A look at why the UK manga market gets no love, and probably never will.

Posted on June 24th, 2010 by Ryu Sheng | 1 Comment

Disclaimer: This post is based on my personal views as a fan, and from talks with reps from companies over the years. I am not in publishing industry especially manga publishing, so this is nothing more than my own personal views.

Earlier this evening I was having a chat with @allaboutmanga (sorry don’t know your name hehe) about manga publishers in the UK.

After we were done I figured it would be nice to put what we talked about into an actual post.

Over the years I’ve seen a growing resentment towards publishers from british fans because of the lack of love we get over here.

While I agree, and understand the resentment, I also understand why the american publishers don’t show us british any love. There’s no money in it.

It’s a sad fact, but that’s what it boils down to. Most manga licensed these days is licensed for the UK as well as the US, however the costs involved in releasing to the UK market make it all but impossible to turn a profit here.

What a lot of british fans tend to forget (understandably) is that the UK is small potatoes. In fact most states in the US are larger, and a few are so large you can fit the UK in a few times over.

That in itself is just part of the problem. The biggest problem is the cost of shipping the volumes of manga over to the UK.

If a publisher was looking for dual release those costs would be sky high ferrying them over from the US to the UK and then to the stores. I don’t know of any publisher that does dual release across their range these days.

Having the volumes printed within the UK is an option, however the cost issue comes up again, as does the loss of quality control that would accompany it..

The big issue is the £ versus $ fluctuations, profits would rise and fall like a yoyo making it hard to justify running a UK branch.

Everyone says manga is a niche market, the UK market is smaller than that. Why would any american company want to take the risks for such a small profit margin?

Of course it doesn’t help matters, or feelings, when the publishers rub salt in the wound. For example, Viz will ever few years, do a release in the UK. Last time they chose Flame of Recca and Buso Renkin for their ‘test’ run.

Naturally these titles didn’t sell well, why? Well who would buy a series they already own? Viz never seems to take into account the fact that when they pick a series that is complete, or almost complete in the US, it’s all but guaranteed that the brits are going to be complete as well.

This happens because british book stores have ties and partnerships with american stores, which makes importing titles easy(ish), if a bit costly.

They also seem to fail to understand that the US and UK can not be marketed and promoted the same way.

In the US comic shops are pretty common place and easy to find. However in the UK they’re a dying breed. So the US standard of promoting manga through comic stores just wont reach many people.

Also, the Previews catalogue is fast becoming a rip off for british manga fans. For example, I ordered both volume 1 and 2 of Cactus’s Secret from my local comic store using previews. When they arrived I picked the up and checked the price. They’re marked as being £6.99 a volume, but because I ordered through Previews in my comic shop, I was charged £7.99 each. £1 extra because without that the store would have made next to no profit. It comes from the title going through three hands before it reaches the customer.

The odd thing is if I ordered it through my local book store, it would have been £5.49-£5.99 (depending on store). This is due to the buying power behind the companies. Comic stores may only order a few copies of a volume, so they get charged more. Where as book stores, especially national ones, will buy in bulk, thus get charged considerably less.

And that’s the point publishers don’t seem to have learnt yet. In the UK it’s not comic shops that get manga to fans, but the book store chains.

Book stores don’t push manga because it’s such a small source of revenue for them, and publishers seem to want to push manga through comic stores which are dying off.

Since both sides of the equation can’t seem to grasp things, and don’t seem to want to change, then manga sits in limbo.

One of the things that @allaboutmanga  suggested was a british publisher that licensed only for the UK. It’s a great idea in theory, but sadly it can never work. Any british only publisher that starts up in the UK would eventually end up in a bidding war for titles. Unless they were started by someone with very deep pockets they’d always lose because they wouldn’t have the financial backing to stand against the big american companies. It’s sad, but it’s the truth.

Ultimately it all boils down to the fact that the british market is to small for publishers to care about or invest in, there’s no profit here for them, or that’s how they see it.

One Response

  1. jenn says:

    The large store thing does seem true. I’m not in UK but I buy from Book Depository, which started in UK, I think (though the .com has better prices now XD)…