Alternative Means of Future Licensing
Do you think there's room in the light novel market for sample licenses, where you only license a single volume of a series for a test run before committing to the full series? Something like what Viz does with Jump Start.
The idea might be difficult to market to both fans and publishers, but it could result in some interesting pickups that would otherwise be seen as being too risky to license.
That's an excellent point.
Like, I could image us putting out every v1 that Hobby Japan publishes on a trial basis in some kind of deal.
I think as long as the readers are clear that we aren't committing to continuing unless the readership/sales numbers warrant it, I think it could work.
Especially since 1 volume is only $7. It's not that much of a commitment to buy it even if we don't end up continuing.
This is an interesting idea.
@legitpancake that’s straight up an awesome idea. I love maybe seeing a sampler platter. And yes, it does mean some series I like won’t get translated past volume one, but it also means that some that I like and would never have gotten an English translation will get at least one volume and, if popular, many more.
Hell, most of the stuff I'm buying here I didn't know about till it got licensed, so more stuff to sample is all good. Would suck if I totally loved something that didn't get continued, but if we know that's a possibility at the start it'd be fine.
The thing is it’s not about $ investment, I don’t want to start a series that I’m not sure I’ll ever get the resolution to.
That’s what I like about j novel, when they start something I know they are going to finish it.
baring that new life + debacle, but that’s hardly their fault.
Sam has also said that he would consider putting out works that werent especially popular on a crowd-funded model, so there might even be the chance of getting a smaller sales numbers book completed if there was a dedicated fan-group willing to throw the money at it. Can think of 4-5 LN series I would be willing to dump cash at to see brought over, even if it was a slow translation process due to it being a niche audience.
Heck, with how many HJ titles I've loved, even the dropped one, I would expect to find several more series easily.
I think if Sam decides to do try "throw everything against the wall and see what sticks", it would be wise to do it with a dedicated "incubator" imprint. Because the certainty that they don't drop a series, even when the sales are bad cough, Ao Oni is pretty valuable.
Other than that, I consider it a nice idea, and with the membership model one can sample all those LNs without an (additional) financial commitment.
I’m sure there are a lot of complications it would come with though.
It would basically require an exclusivity deal with HJ, like what Viz has with Shonen Jump.
There would also be a lot of backlash from uninformed Amazon buyers who wait for the next preorder that will never come.
I don't like the sample volume 1 idea. I already feel like the rug has been pulled out from under me with some of the quietly discontinued series out in English by other companies. To set up a program with volume 1 teases and only the popular ones move onto licensing? I would not like that. I understand that unpopular series already on this site can get cancelled, but it hasn't happened yet here. Seems like they have a good thing going, and I'd hate to wreck that "We complete series" attitude they got going (with the exception of the unfortunate New Life + situation).
I could see this becoming a battle between fanbases too to have series sell more so they continue. People shilling in threads to try and get sales up. I just think it would cause generally negative feelings for anyone who isn't a fan of the popular works. People may try stuff outside of their favorite genre less than they do now if there's so much in their favorite genre up at once. It could work better if they did a genre based competition (only works from 1 genre in a particular contest), but yeah, still a strategy that could lead to frustration for fans.
Crowdfunding sounds better since you see the Target goal, and the shilling would only last a month. If you don't reach the goal, it's no mystery how much support you were off from the target. If they brought that crowdfunding progress bar type thing to this site for this idea though, that could be interesting. But again, I don't like the idea of having volume 1s that will never be continued floating around on the site like ghosts.
I'm with Terrance. I don't want "only translating volume 1" to be a thing. I feel there's not much difference between that and just dropping stuff after volume 1 which would leave me very disappointed.
I'm going to toss my $0.02 in and day that I don't like the "volume 1" idea.
The single volume test would ultimately alienate potential customers in the long run and doesn't really suit J-novel clubs business model anyways. I'd rather see a model where more niche series we can do something akin to a kickstarter where we pay upfront for the entire series. That way if it succeeds we would be guaranteed to get what we want without the feeling of uncertainty that a single volume test would give us. If it fails while it would be sad that just means there wasn't enough of a fan base for that title and it might not have been successful anyways. Even that model could have problems since we have a subscription based model here, whats to stop someone from saying "I already have a subscription here, why should I have to pay you to license something."
Another point that we could bring up here is would it even be worth it to J-novel club to run a kickstarter. Remember Sam is kept busy all the time getting his current licenses translated and getting us new ones. A good kickstarter takes time and effort to run that might take away from that. Not to mention that when you use Kickstarter your putting your reputation on the line. If something goes poorly after the campaign it could badly hurt your reputation if your backers aren't satisfied. Just look a the whole Mighty Number 9 debacle. Not saying for sure that would happen to J-novel club just that Kickstarters themselves have some risks.
