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The Korean Book Importing Success Story of Diamond, a Japanese Publisher

 

2021.07.05

 

Why Diamond acquired the publication rights of the book, I Almost Lived Too Hard

 

It was April 2019 when I heard about the book I Almost Lived Too Hard (Woongjin ThinkBig) (Japanese title: あやうく一生懸命生きるところだった). As soon as I saw its appealing title and theme, I was convinced that it would also sell in Japan. Books related to emotional sicknesses such as depression and stress were trending in the Japanese publishing market around that time, and there was already the atmosphere among the public that the book’s topic of “not living to the fullest” might be accepted. As I also had a time when my mind was very distressed, I wanted to present this book to people with “exhausted minds.”
Besides, it was around that time that another bestselling Korean book, I Decided to Live As Myself (Woods of Mind’s Books) (Japanese title: 私は私のままで生きることにした) began to be published and sold in the market. As such, Korean non-fiction was definitely trending, and the timing in such a market atmosphere greatly influenced the acquisition of the book’s publication rights. We had to compete with several other publishers to get the rights, but our proposal won the contract.

 

Making books targeting the “Hallyu (Korean Wave) Natives” in their 10s and 20s

 

The book I Almost Lived Too Hard set female readers in their 10s and 20s as the main targets, as they, the so-called “Hallyu Natives,” have been driving the Korean Wave boom within Japan for the past several years. They have been exposed to Korean culture since they were young, and for them, Korea is also a place of admiration. So I thought that they would accept Korean non-fiction, a new genre, without failure. When we look at the success factors of I Decided to Live As Myself, which became a hit in Japan, the biggest influence was such populations’ purchase which derived from the fact that it was a favorite book of BTS.
Hence, we were always thinking of how we could make I Almost Lived Too Hard target them just like I Decided to Live As Myself as we designed the book. For example, we enlarged the font for the young generation not used to reading and gave more space between the lines for more comfortable reading. We also bulked up the size of the book compared to other books.

 

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Layout of the body (Japanese edition). The font and inter-line space are greater than general books.

 

 

Also, we got a blurb from Ariyasu Momoka, a former member of Japanese idol group Momoiro Clover Z, well-known among those in their 10s and 20s, and put it on the belly band.
One thing I remember from the production process is that I mulled over whether we should use the front-cover illustration of the original book. There were divided opinions within the office – “Would it be okay to use the illustration of a male wearing a piece of underwear while the main targets are females?” However, we pushed forward with the original design believing in the power of illustrator Hawann.

 

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Cover design of the Japanese edition.
A blurb from Ariyasu Momoka, former member of Momoiro Clover Z is printed on the belly band.

 

 

Three books that led the “Korean Non-fiction” genre in Japan

 

The book I Almost Lived Too Hard was published in January 2020. There were worries that Korean non-fiction would not make it in the Japanese market, but the initial sales performance was good enough for the second printing. Also, another Korean non-fiction title - I Want to Die but I Also Want to Eat Tteokppokki (HEUN) (Japanese title: 死にたいけどトッポッキは食べたい) was published in the market around the same time, and it also recorded good sales.
As the sales of the three recently-published Korean non-fiction books – I Decided to Live As Myself, I Almost Lived Too Hard, and I Want to Die but I Also Want to Eat Tteokppokki – are all in good shape, the publishing market is eyeing the genre. I think that with the publication of these three books in Japan the genre of “Korean non-fiction” has bloomed. They would be displayed in a row in many bookstores. Numerous similar types of books were published after them, and still, Korean non-fiction is gaining attention in the market. Also, the news that the new title Being Comfortable Without Effort (Dasan Books Co., Ltd.) (Japanese title: 頑張りすぎずに,氣樂に お互いが幸せに生きるためのバランスを探して) by writer Kim Su-Hyeon, who wrote I Decided to Live As Myself, was auctioned off at a high price proving that Korean non-fiction is trending in Japan for sure.

 

Promotional activities carried out amidst the pandemic

 

It’s been a breezy start with Being Comfortable Without Effort, but due to COVID-19 that broke out two months after the publication, many bookstores had to shut down in Japan. Many Japanese people couldn’t avoid working from home, and it became a task for the publishers to figure out how to boost sales on the Internet centering around Amazon Japan.
Therefore, publisher Diamond focused on online marketing utilizing our web-media “Diamond Online.” The interview of Ariyasu Momoka, who wrote the blurb for the belly band and the translator, article on the movie “Parasite,” and contributions from bookstore staff members that were impressed by the book were written and distributed. As such efforts paid off, the book could see a rise in sales both online and offline, carrying out reprints amidst the difficult times due to the pandemic.
Since June 2020, when the emergency state was inactivated in Japan for the first time, we focused on marketing activities in offline stores as well. We carried out offline marketing on JR (Japanese Railways) transit advertisements and newspaper advertisements, and expanded marketing activities in bookstores, successfully drawing attention. Such marketing efforts brought about the book’s greater exposure on various media, raising awareness among the public through introductions on television or magazines. The book became a bestseller selling 100 thousand copies in only 8 months since its publication.

 

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Transit advertisement conducted by JR

 

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Introduced on various media, including TV shows and magazines.
A scene from “The King’s Brunch (王様のブランチ)” showing rankings of books.

 

 

“It relieved my mind,” “I feel saved,” ... A wave of praise from across generations

 

The total sales record of the book I Almost Lived Too Hard is 137 thousand copies as of June 2021. I believe that the “marvelous content” of the original book was the biggest contributor for making the book become a bestseller alongside the marketing strategies mentioned earlier.
There are compliments from readers mostly aged from 10-30 in Japan that they were “saved,” could change their “attitude towards life,” and feel “relieved.” The happiest thing is that the astounding content, title, and cover of I Almost Lived Too Hard could meet many Japanese readers along with the increase in sales.

 

 


Written by YUKI HATASHITA, Book Editing Bureau, Third Editorial Department, Diamond Co., Ltd. (畑下裕貴、株式会社 ダイヤモンド社 書籍編集局 第三編集部)
Translated from Japanese into Korean by Oh Kyeong-Soon (Adjunct Professor of Japanese Language & Culture at Catholic University of Korea)

 

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YUKI HATASHITA, Book Editing Bureau, Third Editorial Department, Diamond Co., Ltd. (畑下裕貴、株式会社 ダイヤモンド社 書籍編集局 第三編集部)

#Japan#Diamond#Hallyu#BTS#non-fiction
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