Manga Before Flowers -- Publisher & Fan Woes

This is a quick news round-up of recent shake-ups in the world of manga publishing and my usual column will probably appear later this week....

1. DramaQueen -- The Boys Next Door Blog reports that former DQ employee Taisa has news that DQ is pretty much dead in the water until an investor of some kind gives the company a much needed infusion of cash to start publishing titles again. This situation is disappointing in a number of ways, for me, as a manga and a yaoi fan. DQ releases were quite lovely, and were very clearly labors of love.

Simon Jones, always ready to analyze from a small manga publishing perspective (& even the small adult manga publishing perspective) has written in response to the news as his (VERY NSFW) blog:

As quickly as yaoi rose in the bookstores and was ordained the hot new thing, misfortune has befallen several of its publishers. Was the yaoi boom simply overblown? I don't think that's quite the case. But the surge in yaoi publishers may have lead to an arms race that snowballed into the problems we see right now with DQ. One possible scenario is that with sudden competition, DQ may have been inclined to snatch up more licenses than they could handle, and set release schedules they couldn't possibly keep. The demand also surely drove up the expectations of Japanese licensors, along with the asking price. Now mix this together with bookstore distribution, where returnability and long lead times between shipping and payment mean higher upfront costs for new publishers, and a well-planned, promising yaoi upstart can suddenly become severely underfunded as investors grow skittish at the unexpected rise in outlay.

My response in the comments:

I think the sad part is that Drama Queen certainly licensed a lot of strong titles (which is why a lot of yaoi fans are so testy because they believe other companies would have been working on those books and published them by now), but your notion makes sense that they licensed too many of them and put too much money there when it was needed elsewhere.

Most of the strong start up manga publishers have a great deal of financial backing from larger publishing companies (it appears to me). Yen Press, Aurora, etc. The problem is DramaQueen looks too much like a fan enterprise instead of a business one, so it is hard to be surprised they have had / are having such difficulties.

2. Tokyopop is restructuring -- Brigid Alverson at Mangablog breaks down the recent announement here, Tokyopop is basically dividing into two entities -- one that handles publishing and one that ....does not. They are also laying off 39 people, never a good sign.

Being a manga person, this is what gives me a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach (from the original press release):

Publishing production will be reduced by roughly 50% through the rest of the year, reducing output to roughly 200-225 titles per year from a planned total of over 500 titles. Tokyopop CEO and Chief Creative Officer of the Tokyopop Group, Stuart Levy, explained the reasons for the reduction in output. €œThe time is now for us to focus our publishing business to overcome current market challenges. Few releases will allow for less cannibalization at retail.€

Simon Jones is putting together a nice set of reaction links here (REMEMBER: NSFW!).

My first (very shocked) response about this (posted over in the Mangablog comments?):


I feel old, who wants e-everything'ed media? Not this customer.

Just. No. Tokyopop.

Way to plan to fail at the one thing you *were* doing well with (i.e. being a book publisher €” be it manga or OEL books) and now you decide new media is somehow going to be the fix here.

Unless I'm missing something here I don't see an upside to this (although, it is true, Tokyopop puts out way too many books on a monthly basis that a lot of people aren't reading. Which could be how they've gotten here I suppose ... this could be the only way they could correct for being nudged-out of licensing the €œyou now have permission to print your own money€ titles. Fruits Basket can only you take you so far ... )

Anyone else want to explain what exactly is going on here? Is Tokyopop on the right track or am I going to regret ever meeting them and taking their product home when all is said and done?

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