Tangled webs

April 30, 2008

At Manga Xanadu, Lori Henderson looks at some of the ways manga publishers can use online resources to promote their material, and she makes a number of good points. The piece is framed at least partly around a certain kind of title that needs the help:

“Even if most of the sales of titles come from brick and mortar retail, getting the word out about titles shouldn’t be such an issue in the internet age. If manga publishers would make better use of their online resources, C list titles would have a better chance.”

Coincidentally, Viz has redesigned its online store, and it does seem like an improvement. Viz’s press release promises easier navigability and better search functionality, and a couple of quick tests seem to confirm those claims. Viz’s manga titles are listed by imprint on the store’s front page, which is handy, and there are some web-only discounts running down the sidebar.

There are a few odd things going on. Clicking randomly through series, it seems like some volumes from some series aren’t available. (Just at a glance, some with only partial runs available are Kekkashi, Aishiteruze Baby, and Maison Ikkoku. Poor Inubaka: Crazy for Dogs and Yakitate!! Japan aren’t there at all yet.) Maybe Viz is still finishing up its listings, but that seems like something that should be corrected as quickly as possible. If a publisher is going to have an online store, which is never a bad idea if it isn’t going to be too burdensome to manage, then the publisher should have its entire catalogue available for purchase.

That seems particularly important for the C list titles. If a book is having trouble finding space on bookstore shelves, then it’s not unreasonable for a customer to seek it out online. The publisher’s online store might not be the first place they look, but a certain percentage of them will wind up there sooner or later, and it would be best not to discourage them in their inquiries.

And speaking C list titles and the Viz store, there seem to be some missed opportunities to give those books a push. Viz’s best-selling properties (Naruto, Death Note, Bleach, and the like) tend to eat up most of the front page’s visible real estate. I’m guessing you would have to work pretty hard to find retail markets where books and DVDs from these properties aren’t available. It’s not a bad idea for a publisher to brand itself with its successes, but why not use their rising tides to lift a few dinghies in the process?

I’m thinking about something along the lines of Amazon’s “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…” widget, but with a more activist bent. I’m not all that crazy about suggestive selling, but I’m less bothered by it when it’s in service of underperforming but worthy books. Offering discounts on those C list books with purchase of an A list property might be a good idea as well.