Tag Archives: manga industry

Get Thee to a Borders!

Sorry for the super-shitty way I’ve been NOT posting on this blog. The past couple weeks have resulted in a mess of SO BUSY which caused a major downfall of my “get-stuff-done” ethic. I plan to correct this by not having any other choice but to get stuff done before the crazy whirlwind of copy-edits is flung my way next week. Allons-y!

No doubt you’ve heard some inklings of the bad tides Borders is headed into. Publishing blogs are screaming the news on Twitter every couple of hours about publishers demanding payments from the troubled mass bookseller so hard that it’s even made it to the Yahoo! front page. This morning was met with the news that Diamond Book Distributors is freezing it’s shipments to the company until Borders brings it’s account into good standing. What does that mean? No new manga at Borders for possibly a very, very long time. Shit.

Now I know it’s kind of hard to back up a massive book chain sometimes, but Borders is kind of the stuff that keeps the manga industry alive and kicking. According to Robert’s Corner Anime Blog (and presumably he got his findings from ICv2’s article), Borders’ manga sales make up for about 20% of new manga sales. If we lose Borders as a major manga bookseller, I’m going to go ahead and predict that manga publishers are going to cut down on their output. Why? Because Borders devoted a lot of shelf space to manga and now publishers will have to rely on Barnes & Noble, who gives manga less bookshelf space and won’t buy most adult-oriented titles, to reach a wide audience.

Borders buys tons of yaoi and BL titles, allowing the average fujoshi to get their kicks easily. I don’t think I’ve seen BL on Barnes & Noble shelves since they realized just what was under all that plastic wrap was making some uptight parents mad. Borders is also pretty good about stocking mature titles. I found Sundome and Ayako at Borders recently. I almost never find Vertical Inc. titles at Barnes & Noble. But basically, without Borders, companies like DMP won’t be able to sell their product as well. Obviously, if they can’t sell mature titles to major booksellers, they’re going to stop licensing mature titles. I’ve already seen this happen when a mature title is mentioned as a possible license. Can’t sell it at certain large stores? Pass! And Barnes & Noble won’t start giving more space to manga for one painfully obvious reason: manga aisle hobos. For every manga that inconsiderate fans read in the aisles instead of just buying, Barnes & Noble loses 2-3 sales on a guestimated average. (Manga aisle hobos never stop at reading one book, I’ve noticed.) Why should Barnes & Noble devote more space to books that are just going to be used as a library instead of purchased? I wouldn’t.

But what about online retailers and comic book stores? Well, online retail might be able to pick up the slack, but when you think about younger readers who don’t have their own disposable income or a credit card of their own or mommy and daddy’s permission to buy online, it’s clear that crucial audience will be cut off and will likely turn to scanlations. Comic book shops are hit and miss. I’ve seen shops with gloriously large manga sections and everything a manga lover could ever want. But I’ve seen plenty more comic shops were manga is a throwaway section and they only buy new stock from the stuff the staff prefers to read. This is usually great for people who like old manga, niche stuff, art manga or almost anything by Vertical, but if you’re looking to get your next volume of Naruto or Bleach, you’re not going to find all 60+ volumes on the shelves. Nor are you going to find your shoujo titles or yaoi. Why? Because small retailers don’t care and because manga takes up way more space than any of the single issues or trade paperbacks out there. And 40 copies of the latest Batman is going to sell lots faster than the same number of Vampire Knight volumes. Yaoi? BL? Probably not going to touch the stuff out of hard-headed principle.

The result of a Borders collapse and a higher demand for physical manga sellers can probably be met by shops that focus more seriously on selling all kinds of manga, but here’s why that won’t happen: It takes serious cash to build up that kind of stock. It would also take a lot of people opening up physical manga-focused bookstores around the country to fill in the gaps left by Borders and that will take too much time for manga publishers to quickly ease the blow. There will probably be more layoffs and monthly output will be slashed in half. Smaller publishers will crumble or be shut down by parent companies. Again.

The only possible bright spot? Publishers will switch more over to digital formats because there just won’t be space for physical books nor will there be the money to pay the printers.

