Help A Bitch Out

Manga Manga Manga!

Michael from Aurora Publishing, producer of much manga, has a question for y’all, and has asked if I would query the Bitchery regarding a new project they’re working on. Aurora is looking into the possibility of taking romance novels and converting them to manga format:

However, there are limitations.  First of all, we wipe out the entirety of fiction and history.  [They] must be modern stories.  Second, no mystery novels (cop/suspect, murder scenes, etc).  I know that kicks out many, many, many, many, many (you get the point) romance novels, but those types are bad in the market right now. 

So, we are left with modern-day women going about their daily lives, encountering hot men and having their way with them, or being had… whichever. Great manga have big character development, like someone having a low in their life, then by the end of the story, things have perked up (in more ways than one).

So, if you have any suggestions that might fit in that narrow field, I would love to hear of them…. [O]ur first goal would be to sell in the Japan market to start things off, then bring to the American market.  For the latter, we would DEFINITELY broaden our horizons…

Now, I’ll be the first to admit I know diddly about manga – though Michael was kind enough to send me a sample so I’d at least somewhat know what I was talking about – so I asked how one goes about taking a romance novel and translating it into the visual feast of graphics that is manga, and what types of stories would work best.

(NOTE: Update below the fold)

What we would do is write a synopsis of the book, explaining the characters and their goals (the character has to have some kind of goal in life, or be so down that they think nothing is left, but then find a surprise that makes it all better).  I have to make a plot summary, including a more detailed description of the climax (not the sexual one) and the conclusion of the story. 

For the Japan side, it would be great to have a character start at a personal low, then their life improves during the novel, then move to a euphoric high at the end.  The bigger the gap in their personal growth and happiness, the more the Japanese like the story.  In Japan, there is an overabundance of shy girls, so they tend to relate to that character.  However, they also like to see the overly outgoing character, as it shows them something they wish they were.  They tend to like characters of those extremes.

I really appreciate your help with this, and kindly let me know what the American novel readers love, since I’m hoping to look into that as well.

So – what do you think? What American stories of low-to-high emotional and/or euphoria might work, in your opinion? What books do you love that you think would make great manga?

UPDATE: Michael contacted me to let me know he’s received a few inquiries asking how one might submit recommendations. He says:

First, please send an email to info @ with the subject: Manga, Manga, Manga!

Basically, we want the following information.  It doesn’t have to be overly detailed, but the more so it is, the more serious of a recommendation we would consider it.

Hard Facts:
–  Top seller position
–  Good reviews
–  Official ratings

–  Main Characters
–    Goals
–    Personality
– Plot summary
–  How character strives for goals
–  Brief list of accomplishments / failures
–  Brief synopsis of book

–  What is the high point of the story?




Help a Bitch Out

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  1. 1
    Suze says:

    I TOTALLY dig this idea.  However, harlequin tried it and it failed horrifically.

    Of course, the reason for that is that the took (apparently) already-written romance novels by their big names and tried to translate them into manga, which did not work well.  The Cherry Blossom (I think) imprint died before I could get my hands on a copy.

    I love manga, and I love romances.  In order to work, especially in Japan, they will have to be kind of strange.  A lot of what goes on in manga is very non-linear to my mind.

    I like the summary put forward, the whole idea excites me.  You know, being kind of strange, and all.

  2. 2
    rebyj says:

    I think Christine Feehan has one of her Carpathian novels made into a Manga . And Gabaldon is having outlander made into ……. a graphic novel I think?

    as for wants…..none, I’m old skoool. I haven’t read books with pictures in it since my babies were young.

  3. 3
    Kerry says:

    Jennifer Crusie’s Crazy For You is exactly like that story arc—woman about to marry gets dog which leads her to dump the jerk, buy a house and get a great guy, while figuring out who she is.

    Alison Pace’s If Andy Warhol Had A Girlfriend would also work. And although it’s a lesser book, the story in Pug Hill would be greatly improved if adapted to manga.

  4. 4
    Erin says:

    I think a big WHAT NOT TO DO goes to the comic versions of the Anita Blake stories.

    Yeah, I know. I was stupid. But the pictures are soooo pretty.

    And the boobage is sooo large.

  5. 5
    SB Sarah says:

    …as were her thighs in those illustrations. Holy crap.

  6. 6
    Gem says:

    I can’t think of any books right off the bat, but boy does it sound fun to write!

    I do think it could work if they took the romance to the manga and not vice versa.

    I like manga and graphic novels because they can tell very out there and complex stories without feeling too ‘chunky’.

