08 February 2006

COMMENT: Marketing Musings

Stealing a few minutes on Bloglines during lunch, a post from The Beat caught my eye, wherein Heidi links to a list of the top selling OEL of 2005. OEL=Original English Language, aka American manga. (Check out Tania Del Rio's great column on the terminology debate, "You Say Potato, I Say Manga".)

I've only read one of the books on the list (Dramacon #1), and have a handful of the others on my radar, but I was a bit surprised to see Steady Beat #1 ranked at #27. Lacking actual sales figures, there's no telling what the differential is between the top and bottom of the list -- or where any of them rank when compared to traditional manga -- but for a title that seemed to have so much buzz behind it last year, I was expecting it to be a bigger hit. Between Rivkah's much-linked-to columns on CBR and the likes of Warren Ellis (IIRC) boosting it, it once again raises the question of the value of marketing in the comics industry, and whether or not it's aimed at the right targets.

Due to some recent events, beyond the fact that I spend my 9-to-5 doing it in the real world, marketing has been weighing heavily on my mind over the past couple of weeks. The obstacles the industry faces in general, as a niche trying to penetrate the mainstream; the heightened challenges small presses face on both fronts; the seeming lack of transference from onscreen success to the bookshelves. Even the perception, of which I'm still unconvinced overall, that manga has succeeded at reaching a mainstream audience that comics haven't been able to; as opposed to simply finding an equally narrow, possibly even more fickle niche of their own.

All things I've been mulling over recently, with little time to really delve into. Soon enough, though. In the meantime, your thoughts...?


Kurt said...

I'm in agreement with you regarding manga’s purported “reach” but the truth is we have no clear way to truly gauge it. I suspect the absolute number of manga readers (US) is larger than that of traditional American comics but the demo is probably just as narrow.

As to STEADY BEAT – I’ll play devil’s advocate: perhaps it’s simply not that good. The handful of reviews I’ve read have rated it luke warm at best. And while Rivkah has received a great deal of notice in the comics press focused on American comics I wonder if she’s received the same exposure on the manga-specific side of the industry?

Personally, I had planned to buy the book – largely out of curiosity – but her CBR columns were so underwhelming and lacking of any kind insight or voice, I just wrote it off.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Ouch! But yeah, I wasn't all that impressed with her column, either, and as a manga neophyte, what I've read about Steady Beat hasn't interested me enough to check it out.

Of that list, there's a few I do want to check out, including Bizenghast, I Luv Halloween and Amazing Agent Luna.