In an effort to expand the North American manga market, publishers are adding a variety of new products to their lists, among them tie-ins to popular franchises, light novels (prose works based on manga and anime series), manga-themed tabletop games and even explicit, sex-positive manga series.
In 2014, Yen Press, Hachette’s manga and graphic novel imprint, launched Yen On, a dedicated imprint for light novels. Kurt Hassler, publishing director of Yen Press, was so pleased with early returns, "we quickly made a decision to double our release plans for 2015." Said Hassler: "We have six light novels slated for publication in April, half of those being new series." This includes Log Horizon, The Devil is a Part-Timer!, and No Game No Life.
Vertical Inc., a New York City based publisher of contemporary Japanese prose works and manga, is also beefing up its light novel roster in 2015, with Attack on Titan: Harsh Mistress of the City, a prequel novel to the bestselling Attack On Titan series set in the AoT world; KizuMonogatari by NisiOisin; and Takaya Kagami's Seraph of the End, a novelization of the manga that's currently serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump and published by Viz Media.
Seven Seas Manga publisher Jason DeAngelis recently launched Seven Seas Games, to "merge our expertise and passion for anime and manga with tabletop games." The company’s first release, a card game based on the Space Dandy anime, was funded by a Kickstarter campaign that quickly met its $12,000 goal and went on to raise more than $35,000.
Seven Seas has seen a recent sales growth due a renewed focus on looking for "niche product that will find an audience. We've become skillful at curating titles and introducing lesser known licenses to readers, then turning them into mid-level successes or better," DeAngelis said. As examples he pointed to A Certain Scientific Railgun, a series based on a light novel that has picked up sales steam steadily since its debut in 2011; and Monster Musume, a surprise word of mouth hit that will get an even bigger push from a new anime series slated to begin in July 2015.
American indie comics publishers like Drawn and Quarterly have found a niche publishing classic manga, such as Hitler by Shigeru Mizuki, and A Drifting Life, the autobiography of the late acclaimed manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Meanwhile, Fantagraphics, another indie American comics publisher, has just published Massive, an anthology of explicit and acclaimed sex positive erotic gay manga, edited by acclaimed designer and comics expert Chip Kidd, and editors Anne Ishii and Graham Kolbeins.
Massive’s editors have used savvy marketing efforts such as a clothing and accessories line targeting fashionistas; a multi-city tour for Massive artist Jiraiya in March and April that hit gay art centers, night clubs and gay-friendly bookstores—not just comics shops—and, of course, social media, including popular Tumblr and Instagram accounts.