If you haven’t been able to tell, it’s not fun writing these apocalyptic predictions for the U.S. manga publishing biz. We should all be rejoicing in happier news like new licenses, shiny digital releases and fledgling publishers who promise to bring over manga we’ve never seen before. But this is the sad truth: people just don’t read books like they used to. Perhaps because of large chains like Borders have made books too easy to find in multitude & taken away the joy of finding a treasure in a smaller shop, perhaps because the cost of books are so high, perhaps because America has sucked at making reading enjoyable for a large number of people through its education system. The recession is obviously a factor, but a book addiction remains a relatively cheap hobby that will probably still cost less than a jacked-up cable TV package. The big screen TV just takes up less space.

But I have a solution, at least for now. The only trick is getting enough people to do it.

I propose that everyone who reads this blog goes into a Borders sometime in the very near future (because Borders is going to eventually sell out of it’s remaining stock) and buys at least one manga or graphic novel. As you are purchasing your comic book of choice, tell the person ringing up their purchase(s) that you are buying this graphic novel(s) in the hopes that Borders will be able to remain in business and restore their good standing with Diamond Book Distributors soon. If possible tell this to a store manager or ask an employee to pass the message to one. Buy more than one comic book if you can. And, if you’re receiving decent service, tell the employees that you’re doing this in the hopes that they can keep their jobs.

If you’re worried about the money you might be spending, here have some coupons and a 5 books for the price of 4. Obviously you should try to limit the use of those coupons as allowing Borders to get the maximum profit from your purchase will benefit them more in the end. But it’s an incentive to do it if you’re on the edge about this due to cash problems.

I want a full report from all my readers of whether or not you plan to do this and if you do plan on doing this soon, what you bought and the reactions you received.

As for myself, I’m getting down to my nearest Borders after I have lunch and a shower. Hope I can find Ooku vol. 5 there and some other good manga that my local comic book shops never stock.

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Filed under comics, manga, news, opinion

Life of A (Rookie) Editor: The Privilege of Being Paid

A few days ago someone commented on my Ten REALLY GOOD Ways and Not Steal Manga post with a lot of strong opinions about the suggestions I posted. I won’t go into detail about everything this person said, but at the end they made a comment that said scanlations are of better quality because scanlators post the manga out of the goodness of their hearts and professional manga publishing people are only after the money.

Um, what?

But instead of getting angry at this commentator (because that comment really hurt my feelings, to be truthful), I want to discuss how much of a privilege it is to be able to get paid for doing something I love so much.

Why is it a privilege? Well, for one, it’s not my company so I am grateful that I was asked to be a freelancer for TOKYOPOP. There are so many other interns who’ve wanted jobs just as badly, but I’m one of only two people that they’ve hired out of intern positions in recent times. Yeah, that’s something to be a little proud about! But I could lose the work I get from them if I don’t work hard to make every manga I work on as perfect as possible. So I work hard. For pennies.

That’s right, for pennies. Now, I’m not blaming TOKYOPOP here. I *wish* I could get paid more, but they’re also not in the best place financially and I am a rookie editor at best, so the pay is what it is. I take it because I’d rather do this than chase down jobs  at Starbucks or McDonald’s. But then I would be working at McDonalds and how the hell do you think that would make a recent college graduate feel even if they were making twice as much money a month than at a degree-related job? Not good. What the hell did 4+ years of tuition just  get wasted on? So I feel lucky to be working actually related to my degree straight out of college.

But at the same time, I am pretty stressed about money. If I had a few more clients, I’d be considerably less stressed about money. Am I actively pursuing new clients so that I may make more money? Yes, but I am being very stupid about it. How so? I’m only pursuing other manga publishers. Because I really want to work on nothing but manga. I have been so spoiled from working with TOKYOPOP and iSeeToon. When I meet other people and they ask what I do, I get the most awesome responses when I tell them. All the manga that I buy are now tax-deductible. Excuse my language, but how fucking awesome is that to me? So fucking awesome.

