Tag Archives: scanlations

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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Digital Manga Publishing Opens Digital Manga Guild

Earlier this evening, I got promotional e-mail from Digital Manga Publishing that advertised a new concept called the Digital Manga Guild, a site that uses crowd-sourcing to bring un-translated manga to readers. Not only that, but participants in the program are required to apply before they can work on manga and get paid for sales of any work that they do. Here’s an excerpt from the site:

Welcome to the Digital Manga Guild presented by Digital Manga, Inc. — an online open platform where dedicated manga fans can gather to work, talk, and to also be part of a manga revolution. Digital Manga is looking for a few good people to help build an online community of manga localizers to assist in bringing out thousands of untranslated titles to fans everywhere.

With the changing tide of the economy and the high cost and slow pace of producing print editions of your favorite manga, Digital Manga, Inc. has moved forward into this new digital venture to localize and produce manga online! Digital Manga has made agreements with six major Japanese publishers to provide content to our online platform, planned for a 2011 launch. Hundreds of untranslated titles will need to be adapted to the rest of the speaking world. That is where you, the fans step in.

We are in search of groups and individuals to help us with the process, NOW! This entails the need for translators to translate manga from Japanese to English, as well as other languages; editors/rewriters to clean up the translations for a smooth read; and letterers to retouch and typeset text. Once a title is completed, it will be digitally distributed through our platform for purchase. With your help in this process, we can supply more manga faster, to feed everyone’s manga addiction!

Registered groups or individuals chosen to work on projects will be assigned some of their favorite, unreleased titles. By becoming a member, you will be offering services to Digital Manga, Inc, and will be eligible to join our revenue share program. Members who work on specific titles will receive a revenue percentage from all future sales of that book. This means you get to share in our profits. However, no party — Digital Manga, Inc., the Japanese publishers, or you (the localizers) — will get paid until a sales transaction is made. That means, we are all in this together!

Join today to become one of the pioneers in revolutionizing the way we make manga. Pre-registration is open, and Digital Manga, Inc. will contact members to provide further details.

Woah, woah, woah! I have to admit I have SO MANY QUESTIONS right now. For one, will anyone be allowed to join? I sent in an application for an editorial/rewrite position, so it’s up to DMP who gets to work on manga and get paid. How much people get paid is another question I have, as well as how much are these manga going to cost? Is this that new Crunchyroll manga platform thingy we’ve been hearing about? How is DMP getting the licenses to distribute these manga? Who chooses what manga gets worked on? Will fans be able to request titles? Is this a way for scanlators to go legit, and, if so, are they still allowed to do scanlations on the side?

You can sign up as an editor/rewriter, translator (for many different languages, so if you know Chinese or Spanish or some other language, put that down!) or a letterer/touch-up artist, either as an individual or a group. I’ve already signed up myself, so if my application is approved (how long does that take, I wonder? I should update the personal site I gave as a reference to my work this weekend!) I will do my best to share any details I can give in the future.

What do you think, readers? This clearly has the potential to be a big development for the manga industry digital presence and I am super-excited to see what comes of it.

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Scanlations and the Anti-Piracy Coalition on Jammer’s Animovie Podcast

Another month, another podcast recorded!

Joseph Medina of Jammer’s Animovie Blog invited me back on his podcast, making this my third podcast to date! I think I’m getting better at this!

Along with Sam Kusek of Pop Culture Shock’s Manga Recon and Doctor of the SSAA Podcast, we discussed In this podcast we talk about the problems facing the manga publishing industry, the coalition that’s been formed between U.S. and Japanese manga publishers and what we’d like to see happen with digital manga distribution.

We talked a lot about what we would like to see the coalition do or not do, why people are still turning to scanlations or fansubs when there are simultaneous releases or simulcasts widely available for free and what scanlators and aggregation sites are doing to prevent themselves from being sued.

All in all, it was a great podcast tackling the choice issues of the manga publishing industry in America. Some great suggestions were thrown out there and I’m hoping that we’ll someday get to see our suggestions come to fruition.

Thanks for listening!

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My Life as a (Rookie) Editor: Job Security

As a freelancer I have a lot of worries about my job security. And a lot of other things. But that’s normal for freelancers, or so I’m told.

What I wish I didn’t have to worry about is my area of specialty potentially becoming obsolete. If I could work solely for manga publishers, I would be one happy freelance editor, so I’d rather pursue those jobs rather than something in another field. Lucky for me, I don’t have to worry as much anymore because my (current and potential) employers are beginning to fight back against the one of the biggest things holding their success back: SCANLATIONS.

Now, I’m not totally against scanlations. As Erica Friedman of Ozaku pointed out scanlations were a solution to a problem. Manga lovers didn’t have enough manga on the market and there were plenty of series that weren’t sure to see a licene. But now, timelier releases, free digital manga and a large, diverse amount of manga titles are more prevalent. Manga aggregators take the top spot on Google instead of the legitimate manga sites and now our solution has turning into a problem, especially since manga doesn’t get taken down when a manga is licensed anymore. I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out that those scanlations are hurting sales when three companies were shut down and another one laid off nearly half of their employees in the last month!

Because of the coalition formed by Japanese and American manga publishers, manga aggregators will hopefully be wiped out or forced to go legitimate, like Manga Helpers is attempting to do. (Honestly, considering their previous forays into legitimacy, I smell BS.) If the coalition is smart enough, they’ll only topple the aggregation sites and maybe a few of the larger scanlation circles that put out new chapters of some of the top licensed titles out there. But there will still be a few small scanlation circles doing the unlicensed or the never-to-be-licensed manga that’s one of the best things about scanlations in the first place: the unique gems that we’ll never see (or won’t see yet) on the bookstore shelves.

