Digital Manga Publishing
Cartoonists | A campaign to raise money to erect a 9-feet-tall bronze statute of Family Circus cartoonist Bil Keane in his hometown of Paradise Valley, Arizona, is trailing about $23,000 short its goal ahead of an April 30 deadline. Alan Gardner points out that amount is reachable on Kickstarter. [The Arizona Republic]
Publishing | Kevin Roose has a brief chat with Bluewater CEO Darren G. Davis, who says that the company’s bestseller, the Michelle Obama bio-comic, sold about 150,000 copies; the CEO biographies do about half that number. [New York Magazine]
Despite its name, Digital Manga Inc. has always had a robust print line; in fact, the publisher was releasing print manga long before it moved into digital. And it has a pretty solid niche, too: Most of what the company publishes is yaoi manga, fairly formulaic romance between two men, and it has a small but faithful following.
So it was a surprise when Digital President Hikaru Sasahara announced Wednesday that the company will suspend publication of print manga from January through June 2013. “This hiatus will allow us to coordinate our production schedule for 2013 and temporarily shift our focus to our digital publications,” he said on the Digital blog. The post includes a list of all the books scheduled for publication in the first six months of 2013, along with their new release dates. A few books will remain on their original schedule, including the next volume of Vampire Hunter D and the two Tezuka manga funded by a recent Kickstarter campaign.
One of the great potential boons of digital is that it can bring back older comics at a reasonable price, without the problems of distribution and per-unit costs that caused them to disappear in the first place. Three examples popped up this week, while everyone was bickering over same-day releases of new comics:
Eddie Campbell announced on his blog that his early graphic novel Dapper John in the Days of the Ace Rock ‘n’ Roll Club is available as a standalone iPad app. The comics, a series of interlocking seven-page stories, were drawn in 1978-79. Campbell self-published them in the 1980s, and Fantagraphics did a collected edition in 1993. The app, which was produced by a Tokyo company called Panel Nine, includes not just the original run of comics but also the original small press covers, Alan Moore’s review of the comic (which started the ball rolling), and sundry other extras, some of which have not been seen in years. So it’s sort of a digital collector’s edition.
Batton Lash’s Supernatural Law is another vintage comic (well, from the 1990s) that is getting a new life in digital form. In this case, the comic is not its own app but is available via the Comics + and Graphicly platforms at a reasonable digital price: Wolff & Byrd #1 is free, and subsequent issues are 99 cents.
Comics | John Jackson Miller slices and dices the October numbers for the direct market, noting that overall dollar orders for comic books, trade paperbacks, and magazines topped $40 million for the first time since September 2009. Orders rose 6.9 percent over September, the first month of DC’s relaunch. “While that may sound counter-intuitive, it isn’t when you consider that all those first issues continued to have reorders selling through October,” Miller writes. “Retailers with an eye on the aftermarket may also have some sense that second issues are historically under-ordered — something which goes at least back to the experience of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #2 in the 1980s, which wound up being much more valuable than its first issue.” [The Comichron]
Passings | Tom Spurgeon reports that author Les Daniels has passed away. Daniels wrote horror fiction and nonfiction books on the comic industry, which include Comix: A History of the Comic Book in America, Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics and DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World’s Favorite Comic Book Heroes. [The Comics Reporter]
Conventions | San Diego City Council President Tony Young and Comic-Con International staff are working together on a “marquee event” at Balboa Park that around the time of Comic Con. While convention organizers are interested in a Balboa Park event, they don’t support Yong’s original proposal, a nationally televised parade that would kick off or end the con, saying that the logistics, traffic and crowding would be problematic. [Sign On San Diego]
Conventions | Ohio State University’s student newspaper covers this past weekend’s Mid-Ohio Con. [The Lantern]
Conventions | The New York Post previews this week’s New York Comic Con in a pair of articles, the second of which focuses on announcements from Marvel and DC. Marvel’s “Cup O’ Joe” panel will reveal how Fear Itself, Avengers: The Children’s Crusade and X-Men: Schism tie together, while DC plans to reveal “the surprising origin of a longtime member of the Justice League” and more creators who will work on their New 52 books, in addition to Andy Kubert. Update: Presumably the Justice League member with the surprising origin is Wonder Woman. [New York Post article #1, article #2]
Comics | Not surprisingly, DC saw double-digit increases in September compared to the year before, but the overall market was down a touch as graphic novel sales, lacking this year’s equivalent of Scott Pilgrim, were down. [The Comichron]
Business | Disney CEO Robert Iger, who oversaw the company’s purchase of both Marvel Entertainment and Pixar, will step down as CEO in March 2015. [Bloomberg]
The Digital Manga Guild, an experiment in fan translation created by Digital Manga Publishing, launched yesterday with its first manga, Tired of Waiting for Love, which is available online only at Digital’s eManga.com website.
