From Publishers Weekly:
In the North American publishing world, comics are comics and novels are novels. But if you peek into the manga section of your local bookstore, you might find a “light novel,” which, according to Leyla Aker, v-p publishing at Viz Media, “possesses elements of YA and genre fiction, combined with the uniquely Japanese element of the manga/anime connection.”
Light novels are Japanese prose works illustrated with manga-style drawings and are often adapted into manga and anime properties. While a few U.S. manga publishers dabbled in the books in the early 2000s, the category never quite took off. Now, Yen Press, Hachette Book Group’s graphic novel and manga line, has launched Yen On, a light novel imprint that will release at least 24 titles in 2015, and has plans to publish many more. Yen Press has already released several light novels, according to its publishing director Kurt Hassler, and, while its prose push is still young, he reported that results are promising.
. . . .
The term “light novels” was coined in Japan in the 1990s, but illustrated novels have been hot sellers with a devoted audience since the 1970s. The books are meant to be light entertainment: fast-paced serialized stories offered as inexpensive paperbacks. According to Japan’s Publishing Science Institute, light novels accounted for approximately 23.5% of the country’s general paperback sales in 2011. “Light novels are huge in Japan these days, and also in most countries in Asia,” observed Ju Youn Lee, senior editor at Yen Press. “In Korea, I think I would say that it’s even bigger than the manga market nowadays.”
Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Eric for the tip.