Deb Aoki of Manga.About.Com recently conducted an interview with some manga fan who wants to start a manga magazine to fill in the gap left by the end of Shojo Beat. His name is Garret and his idea is called Shojo Berry. The interview should never have been granted to Deb, because it’s pretty clear that a) they’re really early in the development of the idea and don’t have answers for some pretty basic questions, and b) dude has no idea what he’s talking about.
“I am unsure if you mean the cost to ShojoBerry or the issue cost. We are hoping to keep the cover price of the magazine between $5 and $7 per issue.
The base cost of the magazine itself will most likely be ~$3 for printing…” – Garret Boast, Shojo Berry
Your raw materials cost is going to be half of your cover price? Really?
Listen, I’ve ripped on more than enough people for embracing the fallacy of digital print-to-order for as a business endeavour, and if a fan or small publisher has decided that this is the best way to get their work to the public, whatever, go for it.
But as a business venture? As someone who, when asked if this was a professional magazine or a fanzine answered “Discerning whether ShojoBerry is a fanzine or a magazine really comes down to the primary intentions as well as the business model.”? Well I hate to tell ya man, but what you’ve got there isn’t just a fanzine, but an incredibly ill-conceived one as well. There are kids in Artist Alleys at anime cons across North America, selling colour photo-copies of traced INU YASHA drawings for 10 bucks a pop, and THEY have a better business model than you.
Man. Reading this article, he’s talking about running off the copies on his “home equipment” which I assume is just a decent laser-printer and a hot-glue gun? I’m all about the mini-comics production model and the idea of creating something that’s a labour of love, but most folks doing mini-comics or print-to-order aren’t ALSO paying to print their content, licensing it from other artists or companies. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of problems with the very basic ideas as laid out. The contradictory points of view on digital delivery (“There’s no point of doing this digitally, unless it fails, then we’ll look into it.” to paraphrase.) are brutal and myopic, but the complete lack of knowledge of the business of comics or manga on display?
This actually hurts my head.
But like I said, the interview should never have been granted, Garret shoulda just held his tongue and said “We’ll be happy to talk to manga.About.com when we’re closer to our launch date!” and then got his ass to some sort of publishing class to learn all of the many things he’s doing wrong.
Listen, I realize I’m coming down way harder on this dude’s bad idea than is warranted, but considering WHERE HE WAS INTERVIEWED and the transparent hubris wafting off of that interview, I’m willing to give this a go. Honestly, I was an optimistic youth, I wanted to run my own manga anthology. Who didn’t? Ask Will Allison, he’ll totally rat me out. It woulda been a great time. But even when I was a 21 year old who’d never printed anything that didn’t come out of a photocopier, I wouldn’t have been so naive as to treat this as a ‘business venture’. At least I like to think I wouldn’t have been… I do remember that at the least my plan involved using someone else’s money to print the thing.
I am honestly and truly a fan of the sort of can-do, let’s put on a show kind of spirit that starts all sorts of projects. I do that stuff all the time. But this dude sounds like he’s… what… in his early-mid 30s at least? I’d be terrified as an advertiser, as a licensor, as someone investing my time in this effort, given the tremendous absence of knowledge about his chosen field that he’s displayed in this interview, or in choosing to GIVE an interview. I see bad business ideas all the time, people approaching us through the store with half a clue and a few hundred bucks looking to start a publishing empire. I can say that, with my many years of experience in bad ideas, Shojoberry is truly special.
- Chris
P.S.: I know that even mentioning any of this is practically daring Garret Boast to show up at my blog and argue or clarify or swear at me, whatever. But if anyone involved with this effort is considering do this, I beg you, don’t. If what you’ve got to offer is what was on display in the manga.about.com interview, just keep your mouth shut and come back to me in 3 months when you’ve figured some shit out. And take solace in the fact that if you do make it and are successful with this endeavour, then I look like a huge asshole, and isn’t that worth something?

Deb Aoki of Manga.About.Com recently conducted an interview with some manga fan who wants to start a manga magazine to fill in the gap left by the end of Shojo Beat. His name is Garret and his idea is called Shojo Berry. The interview should never have been granted to Deb, because it’s pretty clear that a) they’re really early in the development of the idea and don’t have answers for some pretty basic questions, and b) dude has no idea what he’s talking about.

