Yen + Pressure

December 7, 2008

I’m glad Yen Press chose to go the anthology route and put out a magazine. Anthologies are probably the best way to get manga titles seen by the general public. But, some issues are starting to come up that make me wonder about their intentions for it.

Since I wrote my less than stellar review of issue 2, I’ve been getting requests to sell it (which I did, sorry everyone else). I found out why by from one hopeful buyer. Yen Press doesn’t offer back issues for sale. This is confirmed on their website in the comment of their blog for Yen Plus here, in the second to last comment by Abby.  She claims there is no way to order them through their distributor.  And that struck me as kinda weird.  I’ve personally never run into a situation where I couldn’t order a back issue of a magazine.  Even with my small, more obscure publications such as Cross Stitching or Godzilla.  Even if it’s for a limited time, back issues can be purchased from the magazine.

This got me thinking, and I’ve come up with two possible reasons; one money related, and one marketing related.  Let’s start with the less sinister of the two.  Yen Plus is a BIG magazine.  Other than bridal gown magazines, it’s one of the biggest publications available in the magazine section, and certainly bigger than either Viz magazine.  One commentor on the above linked thread mentioned that Shonen Jump used to be that big.  Uh-uh.  In the beginning SJ was never that thick.  So, it is conceivable that for a publication that size, it isn’t fiscally feasible to make or keep back issues around.

But I find that unlikely.  They are putting out a magazine that features sequential stories, and should have known people finding it at issue 2 or 3 would want the previous issues.  People wanting back issues should have come up at some time in their discussions of the magazine.  They’d been planning the magazine since 2007 with their inception.  Why choose a distributor that wouldn’t keep at least some back issues?   Or why would they choose to make a magazine that it wasn’t feasible to have back issues?  Looking at the comments for each magazine release there are people asking for back issues because their local stores didn’t get it or it sold out too fast.  Are they underestimating demand?  I think the answer lies in the marketing reason.

Kurt Hassler has come out and said this at the State of the Manga Industry panels at cons; anthology magazines are for marketing.  They are a tool for getting new titles out and seen by lots of people.  I get that.  I’ve seen how much of a marketing machine Shonen jump has become, and as much as I don’t like it, I do understand it.  So the same can be thought of for Yen Plus.  It’s a marketing tool for Yen Press’ manga.  But, how do you get people to buy a product again, if they’re already read it in the magazine?  There are, no doubt, a lot of people like me who buy the magazine so they don’t have to buy the tankoban when they come out later.  I dont’ have that kind of space or money, so the magazines are more convenient that way.  But I can get back issues of both Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat from Viz easily.  However, if I couldn’t, and I wanted to read the complete story, I would have to either scour the net to try and find a back issue for sale, probably on an auction site where I would have to fight others looking for the same issue, or just wait for the tankoban.  A third option is to subscribe to the magazine, but then I would have to know at what issue it would be starting at and still fight to get the preceding issues before my subscription kicked in.

This is precisely the postion Yen Plus readers are in.  Either you get the issue in the mail, or you get it the first week it comes out, or you’re out of luck.  And if your local book/comic book store doesn’t carry it, your out of luck there too.  Other than that one comment from Abby, Yen Press has said nothing about getting back issues.  The least they can do is warn people coming to the site searching for them that they aren’t going to find any there.  They’ve got how to subscribe everywhere, and in big bold letters too! They ought to do the same for back issues.  “YOU WON’T FIND THEM HERE.”  You won’t find them on ebay either.  A search there only came up with 1 issue, and it was the latest.

Not every one can subscribe, or order online, so newstands are the only option, and the fact that Yen Press is making this the least feasable option for people is kind of underhanded.  I don’t like companies that force me into a certain direction when other options are available, which is why I’m glad I chose not to follow the magazine.  I know it’s their option to conduct business like that, and it’s my option not to support them, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask for them to be honest and upfront about it.

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6 Comments for this entry

  • Kurt Hassler says:

    Hi Lori,

    Just to clarify, back issues of YEN PLUS are indeed available to anyone who wants to order them. They simply cannot be ordered on our website or through our distributor directly for the simple reason that we do not handle direct consumer orders.

    The easiest way for someone interested in a back issue of YEN PLUS currently is to go to their local comic shop and place a special order for it. Diamond Comics can supply back issues of the magazine to any retailer placing an order so long as our overstock on that issue lasts.

    In the meantime, we are currently having conversations with a couple of online retailers regarding the possibility of making back issues available on their site. Once that is done and we have a reliable source to which we can direct interested consumers on our site, we’ll be posting a link on our website.

    Best,

    Kurt

  • Thanks for the clarification Kurt. I’m happy to hear that there are back issues and that Yen is working on making them available through other resources. Not everyone has access to a LCS, and I checked my own online comic store, and they didn’t have Yen Plus available.

    But you really should have something on your website that makes this clear. One comment buried in a thread that gives the impression that back issues can not be purchased leads to misunderstandings like this.

  • sesho says:

    Yeah, it does seem a bit boneheaded to not have back issues EASILY available, but at least in my neck of the woods, the magazine is pretty easy to come by. You can find it at Barnes and Noble and Borders and the issues pretty much stay out the whole month. I’m actually a bit guilty of falling behind on it. I’ve continued to buy all the issues but I’ve only read through the second one.

  • The problem is, you *NEED* to handle direct consumer orders for back issues, every other magazine on the planet does, why not you? As Lori says, not everyone has access to a LCS and even those that do can only buy what the LCS stocks. With the comic market shrinking, stores are buying less and less extra stock, even the largest stores will likely not have a tremendous number of back issues available for sale.

    When you’re running a serial magazine where missing a single issue can make it difficult or impossible to understand future stories, it’s absurd not to have an official, ready source for back issues. That’s just bad business sense.

  • serika75 says:

    Yet usually in Japan there is no official source where one can obtain back issues of manga magazines. And they don’t have a subscription system either so you have to go to a bookstore/convenience store to buy each issue at it is released.

    If you want back issues there, you have to scour net auctions or go to used bookstores.

    Usually, at least in Japanese manga magazines, there is a synopsis which briefly introduces the series so it is perfectly doable to start reading a series after it’s started and get the gist of the story, and if you like it, you simply buy the collected volumes or you go read it doing tachiyomi (read while standing) for free in a bookstore or net cafe.

    THAT is the business model of manga magazines, the selling of tankobons, not selling magazines in itself. Publishers discovered in the 70’s they could make a lot more money selling collected volumes of popular series than selling magazines. Actually most Japanese mangazines are in the red or barely make any profit, it’s just a giant promotional tool with a price as low as possible to be cheap for clients but not too low that losses are too big.

    Publishers make real dough on selling collected volumes. They’d rather have you buy the collected volumes than back issues.

  • And in Japan, the anthologies are cheap, printed on cheap paper. They are made to be disposable. The Japanese have had 30 years to develop and get used to that format.

    That’s not how it’s done in the US. The anthologies are considered magazines, are printed on decent paper, and aren’t that inexpensive (especially Yen Plus). Yen Plus is only the fourth anthology to appear in the US, with only two so far being successful. Viz’s books have back issues available. Americans are used to getting back issues of books they read. A company that doesn’t do that is going to look lesser their eyes.

    IF Yen really intended to go with the Japanese model, they should have followed in a lot closer, in paper and price. Of course, no one would buy the issues, especially casual readers.

    Just because that the way it’s done in Japan, doesn’t mean it’s going to work that way in the US. Study business practices between the two countries and you’ll see that happen again and again.

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