Trust me, very few people in the industry are raking in the dough.) If you insist on doing so, I’m going to haunt you when I die from starvation. Just so you know. No high horse here. I don’t think I’ve ever read a licensed scanlation, except for one time when I read one in order potentially promote the legit licensed version because I was short on time. I felt so dirty afterward, I definitely don’t want to do THAT again.

If anyone has any other suggestions on how to buy and not steal manga, let’s hear them!

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