The State of Manga: Links to Share
Ok, I said I wasn’t going to be posting regularly for a while but these industry-specific posts just kept coming and coming. How could I not share them?
Why Manga Publishing is Dying and How it Could Get Better
Jason Thompson sums up the state of the industry and details the many problems that plague it, including the recent collapse of Borders last year and the lack of coherent digital strategies from publishers. But he also notes that at a time when sales for mainstream manga is slowing, Japanese self-publishing is stronger than ever and original titles can even go on to become animated blockbusters.
The Japanese market for dojinshi (self-published manga) has grown massively over the last 20 years, even while the mainstream has stagnated…self-published online comics are starting to become hits and get turned into anime, such as Kyo no Nekomura-san, Boku Otaryman, Tonari no 801-chan, and of course the most successful of them all, the megahit Hetalia.
Though of course time spent self-promoting and talking to readers is time away from the drawing board, artists who publish their own stuff are probably going to have more street cred and have less problems with piracy, as opposed to the traditional big-publisher model of secretive artists guarded by their publishers and working in isolation from their fans.
The takeaway here? Big publishers are no longer the only gateways to a comics career so it’s definitely worth your time to explore your options as a comic artist. Those of you who read my blog post on Yen Press’ Talent Search a few weeks ago will remember that this major manga publisher is actively looking for talented individuals but are not necessarily poised to grant them book deals immediately. People who find themselves in my situation then (chosen but passed over) can take advantage of the internet, build a platform and position yourself in a good place for publishing your own work.
Mainstream manga is in somewhat of a rut and it’s up to the people who cherish the medium and who believe in its potential to create and execute fresh stories that demand attention. In this troubled manga market, I firmly believe the best steps an enterprising and dedicated manga creator can do is to work hard on original material, build and maintain a dedicated readership and come up with ways to supplement the material. Don’t wait to be “discovered.” Take control of your creative projects and reach your audience directly.
These links go in-depth with the financial difficulties comic artists face. The reality of the situation is that the life of a comic artist is not a glamorous one. If you’re an aspiring artist with dreams of becoming a gigantic hit, you must understand the likelihood of that happening is sitting right next to none. If you are in this to make lots of money, you are better off learning to code (or some other in-demand profession! XD) However, if you are like me and aware that there is nothing else you’d rather spend your time doing save for creating stories and sharing your art, these posts provide some insight into the challenges ahead.
Also, creators need to start getting creative with their marketing. I’ve yet to see a creator truly use the internet to market their books and generate an audience besides the almost meaningless “hey pre-order issue #” tweet, or the occasional blog. Its not enough. More engagement, more entrepreneurial spirit.
If you want to create comics as a full time “living” you’re going to have to start thinking way outside of the longbox. It can be done. It IS being done. You’ll have to learn to wear more than one hat, and to work your ass off. Not to mention create things that are good. You’re competing with everything else, now more than ever.
My impression from these posts & comments are that making a career out of your art isn’t impossible. With dedication and imagination, you can have comics as a main source of income. Having a day job or freelancing on the side are good to have as well, but I heartily agree with the comments above that encourage “creative” in marketing yourself as an artist. Doing the minimum is not going to be enough. To stand out, an artist has to figure out a way to be worth something to their fans -a resource, a mentor etc. I think it’s definitely a challenge but one that is not impossible to overcome.
I don’t share these links for the purpose of dissuading future artists but to better prepare you for achieving your goals. We need to put our dreams into context and understand the obstacles before we can come up with creative solutions.