You see, I’ve only been an editor (internships included) for a little over a year, but I’ve been a manga fan for about 10 years now. When I learned I could get a job working in manga, my reaction wasn’t really a “woohoo, I get to make money off of manga” so much as a “woohoo, I can do something I really love for the rest of my life.” The only part about getting paid that really helped was to convince my skeptical mother that my hobby had become legitimate.

Now, I don’t know the life stories of everyone in the manga industry, but I can tell you that most people I know don’t do it because they hate manga and they only want the moola involved. As far as I know (and I’ve heard this from so many different people), you just do not get into this industry because the pay is good. In fact, I hear people saying the pay is shitty (and/or the fans make it a shitty job sometimes) all the time. I’ve never once heard someone say the pay is good, so why are all these people in the industry to begin with? Surely they have enough skills to find similar, better paying jobs elsewhere. But you don’t see them actively talking about how they’re trying to find something better to do with their lives than manga publishing. Why? Well, probably because they’ve got some deep, affectionate feelings about manga too. If they were any other way, why have I drooled over manga with so many different people in the industry?  I really fangirled (or boyed) with a lot of these people at some point or another. Why would you do that if you weren’t actively interested in the medium? I cannot come to any other conclusion than these people are passionate about manga.

If we industry people were really so obsessed with money, I think all of us would try a lot harder to find other jobs and leave all the hard work to the scanlators. Getting paid to do our jobs is really just the icing on the cake.

For everyone who isn’t convinced by this because manga prices are so damn high these days, let me explain why this is. Manga in Japan is cheap because they have a more open culture about reading comic books. Their market can afford to print 3 million plus copies of One Piece because there are 3 million plus people in Japan who will buy those copies of One Piece. There are not 3 million plus people in the US who will do the same, so if you want manga at Japanese prices, you have to work hard either at finding deals or encouraging more and more people read manga so that manga publishers here can make prices lower and still pay their employees. So if your manga is $12.99 or higher that’s because the publisher knows that you and maybe 2,000 other people are going to buy it and those extra copies no one bought are going to sit around in their warehouse forever. If your manga is $8.99 it’s because the publisher knows that way more than 2,000 people are going to buy it so there are going to be fewer unsold copies that cost them a lot of money. I hope that makes sense.

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Filed under manga, opinion

My Life As a (Rookie) Editor: Playing Catch-up

Wow, I haven’t done one of these in awhile, huh?

I’ve been crazy busy since July, probably late June. I went to Anime Expo and San Diego Comic-Con, caught a cold, did about 3-4 script edits for TOKYOPOP plus other editorial work for them, probably had about 5-6 math tests and just as many homework assignments, turned 23, ran a contest, wrote 13 different blog posts (not including this one), started Webcomics Wednesdays, went to a midnight release party for the last Scott Pilgrim book and met so so many people I’m not sure I can remember them all. On top of that, I’ve been working to start a travel blog for my mother’s business and negotiate with another potential client.

Who says freelancers just get to sit at home and lounge around all day! I’ve been working hard! Luckily for me, I got the largest amount of hits on my blog EVER! That was pretty cool. I hope I can top those numbers soon. :D I’m counting on you guys! Always let me know what you want to hear about, please

Because of this, I’ve sort of half-missed the month of my first two releases as a freelance editor: Zone-00 4 and Sgt. Frog 19! Both have been out since July, so please pick them up if you’re interested. Especially Sgt. Frog, which doesn’t really necessitate the purchasing of volumes 1-18 to pick up volume 19. It’s pretty episodic. (AND IT NEEDS MORE LOVE!)

I have a few loose goals for the rest of August and the coming months.

1. I need to lose weight, which I haven’t been able to focus on since everything’s been so crazy. Now that a lot of major events and a time-eating math class is out of the way, I’m going to spend more time at the gym for sure.

2. I need more clients, which I have also had to put off because July was insane and then the first few weeks of August decided to follow suit. I’m going to refresh my resume this weekend and make some impassioned pleas to give lil ol’ me some more work.

3. I need to read more manga. I have a huge stack. I bought over 100 volumes of manga in July (for really cheap), acquired more since then and I haven’t been able to make a very large dent in my stack. Because of this, I don’t think I’ll be buy much new manga in August. ^_^;;; At least reading manga qualifies as job research! Hehehe.

