Anime & Manga News

North American Manga Publishers Struggle in Tough Economy

by animedreamer
Nov 30, 2008 2:29 PM | 15 Comments
In the wake of the closing of Broccoli International effective at the end of the year, several publishers have nevertheless expressed guarded optimism in an environment of decreased sales for most books and comic retailers. Booksellers like Borders, which is in the process of reorganizing, and Barnes & Noble are aggressively reducing the size of their inventories, which in turn is affecting all book publishers. Shoujo manga sales in particular are dependent on sales through the major bookstore chains.

Sales of manga and graphic novels in general have been increasing steadily since the late 1990's, but the growth has slowed in recent years. Most publishers, however, feel that this is more due to the "maturation of the category" rather than lack of interest or spending money. In a recent interview, Kurt Hassler, publishing director of Yen Press, Hachette's graphic novel imprint, that a slow down was "inevitable. It's impossible for [manga] to maintain the same rate of growth that we've seen for the past years." He emphasized that the manga market isn't getting smaller, it's just growing less quickly. Considering that in one decade the market went from nothing to what we have today, the manga market is behaving like a more mature category. Hassler also said, "People are predicting the bust of manga - that's not going to happen."

However most publishers of manga who commented acknowledged that consumers will be more selective, just as retailers are. Kuo-yu Liang, v.p. of sales of Diamond Book Distrubution, a major distributor of graphic novels and pop culture material, says that the major chain booksellers "are putting pressure on mid-sized publishers. They are... stocking less and returning more..." He said that retailer cutbacks will likely affect manga publishers more than conventional comics publishers, who can fall back on comics shops and internet sales, but these avenues represent smaller markets for manga sales, in particular the shoujo manga.

Erik Ko, CEO of Udon Entertainment, a Canadian manga studio that produces manga adaptations of Capcom's Street Fighter videogame series, admitted to reduced orders from Borders, and that most manga publishers will likely have a tough holiday season. The buyers at the chains, "are only buying sure-win stuff." But sales of Street Fighter have not been affected, he said, adding that the problem is less about the kids finding money and more "to get the kids' attention" and "convince the bookstores to carry your books." He pointed out that sales of flagship manga titles like Viz Media's Naruto series are still doing well.

Gonzalo Ferreyra, v-p of sales and product marketing for Viz Media, one of the largest U.S. manga publishers, agreed that the downturn in the economy will affect Viz "to some degree." He expects that the holiday season will see decreased sales as in the rest of the retail market, and has "little doubt the retail traffic and consumer spending will be way down." But he pointed out that "manga (and graphic novels generally) remains a very bright spot in the industry." By "expanding product offerings--in terms of format (e.g. Boxed Sets, Collectors' Editions) and genres (Viz Kids)--and by broadening our customer base."

Simon Jones, of Icarus Comics, which publishes sexually explicit ero-manga, said that as a "specialty publisher", Icarus has a more stable audience that a manga publisher with a broader line, noting that his readers are "more predictable, and dependable." In addition, Icarus manga are sold in comics and specialty shops, so the recent cutbacks of the major book chains aren't having much of an effect on his business.

Liang (of Diamond Distribution) points to a conflict between continuing consumer spending for manga and cutbacks in retail orders. From January to August, manga showed double-digit sales growth and in September, when sales decreased coinciding with the economic downturn, sales were still growing at single-digit rates. Still, store buyers are being cautious. He felt that during this key holiday season, retailers will find they do "not have enough stuff on the shelves."

Liang, agreeing with Ko (of Udon Entertainment), says, "I don't think Watchmen, Naruto, Haruhi Suzumiya or Dark Tower will have problems finding sales. If your product is great, people will want it." However, "will consumers buy one more copy of something else after they get Secret Invasion? Probably not."

Sources:
Publishers Weekly Comic Week, Nov. 25, 2008
PW Comics Week interview with Kurt Hassler, Nov. 4, 2008

15 Comments Recent Comments

animedreamer said:
I think that from the people I talk to, a lot of people (no credit card) who are young can't order from the net.


How is that a problem, exactly? Why can't they ask their parents to buy it for them instead? My father ordered lots of products on Amazon specifically for me (books, games, DVDs) while I was a child. I don't see the issue at all.

According to your logic, there's no way that anything on Amazon marketed for kids attains popularity, since kids can't buy it on their own online.

animedreamer said:

It also said that much of shoujo sales are at the major bookstores, and I can see that. Comic shops are still more the haunt of boys than girls.


Again, what's your point? If you're trying to imply that comic shops are somehow discriminatory against girls, you're wrong.

The reason comic shops are more popular among boys than girls is the same reason video game shops, basketball, and military supply stores are more popular among the male gender; because men like those activities more than women.

You might as well say that a high-end boutique selling couture dresses is discriminatory against men.

animedreamer said:

It would be nice if girls were more able to get access to manga. Maybe libraries?


Again, WHAT? Why libraries?

Why not buy it from either Amazon, a comic book shop, or their local Borders?

Also, serious question; have you ever actually browsed the manga section of your local bookstore? Judging by some of your comments, I would guess the answer would be "no".

That's because I have done so on several occasions, and the percentage of guys and girls was always very close to 50/50.

I guess my local Borders was discriminating though, because "the manga section was still more the haunt of Asians than Caucasians, Hispanics, blacks, etc."

Dec 3, 2008 12:18 AM by YoungVagabond

I think that from the people I talk to, a lot of people (no credit card) who are young can't order from the net. It also said that much of shoujo sales are at the major bookstores, and I can see that. Comic shops are still more the haunt of boys than girls. It would be nice if girls were more able to get access to manga. Maybe libraries?

