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!