Tangled webs

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.

6 Responses to Tangled webs

  1. Lyle says:

    I actually don’t mind suggestive selling when it’s actually helpful (and Amazon’s suggestive selling is rarely helpful) but I’d imagine a publisher should be able to tailor those messages well from knowing their product well and having a more limited selection to base suggestions.

    Then again, who knows, we might get “If you liked Nana you’ll love The Gentlemen’s Alliance — they’re both shojo* right?”

    * Using Viz’ spelling.

  2. Huff says:

    I think its inevitable that download-able content is the way of the future. It’s already been more or less proven that popular scanslations build up hype for the actual paperback release, so why not offer a couple chapters of the first volume months before the book hits shelves? Of course your going to risk turning people off to the series, but a lot of people probably read a chapter or two in the stores before they buy the book (and of course they could choose high-quality series). The big problem with this approach is that it requires buyers to be constantly visiting the publisher’s website, and right now Tokyopop’s Myspace hellhole is the only site that has any kind of a large community built around it.
    One approach that I’d like to see is more of is the “Editor’s Picks” thing that Tokyopop does. It’s a lot easier to get someone excited about a series by using a personalized recommendation done by an actual person, even if that person is a paid employee.

  3. thirstygirl says:

    I think the Viz store is designed better than the current Tokyopop mess but their runs are surprisingly spotty- they only have v15 of Banana Fish [19 in total], 2 & 3 of Crimson Hero[7 to date],3-6 of Boys Over Flowers etc etc. That just seems odd. And no sign of my poor neglected Here Is Greenwood, let alone the 7th vol which is the only one I can’t seem to track down. Given that Viz had this editorial push on this title, knowing it wouldn’t be a smash hit but it is still a classic, I would hope to at least see it somewhere on their site. Long tail distribution!

    Overall I like the model Netcomics uses, with both chapters and follow up books for people like me who want to be able to sample but also have a tangible object to press on people if I consider the title to be any good.

  4. […] Welsh looks at the Viz website and thinks about what is not there as well as what […]

  5. Connie says:

    I browsed around the Viz store a week or so ago when I noticed they seem to have one again, and I was extremely turned off by the fact that not even a fraction of their catalog seemed to be available. I agree that this seems like a better place to sell the C-list titles too, and I was hoping I could use it as a quick reference to keep track of disappearing early volumes of their less popular series.

    But I suppose a buck is a buck is a buck, and if people are more likely to go there looking for Death Note, you might as well get a sale that way rather than cater to the one or two looking for Knights of the Zodiac or something equally unpopular.

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