Self-Publishing on Anime/Manga: A 2016 Update

Almost three years ago, when I first began writing about the mechanics of anime/manga studies as an an area of academic activity, one of the questions I posed was whether “it possible for an author to self-publish a book of criticism/commentary on Japanese animation or Japanese comics”? The short answer was yes, as with Patrick Drazen’s A Gathering of Spirits: Japan’s Ghost Story Tradition from Folklore and Kabuki to Anime and Manga, and Derek Padula’s multi-volume series of books on Dragon Ball.

These books, along with Otaku Journalism: A Guide to Geek Reporting in the Digital Age, by “Otaku Journalist” Lauren Orsini, follow what is the standard or traditional model of self-publishing – use of print-on-demand for producing actual physical books, and a heavy reliance on Amazon for the e-book versions. But, is it the only possible model for self-publishing on anime/manga? Turns out, it’s not. animated-discussionsAnime companies have recently made several attempts at using Kickstarter to fund new releases of anime series in the U.S. – and just last month, a creator successfully ran a Kickstarter campaign, with a goal of $1,000, to fund the publication of Animated Discussions: Collected Writings on Anime – a set of “collected essays on anime, from Akira to Erased, revolutionary girls and EVA pilots to Puella Magi and alchemists, and beyond!”

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Publishing and Self-Publishing – Part 3

In my last two posts – Thoughts on Self-Publishing on Anime/Manga, Part 1 and Part 2, I raised the general question of whether it was possible for an author to produce and distribute his or her writing outside the established business structure of publishing, and went through some possible models. What I’d like to do now is to move beyond the models to concrete examples, to see how publishing commentary and works of scholarship can – and does – happen without the involvement of a publishing company or even a university press.

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Self-Publishing on Anime/Manga – Part 2

In my previous post, I discussed the standard way of publishing one’s writing – through a for-profit publishing company or non-profit university press – and the alternative of self-publishing. But, are those the only options open to someone who is interested in writing a book on a topic related to anime/manga, and getting that book into libraries and/or to readers?

As of right now, largely yes. But potentially, there are other options. Publishing, after all, is a combination of a technical or industrial process and a business model. Until recently, the technical process needed the business model – publishing a book cost money, and more money than an individual could commit. Print-on-demand and electronic distribution of books has made the technical process a lot easier to deal with. The business model that involves submission or commissioning, peer review and editing, and finally, promotion and distribution is harder to work around through technology alone. The whole point of a publishing house is not just to operate the printing or production machinery, it’s to organize and package knowledge.

And, to think of it, there is no objective reason for there not to be a “third way” between working with an established publisher, and self-publishing. The solution that Jonathan Gray (Media and Cultural Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison) proposes is of “publishing collectives” – that is, groups of scholars (or anybody else interested creating and distributing knowledge in a particular area of study or about a particular topic) taking control of publishing from established publishers.

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Thoughts on Self-Publishing on Anime/Manga

What are the options that an author interested in publishing a full-length book on anime/manga can reasonably pursue? And are publishers actually interested in books on anime/manga? The easy answer seems to be ‘yes’ – or at least, some publishers certainly are. Palgrave Macmillan, one of the most prominent English-language corporate/for-profit publishing houses, has published Susan Napier’s Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke (2001) and From Impressionism to Anime: Japan as Fantasy and Fan Culture in the Eyes of the West) (2007), Steven Brown’s Tokyo Cyberpunk: Posthumanism in Japanese Visual Culture (2010) and just earlier this month, a new edition of Brian Ruh’s Stray Dog of Anime: The Films of Mamoru Oshii. Non-profit university presses that may consider a book on Japanese animation or comics include the University Press of Mississippi (God of Comics: Osamu Tezuka and the Creation of Post-World War II Manga, 2009), the University of Hawaii Press (Straight from the Heart: Gender, Intimacy, and the Cultural Production of Shojo Manga, 2011), and the University of Minnesota Press (The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation, 2009). The University of Iowa Press, which recently launched a line of books specifically on “fan studies” is certainly worth keeping in mind as well. And of course, beyond those two types of publishers, there are also the smaller companies like M.E. Sharpe, Edwin Mellen, Stone Bridge Press, with a long tradition of publishing books about Japan, Open Court Publishing, Kamera Books, and various others.

But is going the “traditional” route the only way to go? Is it possible for an author to self-publish a book on Japanese animation or Japanese comics? What kinds of challenges would a self-publishing author face? And are there other, alternate ways beyond either working with an established publishing house, or self-publishing?

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