10 Years of Yuri, 10 Years of Yuricon

August 22nd, 2010

It was August, that much I can remember. What date *exactly* it was, I don’t know.

It was 2000. I had attended a convention that June and was invited to be part of the organizing committee for the next year. When my suggestion that the event also include F/F anime like the at-the-time immensely popular Sailor Moon, I was told that no one cared about that. I calmly replied that at least 20% of the organizing committee did, but decided not to fight. That other event pursued the growing M/M audience, then known as “shounenai.” As I’ve said many times since then, there are way more straight women than gay ones, so their audience grew quickly.

But I was sure there was a viable audience for the genre I cared about. I started a site, with a community and online contests. The site was called AniLesboCon, after a fictitious event from a Dreiser fanfic. ALC Publishing still keeps that name.

In 2001, I corporated and changed the organization name to Yuricon, to reflect the word I felt more adequately described the genre.

In 2003, we held our first 3-day convention for Yuri. In 2003 ALC Publishing was born. In 2003 Yuri Shimai magazine launched in Japan. It would fold in 2005, and be bought by Ichijinsha, relaunched as Yuri Hime. In 2005, we held our Yuricon in Tokyo event. In 2007, we held a Yurisai event and co-hosted Onna!, a second-three day event.In 2008 we held a launch party for Yuri Monogatari 6.

I had honestly intended to hold a big 10th anniversary bash this year. I had hoped to be working on a title for ALC Publishing that would blow you all away. But these projects haven’t happened.

There’s a lot of reasons why, but a major factor is lack of stability in my life. Since 2005, I have had a series of years can only be described as “unstable.” Right now, I’m working full-time again for the first time in several years. But I can’t in good conscience sink money into probably-unprofitable projects, when I may well need to use that money to pay my mortgage. I’m not trying to be maudlin, I just want you all to know *why* you haven’t seen anything from Yuricon or ALC Publishing recently. I don’t consider either entity defunct.

This recession has come with a lot of “other” issues, as well. For publishing companies, specifically, this is a time of unprecedented pressure. Readers want books digitally, immediately for free – or they want them in print, but at a reasonable cost. (Reasonable determined by them, of course.) Neither method is reliable, stable, cost-effective or manageable at this point.

A publisher needs to have at least one big title to support the little titles. I had actually licensed that big title this year, all we needed to do was sign the paperwork. But when I worked out the costs of printing that book, it was going to be about $50,000 to get it all out there. Even idealistically, if I overshot my real sales estimates, I was only going to be able to make back half that…even if I sold out on every volume. The buying Yuri market for English translated titles is about 2500 people right now. And that over a lifetime of a book, not right out of the gate. A manga basically needs to sell about 4000 copies to make it worth printing now, with costs being what they are. I hadn’t worked with any stability for more than 5 months at a time for the last 5 years…. I had to walk away. It broke my heart, don’t think it didn’t. I was wrong about the “viable” part, because – so far, anyway – the Yuri market has not proved viable for any company.

There is no doubt in my mind that there are more people than ever before who want me to run a Yuricon event, or license a Yuri title. Unfortunately, there actually aren’t more people who will attend that event, or buy that book. Scanlations have grown the audience, not the market. Over the past few years, sales of Yuri books that did make it over here were not really even mediocre. There aren’t too many publishers (other than me and Seven Seas) that will even consider taking a risk at this point, simply because these books do not sell. If Aoi Hana were to be licensed, at a guess the first volume might sell 3000 copies, and the second probably wouldn’t break 2K, because everyone has the scans and why should they buy it? Manga artists are far away and already got paid for the work; they aren’t real people to most of you. Publishing companies are THE MAN and deserve to not make anything. My god, if I thought I could break even licensing that title, I’d take the risk in a heartbeat, but you know…I can’t. And neither can anyone else.

I’m not saying Yuricon or ALC is dead, because they aren’t.

What I am waiting for, in regards to ALC, is the format wars to settle down. We have a omnibus volume of Rica ‘tte Kanji!? we’d like to print electronically, but I can’t invest the time to do 4 different formats right now. And printing on paper no longer makes any sense at all for me. It’s a lose-lose proposition. I’m holding off until there’s a solution for you, the readers, and me the publisher, that makes sense for both of us.

Yuricon isn’t dead, either. I had hoped to throw a bash this year, as I said, but venue after venue collapsed, one literally. (There’s nothing that’s good about a roof collapse, let me tell you.) So, I’m going to keep doing what I have been doing – reporting on Yuri, keeping your fingers on the pulse, encouraging you all to be the market for Yuri and help it grow, not just an audience that demands but does not support. Yuri as a genre is still very young in Japan and goes through growth spurts and depressions, like any child. And the once-insanely lucrative BL market has flattened out. So despite the apparent growth of Yuri in Japan, it hasn’t *quite* really made it here yet. It will. Be patient, be supportive and it will.