As is customary, here’s a list of stuff I’ve been working on that will be out in the next few months:

August:

Genju no Seiza 8 and Kyo Kara Maoh 7

September:

Hetalia Axis Powers 1 (!!!), Pet Shop of Horrors Tokyo 7 and Fate/stay night 9

Tomorrow I plan on sleeping til 9 a.m.!

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Filed under manga

Interning in the Manga Industry: My Advice

A few weeks ago, Kate Dacy posted at her blog The Manga Critic about some intern positions opening up at Viz for the summer and mentioned my blog. After reading her post, it occurred to me that while I’ve been posting about my experiences as a comic-book editor, I haven’t posted that much on how my internship experience was. Well kids, tie your shoes tight because this post is going to be a roller coaster of advice that’ll get your hopes up and then sink them to hell. I hope you get something good out of it.

1. Just because you’re interning for them doesn’t mean they’re going to publish your manga– I think this is pretty self-explanatory. You’re not there to draw manga, you’re there to work on the publishing side of manga. While the fact that people at the company will know who you are works in your favor if you ever pitch an idea to them, it does not mean they are just going to make you a star.  (Let’s face it, interning *IS* free labor.)  Now that that’s out of the way…

2. Don’t be afraid to go for it, even if you major in bio-physics– I’ve met a number of interns who were doing something at TOKYOPOP that had NOTHING to do with their college majors. Why did they go for it? Because they had a vested interest in what they were interning in and some skill at it too. Does that mean you should go for it too? If you have that interest and a basic grasp on the tasks you will be asked to do, yes. Everything else is just learning how to adapt to the demands of your job, which I dare say is an ability you want in any work environment. I was totally terrified that I wouldn’t know what to do when I first started too, but then I realized my journalism degree had taught me the skills needed to do my work well even though I wasn’t doing journalism! If your major is comp sci and you want to do a design internship because you like to draw on the side. DO IT! *EDIT* My friend and fellow TP intern, Sumana, added some more great advice in the comments section, the choicest piece being: “be prepared to explain yourself! Because my major isn’t seen often in this industry, one of the first questions during my interview was “why are you here?” I don’t suggest saying “I <3 manga” as your only answer.”

3. Be knowledgeable and care about manga and the industry– During my interview, I was asked what my favorite manga series was. Knowing this question was coming, I went through my library of TOKYOPOP manga and picked out my favorite. I added it in along with my absolute favorite manga of all time and this showed that I knew the manga industry better than most fans (both were kind of off-the-beaten-path manga.) I also told them the truth: I read scanlations, but I preferred having a physical copy. I’ll admit I wasn’t the most informed person at the time, but I showed them that I cared enough about manga to explore less popular releases and that I wanted to learn more about the industry.

4. Work your ass off once you get in-Even if they give you manga to work on that you absolutely HATE, think of it as a learning experience. After all, you are gaining experience by working on it, if nothing else. I got thrown random research projects with the nastiest manga ever, but I read them and I survived. And now I even have some funny stories to tell! I also decided not to get a part-time job for six months and intern for 40+ hours a week at TOKYOPOP. Not because I wanted to be poor or because I was trying to get hired, (OK, I was, but it wasn’t part of the decision process here) but because I really really wanted to be at TOKYOPOP every single day and not to miss a thing while I was there. I was, perhaps, the only one who was crazy enough to do this, but I wanted to milk the experience for all that it was worth. (And hey, I got a job out of it! Yay!) Also, work your hardest to do better than you were before. I asked my mentors every few weeks to give me an overall constructive criticism. It helped me figure out what I was missing in my editing so I could learn and improve on my existing skills.

5. Know your way around social media– I am trying to think of an internship at TOKYOPOP that doesn’t require knowing basic social media skills. There isn’t one. From day one, having a Twitter account was important to my internship. That’s where Stu Levy found me complaining how TOKYOPOP hadn’t gotten back to me yet and directed me to the right person. When other people found out I was tweeting about stuff I was working on, they ENCOURAGED me to keep doing it. (Word of mouth is important to publishers.)  When I started this blog, they not only loved it, but occasionally passed me news to break before anyone else could. If they know you can do this whole Twitter business, they will ask you to tweet on the official Twitter account sometimes. If I didn’t have Twitter and my blog, I don’t think I would have met Ysabet MacFarlene or Athena and Alethea Nibley, who also freelance for TOKYOPOP, or many other industry people I have the pleasure of being acquainted with now. Manga is a community, not just an industry, and social media is where you can get in touch with a lot of these people.