“I am unsure if you mean the cost to ShojoBerry or the issue cost. We are hoping to keep the cover price of the magazine between $5 and $7 per issue.
“The base cost of the magazine itself will most likely be ~$3 for printing…” - Garret Boast, Shojo Berry

Your raw materials cost is going to be half of your cover price? Really?

Listen, I’ve ripped on more than enough people for embracing the fallacy of digital print-to-order for as a business endeavour, and if a fan or vanity publisher has decided that this is the best way to get their work to the public, whatever, go for it.

But as a business venture? As someone who, when asked if this was a professional magazine or a fanzine answered “Discerning whether ShojoBerry is a fanzine or a magazine really comes down to the primary intentions as well as the business model.”? Well I hate to tell ya man, but what you’ve got there isn’t just a fanzine, but an incredibly ill-conceived one as well. There are kids in Artist Alleys at anime cons across North America, selling colour photo-copies of traced INU YASHA drawings for 10 bucks a pop, and THEY have a better business model than you.

Man. Reading this article, he’s talking about running off the copies on his “home equipment” which I assume is just a decent laser-printer and a hot-glue gun? I’m all about the mini-comics production model and the idea of creating something that’s a labour of love, but most folks doing mini-comics or print-to-order aren’t ALSO paying to print their content, licensing it from other artists or companies. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of problems with the very basic ideas as laid out. The contradictory points of view on digital delivery (“There’s no point of doing this digitally, unless it fails, then we’ll look into it,” to paraphrase.) are brutal and myopic, but the complete lack of knowledge of the business of comics or manga on display?

This actually hurts my head.

But like I said, the interview should never have been granted, Garret shoulda just held his tongue and said “We’ll be happy to talk to manga.About.com when we’re closer to our launch date!” and then got his ass to some sort of publishing class to learn all of the many things he’s doing wrong.

Listen, I realize I’m coming down way harder on this dude’s bad idea than is warranted, but considering WHERE HE WAS INTERVIEWED and the transparent hubris wafting off of that interview, I’m willing to give this a go. Honestly, I was an optimistic youth, I wanted to run my own manga anthology. Who didn’t? Ask Will Allison, he’ll totally rat me out. It woulda been a great time. But even when I was a 21 year old who’d never printed anything that didn’t come out of a photocopier, I wouldn’t have been so naive as to treat this as a ‘business venture’. At least I like to think I wouldn’t have been… I do remember that at the least my plan involved using someone else’s money to print the thing.

I am honestly and truly a fan of the sort of can-do, let’s put on a show kind of spirit that starts all sorts of projects. I do that stuff all the time. But this dude sounds like he’s… what… in his early-mid 30s at least? I’d be terrified as an advertiser, as a licensor, as someone investing my time in this effort, given the tremendous absence of knowledge about his chosen field that he’s displayed in this interview, or in choosing to GIVE an interview. I see bad business ideas all the time, people approaching us through the store with half a clue and a few hundred bucks looking to start a publishing empire. I can say that, with my many years of experience in bad ideas, Shojoberry is truly special.

- Chris
P.S.: I know that even mentioning any of this is practically daring Garret Boast to show up at my blog and argue or clarify or swear at me, whatever. But if anyone involved with this effort is considering do this, I beg you, don’t. If what you’ve got to offer is what was on display in the manga.about.com interview, just keep your mouth shut and come back to me in 3 months when you’ve figured some shit out. And take solace in the fact that if you do make it and are successful with this endeavour, then I look like a huge asshole, and isn’t that worth something?


16 Comments on “OMG just take a BASIC BUSINESS COURSE (Shojoberry)”

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  1. Simon Jones says:

    Oh, I commend the reasons they’re doing this, so I want to be nice and call it a “zine with commercial aspirations.”

    Mr. Boast said he was part of a scanlation group in college, and I’d wager that’s probably the background of most of the contributors too. So I want to see this happen. The good side of me thinks scanlators who want to cross over to doing legitimate work is always a good thing. The bad side of me is grinning with devilish delight at the thought of a scanlator being confronted with the harsh realities of publishing for the first time. Doing things the hard way, doing things the right way… it makes people grow up real fast and changes world views, yeah?

  2. dave merrill says:

    They won’t listen, they have to find out for themselves. Eh, it’s only their college fund.