    It’s also easier to utilize multiple characters in manga/graphic novel format because it’s naturally easier (for me) to differentiate between them visually. Instead of Dan, the truck driver from Denver and Donald the truck driver from Dallas, it’s Dan with red hair and Donald the guy with the funny hat.

    I think manga romance could work, as long as the format of manga is utilized for its strengths.

    So manga romance, not romance manga.
    Hope I made some sense, I need some coffee.

    board 11.. hey they mispelled broad.

  7. 7
    Jay in Oregon says:

    Maybe look at Lea Hernandez’s Cathedral Child and Clockwork Angels?

  8. 8
    NkB says:

    I’ve never read manga, but I think the series THE VAMPIRE DIARIES by L. J. Smith would work as manga based on Michael’s description.  That’s really more of arching story though (the main character starts out in a good place, goes to a real low, and then winds up as the as a great heroine).  Or, oooh, THE SECRET CIRCLE would work.

  9. 9
    Gem says:

    How about The Winning Hand, by La Nora ?
    American girl from Kansas wins big in a Vegas Hotel. Lots of good visuals there. She starts out with nine bucks and change, ends up with a couple million and a hawtie. (Note to self, play lottery)

  10. 10
    Ann says:

    Suze, when was this?  It’s been a little while since I was in Japan, but I know I saw Harelequin manga there in ‘04, and it seemed to be doing ok.

  11. 11
    rae says:

    I think you’re wrong there Suze. Those Harlequin manga’s were so successful in Japan that they re-translated them and sold thme in the English speaking market. They were published by darkhorse in the US. Last I heard there were more than four hundred Japanese Manga version of Harlequin romances so I’m not quite sure why Harlequin chose to translate such old ones (1985 was one copyright date) from what I could see.

  12. 12
    Teddypig says:

    Oh shoot! That’s too easy…

    Just rip off Bubblegum Crisis but have the Knight Sabers go out on dates with the hunky AD Police boys between scenes of saving the world from destruction by the evil Boomers and the nefarious Genom Corporation.

  13. 13
    SonomaLass says:

    It sounds to me like short category romance novels would work really well in manga form.  Getting clear visuals is really important (otherwise your sheiks/tycoons/secretaries/doctors/nurses/nannies all run together). The plots seem the right length, from the manga I’ve seen (my daughter likes them), and the type of story arc would work.

    An intriguing idea, although obviously not a new one if Harlequin has done it successsfully.

  14. 14
    an says:

    I read a bunch of the harlequin manga (pink and purple ones) and they could have been better. Lots better, and I do think that part of the prolem was such old storylines with such useless heroines aimed at a young crowd. These were not for adults and it felt very odd.

    Suggestions: Katie McAlister
    Elizabeth Bevarly
    Definitely Susan elizabeth Phillips

    umm, it is a pity they’re not interested in paranormals yet. So many there to choose from, so little time to type ;-P

  15. 15
    Kimberly Anne says:

    I have all the Harlequin Ginger Blossom mangas. There were only 14 published, three of which intended for more mature readers, called Ginger Blossom Violet. They weren’t great – the stories tended to be old skool romances, one that sticks out had amnesia AND punishment sex – but they did whet my appetite for good manga romance.

    I think with better, more modern stories, they could be popular.  At least, I know I’d read them.

  16. 16
    Mickle says:

    May I ask why we cut out historicals?  Is that just something the publisher wants?  Becuase it seems to me that historicals and the fantasy/scifi romance novels would have the most crossover appeal, considering the popularity of fantastical romance, who reads manga now, and what kind of manga they read.

    But whatev.

    I’d say Meg Cabot’s novels – both teen and adult – would be a good choice.  Even though I don’t really like the artwork for the manga sequel to Avalon High, I think the format works well for the way her stories flow, as long as internal monologues are edited well.  Again, check out Anita Blake (the first issue at least) for what not to do re: internal monologues.

    On that same note, I’d say that targeting either YA romances that are popular among adults as well (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) or adult romances that are popular among teens (Nicholas Sparks) might work best.  Not just because of the crossover, but because the those stories tend to be at a pace that I think would translate well to manga.  Although, most may need to be done as manga series rather than a single volume.

    And why not get people to write original stories for romantic manga?  Dramacon is one of my fave modern romance stories ever, and it was always meant to be a manga.  I guess that’s often more expensive though.  :)  There’s a lot of wait time between each volume of Dramacon.

  17. 17
    Charlene says:

    I was going to say – historical manga would be BETTER than comtemporary, plus if they use novels actually written in the old days they won’t have to worry about copyright.

