July 07, 2008

Selling "Twilight" in Japan


The Twilight books by Stephenie Meyer are marketed mainly as "light novels" in Japan. Each book is broken into a three volume set, but numbered sequentially as a unified series.

This is common practice to make paperbacks more portable, to make them "read fast," and, yes, to maximize margins.

The light novel typically uses the A6 (4 x 6 inch) format, and has a glossy color cover. The content is genre fiction, with a dozen or so pen and ink illustrations. Furigana are included to help with the pronunciation of difficult kanji.

The large green characters across the cover of the first volume read: "Twilight 1" (Towairaito). The Japanese title translates as "The man I loved is a vampire." All the books follow this design and have individual titles (so far there are nine volumes).

What with the pining and the angst, the mysterious and/or supernatural boyfriend(s) who seem to live in a world of their own, and the "ne're the twain shall meet" theme, the Twilight series is a good fit for the Japanese young adult romance market.


UPDATE: Twilight was first published in two A6 volumes (4 x 6 inches), with the original cover art. The three-volume sets, illustrated by mangaka Ryuuji Gotsubo, are in JIS B6 (5 x 7.25 inches).

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Comments:

# posted by Blogger William
That is really interesting, Eugene.

I wonder if the concept of the light novel could work in the U.S.? Has it been tried?

I know I see manga fairly well-represented at my local library so certainly that particular type of reading is something that even Minnesota youth must "get."
7/08/2008 12:40 PM
 

# posted by Blogger Eugene
Young adult series such as Animorphs and Goosebumps essentially follow a "light novel" format, as did Stephen King with The Green Mile. And Harlequin has several imprints that max out at 60,000 words. I think one reason Japanese publishers can keep their costs low (unlike CDs and DVDs, paperback prices in Japan are competitive compared to the U.S.) is by standardizing on formats like this.
7/08/2008 3:18 PM
 

# posted by Blogger Kate Woodbury
Your post reminds me of a great "yaoi" solution I came up with. Get Edward and Jacob together! They are always talking to each other anyway (about Bella). I'm betting some reader somewhere has written a fan fiction scenario where Edward and Jacob go to Bella and say, "Frankly, we find each other way more interesting than you." Then--if the writer wants to keep it clean--they can go off and work on Jacob's cars.

On a side-note, I'm betting this is why some women opt for yaoi fiction: it's more interesting than the fiction where women sit around waiting to be loved. However, my friend Carole points out that yaoi could end up being just like the fiction where women sit around waiting to be loved, so perhaps I'm reading too much feminism into yaoi reading choices.
7/09/2008 6:53 AM
 

# posted by Anonymous Narumi
Is this new version the same as the original version? I have the first print that has the original USA release cover.(just the first book Twilight). Are these aimed more at teens and have more furigana or something?
12/16/2008 2:34 PM
 

# posted by Blogger Eugene
The first Japanese edition was published in A6 with the original cover art. The same translator is listed for both versions, so I imagine the differences are only aesthetic, with illustrations and perhaps more furigana added.
12/16/2008 3:24 PM
 

# posted by Anonymous Narumi
My friend has the original A6 release. I started to read it, then got lazy looking up kanji that I didn't know and/or asking, and bought the English version and finished it in a day. Only furigana I remember in the first 5 chapters is "HUNTER". I was just wondering if that one had furigana in it. I like to practie, and since I've already read it in English I thought maybe it would be better.
12/17/2008 9:06 PM
 

# posted by Blogger Eugene
I haven't seen the actual content, so I don't really know. But my guess from seeing other "light novels" released in multiple formats is that they simply reused the same typesetting files, with the illustrations added later. So the printed text would be the same.
12/18/2008 9:49 AM
 

# posted by Anonymous Anonymous
Actual goosebumps was a childrens series, so was anamorphs, not light novels. Also the green mile was a serial novel, not a light novel series, light novels themselves don't have to be series.

Also light novels ARE published in America, just look in the manga section.
12/27/2008 11:37 PM
 

# posted by Anonymous Anonymous
Ok Sorry that was incredibly disjointed.

Actually, Goosebumps and Anamorphs were/are children's novels. Different then a light novel because well children's novels are small, those books were just part of a larger series.

In addition The Green Mile wasn't a light novel series either, it was a serial novel. Novels considerably smaller then a light novel sold in small portions that equal out to a much larger novel, they're all one book just broken up. Similar to what was done here though.

And there are Light novels published in America right now, but they are all Anime related to my knowledge. Not to say they all have something to do with anime that's just the section they get stuck in for having manga illustrations and what not.

A light Novel itself is just a short, widely spaced novel with usually illustrations, and as you said beginners kanji to help out inexperienced or not fully literate readers. They aren't usually a breakdown of a larger series like happened here with Twilight.
12/28/2008 12:01 AM
 

# posted by Blogger Eugene
I think Y/A series like Animorphs (and certainly Everworld) are aimed at the same demographic as the typical light novel in Japan (anime-based light novels are pretty much by default series). But I'm thinking here more in terms of publishing format than content.

For example, Ai no Kusabi (which I'm translating) was expanded from a single volume into a multi-volume series. Even though the content is adult, I think "light novel" is the best way to physically describe it, as the books are illustrated and max out at about 40,000 words each.

Except for an "experimental" series like The Green Mile, and aside from Y/A, even Harlequin tends to draw the line at 50,000 words. Though ebooks may change these guidelines, perhaps bringing the novella back into vogue. (And I note that Harlequin is now buying novellas.)
12/28/2008 9:34 AM
 

# posted by Anonymous Anonymous
I could of sworn "The Space Between" novels were already translated professionally.

Additionally "Young Adult" really pushed the demographic thing. I think SD Perrys Resident Evil novels come closer to light novels then those.
12/29/2008 8:52 AM
 

# posted by Blogger Anzu's Mum
does this manga twilight has english version?
3/22/2009 8:28 AM
 

# posted by Blogger Eugene
The "light novel" is a paperback novel with illustrations, not a manga (though the illustrations are often done by a manga artist).
3/22/2009 9:09 AM