Now I'm torn. But that comes from having a lot less time than others seem to have in finding series to champion here for future consideration. I kinda wish it was easier to view the suggestions forum than trying to go into each post and (hopefully) read the synopsis the deciding whether to throw my cards in on a series I barely know anything about.
@eternal-wanderer Kickstarter would be the worst choice. Something more flexible like GoFundMe would be better. If something is more of a slow burning project that only gets 2 releases a year because the fan base is smaller than GFM would allow longer running campaigns that we could throw money into periodically to build towards getting the next book licensed and translated.
Or a Patreon system might be possible, though the setup and goals would need to be extremely well planned/explained.
Crowdfunding won't work. No license holder would want the entire world to see their series fail, and any series they're confident wouldn't fail doesn't need to be crowdfunded in the first place.
Currently, JNC takes on all of the risk; they have to go all in from the start and keep working on it regardless of whether the series bombs or not. This makes it harder for us to see new series because the cost-benefit analysis is a lot steeper - JNC has to spend more money to bid for a series, and the analytics need to have a higher prospective ROI in order to say "yes, it's worth spending time and resources on this series." For every series that doesn't perform well, this eats into their assets, both in terms of money and in terms of manpower, because they need to fulfill their contracts.
With the 1-volume idea, JNC's options open up.
- First, it's easier to get 1 volume than 3-5 volumes at a time. This means a quicker turnaround for getting the license in the first place, as well as getting the translations out for us to read. Less long-term planning as far as dedicating resources to it, too.
- Second, poor performers are only locked into 1 volume instead of 3-5+. More resources open up, which means it would be easier to bid on more licenses to keep the ball rolling.
- Sales directly lead to longer licenses. Because it's easier to license only 1 volume, JNC will have direct sales data to show the license holder, hey, this is going to do well if you give us more of this series.
- Data also directly leads to longer licenses. Not all series will be popular right off the bat, which is a reasonable concern. However, there are a couple considerations to keep in mind.
- If it wasn't already an obvious slam dunk, then we might not have gotten the series at all in the first place.
- Again, because it's easier to license the first volume, what JNC can provide back to the license holders here are sales over time. If it's going to be a consistent seller, or it gets a lot of good reviews, or the LN readership grows over time, that's a much more compelling argument, to say "Look, this might not be a smash hit, but we think it's still worth giving to us, and here's the data to back this claim up."
- This also just gets more data in general back to Japan. Seeing companies try new things or different strategies, even if they don't get all the numbers for themselves, can warm them up to discussions about English LN translations (coughAlphapoliscough). For the companies themselves, getting real numbers helps put into perspective what kinds of series do well in other markets, what kind of expected returns they might get, etc., which also leads them to being willing to try out more license variations.
I understand that, as consumers and readers, you don't want to see a book you like get "canceled" because it wasn't popular enough. But, in this situation, it feels like a warped version of "wanting your cake and eating it too" - you want all series to be complete, even if you don't like them or they're costing JNC money, and you don't even want to see a series at all if it won't be licensed to completion, even if you do like it and it might not otherwise ever have a chance to get licensed at all.
I don’t like it. If I knew that only a few of the series would get a continuation, it would mean I could never read a v1 in fear of it not getting picked up. I like having the certainty that if I read a v1 from JNC and like it, I’m going to be able to read the entire series.
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I think a combination of the volume one plan along with crowdfunding might work? If vol1 doesn't sell enough traditionally, then push the series to crowdfunding. The issue of it failing is mitigated by the fact that it already failed. If it fails there, then it's plain for the community that the series is a goner.
I think both the crowdfunding and the 1 volume test have problems so as another idea how about voting.
I realize this might be hard to float to publishers but how about a system where every few months J-novel club could get together some novels that might not otherwise get licensed. Translate, I don't know the first 30 pages of each and then make it a vote in this community on which gets licensed and translated completely. That would take less resources than translating an entire book as a test and would get us a community invested as well as removing the problems a single volume test imprint could have such as this https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheFireflyEffect
Their are problems with this idea though, in order to not alienate specific publishers each vote could only be be a specific company not to mention if their are two popular choices it could lead to toxicity in the forums, another issue is even convincing the original publisher to go along with this and if a title proves more popular than expected whats to stop the publisher from jacking up the licensing fee now that he knows theirs demand.
@guspaz but do we know that now? If they only license 3-5 volumes at a time, for anything that has more than that, we don't really know if they'll stick with it til the end (so far they have, but you never know).
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I think I would be ok with this only if it stays prepub only until its decided to continue on.
Prepubs might not signify sales numbers accurately, but it would at least provide a good idea if people are reading it and if they like what they're reading.