24
Jul
07

SDCC / Rambles / Gay Men and Yaoi

July is a jammed packed convention month. I got two days off after Otakon and it’s off to SDCC where I’ll be meeting up with the women from KOSEN, Yishan Li, my artist agent from Spain, and the Director of New Project Development from Tokyopop. The last should result in a nice news nugget sometime in the near future.

I’m glad that KOSEN is out of the closet about working for Tokyopop now. As many of you may or may not know some of the Tokyopop people work for Yaoi Press also (and vice versa). I’ve been sitting on this news since Yaoi Con 2006, just bursting to blab about it online. It would be fantastic if volume one of their series came out near the same time as their new art book for Yaoi Press.

Another publisher sharing employee with Yaoi Press is Go!Comi, who if I haven’t mentioned it before gets kudos for starting to publish OEL manga.

I got this email after I announced Yaoi Jamboree. I’ve been meaning to discuss it here. I’m a little hesitant to post reader mail since I’m always hearing about bloggers making up pretend emails so they can talk about what they want while also pretending that they’re gurus who have sycophants flocking to them for advice. I assure you, I actually did get this email. I’ll screencap the outlook if there’s any doubt.

Hello,

As a bisexual male and yaoi fan, one of my big pet peeves is when yaoi creators and fans make a big emphasis on how it’s by women and for women, sometimes even defining it that way. The obvious appeal to queer men being overlooked hurts my feelings deeply, especially when the genre is about queer men, and it comes off terribly rude to make us invisible and excluded while trading on stories about OUR lives and sexuality.

I really appreciate that I can’t find anything like this on your site! And now I see you’re holding a yaoi con, near where a long-distance friend and fellow yaoi fan lives. I’m considering attending your con with her, and I didn’t attend the last one in Phoenix because of all of the male-excluding language it employed in its sites and promotional material making me feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. Your press release at Anime News Network, however, did emphasize the female quotient, ostensibly excluding males.
Maybe they wrote that, not you. I hope to bring this issue to your attention, and urge you away from this trend. Yaoi is by the people who make it, and for the people who enjoy it.

Thanks,
Ben

This email was an eye-opener for a situation where my eyes should have already been open. At everythingyaoi.com I’m seeing 25% to 30% of the orders placed by men. At the conventions there’s around the same percentage of men buying the books at the booth. I’ve heard people say that 90-95% of people who buy yaoi are women. My experience shows 25-30% are men.

Consider this: At conventions a lot of women are thrilled to see a yaoi booth. However, there are also lots of women who are uninterested in yaoi. Some who hate yaoi. Some who find it gross. Some who are vehemently yuri only fans. Some who don’t get it. Etc. etc. However, I have never had a gay man (who didn’t mistake the characters for women on the covers/displays) not react positively to yaoi. I have never once had a gay man say, ‘Eww, yaoi.’

At anime conventions I rarely have to educate gay men on what yaoi is. They’re savvy. They’ve heard of it. They seek it out. At non-Anime shows (retailer summits, erotica show) I do have to explain it to some gay men. They were excited about it. They wanted all the info they could get.

This is more or less the rule, and I say more or less because there are always exceptions: Gay men like some of the yaoi that is targeting women readers. Women readers don’t like any of the yaoi that’s targeting gay men.

It was a mistake to think that yaoi needed to be altered to appeal to men. It’s true that there are certain titles that they enjoy more than others. I’ve found, however, that those books are the ones that are most popular with women too. Stallion. Target in the Finder. Embracing Love. The beautiful art and sexy stories are qualities that both men an women like.

Gay men are a huge demographic. A small percentage of manga/anime fans are gay men. Those manga/anime fans are already receptive to the marketing I’m doing. They’re going to the manga section in the book store. They’re on yaoi web sites. They’re not the ones I have to reach.

Gay men who are not interested in manga/anime will buy yaoi because it’s male/male. This is the demographic I want. The one that could explode sales. But these men aren’t on yaoi web sites. They’re not going to the graphic novel sections of book stores. The obstacle is how to put the books in front of these men. Because they do embrace yaoi when they discover it. I’ve seen it.

Adult bookstores and novelty stores were yet another eyeopener for me. I still don’t have good distribution for adult stores in the USA, but I do in Canada. When I first started to work with the distributor I was suggesting Yaoi Hentai and other titles I thought would appeal to those shoppers. The distributor ordered all the books in our catalog to try out. I saw that Zesty was selling just as well as Yaoi Hentai. Huh? Young adult selling well in an adult store? Yes. The point is exposure. If I can put the books in front of gay men, they buy them.

I had been trying to attend non anime shows that had a large female presence. I should have been targeting shows with a large gay male presence.

This is something I have to revisit in the future. I had been active at the GBLT Center in Worcester Massachusetts, where I lived before Las Vegas (as a lesbian, not a gay manga publisher) but I haven’t yet visited the center in Las Vegas. That’s a place to start to see about infiltrating the demographic more. Placing ads in gay magazines isn’t in the budget, nor have those sort of campaigns panned out in the past.

This brings me back to Yaoi Jamboree. This is a venture where I need to take the first active steps towards not alienating male fans. My sound-byte for describing yaoi had been: ‘Stories about men in love with men for women readers.’ I need to alter this, as well as other materials.

At the same time, I need to be sure not to alienate women readers. They are still my core audience by far. It’s a tricky thing to market the same books to 2 very distinct demographics. My early instinct was to have different books for each audience. It didn’t work. It all has to be on the same line, getting sales from every contingent it can in order to be successful.

I’m glad I got this message. I should have known it already, but you see other publishers following an anti-male strategy and get sucked in. Even when the numbers tell you different, you start thinking it’s ok to alienate 25-30% of your readers. It’s not good business, and not the way to treat people.

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5 Responses to “SDCC / Rambles / Gay Men and Yaoi”


  1. July 27, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    A year or two ago, my sister went to one of the bigger anime cons in a neighbouring city (I stayed home, being broke). She brought back photos and autographs and anecdotes for me. Several of the photos of her and her friends include an adorable young boy, about twelve or thirteen, wearing leopard-print kitty ears and a huge smile. They apparently met him at the con, snapping up every shounen-ai series he could find.

    A facet of the yaoi boom that occurred to me then was that for many gay kids, manga could very well be their first source of stories about themselves. That’s either really awesome or a kinda scary, I haven’t decided which yet.

  2. 2 Andy
    December 22, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    If you wanted to market at the general Gay male audience then you need to get coverage in the general Gay media press. Look ar magazines like “Out” and “Genre” in the US and “Gay Times”, “AXM” and “Attitude” in the UK.

    Submit an article yourself or link up with one of their established writers, they are always looking for new subjects to cover. With appropriate info on where to get the stuff included in the articles.


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