Dec 2, 2008 7:45 PM by animedreamer

I thought it was reasonably interesting and easy to follow. I am not afraid of text, I can read fine, in fact this is the sort of thing forums should be used for. More of this sort of thing please =)

My take on the topic: in the UK major bookshops have only relatively recently been selling manga, and their stock is rubbish compared to the comic shops, which generally charge the same amount but have better stock, plus all sorts of other stuff like toys and tshirts and DVDs. I have never bought a manga from a major bookshop, and would never look there for anything I wanted, and I honestly think it would be better if they concentrated on text works and leave graphic novels to comic shops. Support your local comic shops, not big chain shops, or failing that buy on the net from dedicated manga or comic shops.

Dec 1, 2008 2:49 AM by YourMessageHere

I am not a news moderator, I only did this because I wanted to encourage the news mods to write more of this kind of stuff. So I am not trying to be the perfect newswriter. I did get my info from elsewhere. I probably could be better in how I present that info. Not everyone knows or reads "the other sites" but as far as I can tell, this is pretty reliable as a source for our purposes here at MAL.

Nov 30, 2008 4:50 PM by animedreamer

animedreamer said:
Post


Oh, YOU wrote that? I just thought you copied and pasted someone else's article from those two sites. In that case, I'll say this; technically, your writing is clear and articulate.

However, there are three elements of writing; technical aspect, how entertaining it is, and how much information it conveys.

The first one is fine, the second doesn't really apply, but for a news story, that piece just doesn't satisfy the third criteria.

I mean, what was I supposed to learn from reading it? If not an industry report with actual numbers, what was the reader supposed to get from that?

At the very least, you should have asked those company representatives whether they would scale back the amount of manga they plan to translate and publish due to lower demand from Borders, whether it will affect less popular titles, or whether they've heard of other publishers going out of business.

animedreamer said:
By the way the article never said anything about razor-thin profit margins.


I know. But if you cover the publishing industry, you'd know this was generally the case, outside of the huge bestsellers.

Which is why I found most of the quotes to be useless PR. Of course we know the fucking "Watchmen" are going to sell like gangbusters around the time the movie is released...I'm more interested in what's going to happen with the smaller titles, like, for example, the Vampire Hunter D novels.

the_seventh_l said:

lol wat.

I'm trying to think how that would be a good marketing strategy, and failing. :S


I'll give them this; their animation style for Street Fighter is fucking awesome. It's extremely one-dimensional, sure, but it's great eye candy.

Plus, as long as they continue getting contracts from Capcom of America to do sprites on HD Remix (which they fucked up the first time, causing the game to be released at least several months later),, and similar projects related to Street Fighter, they'll be fine.

All that is to say is that they're NOT a typical publisher.

Their comics can sell horribly at Borders, but it won't matter, since their contracts with game designers (including a few others besides Capcom) are so lucrative.

Nov 30, 2008 4:11 PM by YoungVagabond

zigawits said:
I liked it. It's good to know how the anime/manga sector is doing


Same here. We need longer articles in the news forum like this~ :D

Nov 30, 2008 4:08 PM by the_seventh_l

I liked it. It's good to know how the anime/manga sector is doing

Nov 30, 2008 4:05 PM by zigawits

Well, I knew my story was long, but I submitted it anyway. I thought that it was interesting. I want to know what's going on in manga publishing in the United States. As far as researching numbers, do people actually want the story to be even longer? It took me a long time to write as it is. The source is a story about the opinions of various manga publishers about how the market is doing now that the economy is worse. I have been thinking for a while that stories need to be more than just whether a manga will be published or not, whether an anime will be made or not. I know I care about what happens to the manga I read: will I be able to get the next volume in my language? Will company X go out of business? English language publishing is relevant to most of the people on this site.

I admit it looks worse when it is posted. I admit, I'm terrible at writing short articles. I tried, and I failed in that category. But don't make the article into something it's not, which is a detailed industry report, if I could do that maybe someone could pay me for the research.

By the way the article never said anything about razor-thin profit margins.

Nov 30, 2008 3:12 PM by animedreamer

ShaolinRibiero said:
And their Street Fighter comics might not sell as well since they were all published and available since like early 2007, and now they're just repackaging and reselling the same exact product.


lol wat.

I'm trying to think how that would be a good marketing strategy, and failing. :S

Nov 30, 2008 2:56 PM by the_seventh_l

Two things about this article;

1) It said absolutely NOTHING. I can summarize it in one sentence; "Growth of manga sales down...but for obvious reasons, company representatives publicly state that it's not a big deal, even though they work on razor thin profit margins."

If we actually had some fucking numbers for sales, total number of manga, etc. it would be less worthless.

2) The quote from Erik of Udon was high comedy. A friend of mine that designs video games has had business dealings with Udon. Laziest motherfuckers ever. The concept of a "deadline" does not exist for them.

And their Street Fighter comics might not sell as well since they were all published and available since like early 2007, and now they're just repackaging and reselling the same exact product.

Nov 30, 2008 2:55 PM by YoungVagabond

freedoleen said:
Well, it was a quote from the source, I've changed it though, thanks.


Why? Let people know how stupid the source is.

Nov 30, 2008 2:42 PM by Plate

Well, it was a quote from the source, I've changed it though, thanks.

Nov 30, 2008 2:42 PM by freedoleen

^ WHAT

I - no words. Just . . . yeah.

Nov 30, 2008 2:36 PM by the_seventh_l

animedreamer said:

Liang, agreeing with Ko (of Udon Entertainment), says, "I don't think Watchman, Naruto, Haruhi Suzumiya or Dark Tower will have problems finding sales.

I don't think Watchman, Naruto, Haruhi Suzumiya or Dark Tower

Watchman


Watchman

Nov 30, 2008 2:35 PM by Plate

I know it's long, let us know what do you think about articles like that, thanks.

Nov 30, 2008 2:30 PM by freedoleen