The business end

Here are some of the week’s links that focus on the business end of manga:

At Robot 6, Brigid (MangaBlog) Alverson speaks to Vertical‘s Ed Chavez about their new investors, Kodansha and Dai Nippon, and Ed reassures Vertical fans that the publisher will be better able to do the things it loves to do:

If there will be any changes, I think it’s that Vertical will hopefully eventually be the Vertical that everybody is familiar with. It wasn’t until last year that Vertical started producing more manga than anything else, and I’d like to bring us back to being the source of Japanese content in English, because as much as you know I obsess over manga, maybe too much sometimes, I enjoy their novels, I enjoy their nonfiction, I’m a huge fan of Kentaro’s cookbooks. I love the versatility, I love being able to present and be a curator to a catalog like that, and I want to get back to that.

At its blog, Tokyopop talks about some of the realities of the market, particularly as they relate to unfinished titles:

This probably comes as a surprise to a lot of manga fans, since you tend to be a very ’net-friendly bunch, but the percentage of our sales that come through and other online retailers is a fraction of that of the brick-and-mortar stores. There are some notable exceptions (BLU titles, mature titles, and some of our back list), but the vast majority of sales come through physical retail stores, and if something disappears from the shelves, it becomes exponentially more difficult to hit our sales targets.

One of those brick-an-mortar retailers, Christopher (Comics212) Butcher, appreciated Tokyopop’s frankness but questioned the tone:

Some of the finer points are disagreeable to me personally (particularly the enthusiasm for print-on-demand, though that at least is somewhat tempered by describing it as an ‘emerging’ technology) but at the core of the article is a very real problem; the combatative attitude between this Tokyopop employee–and really Tokyopop in general–and their fans. You don’t start off an answer to a frequently asked question on your website by complaining about your customers.

Speaking of publisher-consumer interaction, Fantagraphics shared the cover design of the first volume of Shimura Takako’s eagerly anticipated Wandering Son via their Twitter feed and said that their planned release schedule for the series was two volumes a year. This led to some discussion of the format (hardcover) and price ($19.99), which may be a barrier to entry for people used to paying around $10 for an individual volume. I’m irresistibly reminded of the time that Fantagraphics decided to package Love and Rockets reprints like manga (inexpensively and in paperback) to attract its audience to… you know… good comics.