velveteen & mandala

starshipsarecool  asked:

I never really understood people complaining about prices of manga especially when there are online retailers that sell them with a discount and have sales regularly. Where I'm from(South Africa) if I can get manga for its retail price I am so happy because most places sell them for more, only one place have I found that sell them at retail price and manga sales happen maybe once a year.

It is a complicated issue.

First of all most people ignore the fact that manga outside of Japan and parts of Asia is not a huge industry. And that is especially true in the English reading world.

Supply and demand trends dictate that if more people purchased these books prices should be stable or go lower. Well, I will be honest and say I do not know if things will ever be cheaper. Items like Coca-Cola and crisps are popular but those prices rarely if ever decline. Video games are popular and their prices always seem to be on the rise, also. And the film industry is always adjusting ticket prices while worrying about streaming, DVD sales and piracy.

That said, manga prices are complicated on many levels.

I have been quite lucky to have worked for Vertical since it launched its current manga campaign in 2009. I got to help make the decisions on pricing and content since then. And I can say we haven’t really changed all that much since.

Here are the titles since then in chronological order:

  • Twin Spica - $10.95
  • Chi’s Sweet Home - $13.95 (entirely in full color)
  • 7 Billion Needles - $10.95 (shonen size-trim)
  • Peepo Choo - $12.95 (seinen, 18+)
  • Lychee Light Club - $16.95 (oversized - 18+)
  • Velveteen & Mandala - $16.95 (oversized - 18+)
  • Drops of God omnibus - $14.95
  • No Longer Human - $10.95
  • GTO: 14 Days in Shonan - $10.95
  • GTO: The Early Years omnibus - $12.95
  • Sakuran - (oversized, 40pages of color, foil cover, 18+)
  • Flowers of Evil - $10.95
  • 5 Centimeters per Second omnibus - $18.95
  • Heroman - $10.95
  • Limit - $10.95
  • Paradise Kiss omnibus - $19.95 (new color pages, large trim)
  • Knights of Sidonia - $12.95
  • Gundam: The ORIGIN hardcover omnibus - $29.95 (color pages, extras)
  • Utsubora omnibus - $18.95 (18+)
  • Wolfsmund - $12.95
  • Helter Skelter - $16.95 (18+ oversized)
  • Tropic of the Sea - $14.95
  • Sickness Unto Death - $12.95
  • Summer Wars omnibus - $14.95
  • From the New World - $10.95
  • PINK - $16.95 (18+ oversized)
  • Insufficient Direction - $16.95
  • What Did You Eat Yesterday? - $12.95
  • Cardfight!! Vanguard - $10.95 (with trading card for 1st printings)
  • Witchcraft Works - $12.95 (with new color pages, extras)
  • AJIN - $12.95
  • Garden of Words - $12.95
  • Prophecy - $12.95
  • My Neighbor Seki - $10.95
  • Dream Fossil - $24.95 (oversized, large trim, anthology)

NOTE: Bold = seinen/josei. Italics = indie publisher/alternative magazine

So there are a couple of titles that I feel are overpriced - Paradise Kiss and Tropic of the Sea. ParaKiss just got to be so expensive when we found out there were no files. So we basically had to make that book entirely from scratch. Tropic is another older title, but we kinda treated it as a classic work and applied Tezuka pricing. Note Dream Fossil has a similar price structure but that book is gigantic in size and over 400pages. 

A couple of books are kinda underpriced. Seki and Twin Spica both skew younger so we priced them like shonen titles. I forget why No Longer Human got this price, though…

So as you can see, we have a little variation but those things come from omnibus releases mainly.

Shonen titles are basically $11.

Seinen titles are basically $13.

Oversized, and often 18+ indie titles, are $17.

This is where the market comes to play. Cause which books sell the best. Generally shonen should. But for us, they usually are middle of the pack. Our seinen does better. We should be raising prices on those $11 books. But part of the market is still around $10 for shonen titles. So we are working with that.

Seinen across the board, whether for Viz, Dark Horse, Seven Seas, Yen… Is generally much higher. Sometimes 200page books can be around $15. But we’ve stayed with the $12.95 model for a while now. Am I tempted to bump up the prices another dollar when I see rivals charging more. Sure. And boy would it help some titles. But we understand that our customers have limited resources.

The tough one is the 18+ indie stuff. Other publishers such as Fantagraphics, PictureBox, D&Q… Might charge up to or even more than $20 for a book like this. The finances of each publisher is different, but we feel our pricing is reasonable for what we offer.

Now then there is the issue with international prices. Canada…Well we tend to add a $1 more to ship these books and deal with tariffs. Honestly, these prices have been higher in the past (look at some of our Tezuka books) but the Canadian dollar has been stronger lately. Still this price difference is mainly due to an industry wide policy. I understand it, especially since distribution is also quite costly, but it also isn’t as bad as it used to be.

Outside of North America… Well that is a completely different animal. Vertical does not provide suggested retail pricing for any sales outside of the US or Canada. Retail prices outside of those two countries are up to the local vendors or distributors. This makes things very very difficult for some people to afford books period, let alone ours.
I have heard that places like Book Depository have good deals. And charge free shipping globally. I noticed that their prices while marked up a little are pretty good. And when considering that the shipping might be free the deals are pretty solid. I understand that might not be a service for everyone and ultimately having more publishers localizing in more countries would be a better solution. But for now that is one option.

I hope that sheds some light to our situation. I honestly do not see manga being less than $10 again, and production costs, licensing, and size of the market impacts that. But at least most of these books are not as expensive as some American graphic novels. In some cases manga is a quite affordable form of entertainment.

Also please note that in some countries eBooks are also another option. Unfortunately manga eBook sales historically have been so-so at best. And that has driven prices up for some publishers. Generally though in many cases you can get those for less than $10.