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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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06/14/2008 Archived Entry: "Future of Manga panel survey with Audry Taylor of Go! Media"

Future of Manga panel survey with Audry Taylor of Go! Media

Editor Ginger Mayerson briefly met Audry Taylor of Go! Media in Los Angeles at the Book Expo Future of Manga panel on May 31, 2008. Some of our editors put their heads together for these questions on the Future of Manga that weren't addressed at the panel due to time constraints and Mayerson just not being very fast on her feet (which, we are told, were aching by that time). We sincerely thank Ms. Taylor for her time and effort on this survey.

J LHLS: As we understand it, right now manga buyers are primarily teenage girls. As this demographic ages, what age groups and interests are you going to be aiming at?

Ms. Taylor: Our efforts will become two-pronged. We'll want to continue appealing to the teen demographic, because it's always fresh and exciting. We'll also want to follow our existing audience into maturity. Our fans are growing up, but not growing out of the passion they have for manga. We'd like to make sure that passion continues to be satisfied.

J LHLS: Are you trying to define American manga interests by what's popular in America and what might be like it in Japan? Or what's selling in Japan and how that might fit into the American market? And, without giving away any company secrets, how are you collecting and analyzing this data?

Ms. Taylor: Our best data is the tons of email and fan letters we receive from manga fans. They tell you exactly what to license by expressing their love for it. They are the best resource in the world!

J LHLS: What role do you think erotic manga are going to play in your future sales?

Ms. Taylor: Mature ladies have mature tastes. We're definitely exploring our options in this category, though I will say our titles tend to veer toward stuff we feel is tasteful and discreet. We also feel the best kind of eroticism for our more mature fans is the kind that has depth and substance, as well, which is why we leapt at the chance to publish Wendy Pini's reinvention of Poe's "Masque of the Red Death". What you see in "Masque" is a good example of what we're looking for in erotic titles.

J LHLS: Do you foresee manga commissioned in Japan and in Japanese as a possible wave of the future for manga in English? Is go! media pursing this on any level or how this might come about?

Ms. Taylor: If you mean Americans going into Japan to publish original titles there and push them on the Japanese audience, I don't see the point. The Japanese have a fabulous system in place already and know how to make great manga. They don't need us! However, hybrid series that are made internationally, with individuals from Japan and America and Europe working together on one project, are a huge part of the industry's future. Such titles won't cater specifically to Japan or America, but to the world at large.

J LHLS: What role do you think American talent is going to play in the future manga market for adults?

Ms. Taylor: A huge role. There are many raw talents out there already, ready to grow the category into more than just manga. Artists influenced by manga, but who have their own style, are creating what we like to call "Manga Ai" -- because they love manga, but in the end they need to draw in their way and tell their stories. The two original books we've done already could both be called "Manga Ai" and both appeal to the adult manga market here in the U.S. ("Masque" by Wendy Pini and "Japan Ai" by Aimee Major Steinberger.)

J LHLS: What role do you think manga talent outside of Japan and America is going to play?

Ms. Taylor: An equally important role. The talent in Europe is actually ahead of America in putting out "Manga Ai". They've been reading manga for many more years. They already have a diverse array of reading material for both young and mature audiences. I'm jealous!

J LHLS: What role do you think scanlations and scanlation communities are going to play in determining where the market is going? Just wondering; please don't shoot.

Ms. Taylor: Scanlations started out of love. They were wonderful for the market. I say "were" because now there are websites mining the hard work of fans, corrupting the purpose of their work. They're using it to make a profit rather than to share something meaningful with others. This is part of the landscape that publishers deal with now, and the pervasiveness of scanlations actually hurts the sales of smaller titles which are struggling to get along. For the most part, however, fans continue to show great loyalty for the series they love, and will buy a version of it (whether Japanese, English, or another language) to show the manga-ka their support even if they've already read a scanlation. That's totally awesome.

The most important thing about scanlations is that they tell us what our audience wants. They want to be able to see the manga as soon as it comes out in Japan, so they share it online because they can't get the magazines. They want to be able to look at pages online because then they can talk about it online with their friends. And it's a way to preview a title without a big financial investment so that they can decide what's worth buying in book format. These are the reasons why we're starting to offer content online whenever we can, often before a book comes out. We have previews of all our licensed manga online, and have been fearless in offering up content from our own, original books. It's invaluable to fans to be able to look at that content, which helps them to determine what title is just right for them.

