Back in May, I mentioned that the manga industry sales dropped by 20% and now, Rich Johnson, former DC vice president of sales and co-publisher at Yen Press has his theory as to why.
According to him, it’s not all due to piracy, the recession, retail buying changes (i.e. less manga being put on the shelves), less female manga readers, or manga’s being a fad – rather it’s “manga burnout” and manga’s not “growing up” with the audience.
During the past ten years, the output of manga titles was staggering. At first almost everything published made it onto the shelves. A few years later when the shelves were buckling under the weight of all the books published, I would hear sales reps for manga complain that some titles were being bought in smaller quantities than they expected. Some titles were passed on altogether. Publishers were shocked at this and they thought the answer to this problem was more shelf space, always more shelf space. Titles weren’t passed on because of a lack of shelf space; some of the books just weren’t that good. And the consumers only have so much money they can spend any given month.
…I think the core fans grew up. The early fans who started with Sailor Moon are now in their late teens or early twenties or older. If indeed most of the manga published in the last dozen years has been aimed at teens, well then… teens grow up. Just like teens age out of the YA section in bookstores and migrate over to the adult section, they also age out of teen manga books.
I agree that there is only so much that we consumers can purchase but not everyone likes all the series that come out. My apples may be someone else’s orange and vice versa and that may be another reason why we are not buying as much. As for his second point, I think it has to do more with the stories than the young hero’s and heroine’s in the manga. I still read manga and books that star young characters; manga’s like Yotsuba&! and Full Metal Alchemist, and books like Percy Jackson and Harry Potter. If I like the story, I will read and maybe buy the volume otherwise, I’ll pass it over just like any other literature, movie, or music.
Johnson goes on to make some suggestions to improve manga sales such as 1) publish more manga aimed at adults, 2) an outlet for the future writers and authors who have been influenced by manga, 3) publishers choose better series, 4) publish more lower-priced omnibuses of classic works which I’ve actually seen Viz do with Dragon Ball and Rurouni Kenshin. Despite the falling sales, I think this is a good time to start fresh and begin new avenues in the manga industry. Whether Johnson’s suggestions is the way to go is yet to be seen but it seems like a good start as any.
To read the full article and lots of comments, drop by Comics Beat.