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The realities of manga

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Today’s Must Read: Yaoi Press publisher Yamila Abraham explains the reality:

1. OEL manga must sell much better than licensed titles to be successful, because it’s at least 3 times more expensive to publish. It is absolutely cheaper to license manga than to produce OEL works. The idea that companies were making their own graphic novels in order to save money is a myth. It’s cheaper and easier to license titles than to create them from scratch.

2. Unfortunately, opportunities for OEL manga creators are almost zero in the USA right now. A sad fact is that OEL manga that sold well, even as well as licensed titles, were still publishing money-pits. There is no incentive for publishers to continue taking chances on relatively expensive new talent.

3. Large publishers which still appear to have calls for OEL submissions are actually looking for licensed properties. Not licenses from Japan. They want to do manga adaptions of Dean Koontz novels, or manga based on CSI. This is why the encourage artists to submit far more than writers. They don’t want writers submitting their unproven original ideas. They want artists to draw the ‘Star Wars’ manga, etc.

These three pessimistic points are the reality right now. All of us on the industry side of OEL know it.


Abraham goes on to explain how Yaoi Press has kept going, despite the yaoi glut, via hard work and knowing their audience.

[Link via Brigid]

  1. The obvious solution is to move away from a manga “style” in your art, and find your own, unique style, a hybrid of influences. If you’re not locked into OEL, there are dozens of publishers still interested in original, creator-owned projects.

    Plus, there’s at least one publisher gearing up for original creator-owned graphic novels, at least some of which are OEL, and that’s Viz Original Comics.

  2. Question? What’s the difference between OEL Manga and an OGN? Size? Thickness? Panels per page?

    It’s all comics. Why insist on creating a category that may or may not really have any bearing on the actual content of the book?

  3. “The idea that companies were making their own graphic novels in order to save money is a myth. It’s cheaper and easier to license titles than to create them from scratch.”

    Although it may surely be true that it’s cheaper for a publisher to license material than to publish original material, it’s also true that a publisher of original material may have broader potential sales when you factor in rights sales.

    Setting aside the more pie-in-the-sky scenario of a publisher benefitting by selling film rights (either in the publisher-as-IP-farm business model or just by being able to publish tie-in editions) there are also less controversial scenarios such as being able to sell other translations. An publisher that retains translation rights to original material might be able to generate worthwhile income by selling translations; a publisher of licensed material is less likely to access such revenue streams, since those rights will likely be retained by the licensor.

    Of course, whether or not a publisher is able to exploit the rights it retains (be they translation rights, or film rights, or whatever else) is a whole other question…

  4. It is exactly this view by publishers, that it is cheaper to license Japanese comic books and translate them into the new book store market, that as an up and coming publisher I find most distressing. Firstly I agree with Alan Moore that Graphic Novel, as well as OEL, Manga, etc., are just marketing terms to describe product within the comic book art form. Licensing Japanese product benefits only Japanese publishers who will simply wait in the wings as this new market is solidified and then step in and cut out the middle man, American publishers. As an American publishers I believe what we will see in the future can best be described as a culture war in a flat world.

  5. I believe this is the sad truth for American manga-ka. People seem to only want to buy Japanese graphic novels, regardless of it being good or not. Perhaps the best choices for these aspiring artists is to change their style to a hybrid (which is hard to do since manga is a very great style, I feel your pain.), or publish themselves in Japan. Perhaps one day manga from all countries will be accepted as manga, regardless of where it originated.

  6. I believe this is the sad truth for American manga-ka. People seem to only want to buy Japanese graphic novels, regardless of it being good or not. Perhaps the best choices for these aspiring artists is to change their style to a hybrid (which is hard to do since manga is a very great style, I feel your pain.), or publish themselves in Japan. Perhaps one day manga from all countries will be accepted as manga, regardless of where it originated.

  7. I believe this is the sad truth for American manga-ka. People seem to only want to buy Japanese graphic novels, regardless of it being good or not. Perhaps the best choices for these aspiring artists is to change their style to a hybrid (which is hard to do since manga is a very great style, I feel your pain.), or publish themselves in Japan. Perhaps one day manga from all countries will be accepted as manga, regardless of where it originated.

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