  18. 18
    ardith says:

    when I was working in the Manga/Anime industry, I remember asking someone why they didn’t publish Nora Robert’s Harlequin manga. I don’t know if they just couldn’t get permission, but I was very disappointed with the titles Darkhorse chose to launch with. I thought there were better Harlequin out there to try.

    Oh. and color coordinated ink? It was horrible and hard to read. But I wished them luck. It didn’t turn out very well and then Harlequin took it back and it still didn’t work out.

    I think it was more about knowing what romance readers wanted and getting them to try manga rather than get teenage girls to try to read Harlequin. Unfortunately, I don’t think it was handled well.

    Hm. “came26”

    I must think on that….

  19. 19
    Tae says:

    I think that the Japanese market is probably not interested in historicals, and also how is regency England going to translate to Japanese culture?

    I personally like the idea of putting romance novels into anime and making a 13 or 26 episode arc to them and then you could have the suspense/crime/thriller dramas.

    I can’t get into graphic novels.  I’m so focused on the literature that the pictures are distracting and often not what I imagined the characters or stories to look like.

    By the way do they want the female to start on the low, or can the male start on the low and have him get high (sounds like he’s a druggie) through the help of the said female?

    On a completely different note, I remember Suzanne Brockmann had a Japanese fan who drew Team 10 in Japanese anime/manga style and Suz made them into bookmarks to give away during her signings.  I still have mine tucked away from about 7 years ago.

  20. 20
    Delia says:

    WHY?!  Are the novels themselves not enough?  Why do we have to turn every book into a movie and comic book?  I just don’t understand. 

    Reading three hundred pages of WORDS?  Without pictures?!  Who would do such a thing?

  21. 21
    Denni says:

    I’ve tried to read manga, but after so many years of reading lots of words my brain really doesn’t want to read pictures…makes me feel old.

    That’s alot of criteria, but maybe it will cause them to be more successful than the mediocrity that is Harlequin…as in, know your market.

    I just finished an Aprodisia title that might fit the bill, do they mind erotica?  Private Party by Jamie Alden.

    I’ve read one Jamie Alden novella and this full length book, and thoroughly enjoyed both.

    I’ll have to think about other titles…

  22. 22
    Poison Ivy says:

    As someone who has been involved with comics for a long time, I’m all for romances being published in graphic format. I write graphic romance novellas for But a lot of romance novel readers and writers aren’t interested in a visual experience. Check out all the negative comments on Amazon about Christine Feehan’s comic book adaptation—which is not manga in style at all, by the way, and isn’t even particularly good comic book art, either. These are her very own fans talking, too, and most of them do not have the visual sophistication to critique the art. They just don’t want to read a comic book. Yet her adaptation sold well anyway, because she has such a devoted following. Enough to spawn imitators. All to the good.

    The Anita Blake comics use a genuine, manga-inspired art style that I personally find grotesque (tiny heads on huge bodies), but at least it has some beautiful panels of handsome male model type men. Again, a devoted following going from the novel format to the comics format.

    Manga is a specialized, stylized graphic format, but not the only one available. (Superman isn’t manga. X-Men isn’t, either. Neither is Minx.) In manga, the men look like very young, effeminate fashion models. Not Fabio types. And Japanese ideas about jailbait sexuality (c’mon, all those schoolgirls in their short uniforms) permeate. Then there are the chibis. How are American romance ideals and stories, let alone typical characters, going to be expressed correctly using a manga art style? No one has figured that out yet. They’re certainly welcome to try, but this publisher is targeting the Japanese audience first, anyway, so we’ll probably end up with more of the same Japanese reprints. They are not American romances. 

    As for Harlequin’s manga, they looked nice. But who wants to read a reprint? You don’t start a new, important series with reprints, especially reprints of very old stories. By the time they were reprinting Debbie Macomber, who at least is a little more modern than Charlotte Lamb, no one was paying attention. Harlequin didn’t put any real effort into their American manga.

  23. 23
    Lleeo says:

    Hmm…I find that currently I’ve been gobbling up a lot of darker-themed anime series, yaoi manga and romance novels at the same time. Partly because I love a good dramatic story with a lot of emphasis on character development (character centred) and a lot of anime series provide that for me (note: anime is like the moving version of manga ^_~). Since manga is a little more expensive than books, I tend to try out the anime version of it first and from my experience, it’s an untapped treasure trove of great stories and memorable characters.

    Contrary to what some of you may think, historical romance, especially Regency, would translate very well into manga form. There is a recurrent theme in Japanese artistic culture of portraying popular historical periods in Europe and America. The Japanese seem to have a fascination with Western culture and are always interpreting it interesting ways. I’ve often thought this was why many anime characters are so white-skinned, or have blond or brown hair and blue eyes.