6. Be sure you can live wherever your internship is– I promise, this is not impossible despite the fact that most internships are in expensive cities (LA, SF, NYC.) I was lucky enough to have a ton of people I could impose on when I got my TOKYOPOP internship, but I was apparently very close to interning at Viz. San Francisco has a higher cost of living than L.A and I don’t have family there. Still, there are many interns who came to TOKYOPOP from the far reaches of the country, relocating a short period of time. Some of them have family here, but most haven’t and are working part-time jobs or relying on scholarships. Basically, don’t do what I did because I had people to fall back on. You most likely don’t, so get a cheap apartment and a job while you intern, if your school gives you an intern stipend, take it.If it’s too expensive for you still, try taking the internship class at a community college to cut down on tuition costs.

7. Intern in the right department– Every time I tell someone interning at TOKYOPOP that I work in editorial, they say they want my job. Understandable because editorial is totally awesome, but also kind of sad because more than a few of those interns aren’t having a good experience in their department. Did they make the wrong choice or is it just a matter of having a tough time with the work given to them? I don’t know, but at least if it’s the latter it’ll be a learning experience for them, even if they only learn that they don’t want to work in publishing. I learned this lesson by not getting an internship at Viz. When I applied there, I asked if I could apply for both the Magazine and Editorial internship. They made me choose and I chose Magazine. I should have chosen the Editorial one, I probably would have made a better impression on them and gotten the internship! (Ah, but would I be where I am now if I’d gone to Viz?) Choose wisely. Just because the job market is tough doesn’t mean you can’t be a little picky about an unpaid internship.

8. Not everyone is a fan– That’s right, not everyone in the industry is a fan of anime and manga.  Hopefully, all the important people are. I know the people in my department are, but  not everyone in accounting or design are. And that’s OK. A job is a job and hopefully they’re enjoying the work they do anyway. Just don’t assume everyone’s a fan and go fan-crazy. You can be enthusiastic and passionate about manga without scaring people, I promise, and being restrained and professional isn’t going to hurt you.

9. For the love of CLAMP, enjoy yourself– If you’ve gotten yourself a internship,  you’re doing it to learn something. And yes, learning can be SO BORING if you’re in a class you hate. Don’t let that be this class. Make this the one class you take your entire college career that allows you to experiment with something you think you might want to do for the rest of your life. Even if you have convince your advisor that an internship involving graphic novels does not mean you’re dabbling in illustrated porn, (true story.) Do it because this sounds like the most fantastic idea ever and you just also happen to need an internship to graduate! Do it because you live and breathe manga in a totally not creepy way! Do it because you want to have a job you’ll just adore because you get to work with manga ALL THE TIME.

10. Don’t expect a job to fall into your lap– I was extremely lucky that TOKYOPOP hired me. Other interns did not get hired, the majority of them, in fact. If you want that internship to turn into a job in this industry, you have to be exceptional and prove to them that you are worth paying. I can promise you, every company in this industry is keeping a tight grip on their purse right now. You are going to need to work your ass off and have a little luck on your side. I honestly don’t think you can get a job like this without it.

I hope this has helped some of you to take the step to intern in the manga industry. Despite all the negative points I’ve highlighted in this post, I want to say that my internship in manga was fantastic and worth every sacrifice and every mental scar that happened along the way. Obviously, I had the -IDEAL- experience, and you might not have that, but you won’t know that if you go in there thinking to yourself that this internship is going to suck. Go get ’em, everyone!

If you have any burning questions about doing this kind of an internship, I’d  love to answer them. :)

Edit: In case you want a little more, one of Viz’s summer interns posted about her experience at Viz on their Shonen Sunday Blog.

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Filed under manga