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Interview with Tokyopop's Marco Pavia, Part Two

Publishing Plans, Digital Delivery

Published: 10/13/2008 12:00am

ICv2 recently caught up with Tokyopop Associate Publisher Marco Pavia to talk about what's going on in the graphic novel and manga markets, and to get the latest on what's going on at Tokyopop in the wake of its recent restructuring (see “Tokyopop Splits into Two Companies”).  In Part Two, we talk about highlights of Tokyopop’s publishing plans for 2008 and 2009, and thoughts about digital delivery of manga and graphic novels.  In Part One of this two-part interview, Pavia talked about the current state of the graphic novel and manga market, and the changes in Tokyopop's publishing schedule and digital initiatives since the restructuring.

 

What are the Tokyopop projects in the pipe that you’re most excited about?

I’m really excited about Fruits Basket, one our bestsellers of all time, and we have a couple of new series from Natsuki Takaya, the Fruits Basket creator; Phantom Dream and Tsubasa: Those With Wings are coming out over the next few months (see “Tokyopop Adds 2 By 'Fruits Basket' Creator”), so we’re really excited about that.

 

Our Blizzard publishing program.  We have a 20-plus book program over the next three years.  We just released the first two of those books--a Warcraft and a Starcraft book that have really been embraced, and it looks like almost everyone who has bought Warcraft has also bought Starcraft.  Blizzard is a great partner to work with; their attention to detail and quality is really unmatched, so we’re really excited about that program.

 

Some of the other original brand license products that we actually haven’t yet announced until now--I’m really excited about CSI.  We were just on the CSI set a few weeks ago, and we’re going to come out next fall with a CSI manga and a publishing program tied into that. 

 

And then we have a great relationship with Disney and some of our ongoing Japanese license series--Fruits Basket, Chibi Vampire, all the .Hacks.  We’re very excited about.

 

Looking at our list, it’s still pretty fierce, a little more lean.  And I expect it to continue to grow.

 

What’s going on with the Tokyopop collaborations with Harper Collins?

Warriors is going strong.  We’re on our third Warriors title based on the really popular YA novel series.  We’re doing more manga with Meg Cabot, tied into with some of the Harper novels.  We have a few down the road that we haven’t yet announced.  We have a great relationship with Harper and we’re expecting to continue to publish more and more tied into not only Warriors, Meg Cabot and Vampire Kisses, but some new series that we’ll announce shortly.

 

There have been many attempts to sell European material in the States, with less success than expected.  Now we’re seeing Tokyopop, Marvel--more material coming over again after a little break over the last few years.  What do you think are the opportunities for the European material in the States, and do you think it can ever break through to a broader audience?

Absolutely.  We wouldn’t be publishing it if we didn’t think so.  Partly we’re expanding outside the manga section.  The first few series that we’re launching, the artwork I think is stunning, and I think these will be truly unique product in the marketplace.  The question, “will they find their audience?” is the eternal question.  We have a pretty fierce marketing program behind them to launch the series, and we really believe they’ll find their audience.

 

Is the success you’re expecting because of the particular material you’re selecting or because the market is more receptive to European material?

I think it’s both.  We have an acquisitions team that is very particular and we strongly believe in the material we’re publishing and the market is definitely open now to what we have to offer.

 

Looking at next year, Tokyopop maybe is the most visible example, but certainly other companies are looking at reducing their output of manga.  How do you think the market’s going to respond to a lighter title output, and do you feel the consumer market for manga is still growing?

I definitely think it’s still growing.  I think people want quality. Manga/comics/graphic novel readers are going to increase, it’s just a matter of whether the book buyers are going to increase.

 

We’ve seen the popularity of some online pirate sites continue to increase and how much that cannibalizes book sales remains to be seen.  We’ve been looking at some sites where traffic has increased where our manga, our competitor’s manga are featured and it’s just a question of how those pirate sites impact book sales.

 

We are starting to hear from comic store owners that the scanlation sites are having an impact on their sales.  If that’s the case, do you think the answer for a publisher is to try to battle those sites, or learn to live with them?  What is Tokyopop’s strategy for dealing with the scanlation sites?

Honestly, it’s a challenge to battle all those sites.  On our site, we’ve run manga for free for a limited time and we’ve seen a spike in sales.  Two Fruits Baskets ago, we released a whole volume online for free for a limited time, and we actually saw a spike in that volume’s book sales over the first week compared to the previous volume’s book sales over its first week.  A few other series--Loveless--some of our original stuff--we’ve definitely seen a positive impact on sales when we’ve released something for free for a limited time as a promotional, marketing tactic. 

 

To be honest, I wouldn’t know where to begin.  We know about some of the top pirate sites, but they’re ubiquitous.  It would be challenge to try to fight them.  We certainly don’t have the resources to fight each and every one.

 

How do you reach an accommodation then?  Just assume that some of the sales are going to be lost to people who are reading it online?

Yeah.  We hope, like with our Gothic and Lolita Bible, the moment we published it, it’s online for free, but we’ve marketed toward that community and we just hope they liked the product and in order for us to continue to put out such quality product.  We’re hoping people will understand that they need to buy it so we can continue to make it.

 

It seems like there’s an ebb in the number of manga releases or sales in Japan, and we’ve heard that people are attributing some of that to paid legal delivery by cell phones.  You mentioned the animation, delivering free content for promotions, and you’ve had a cell phone program in the past.  What legal means of digital delivery of complete stories are you currently using or are looking at?

That’s definitely the future.  I’d like to think that books will be around forever, but realistically, that might not be the case.  We’re prepared.  We are releasing manga digitally across a number of platforms.  We’re looking at different models, whether it’ subscription, sponsorship-based, but it’s anyone’s guess right now what the model will be.

 
 
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