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2018.07.27 Japanese Light Novels Showing Strong Sales in the US
According to the Newsweek (Japan) article published on June 22, there have been signs of increase in the revenues of Japanese light novels in the US market. Light novels were translated and published in the US during the early years of 2000. However, it retreated after not being able to build a strong enough fanbase as a genre. Once again, under a new strategy, it began to be translated and published as a sub-genre of manga. Consequently, its sales increased twice-fold, and the recognition rate among the fans began to grow. 

Under the revised strategy, the key to success was based on the shifting of the readership target and the marketing method. Some light novels did not meet the definition guidelines of Young Adult (YA) literature that were stipulated by the American Library Association (ALA), and could not be sold under the category of YA. Furthermore, due to the substantial number of sub-genres in Adult literature such as Romance, Science Fiction (SF), Mystery, etc., it would have been difficult to be discovered by the readers. 

Therefore, Yen Press, which is a publishing firm under the joint investment by Hachette Group and Kadokawa, established a dedicated imprint for light novels called Yen On. Its focus has been on the sales of light novels as a sub-genre of manga. Since they found an overlap between the readership of Japanese anime/manga and light novels, Yen On felt it to be easier to appeal to them both. Their strategy worked and Yen On has seen a 500% growth in their sales in the past three years.

In recent years, light novels have become more recognized as a genre of fiction in Japan. There is no firm definition of the genre, but it has strong characteristics of Sci-Fi fantasy with its stylistic emphasis on the dialogue between the characters as well as on illustrations. Previously, it was treated as children’s fiction, but the reason for the establishment of light novel as a new genre was the expansion in the age group of the readership. However, the sales of light novels in Japan have been witnessing a downward trend in the past six years. If its recognition rate increases overseas, then it would be a great stepping stone in pioneering a new sales region.

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