J LHLS: With the growth of the internet and technology such as the iphone, Kindle and other e-readers, do you feel that online and e-comics are going to play an important role in the future?

Ms. Taylor: You bet. I love the "E-Ink" technology going into e-readers because it does such great things for black & white. It'll be trickier to bring vibrant colors to the Kindle and similar technology, but for PDF e-books and other formats, it's already something we're doing. We'll be putting out e-book versions of "Masque" and "Japan Ai" in the near future. You can look for a grayscale Kindle version of "Japan Ai" on Amazon, as well. We're also in discussion with licensors about cell phone and e-book formats for Japanese manga.

J LHLS: There seems to be a pretty big shakedown in the anime industry with many companies closing up shop, consolidating or drastically reducing their operations. Do you see the current anime market as a good representation of the manga future and should we expect a shake up in the industry in a few years?

Ms. Taylor: We don't know what to expect in a few years, as manga (and publishing in general) is a constantly fluxuating market. As long as there is an audience for books, there will be an audience for manga. That's pretty much all we can predict. But that's all right, because our company is designed to be flexible and change with the times. Our primary goal is to serve our core audience -- teenage girls and women -- by providing them with entertainment that suits their tastes, no matter what technology or format it ends up being in. If the future puts manga exclusively on the internet or in an interactive format or still on bookshelves everywhere, we're planning to be a part of that.

J LHLS: With manga being such big business in the US and with Japanese partnerships that formed American companies such as VIZ and Del Rey, do you foresee many Japanese companies coming over in the future and establishing US offices?

Ms. Taylor: That is a question you'll have to ask the Japanese companies! It isn't really up to us to speak for them.

J LHLS: Comics have long been considered something for "kids" but the majority of the manga currently available is not "kid" friendly. What do you plan on doing in the future to change manga's reputation?

Ms. Taylor: And yet the kids love it! A huge chunk of our audience, for example, is twelve years old. There are certain series of ours -- Her Majesty's Dog, Ultimate Venus -- that they are absolutely crazy about.

There's always been a gulf between what kids find friendly and what adults think kids should find friendly. We all read books in secret when we were young, because they were exactly what we needed, but our parents didn't realize we were ready for them yet. There is definitely more kid-friendly content already out there than we adults realize.

Having said that, I will say that there are huge gaps in the manga industry where "kid-friendly" content is concerned. There are subjects and genres that manga generally doesn't cover that a young audience would devour in the U.S. Part of our job is to find ways to fill those gaps -- which we are working on right now. On top of that, every kid, teen, and adult has a different comfort level when it comes to violence, sex, maturity of subject, and laguage in graphic novel. They can all be catered to, so long as the publisher understands what those comfort levels are.

J LHLS: One perpetually baffling thing is how manga is shelved on bookstore shelves - alphabetically by title. Do you think in the future we will see the manga section of major bookstores dissolve and manga shelved by its appropriate genre? Romance manga next to Nora Roberts, yaoi next to gay and lesbian literature, thrillers next to Dean Koontz. And do you think this could be a good or bad thing?

Ms. Taylor: I don't see graphic novels being combined with text novels, though there will always be exceptions. GNs will probably always be in their own category, but I don't see a problem with that. What I'd love to see is books organized as they are organized in Japan (which has worked really well for them). Instead of trying to separate manga into genres (which is nigh impossible for many series), why not separate them into imprints designed to cater to a specific audience? A particular sector of a publisher's audience may love both romantic horror and romantic fantasy. If there is an imprint that caters to both those tastes, then the audience can look for that imprint on the shelves, rather than having to look through every title in a genre or in alphabetical order.

Our audience has already indicated to us that this idea appeals to them. When Go! Media first started publishing manga under the imprint Go! Comi, the first four titles we launched were similar in theme and age level. Because of this, our fans came to associate the Go! Comi imprint with a specific kind of story, and now we have fans that will read anything we put out under that imprint, because they passionately believe it will appeal to them. They WANT Go! Comi to be an imprint just for them. The idea of spinning off additional imprints designed just for other segments of our audience (which has gotten broader since our launch) is very appealing.

J LHLS: Thank you.

Ms. Taylor: No problem!

J LHLS also sent this survey to the other members of the Future of Manga Panel: Editors Lillian Diaz-Przybyl of TOKYOPOP, Leyla Aker of VIZ MEDIA, Rich Johnson of Yen Press, and Ali T. Kokmen of Del Rey. We look forward to hearing from them as well.

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