Naruto. Bleach. Prince of tennis. All those mangas are world famous manga.
I, myself, am a true fan of what now is part of the japanese pop-culture: the manga litterature (40% of manga litterature).
Here, in the western part of the world, we only get to see the success stories… But many struggling mangakas (manga authors) are clinging to their passions, and fight everyday to get published.
Let’s take a look at how a comic can be born from an idea to a multi-million marketing success story.
The birthplace of manga successes are magazines.
Editors look at different manuscripts, and decide what ideas, concepts could be published as a one-shot in their magazine. It is a self-containing story of 20-30 pages, that will put the audience in a new universe and give that new idea a test bench for future development.
- The editors of the magazine will bring in their experience to make sure that the manga fits into the editorial line ( shounen- manga for boys, shoujo – manga for girls, seinen – manga for adults), and collect all the feedback from the editorial commitee to rewrite the story or to add specific elements. (“Add a cute animal for comic relief”, “Make the sword bigger, teenagers like huge swords”).
-The magazine has a questionnaire, to rank the comics, and understand which characters are popular or not. It is absolutely frequent to modify one’s character behavior, or to discontinue it if the audience presses for it. The amount of feedback coming from the questionnaires is humongous.
If the one-shot scored pretty well, then the magazine could go for serialization – which means that every week a new chapter will be published in the magazine. This is a whole new adventure for the manga writer.
- He has to keep up at least 2 chapters in advance from publishing to incorporate editorial feedback, and get some alternative chapters with intense dramatical comebacks to publish if the audience does not rank the series well.
- The mangaka can then employ assistants to help him draw the background, ink the characters and fine-tune some details, so that the author can focus on the plot and the characters – the core business.
- Once again, serialization is not definitive success, and if success is not rapidly met, then it means the series is discontinued as well.
Market research is a key success factor in the manga business.
- The audience age, gender and preference can be tracked with questionnaires, as well as sales volumes and mobile phones views.
- Dojinshi (amateur made manga) are fan made, and they use famous manga characters in alternative storylines. These give extensive information to the editors to know what series or concepts are trending at the moment. This is what has been coined as the read/write culture.
The magazine editors, even if they have copyright ownership, do not sue any of those fans. Those Dojinshi create a huge fan-base, that will in any case, come back to the original work when new stuff is available.
Manga is at the core of japanese culture
Even if manga magazines and comics are a mass-market in japan (Everybody loves manga!!), it is shrinking. Mobile phone views are skyrocketing for anime (comics made into animations), voice-overs for anime are becoming popular idols and opening end ending themes can appear in the charts.
Some are even made into drama… (with real actors!).
All the media fuel from that specific industry, which has become a huge ambassador and money-maker for Japan.
So what are the marketing learnings?
1) Listen to the customer
2) Make a prototype accordingly to what you heard.
3) If the customer does not like, back to step 1) or do something else.
4) If he likes it, make some more. back to step 3)
By the end of step 5, you should be a manga marketing millionaire.
Too bad for me, even if I took lessons, I can’t draw that well.
Worth mentioning that only 2% of manga authors make a living out of it – but some can become cash cows : Dragon ball is now a multibillion-dollar international franchise comprising movies, games, and cards — debuted as an installment in Weekly Shonen Jump in 1984.