And I’ll still have a job because my employer won’t go under from too many fans who love manga too much to pay for it!

For a little bit more on how scanlations hurt not just publishers, but the creators themselves, read this blog post by Helen McCarthy.

Just to keep you updated on what I’ve been working on lately:

August:

Junjo Romantica vol. 12

Karakuri Odette vol. 4

Gakuen Heaven -Endo- Calling You

Kyo Kara Maoh vol. 7

Lagoon Engine vol. 7

I’ll also be in Georgia until next week visiting my boyfriend’s family, so my apologies for late replies to comments or on Twitter. I’ll be busy seeing Atlanta for the first time!

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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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Gakuen Alice on the Fast Track

I was in the TOKYOPOP offices today doing my normal thing, a copy of Gakuen Alice vol. 7 on my desk to take home later, when Associate Publisher Marco Pavia strolled by and started chatting with me about it. (I’ve been reading the series over the course of the last week. It was also my #mangamonday pick this week on Twitter.)

Then Marco let me know that because Gakuen Alice is the most popular manga on the scanlation conglomeration site, Mangafox. As you can imagine that’s quite a problem for TOKYOPOP as the licensors of Gakuen Alice. So, according to Marco, the company is speeding up the release of the manga in order to catch up with the 21 volumes already available in Japan. (For reference, TOKYOPOP is releasing vol. 10 in two weeks time.)

I’m sure I don’t need to tell most of the readers of my blog that reading scanlations of licensed series is wrong and you really should be buying or borrowing from friends or your local library, but remember that scanlations steal money from the publishers who try to bring you quality manga.

Gakuen Alice is about a girl named Mikan who follows her best friend to the mysterious Alice Academy. After discovering that the Academy is a place to educate children with special powers called Alices, Mikan goes through a strange entrance test to discover her own Alice and gets a crash course in some of school’s weirder charms.  Mikan has a particularly rare Alice and now must face the difficult task of fitting in with her classmates. Along the way, she strives to learn more about the strange workings and going-ons at the Alice Academy.

It’s a very cute manga with elementary school children in most of the main roles, but it has some dark undertones in it, so I wouldn’t pass it off as too young for older readers. Please, please, PLEASE support this manga by buying it. If you need a better reason than that, then I implore you to consider the fact that I want a job at TOKYOPOP. By buying this manga, you are supporting the chance for me to get the job I want and love!

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The Rise of Online Manga

This blog post won’t exactly be news, persay, but more of a discussion on an emerging trend in the U.S. manga market.

I saw this tweet this evening as I was trying to think of what to write:

manga_critic New blog post: Rin-Ne, Vol. 1 http://mangacritic.com/?p=2187

Rumiko Takahashi's Rin-Ne (copyright of Viz)

Rumiko Takahashi's Rin-Ne (property of Viz)

The link is a review of the first volume of Rin-Ne, a manga by the famous supernatural manga creator, Rumiko Takahashi. Rin-Ne is a part of a very new movement in the American manga publishing industry, a fight to battle scanlations, fan-made translations that are posted online and completely free, by putting content online.

Obviously, free material is a huge problem for any industry and many fans of manga don’t feel the need to pay for what they can get for free. Cease and desist orders are able to stop scanlators, as the creators of these translations are called, but publishing companies don’t have the means to police all the scanlation sites. Some scanlators are polite enough to take down a manga when it is licensed by U.S. publishers, but this does little to stop others from keeping content online through other means and even then thousands of people have read it already.

So how do publishers battle a scourge like this?

By posting these manga online before they’re even released in stores.

But how is this different than scanlations? How can the publisher make money?

It’s not much different than scanlations, which is the point. The publishers want their manga to be read online. That’s where their readership is right now. Then, right before the book is released at bookstores nationwide, the manga is taken off the internet and if manga fans want to read it, they’ll have to buy it.

Pretty ingenious in my opinion.

Rin-Ne and Viz, its American publisher, are at the forefront of this battle against scanlations. Rin-Ne is released chapter-by-chapter each week simultaneous with the Japanese release. This prevents scanlators from getting their hands on it before American publishers can, allows fans to read manga online for free and allows the company to control the profits by keeping the content on their site and taking it down when it’s time to sell it in stores.  Everybody wins.

Although Rin-Ne is currently the only manga Viz is releasing simultaneously with Japan, the company is putting out large quantities of online content for their Ikki and Shonen Sunday lines.  It seems to me that Viz is really just testing the waters here. If sales and advertising bring in enough, then Viz has cornered the market and given scanlators a real run for their money. Then again, there are some series, such as Bleach, where the Japanese version is way ahead of the U.S. releases, allowing scanlators to put up chapters that the U.S. publishers haven’t gotten to  yet.

Viz isn’t the only publisher with similar plans in the works or already online, but so far they are the only one to have done so to such an extent. Will such control revolutionize the industry and prevent scanlators from taking away valuable profits? Not completely.

In the end, the manga industry in America isn’t nearly the same size as Japan’s. This is a great solution for some series that are just being released like Rin-Ne or are relatively unheard of like  most everything from Ikki, but not for others that have already been released or extremely popular such as Bleach. At the same time, some of the manga that scanlators pick up will probably NEVER be published in the U.S. for lack of popularity, for their content being offensive or controversial or for just being old and scanlations bring about the only way for them to be read by non-Japanese speakers. But sometimes, it’s just a matter of not knowing whether a series will be picked up by U.S. publishers.

What’s your take on the rise of online content from manga publishers?

An article on Rin-Ne from Deb Aoki.

An article on Ikki’s U.S. debut.

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