We’re still riding the last bit of a global recession, on an obscenely swift shift in reader requirements and technology and the last shakeouts of a manga bubble that has burst in the west.

These past ten years have been amazing for Yuri. Like all 10 year olds, things are kind of awkward right now – I predict it’ll get just a little bit more awkward over the next few years.

For ALC Publishing, I predict a shift to digital and then a slow growth phase, as we transition old materials and produce new materials in the new format.

For Yuricon, well, the 10th anniversary of our first 3-day event is in 2013. I’ll do my damndest to throw that 10th anniversary bash by then. :-)

For Yuri, I predict a sine-wave of growth and entropy that inexplicably peaks every other year on odd-numbered years, spurts driven by anime, but always grown steadily by manga.

And I predict that 10 years from now, we’ll be having this conversation at a ballroom somewhere, as we hand out lifetime achievement awards at our 20th anniversary Yuricon event. :-)

I would like to thank every one of you, the readers, supporters, staff of Yuricon, ALC and Okazu. I would like to especially thank all of you who are my friends. I will keep working to keep Yuricon & ALC alive, but I couldn’t do it without you.

Happy Anniversary, everyone!

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25 Responses

  1. Thespi says:

    Ooh! I may be number one! wow!

    Anyways, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

    I try to do my best to actually support The Industry, but you are so correct in saying how the recession has really done a number on a lot of things (especially my anime/manga budget) :(

    Also, I will admit, I’m one of the people who currently very much likes the feel of real paper books over digital (I can take a book with me).

    And, I truly hope in a couple of years, MY income will allow me to be there at the big Yuricon Anniversary Bash! (since I’ll be traveling from the West Coast)

  2. Eric P. says:

    It’s hard to believe I started following Yuricon at the halfway point. I for one wish you and Yuricon long continuing luck.

    Happy Anni!

  3. Mara says:

    Yay ten years. Here is to ten more.

    Very few people do something of this scale for so long you should be very proud.

    Also I am personaly thankfull for the succsess/falure rates in acutal numbers. Weather or not they are accurate that makes it much more understandable.

  4. Johnny says:

    May the future will be better for Yuri in USA… and more better in France, the country where Yuri market looks like more a desert than a green grass (i couldnt help it :p) !!

  5. Pattie says:

    Darling wife, you’ve done so much and given so generously. I’m thrilled Yuricon is ten years old, but even prouder that you’ve touched, enriched and gathered so many wonderful people to you.

    To me, that is your greatest accomplishment. Keep up the amazing work.

  6. BruceMcF says:

    Regarding format ~ the critical question is whether to DRM or not.

    Following the fingerprint-but-don’t-DRM path, a common archival format and automatic generation from a base format to any of the main reader formats provides independence from the format wars. And of course, the individual DRM of specific channels can always be laid on top of non-DRM’d material.

    And that is, after all, the foundation of the suggestion I made regarding an extended .CBZ with optional overlays in subdirectories of the main archive … that is a format that can be scripted in either Windows or Unix-derivatives (including Mac) for conversion to open Kindle format, .mobi, which of course Amazon can DRM for their closed version of the format, epub, and PDF, and of course can be read directly (for the baseline images) by any CBZ app.

    And of course, using lossless PNG at high resolution lays the foundation for print on demand, if it comes into the frame for viability for graphic paperbacks.

    None of the set-up for this is costless, but it may be more within the reach of crowdfinancing than a print run.

  7. GregC says:

    There is so much I want to say, but I can boil it down to:

    Congratulations!
    Thank you for everything you’ve done.

  8. Josh says:

    Well, if it wasn’t for this sight, and for Yuricon, then I wouldn’t have found all of the series that i like.

    Keep it up!!!

  9. Rica Takashima says:

    Omedetou gozaimasu!

    Kono 10ne de Yuri world wo hirogeta Erica wa sugoi to omoimasu.
    Kono saki mo ganbari mashou.
    Rica~ no tuzuki, yarimasune!

    ja-mata ne.

  10. @Rica Takashima I could not have done it without you. Thank you for everything.

    いつもお世話になっております。ありがとうございます。

    それで

    。。。やいますやります!^_^

  11. Katherine says:

    Happy 10 Years of Yuricon!! ^___^ And here’s to many more. You’ve done a lot of great work and touched many people’s lives with the time you’ve spent promoting the Yuri genre. Thank you.

  12. Ayana Mudou says:

    Thanks for everything, thanks for all these years of promoting Yuri.

    I congratulate you for all your effort, your reviews and your blogging.

    I also do my best to support Yuri manga ,in japanese and in english.(There aren´t that many titles in spanish, sadly). Some of us, still like the feeling of paper in our hands.

    Cheers for this decade and many decades more!

