Today on Tiamat’s Disciple (link via Mangablog,) there was an interesting post about how Light Novels are failing here in the west, a point of view that has been echoed by publishers and others. In a moment of weakness, I wrote a comment and in another, I want to share it with all of you, and hopefully, a few of the publishers that might possibly see it.
We’re bumping up once again on the dichotomy between “projections” and reality.
In Japan, LNs have magazines of their own, the audiences of which overlap, but do not completely merge with, the audience of either anime or manga for a series.
The Japanese LN audience is well established before a collected volume is ever put out. Fans are drawn into LN sales through advertising in anime, manga, CDs, live performances and other media, like web radio.
The same is true with manga (through weekly, monthly, bimonthly and quarterly manga magazines) and anime (TV and satellite station weekly and monthly distribution.) Advertising is constant, word of mouth is a negligible factor.
Bring these media over here where there are – completely legitimate – delays to releasing a series in any medium, where word of mouth and “next big thing” are just about the only advertising done and where the audience has been trained by itself to feel entitled to immediate, free and “good enough” releases.
So when I see that LNs, or any other medium, are selling “below projections” I roll my eyes. Who is projecting that suddenly 5000 people will spontaneously want to buy the Light Novel upon which an inexplicably terminated, unfinished, although lush, anime was based – an anime that came out several years ago, no less.
I love LNs, myself. Even those that are brainless rip-offs of their own series, in a desperate attempt to wring more money from a cash cow. *I* am the correct audience for Maria-sama ga Miteru LNs. I am older, I keep up on the series as it comes out in Japan, and I have discretionary income. Is the average 15 year old girl – who has never heard of Maria-sama ga Miteru, and why on earth would she pull out an LN called Mary Watches You anyway, ever truly likely to read it, much less buy it?
The fault lies not in our stars – it lies in the lies that the companies are calling their “projections.” If the Japanese companies are dictating the number of books they think American companies can sell, then it’s time to grow a pair and *make* them understand that, without the barrage of advertising and the streams of distribution, their projections are as real as the worlds in their LNs.
We’ve all been talking about the fansub/scanlation issue to death. LNs are not failing because of scanlations. They are failing because it is time for American companies to stop acting like beaten curs. Stop sticking your collective tails between your collective legs and state the facts as they are. The American buying audience is a few thousand strong – at best. Stop lying about it. Rework your projections and admit that you’re all working in a teeny-tiny grassroots industry. Then grow it for real, like every other company has to – through advertising, promotion and quality products. If fandom bitches that it’s not good/fast/cheap/free enough, tell them to fork over money or stfu.
The boom is over – now let’s get down to business already.