    I started reading yaoi manga (gay love stories in manga) because I was interested in reading more gay romance and couldn’t find that in the romance genre. What I’ve found that I enjoy most about them as a romance fan is that so much of the story is told through the characters’ actions, their expressions, the spaces between them, how they touch each other, the description of their thoughts that contradicts their actions or that make a scene especially powerful through dramatic irony.

    I know I’m rambling, but it’s a very minimalist kind of storytelling that can be compared in a way to theatre or movies. You also get to enjoy a variety of art, a lot of it unique and very beautiful. Personally, I love this kind of storytelling for a love story because you can make it very intimate between two or more characters and really show the progression of their emotional and physical relationship through snap-shots of scenes and visuals. A single image can create a powerful impression. I was skeptical at first but love scenes in this format are just as hot as they can be in written format, in a different way. ^_~

    Sorry for rambling, I’m just excited about the future artistic formats that romance can take on. Seriously also, popular genres of manga include historical periods, paranormal, magic, suspense, just anything. My only beef with yaoi manga is that it tends to be very sexist and binary. You have your uke (the feminine, submissive bottom, usually blond and angelic) and your seme (the masculine, aggressive top, usually dark and brooding). And there tends to be a lot of themes of non-consent and rape, which I really don’t like to see in my romance.

  24. 24
    hollygee says:

    Little Ray of Sunshine, Lani Diane Rich
    Bet Me, Crusie
    Life Skills, Katie Fforde

  25. 25
    DS says:

    I picked up some manga a while back after trying some recommended anime and really enjoying it—it was very witty visuals.  I had a problem with the manga I bought because it was trade paperback sized and rather badly printed which made it hard to read.  I ended up scanning the pages and looking at it on the computer screen.  Not ideal.

    I doubt if I would bother picking up a contemporary romance reprint in manga form.  I might go with historical though.  Georgette Heyer novels in Manga form.  Yeah, I think I would go for that.

  26. 26

    Historicals don’t sell? The Japanese aren’t interested in (European) history?

    Somebody ought to tell them! Fast!!! :)

  27. 27
    Tina says:

    I’m going to keep my temper in check here…but I need to rant.  I write romance manga [sorry, it’s gay romance manga] but I have to compete with the Japanese equivalent [called yaoi] and there are differences; massive ones—mainly cultural and artistic.

    How are American romance ideals and stories, let alone typical characters, going to be expressed correctly using a manga art style?

    Thank you.  I feel no reason Aurora, now interested in producing original English language manga for the American market, needs to outsource Western stories to Japanese artists. For once, I’d like to see graphic novel publishers embrace Western art. I know manga is all the rage, but one of the things I disliked about the Harlequin series’ licensed by Darkhorse is that they felt alien to me.  Not the stories…after all, they were written in the West to being with, but it was the art. I often got the feeling, as someone who reads ‘drawn’ novels on a regular basis, that somehow the artists weren’t quite in touch with the stories, or the emotions in the stories.  I’m not calling Japanese women unemotional, not by a long shot—but their notions of ‘romance fiction’ aren’t the same as ours, and so when Darkhorse announced these books, I jumped at them.  I was curious, having always been a fan women’s manga [called Josei] Japanese women drawn and write great drama about Japanese women.  I bet some of you would love to read the scant amount of Josei that’s been licensed [by Aurora no less!].  So if Aurora wants to make Western romance manga for western readers…why send the scripts to Japan?

    [sighs] For all I know, this might work; perhaps romance fans will embrace ‘manga’ versions of their favorite romances…  It just pains me to know that there’s scores of artists here that could do the job, with a full understanding of the subject matter at hand.

    Sorry to rant here, I’ll be scurrying away now.

  28. 28
    NHS says:

    I was glad to see that there are at least two other people that have similar feelings to mine. I really was begining to think I was lost and alone and the only one on earth that loves paranormal, Sci-Fi and erotica doesn’t have a Manga loving gene.

    I really just don’t get it. I have no desire to have pictures with my fiction. And there is just NO WAY on earth I could enjoy any type of erotica in Cartoon/Graphic form.

  29. 29
    Lleeo says:

    Lol at Sandra Schwab. ^_~ Anyone familiar with Japanese animation or manga knows that that Japanese artists and writers can’t get enough of Western history and culture—sometimes I think there’s more of it in their work than Japanese history and culture. ;)

    And Tina, you have every right to go on a rant. I think manga is becoming a very well-known graphic novel format, and as you know, yaoi manga is hugely popular among young Western women. I think the problem is that Western comics and graphic novels have come to be associated with superhero action adventure stories featuring muscled men in spandex and women with big boobs. They seem to have originally been geared toward young white men, just like sci-fi was once only produced and consumed by middle-class white men. And then James Tiptree and Octavia Butler and started kicking ass aka shaking things up in the genre.