  3. Chris says:

    Simon- You’re a really small manga pub. But you do an incredibly professional job on your releases, you care about the material, and you’ve managed to publish like 40 graphic novels and over 100 anthology issues, so you MUST know a thing or two about business by this point, right? So I’m asking you, when similarly small publishers take on projects and have No Idea what they’re doing, doesn’t that poison the ground for folks like you that approach these ideas in the future? Hell, doesn’t that make approaching a Japanese publisher who’s taken a chance and been burned by an American company before much more difficult? I feel like when these guys fail, they’re not just failing for themselves but poisoning the ground where they were so that nothing ever grows there again.

    I mean, just reading your blog, you’ve floated low five-figure numbers for advances to Japanese publishers just to get a couple licenses, that can’t be because every working relationship with The West went swimmingly.

    Oh, and? AND?! They’re looking to fill in the gap left by Shojo Beat, a magazine full of the (many of) best-selling shojo manga in Japan, with a series of doujin? A magazine with a great staff of professional writers and editors with… a dude whose demonstrated grasp of grammar in that interview is shaky at best?

    I’m all for scanlators and fans paying their dues, working hard, and crossing over and becoming pro. But this doesn’t even have a whiff of that, so amateur is the intent.

  4. Chris says:

    Dave- I guess. I kinda think that when something like this intended for the public fails, it poisons the well for people coming after too. If it was just a couple of folks sinking their savings in, fine, but encouraging submissions and building a staff and all that… and Trading Off Of The Name Of Another Publication as shamelessly as they’ve been doing. Ugh.

  5. howard says:

    The interview states:

    “The magazine will likely not be available via newsstands, within any reasonable amount of time that is.”

    This states to me that a cover price which is 50% higher than the printing cost is possibly reasonable, since there is no store markeup.

    But this certainyl looks like a fanzine:

    “Yes, the price margin of offset printing decreases significantly with the number of copies printed, but we do not have a circulation of 10,000 yet. We don’t have a circulation of 1,000 yet. This is print on demand.

    If we only get five people interested in our first issue, we can print five copies, and it will have cost us $10 in supplies. (Offset printing would cost $978 for a 25-copy run… apparently that’s the minimum qty they will do.)”

    So I’m not really sure what your beef is with them. Contacting doujinshi artists probably makes sense, since those are folks who are, essentially, producing fanzines in japan:

    “Our first path was to put feelers out to amateur manga-ka and/or doujinshi artists in an attempt to license them directly. We are still leaving this route open and are going to ramp up recruiting to see if any viable options come of it.”

    So, I’m really not sure what your beef is with them. You seem to be assuming that they are presenting themselves as big powerful, publishing moguls to Japanese publishers, which strikes me as quite a stretch.

  6. Chris says:

    Howard- Flat out, your first bit where you think that it’s “reasonable” to have materials costs higher than 50% of the cover (particularly for such a low-ticket item) shows that we’re on very different pages.

    Even for a fanzine.

    Even when, when asked directly, Boast can’t come out and just say “Yeah we’re totally a fanzine” without equivocating about “intent” or whatever. My beef is about a complete lack of acumen mixed with both hubris and pretension.

    - Chris

  7. Simon Jones says:

    >when similarly small publishers take on projects and have No Idea what they’re doing, doesn’t that poison the ground for folks like you that approach these ideas in the future?

    Hmm… honestly, that’s hard to say. I tend to think industry-soiling actions come from the top down, not from the bottom up. But you’re right, that’s certainly always a possibility…

    >Hell, doesn’t that make approaching a Japanese publisher who’s taken a chance and been burned by an American company before much more difficult?

    I’m already assuming that Shojoberry won’t be able to land a commercial license directly from Japan, at least not for a whole book (Shojoberry certainly wouldn’t need it anyway), with the kinds of terms that trade publishers are used to. Unless they’re prepared for an exchange of monies beforehand.

    Manga licensing has been around long enough that there’s a common set of expectations. There’s always an advance. The license is always limited to only a few years and must be renewed. Books have to be published within a specific time frame and print run targets must be met. I guess what I’m saying is that Japanese companies overall already protect themselves quite well, and even if they were burned, the next person just has to come along with enough cash in hand, and everything will be fine again. In this respect, poor licensing etiquette and commercial failure are not really the top concerns… it’s everything in the unpredictable “other” category. Such as doing something to a book that completely offends the artist, who may then swear never to allow another damn foreigner to handle his/her work again. Companies don’t take things personally, but artists/individuals do.

