“One of the things I most hate to see on manga-related forums are comments like, “I’m interested in this series, but I don’t know if they’re going to cancel it, so I’ll wait a bit and see if it continues.”
“You know what practically GUARANTEES that something will get dropped from publication? Not putting your money where your mouth is and picking up volume 1.
“This sounds snarky, and I know everyone has to prioritize his or her budget, especially in tight times, but seriously—this is a business that relies heavily on perceived demand, and how do we know there’s a demand for a title if no one is picking it up? I think there’s an idea in the fandom that the manga market is a lot bigger than it actually is, and if you pass on a volume for now, enough people will still buy it that it’ll stick around for a while. Unfortunately, this isn’t really the case–Manga is a hit-driven business, and most series only get one chance to get out there and succeed.”
– Tokyopop Representative “TPHENSHU” on the realities of manga publishing
Someone named “TPHENSHU” on the Tokyopop website addresses the question of why certain series “go on hiatus”, by turning the practice around and blaming it on the fans.
See, here’s the thing. The rest of that article (http://www.tokyopop.com/TPHenshu/tp_article/3180353.html) is actually a really straight-forward, plainly spoken explanation of how book publication, distribution, and sales works. It’s a smart explanation, and incredibly helpful. Some of the finer points are disagreeable to me personally (particularly the enthusiasm for print-on-demand, though that at least is somewhat tempered by describing it as an ’emerging’ technology) but at the core of the article is a very real problem; the combatative attitude between this Tokyopop employee–and really Tokyopop in general–and their fans. You don’t start off an answer to a frequently asked question on your website by complaining about your customers. You don’t do any one of dozens of weird aggressive things Tokyopop has done over the past 10 years or so (running Sailor Moon in the same magazine as Parasyte? Really?), but that’s a big one.
And the thing is I don’t disagree with the frustration expressed by the TP staffer. Standing behind the counter at the store, it can be brutal to hear customers say things like “I really like that series but I’m not going to buy it because they might drop it half way through.” Hell, it’s even more angering to hear a customer (or potential customer) say “I’m not going to buy that because I already read it online.” But if I responded to such comments with, say, “People like you saying things like that is what’s killing manga!” I would get creeped-out, blank looks as the once-potential-customers backed out of the store, never to return.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is unacceptable.
If you want to be “that guy” who attempts to treat every uninformed statement by a potential customer as a “teachable moment,” go ahead. His name is Jeff Anderson. (Admittedly I do pick my battles on this front, only engaging folks on the subject of piracy who, after saying something dumb, twig to the fact that saying something like that out loud was at least slightly socially inappropriate in a store dedicated to selling such material.)
But look at the history of manga publishing in North America and you can see it’s filled with unexpected and unfair treatment of customers, particularly in regards to series dropped in the middle of runs. Even putting aside the incredibly poor business decision of randomly insulting your customers, how can you really blame anyone who’s had their heart broken when it comes to a favourite manga series for being cautious on future series? A reader who has 14 volumes of a never-to-be-completed 26 volume series looks at those books on their shelf and feels personally and financially betrayed, a loss of hundreds of dollars, dozens of hours, all from a company who won’t even acknowledge the fact that they’re cancelling the series publicly, or the reasons for it. Manga publishers’ behaviour regarding series cancellation (“going on hiatus”), and Tokyopop’s in particular, have been absolutely abhorrent. For them to criticize their fans for ill feelings that they created?