A couple of interesting items to start the year off!
Erin is excited to share the news that a *new* Yuri manga magazine is jumping on the bandwagon. I’m going to quote Erin from the Yuricon Mailing List because not plagiarizing would require work…lol;
“Tsubomi (Bud) is coming out from Houbunsha (the publisher that does Manga Time Kirara). It will be quarterly, and the first issue is due out February 12. The artists include:
Kizuki Akira (who did “Needles and Oranges”)
Hoshiai Hiro (who did “Shining Mars” in Yuri Tengoku)
So, some familiar names and some new ones. Yuri na Hibi speculates that Morinaga’s story will be a continuation of the NanaxHitomi series, but I guess we’ll see.”
I’d like to add that Kirara supplies a significant portion of “4-koma comics with Yuri” to the free world, so this isn’t a humongous leap into the unknown for them. :-) Thanks Erin for the great news!
Also an interesting catch from the back of Yuri Hime S, Ichijinsha is reprinting Pure Marionation by Takagi Noboyuki, who is doing Cassiopeia Dolce for YHS, and just finished Magie Paire for Gum. I think this is a wise move. You can take a look at my reviews for Volume 1 and Volume 2 some years ago. Clearly that series was printed before it’s time – now the audience that can appreciate it is a little more consolidated. If you like his service-filled, hyper-cute style, consider getting this title when it comes out again.
The first episode of Maria-sama ga Miteru 4th season aired. If you haven’t watched it already, of course I recommed you do. Because it’s back to TV format, it’s very fast paced – much faster than the novel from which it comes. The OP embodies “whimsical” and the EP shoves the Yuri firmly up our noses. And…get used to Touko. She’s not going away any time soon. :-)
For something *entirely* different, the Queen’s Blade anime trailer can be watched on YouTube. Honestly, set your expectations on “low” then notch them down just a bit and you should be good to enjoy this series! :-) On the positive side, this series does that thing which I thought we’d lost forever – making women look like adults, with adult bodies, rather than infantilizing them. So that’s a bonus.
Advice to Anime/Manga Companies for 2009
This last thing is someting I’ve been thinking about for a while. In a sense this is advice for companies seeking to enter the “Yuri” market here in the US. Japanese companies are now starting to really take some chances with their Yuri and trying to develop the market. But here, we’re seeing disppointment and retraction of company interest in the Yuri market. Obviously ALC Publishing has always been a boutique publisher. We’re publishing what we want, at our own pace, the way we want it. I can’t afford to – nor do I wish to – compete with companies like Tokyopop or Seven Seas. But where they are all pulling back from forays into Yuri, I have no intention of doing so. That having been said, I think a lot of this advice is relevant to any anime or manga publisher who is considering marketing a niche title to a western audience.
So, here’s my advice for any company seeking to enter a niche manga/anime market in 2009:
“Audience” does not have any relationship to “market.”
If you see 10,000 posts saying “I want series XYZ,” that does not in *any* way translate into sales of 10,000 copies.
I think most fans and probably a lot of the less business intelligence-focused companies have serious cognitive dissonance about this. Fans genuinely believe that the Yuri market is tens of thousands of people strong, when in fact, outside Japan it is tens of dozens strong. A good, strong book sales for a purely niche title is about 2000 copies. (This is based on business intelligence I have gathered from a number of sources.) I can think of several “highly anticipated” releases that did so poorly – less than 500 copies – that the company has killed the series. Which brings me to;
It’s no one’s fault. No matter what the “anti-guy” says.
You know the “anti-guy – s/he’s the person who posts and posts and posts all over forums and blogs about how s/he’d buy that book/series “if only” the company did something else/better/different. But in reality, for all the noise s/he makes, at best s/he only buys 1 copy of any given book, and most probably doesn’t buy *any.* Do NOT listen to the anti-guy. In fact, ban the anti-guy from your forums. S/he sows discord and misery and adds nothing at all helpful to the mix. Ignore the anti-guy. Don’t respond to his/her posts, do not follow his/her swath of fantastic claims and unreasonable demands around the Internet. Do not legitimize him/her. (Other bloggers, that goes for you, too. Stop giving people like this legitimacy as “press.”)
The reality is that the buying audience – the “market” – for niche anime and manga is infintesimally small. No, the market for anime and manga overall in the west is infintesimally small, and niche anime and manga is a microniche of that.
So, please, companies, do not expect to make grazillions in Yuri. If you want to grow the market, there’s a big audience out there. But it will take time – you need to work with them, communicate with them, get to understand where they live online and what they are willing to pay for – and how to gauge potential sales correctly. You also need to be willing to support a series that has potential to move outside the niche with some genuine advertising and promotion. (Thanks to Simon from Icarus Publishing for adding that it’s not enough to temper your own sales expectations, but those of the Japanese publisher as well. And that requires a *very* deft touch. which is absolutely crucial as well.)
Which brings me to my next piece of advice.
It’s time to stop thinking “word of mouth” is good enough.
There is a series I like. I’ve written about it a lot here. I write about it everywhere. But I’m only one person. Perhaps my going on and on sold a few more copies of this series. I’ll be absurdly generous and say that directly or indirectly, I may have been responsible for 100 copies sold.
That’s nowhere near enough.
The thing is, there is a reasonably cheap way to advertise this series at point-of-sale. It involves a radical change of thinking about advertising, and an incorporation of some Japanese-style promotion. Comparatively, it’s not expensive and would absolutely get more people to see this book on the shelf.
It won’t ever happen. (Although, Company X, if you want to know what it is, and how it can be done, feel free to contact me and I’ll tell you how. lol)
I’ve commented on this many times here – in Japan, the collected volume of manga or box set of anime is the *end* of a long stream of promotion and distribution. Here in the west, it’s the beginning and the end. Volume comes out, volume gets bought, volume goes away. There are a few magazines that have serialization, and few series get TV releases, but for most Yuri titles – most anime and manga titles – there is no Cartoon Network, no Anime Network, no Yen Plus, no Shoujo Beat. Book comes out, Company ABC relies on fans to talk about it, runs a few contests, sends out some press releases, review copies…and that’s it.
Stop. Please. You’re forcing me, a fan, a reviewer, a person of influence, into browbeating people for *you* so *you* can make a profit. Do your own business intelligence – find out *where* to make announcement, find out *who* to turn into advocates and for god’s sake – look outside the anime/manga world. I can think of half a dozen series off the top of my head that would easily be marketable to any “person who doesn’t read manga or watch anime.” (For example – why the hell doesn’t the Black Lagoon anime advertise on Spike TV? I mean, seriously. There’s a HUGE audience right there. I know, I know…money. But there’s an old business adage “To make money you have to spend money.” Nowhere is this more true than when you are trying to grow an audience into a market.) I market *my* manga to the GLBT audience. Why aren’t you out there markteing yours to children/teens/adults who like similar non-manga/anime stuff?
I don’t expect too many companies to come running, singing paeans of thanks for my advice, but if you happen to be a company and do want to understand what I am saying, I have 20+ years of marketing and business intelligence background I bring to this issue. I’m not blowing smoke – there are answers for all these issues. They just might take time – and possibly a complete rethinking of everything you’re doing right now. :) But, it’s not impossible. Call me.
So that’s my thoughts for the first week of 2009. Here’s to a terrific, Yuri-ful New Year!