    So I completely agree with you when you plead for Western art and Western graphic novels to be given a chance. I just feel like I haven’t had a big exposure to what’s out there and I’m sure many romance readers out there haven’t either. For example, where do you find them? Japanese manga is now widely sold in big book stores but where are the Western graphic novels? In comic book stores?

    I also agree with you that Western love stories have a different flavour than, say, yaoi manga. There’s a cultural difference as well as a language difference that is apparent even after translation into English. From the sheer quantity of yaoi manga that I’m seeing cropping up and the seeming comfort the Japanese have with androgyny and effeminate characters, I always assumed that Japanese culture was more open and accepting of gays, long before us. But that doesn’t seem to necessarily be the case. It seems more like you can fool around with male lovers if you want but if you’re the oldest son or it’s your responsibility to carry on the family legacy, you’ve got to marry a woman and produce an heir. Many of the ‘happy gay couples’ seem to exist in a self-contained vacuum away from the judgemental eye of society and women are often seen as intruders into gay relationships. Which is kind of a scary paradox, isn’t it? Many yaoi manga artists and writers are female and the majority of the audience for these books is made up of young women. Yet the women characters in these novels are often demonized. =/

    Also, there tends to be a generic feel to how the human body is represented in yaoi manga (I know I keep coming back to this, but these texts are what I’ve had the most experience reading). Everyone, even if they’re supposed to be short, is long and lean and kind of androgynous. This tends to be the case in a lot of anime and manga out there as well. Some Japanese artists have moved away from this trend but I find it gets boring after a while.

    So, Tina, bring it on! And tell me more. :)

  30. 30
    Tina says:

    Telling me to bring it on, is likely not a good idea, because I tend to sound ranty and unkind.  :) 

    As for this:

    Anyone familiar with Japanese animation or manga knows that that Japanese artists and writers can’t get enough of Western history and culture

    The problem with the Japanese take on western history is, it’s rarely ever correct.  LOL!  Sometimes you get a gem of a manga, where the mangaka [the manga author/artist] actually knows something about the history they’re depicting, and you end up with a well-rounded historical…even it’s just smut, it’s forgivable.  Yet a large portion of manga tends to be historically off: Dark skinned Rabbi fights warlord in 18th century China while wielding a Crucifix, all for the sake of the sixteen year old Tibetan girl who’s mother was really a Princess from India…

    < --

    not an actual plot, but I dare anyone to argue with me that this wouldn’t get printed in Japan.  0_o. 

    About the Aurora thing:

    Thinking more on this, perhaps this might work, in the long run, with women manga fans getting the good end of the deal.

    One of the things that kept me from embracing the Harlequin licenses was the plots that I hated, even when they were in English.  :(  They were sent to Japan for Japanese readers, because they contained plot devices that depicted only the male positive/women=doorstop sort of characters.  Most women in these old books were brainless knobs who equated sex with love, and jumped into a series of bad relationships because they don’t know any better—until, tada! a   ‘man-unit’ shows up to reveal just how worthless they are, and only through man-unit, can our woman find self-esteem and relationship salvation. 

    Of all the romance manga I’ve read, I’ve yet to find one where the heroine comes to an emotional epiphany on her own and changes her life for the better.  This must always happen only after –rape, whoring, or Prince ‘man-unit’ comes along and leads her out of her own romantic decay. [puke]. I tended to avoid fiction like this, but these plots were a plenty once upon a time, and these were the sort of books sent to Japan and made into romance Manga.  Now sure, a novel like this can be read and tossed aside in about 300 pages, but with manga, the sh*t goes on for volumes [sometimes two or three—sometimes up to 6!]. (>_< ) and now that dated crap is ending up back here, as licenses from Japan.  It’s like tossing out a pair of jeans because they make your ass look fat, and then getting the same pair of jeans from your mother during the holidays—because she remembered you mentioning them once, and thought she’d get you a pair.  /rant.

    If Aurora can get a better plot or two from this experiment, then I’m all for it…however, by insisting on illustrating these plots in the ‘manga style’ I don’t think they’re going to make the sort of book that serves as a gateway drug to bring in romance novel readers, to manga.  I think they’re only going to acquire new readers from the mature women all ready into manga.

    Sorry for another long rant on your comments thread SBs, but this subject matter hits just a tad too close to home for me—but I can guarantee you this…you wont be seeing man-titty on a Japanese romance manga, for ladies.


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