    >I mean, just reading your blog, you’ve floated low five-figure numbers for advances to Japanese publishers just to get a couple licenses, that can’t be because every working relationship with The West went swimmingly.

    Yeah, it’s pretty much standard by now. But, at least in the specific genre we work in, we were not burdened with past licensing disasters. In fact, the company we work with has *never* done any licensing to the US prior. Given their complete lack of expectations, we could have used a lot of colorful language and grandiose promises to get the licenses without money down. But research was done, math was crunched, a reasonable offer was made, and they accepted. There was no back-and-forth negotiating on the offer at all, because they could see it was fair, based on realistic estimates, and minimized their risk. We even send them a little extra along with the royalties every time; in turn, they always send manuscripts to us pre-scanned from the original art pieces. So I think as long as there are people who make every effort to be upfront, the industry needn’t worry too much about charlatanry from the fly-by-nights, or sincere miscalculations by the inexperienced.

  8. Chris says:

    “In fact, the company we work with has *never* done any licensing to the US prior. Given their complete lack of expectations, we could have used a lot of colorful language and grandiose promises to get the licenses without money down. But research was done, math was crunched, a reasonable offer was made, and they accepted.”

    Simon, thanks a lot for your insight, I really appreciate it.

    - Chris

  9. Ryan says:

    Great post! I heard about them a while ago and had many a palm-to-face moments when reading the About interview. I am looking forward to seeing what happens with them, but was more interested to hear what indie pubs like Simon (or Last Gasp or numerous others) would say about their “approach”.

    As someone who does a zine/vanity project with friends, it’s interesting (terrifying? hilarious?) to see the way other people approach their own pet projects.

    Thanks Chris!

  10. Rick Bradford says:

    I know very little about the manga side of the industry, the work or its fans but I have to chuckle. This is a lot of hubbub over a publisher who’s apparently prepared to only print between five and 25 copies of their project.

    Here’s another quote from the interview:
    “We have not taken the economic climate and health of the print magazine industry into account, primarily because this project does not have to be self sustaining initially.”

    Seems to me “business plan” doesn’t necessarily even enter into the equation. That comment essentially says “it’s a fanzine sort of project but it would be cool if it started paying for itself at some point.” Which he reiterates a bit later. This isn’t an uncommon sentiment in the world of photocopier/POD publishing in general.

    Really, all of the answers are in his response to the first interview question.

    But, again, I’m not tuned to that community so I’m probably speaking out of turn. But I wish the guy luck.

  11. Doraemon, Dragon Ball, and Domu « MangaBlog says:

    [...] Butcher critiques the Shojoberry business model at Comic212, and he critiques it pretty hard. Read the comments for [...]

  12. THE BEAT » Blog Archive » Kibbles ‘n’ Bits 10/27/2009 says:

    [...] § Chris Butcher mildly suggests that possessing some knowledge of business is a good idea before launching a business. [...]

  13. Journalista – the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Oct. 27, 2009: Raw materials says:

    [...] “Your raw materials cost is going to be half of your cover price? Really?” – Christopher Butcher [...]

  14. Lou Shumaker says:

    At the risk of sounding like Grampa Simpson, back when Dungeons & Dragons was the big thing, I met a number of guys who started gaming companies based on a single idea, only to run into the buzzsaw of reality.

    Big ideas, big plans, not a lot of follow through and many of them failed, leaving behind a lot of unsold product and hurt feelings.

    So, if not for this guy, anyone else considering getting into the business really needs to take their time, ask questions, get quotes on printing and learn from others’ mistakes.

    A great idea isn’t enough. It takes time, patience, and endurance to create anything worthwhile.

  15. Jason Green says:

    His heart’s in the right place, but I honestly can’t see this venture being all that successful. There’s so much professionally made manga out there that I can’t imagine there being that much of an audience for doujinshi…I mean, if there was, wouldn’t Antarctic Press have kept in that business, or wouldn’t Studio Ironcat still be around? The spirit of it kind of reminds me of the anthology Chibi Pop Manga, and that only lasted 9 issues.

  16. Manga Xanadu » Blog Archive » This Week in Manga 10/24-10/30/09 says:

    [...] to get more info on it with an interview with Garett Boast.  Chris Butcher of the Comics 212 blog wasn’t impressed with what he heard.  Mainly he takes issue with the apparent lack of a business plan, or even any [...]

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