Posted by: tsubakuro | November 24, 2009

Asahi Shinbun Publications Says ‘No’

Asahi Shinbun Publications was the fifth publisher to whom I sent the proposal for Sanmyaku: Photographs from the Japan Alps. The package was delivered Friday morning, November 20th and was returned to me by the following day. Only Toho Publications returned my proposal as quickly.

At first I noticed that the bubble wrap packaging had not even been opened and my business card was still clipped inside. At least the other four publishers had taken my card. I was very disappointed.

But within the envelope was a letter typed by an anonymous person. The letter explained that due to the severely poor economic conditions in the publishing market, Asahi Shinbun would not be accepting any proposals from outside the company. The author went on to express his or her sincerest regrets at having to return my proposal and wished me all the best in the future. The letter was very nicely written and I was pleased that at least someone had taken the time to write an explanation.

Other publishers included Kodansha International, who said that their market was mostly in the U.S., and that a book of Japanese mountains was not likely to sell there; ICB Publishing, who said that the largest distributor of English books in Japan had gone bankrupt and so they had lost their distributor and could not take on new projects; Toho Publishing, who said that photo books are expensive to make and hard to sell and during these hard times they have many books sitting in stock (though their web site says they put out five new titles this year); and Nihon Kamera, who held on to the proposal for a few months and returned it without explanation after I called and asked if anything was happening with it.

I don’t expect my idea will be an easy sell, especially when things seem to be so poor right now. Another photographer I know had his book of the Mont Blanc Massif published through Yama-to-Keikoku but he basically paid for most of the production. The book looks great but he says he still has boxes of copies in his house, despite holding several solo exhibitions and being a recognized photographer in the All Japan Alpine Photography Association, as well as a published photographer in Yama-to-Keikoku calendars.

As a foreigner with few credentials other than some published articles in Japan and abroad, a number of published photographs in calendars and magazines, a few photo contest awards, and two memberships in Japanese photo associations, I am trying to promote my name and photography. But even with all my best efforts publishers are most likely to brush me aside and at best say, “The photographs are beautiful. Sorry, but good luck.”

The Daikiretto at dawn from Kita Hotakadake, Kita Alps


  1. Well, they said no to Project Hyakumeizan’s Hyakumeizan translation too – even though Asahi is one of the main publishers of the Japanese version. You have to see their point of view, though. The commercial risk for any mountain book – images or text or both – is high. Mountains represent a niche market. Sad to say, but the only mountain books that break into a mass market seem to be those that deal with sensation accidents (Whymper, Joe Simpson et al) But let’s not go there. Good luck with other publishers!

    • Yes, I know the market is tough, even for Japanese. There’s a guy that’s having great success with photos of European, Canadian, and Japanese traditional countryside and city views. He’s had ten books published in the last ten years, and three of them in the last two years. I wish I had his success but as you said, the mountain market is limited, and furthermore, I think I still need to develop my style more.

      Yes, I have read Joe Simpsons ‘Into the Void’ and I saw the TV special. I have to agree that people going through an extreme ordeal and surviving is inspiring.

      I am hoping your book gets published soon so I can use it as a source! I wish you well with it.

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