The anonymous blogger at the official Kodansha Comics Tumblr has posted an incredibly informative article on why some manga titles don’t get licensed to be published in English. The reasons are their own, of course, but they’re logical and sensible, so I suspect other publishers think about the decision similarly in determining what’s likely to be successful here.
Many of the reasons are obvious, such as avoiding series that are too long or too old, or those with subject matter that will upset bookstores, but this paragraph, while true, made me sad:
…there are certain subjects that we know are unpopular with consumers after years of industry trial and error — sports series, 4-koma manga, josei manga, gag comedies filled with Japanese minutiae, etc… to name a few, but you get the picture. Of course there are always exceptions, but betting that your chosen license is somehow an exception to the norm is not very wise.
Finally, there’s the idea of limited resources. The company only is able to put out so many series, so something that’s more likely to succeed is going to get picked over something that might do ok with a lot more hard work.
Of course, this isn’t going to stop dedicated fans from thinking that their favorites are exceptions to these rules, so I’m sure we’ll see this kind of information needing to be shared again in future.