How a Japanese publisher is winning the fight against publishers with their ‘novels in Japanese’
Posted April 04, 2019 08:21:33When Bethany House Publishing Group founder Bethany Sall, who started her publishing career in Japan, first went to the United States in 1996, she was enthralled by the promise of the American market.
She found the first American-published book, a children’s book called ‘Bethany House,’ and became a devoted fan of Japanese literature.
“I was very interested in Japanese and Japanese literature, and I was interested in learning more about the people who lived in Japan,” she says.
Sall, now a partner at J.P. Morgan, first got to know the publishing house publishing house after reading the New York Times Best Seller ‘The Last Unicorn.’
That book sold out in its first week and Sall immediately started a series of book sales and book signings in Japan.
“That was the beginning of my relationship with Japan.
It was my first taste of being in Japan and Japan as a culture, so I became very interested,” she recalls.
Salls says that she started her publisher career at the age of 15, with her mother, who was also a Japanese writer.
She and her mother opened a small publishing house together and quickly became the country’s biggest house.
She says the relationship grew from there.
“I’ve done some of my best work with the publisher that I started with,” Sall says.
“The relationship I have with the house is that we’re not only the publisher but the whole publishing house.”
“Bethannas are the best-selling Japanese publisher.
They have the best catalogs in the country.
The books that they’re selling are selling in the top 10, maybe even the top 20 in the world.
I’ve seen them become a global phenomenon.
It’s not just about one publisher, it’s a global marketing machine.”
Sall says that publishers are looking for ways to diversify their business.
“In the publishing world, it seems that if you’re selling in Japan you’re going to be selling a lot of books,” she explains.
“They want to sell a lot.
So they’re looking for new ways to be more marketable, to be better known and be more profitable.”
Salls notes that she believes that Japanese publishers are now in a position where they are competing in a new market.
“If they were to do that they could be the next big player.
That’s the way it should be.
It shouldn’t be a problem.”
The Japanese publisher market is in the midst of a “crisis” as Japan struggles with an aging population and the decline of the manufacturing sector, which has resulted in lower profits.
Sall believes that the publishers are taking a calculated risk and that they are finding ways to survive.
“There’s a lot more money being made than they’re losing,” she notes.
“We’re in a situation where there’s a glut of books and we’re trying to get through that.”
“The way publishers have been doing it for decades is that they have a small market that is so large that they don’t need to sell as many books as they used to.
That means they don, in fact, make less money than they used.
The only way they can make more money is by selling fewer books.”SALL says that it is not a good business model to continue selling books to Japan as an independent publisher.
“It’s not a sustainable business model, it has a lot going for it,” she stresses.
“But that doesn’t mean we’re going anywhere.
There’s a whole bunch of things that could happen in the future.
I don’t know how that’s going to play out.
We’re all going to have to take a long hard look at that.”
Sills says that the book business in Japan is a lot like the film industry.
“Film is an industry that is very global.
The way the film business is structured, if you want to do a good job of selling a film, you have to be able to distribute it.
And you have a very high price point, which is a big reason why you don’t get the distribution you would like to.
You have to sell your product at a very low price.”
Sells the notion that the business model is unsustainable.
“As long as the film market is so fragmented and so global, you can’t do that.
You can’t go to China, to Korea, to any other country.
You need to be in Japan to do your job.””
You’re in Japan if you can do your work, you’re in the film game, you need to do the business of the film.
And the film is the business.
It has a very important role to play in this economy.”
Sell is an expression of a sentiment that is widespread in the book publishing industry, as publishers are facing