  13. michiru42 says:

    It’s amazing what you’ve accomplished here. I’m sad to hear about the project you couldn’t publish, but God knows we all understand what it’s like to worry about money now. What’s really cool is that you run the sort of outfit where you tell us about this stuff instead of leaving us in the dark. It’s one of the best reasons to keep coming back here.

    That, the great reviews, and all the Yuri. :)

    Thanks for ten years, Erika. I hope we get at least ten more.

  14. ArcaJ says:

    Congratulations Erica! Thanks for creating a place we can learn about/discuss/obsess over Yuri. When I first found AniLesboCon, I was shocked and amazed that such a community existed. I am so glad that said community has grown and matured over the years. The seeds planted by you and your Yuricon comrades have sprouted all over the Internet and beyond.
    Thanks for all your hard work.
    Here’s to ten more years.

    Cheers Erica!

    ::HUGS::

    Arca Jeth

  15. Judy Justice says:

    Happy anniversary.
    I joined Yuricon in 2001 and it was just amazing that it existed.
    Now, then years from then, it is even more amazing that it still exists.
    Congratulations for your hard work.

  16. ana says:

    Congratulations, Yuri Empress and commander of the US Yuri Corps, ma’am! Here’s to more Yuri in the US! く(>_<)

  17. punistation says:

    Profiting from planting and tending to a community based on love is rare, but watching it grow can be fulfilling.

    I raise my Yuri Goggles high in honor of our Madonna Lily.

  18. Sapphire says:

    Happy Happy 10 years Yuricon!! I would so love to be in a ballroom for the Yuricon Anniversary Bash and meet all the wonderful people!!

    Yuricon has added such sweetness to my life. Thank you everyone! May there be many more fabulous years to come! *CHEERS!*

  19. Jude says:

    Happy 10 year anniversary, and let there be many more. I have done nothing but admire your dedication and hard work and enjoyed whatever you choose to give us. Thank you for letting me be part of the 2003 Yuricon — it remains one of the best con experiences I’ve ever had.

  20. Josh says:

    My bad for the misspell.

  21. Pam says:

    Dear Erica,

    Your blog has become the #1 information booth and a quoted reference for Yuri to many people around the world.
    It has been made possible through your openness, dedication and also true sense of humour.

    (btw, I find it interesting that you were planning a Yuricon kick ass party on your first blog post)

    Please do keep the good work.

    Publishing will be going through crisies for as long as new media technologies will be emerging. DRMs (even expensive ones) will be broken. And the key may be not to focus on valuating the content itself, since it’s virtually free, but rather valuating how the user can interact with it. This requires a change of mindset, and can also be observed by the success observed in the game industry.

    Congratulations and happy anniversary!
    Do get yourself a nice cold beer (or whatever you feel like drinking best) for celebration :)

    ps: To Johnny, France is currently the only country outside Japan which has Aoi Hana licensed. Not bad for a Yuri desert.

  22. Lisa says:

    Thank you so much for all your hard work over the years. I’ve purchased every ALC title and look forward to more, in whatever format is possible.

  23. Apple says:

    First of all, congratulations on ten years!! That is a big accomplishment.

    I am putting on a “How to Draw Yuri” panel at a local convention, and the organizer asked me about that–why Yuri didn’t have the massive following that Yaoi does. And I don’t think it’s as simple as “there are more ‘straight’ women,” because honestly, there is nothing straight about yaoi. Some girls might be convinced that it is a “straight” activity, but I think they are lying to themselves. XD

    It seems to me that Yuri suffers from a perpetual marketing conflict. With Yaoi/Boy’s Love, you can market it under the genre of “yaoi” along with whatever sub-genre it might fall into. The word “yaoi” is a selling point, in and of itself, because the readership of yaoi is generally one group of people. Yuri, on the other hand, has never achieved success as a single market, probably because there are several different groups/types of readers that read Yuri, and you have to market to them in different ways. What works to get a seinen fan to read Yuri isn’t what works to get a shojo fan to read Yuri. This type of fragmented reader support creates a problem when you want to market a story as a “Yuri” and not as a “shojo.”

    That’s the answer I gave her, anyway.

  24. Pat says:

    Wow, 10 years. Happy anniversary! I think that it was in 2001 or 2002 that I first went to one of your Yuri panels at AnimeNorth. It was pretty cool. I did everything that I could to secure a few days off for the first Yuricon. I had just started a new job a few months before, and shockingly still have the same employer. I’ve got a lot more say in when I get time off, so as long as I know a few months ahead of time you can count me in as staff for the 10 year event!

    Thank you for continuing the good fight for Yuri. You’re one of the most well informed people I know in regards to publishing. I find our chats to be highly informative, and my respect for you continues to grow. I understand what it is to have unreliable work. Your friends understand how your priorities have to fall. Congratulations on the steady income. Congratulations on the 10 year anniversary, your anniversary with the wife, staying mostly sane, and still breathing. Keep up the good work.

  25. @Pat Meeting you and so many wonderful people is the best thing about Yuricon!

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