The talk of the town, so far as manga publishing is concerned, is Brigid Alverson’s excellently-researched piece on manga publishing in 2012 and 2013, over at Publisher’s Weekly. [link]

“… ICv2 CEO and industry analyst Milton Griepp offered a grim take on the manga market: while sales of comics and graphic novels as a whole were up, … manga sales have declined for the past three years and were down 35% in the first half of 2012. The next day, as if in some alternate reality, fans dressed as anime and manga characters crowded the halls of the Javits Center, lined up to get autographs from Moyoco Anno, packed a large room to hear Yoshitaka Amano speak, and competed enthusiastically in trivia games to win swag featuring anime and manga characters. What’s going on here?” – Brigid Alverson, PW

I was interviewed for the article, but unfortunately, due to my own stupid schedule, I got my response to Brigid’s questions in too late for them to be included. Because I couldn’t be a part of the article, I asked Brigid if she would mind me posting my thoughts here (in a slightly edited format). She agreed, and you can feel free to read the following as a footnote to the PW article. :)

I was surprised to see in the ICv2 White Paper that the market had continued to decline because, for us at The Beguiling, sales had stopped falling and plateaued over the past 2 years. Manga remains as important a category for The Beguiling as its been in my decade as the Manager here–and it is the best and most effective category overall for outreach to young readers, and way up there for readership in general.

The demographics have changed and we’ve seemingly lost a generation of readers in their late teens and early 20s to piracy, but the midlist remains very strong in manga as a category and young readers and folks in their thirties and above are still buying books–though probably in conjunction with digital ‘sampling’. The smash hits are fewer and farther between though, and I wouldn’t mind one or two more of those per year.

I continue to be baffled by the inability for the direct market and manga publishers to work together… I’m equally frustrated by Diamond’s reluctance to keep books in stock–or even to reorder them when retailers ask for them!–as I am with publishers’ not recognizing the need for greater education, canon-building, and the continued literary value of their own books. There are titles that remain continually unavailable to the Direct Market, that are part of comics’ literary canon (let alone their extremely prestigious place in manga publishing)… it’s a spectacular failure at every part of the system. As a retailer I regret not making as much noise as I should about the issues, and not fighting as hard as I can.

I’ve always thought that Direct Market stores could benefit significantly from manga as a category, as we have, with the proper investment of time, energy, and perhaps staff resources. Unfortunately those are three things that seem in short supply at most comic shops. In my experience it’s been hard to convince publishers to invest in the Direct Market as a whole when it’s a constant uphill battle. We’ve had great success on a one-to-one with publishers, and at The Beguiling we’re grateful for our strong publisher relationships… but the DM as a whole? Those non-returnable sales could be a huge boon to any publisher’s bottom line. But because the responses from other markets are generally friendlier, more immediately lucrative, and far, far easier, I imagine that’s where the attention will continue to go. I’d love to be proven wrong, though.

- Christopher Butcher, Manager, The Beguiling


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