A candid and personal examination of the Philippine comics scene from a social, cultural, economic and business point of view.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Overview of the Book Publishing market in the Philippines

What is the present market situation for Filipino comics in book format, or "graphic novels"?

Admittedly, there have been few of these Filipino graphic novels introduced in the market and no official sales reports have as yet been made of their overall performance. Still, some background information wouldn't hurt when attempting to tread on the Philippine book market through graphic novel publishing.

So just how big is the book market? In what sense or approach can it be lucrative? What are the reading preferences and tastes of its various segments? What segment is more lucrative? Is it advisable to make Filipino graphic novels in the Filipino language rather than in English? Should Filipino graphic novels cater more to the few but affluent A, B elite market? Should Filipino graphic novels be more mass-based, and genre-oriented? Most importantly, should Filipino graphic novels be more fiction or entertainment based rather than oriented on information?

Prizewinning Filipino author,Tony Hidalgo, is the owner and Chief Executive Officer of a small but vigorous publishing house called "Milflores Publishing" which has grown phenomenally in 5 years beginning with sales of 4,260 books in 2000, to about 40,000 book sales expected this 2005; a growth rate of close to a thousand percent. Hidalgo was cited by Philippine Star newspaper columnist, Butch Dalisay, as having recently delivered a paper on the state of book publishing in the Philippines. Hidalgo's insights are herein quoted as follows:

"The most important constraint for book publishers at the macro level...is the widespread poverty in the country...Another important constraint is the mismatch between the books that the best Filipino minds write and the needs and preferences of readers.

Most Filipino books are still written in English though most readers prefer books in Filipino. The best Filipino writers will concentrate on writing fiction (novels, short stories, plays) and poetry in English, while nine out of 10 book buyers want information books.

Because of class differences in lifestyles and experiences, the content of the best Filipino literature in English is often at odds with what most readers want from fiction, so they turn instead, to the movies, telenovelas, and romance novels.

The small but affluent, A and B market is fluent in English and should be the natural market for Filipino literature in English but the best writers. Unfortunately, this segment is also highly Westernized and prefers books by foreign authors. Some of them are even unaware that there is now a fairly large body of work by Filipino authors in English." ("Minding the Market" by Butch Dalisay, Philippine Star, October 3, 2005)

And how is Milflores Publishing policy being implemented given the above market data? In the same paper delivered by Tony Hidalgo, the following is disclosed:

"In more practical terms, Milfones engaged several dozens of the best, award-winning writers to contribute to humorous anthologies on popular topics like shopping malls, insomnia, beauty pageants, being a Noranian, etc. We also published collections of humorous essays by good writers on migration to America, pregnancy, the single life for women, the gay world, etc. We only focused on the popularity of the topic of the books--we never told our writers what to write and never asked them to simplify anthing for the mass market. In fact, we always selected manuscripts where the writer poured everything he/she had into it, for we believe that books with great passion are the best ones, or to paraphrase Simone de Beauvoir, "In some sense, every good book is a cry for help." ("Minding the Market", Ibid.)

Use of the Filipino language. Non-fiction. Essays. Humor. Popular topics. A policy of not writing below the mass market, or of not presuming the mass market audience to be "dumb". Works with substance and passion, not mere imagery, illustration, and flash. These are the guideposts on which Milflores bases its success in the book publishing arena. With such criteria in mind, do we see the same thing emulated as well by the few Filipino graphic novels in the market?

(Other sources : www.publishingtrends.com/copy/0209/philippines.html, and www. publishersweekly.com/article/CA16479.html?pubdate=5%2F23%2F1997&display=archive)

Postcript: The following related article entitled: "Truth Seeking at the 24th National Book Awards" by Alfred A. Yuson, appearing in the "Philippine Star" newspaper's September 12, 2005 issue provides an interesting insight on how many Filipino authored books are actually sold in the market, thus:

"When Francisco C. Colayco mentioned at the podium that his winning title had already sold 50,000 copies, there was a buzz of shock and awe from the large crowd gathered for the 24th National Book Awards held on Spet. 4 at the World Trade Center, on the last day of the Manila International Book Fair. The book was Wealth Within Your Reach: Pera Mo, Palaguin Mo (published by Colayco Foundation for Education), which won one of the two awards given to books on Business and Economics. The five-digit number he cited is the stuff of wild dreams for literary writers and most other authors, especially in our country. But then we should acknowledge the terrific seduction offered by the very title of Colayco's book. Seated on the front row as Manila Critics Circle members, judges and presenters, National Artist for literature Virgilio Almario and I looked at one another incredulously, before nodding in a soft eureka way. So that's what it takes. Want to be a bestseller? Come up with a title that promises to deepen one's pockets."

In another related development, there's a bestselling black and white graphic novel or more precisely, "manga" on U.S. wiz investor Warren Buffet, that's now practically sold out in the high-end book specialty shops of Manila (i.e., Page One and Bibliarch). Yes, you read right. Its a Japanese BIOGRAPHICAL manga in english on Warren Buffet's life, accomplishments, and even containing some explanations of economic and investment principles. Who says comics can't also be informative? Filipino comics creators sure have a long way to go.


Blogger adminsupervisor said...

Technorati-Edelman Blog Survey Results Published
Things will be a bit quiet here until the weekend as I'm on the road. Meanwhile, take a look at the results of the Technorati/Edelman blog survey that was conducted late last month.
work from home

9:44 PM


Post a Comment

<< Home