Digital’s strategy is to get a lot of manga onto the market quickly by using nonprofessional translators, editors, and letterers who don’t get paid up front but get a 12% cut of profits once the books start selling; Digital and the Japanese licensor also wait for their share until the profits start rolling in. Digital CEO Hikaru Sasahara says that one thing keeping manga off the U.S. market is the high initial costs, both the license fee paid to the Japanese licensor and the cost of translation and other prep. By shifting those costs to the end of the process, rather than the beginning, he hopes to be able to vastly increase the number of books brought over here: The DMG plans to publish 50 to 100 books per month, all digitally on the eManga site and, eventually, via Kindle, Nook, and other channels.
This could be bad news for professional translators, editors, and letterers, especially in the manga field, but in fact the Digital Manga Guild is an idea that probably works better for yaoi manga than for other genres. The reason lies in the similarity of yaoi manga to romance novels, something that Sasahara has long been aware of (Digital also offers Harlequin manga at eManga.com). Like romance readers, yaoi fans are voracious readers who will read just about everything available. They have their favorite authors, and Digital is planning quite a few books by creators whose work has already been published in English, but they will also read a book by an unknown. When you read so many manga, getting a new story is more important than having a physical copy, and many readers may prefer digital to print because it gives them fresh stories without the clutter (and at a lower price). And most yaoi manga are one-shots, so Digital doesn’t have to worry about maintaining consistency across a series, which makes it easier to have multiple books being translated by different teams at the same time.
It used to be gospel among publishers that getting a book banned in Boston juiced sales. Can the same be true for Kindle? Digital Manga is banking on it; the Akadot retail site is offering all three of the books that were removed from Kindle (presumably for adult content) as a discount bundle. These are print editions, and the price, $18.99 for all three, is a considerable discount over regular retail, so it’s a good deal. The Digital folks have done well for themselves out of this whole affair, as the three books in question (two of which were deep backlist) have gotten a lot of attention; advertising them as too hot for digital is a pretty shrewd move.
Digital Manga Publishing, which is certainly living up to its name nowadays, is now selling manga for the Kobo e-reader. This is a logical extension, as they already sell manga via the Kindle, the Nook, and their own eManga site, and Digital vp Fred Lui told me a few weeks ago that their revenues from the Nook are fast approaching their Kindle sales. And with Amazon removing some of their manga from the Kindle Store for reasons that remain unclear, it makes sense for them to diversify into as many channels as possible.
Since I haven’t heard about any graphic novels for the Kobo, I went to their store and poked around a bit. A search on “graphic novel” turned up Ted Dekker’s graphic novels, which seem to be on every medium, an adaptation of the children’s novel Artemis Fowl, and… Pokemon Graphic Novel, Volume 2: Pikachu Shocks Back, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. I was a little surprised to see that the guy who coined the phrase “It was a dark and stormy night” had written a Pokemon book, especially as he died in 1873, so I downloade it; alas, it turned out to be just another badly written 19th-centry novel. This suggests that the Kobo bookstore is not quite ready for prime time, but given that Digital is about to greatly expand its digital offerings, it makes sense to maximize the number of channels as well.
Ever since the news broke last week that Amazon had removed some yaoi manga from the Kindle store, people, myself included, have been bombarding them with questions. No answers have been forthcoming, however. Amazon is like a huge black box with a screen in the side that sells books. What goes on inside it is anybody’s guess; their PR people don’t return emails or calls, and their customer service department spits out bland, automated responses like
“Occasionally books are removed from the Kindle Store for various reasons. We do not have any specific details about why this particular book may have been removed. The book’s publishers decide if a book is to be made available for the Kindle, and they can change this status at any time.”
In the Case of the Missing Manga, Amazon fails the Turing Test. It is obviously a robot.
Last week we reported that Amazon had removed several yaoi manga from the Kindle Store on the grounds that it did not meet their content guidelines. I spoke to Fred Lui of Digital Manga Publishing, the publisher of the deleted manga, and he said that Amazon didn’t give any more specific reason than that, although he did note that there seemed to be a new guy who was being “overzealous.”
The Kindle Store still offers plenty of yaoi manga, including some fairly steamy titles, so Amazon doesn’t seem to be deleting all the yaoi by any means. However, Animate U.S.A., a Japanese publisher that publishes yaoi manga exclusively on the Kindle, reports that Amazon has removed some of their books as well. I e-mailed them last week to ask about this, and this is the reply I got:
As you may know, some titles are already removed by Amazon without any specific reasons.
We just know that the titles contain content that is in violation of their content guidelines.
The e-mail did not include specifics, but I looked through their press releases and came up with three titles that Animate announced but that are not currently available in the Kindle Store: vol. 1 of Mister Mistress (vol. 2 is still available, and both can be bought used in print through Amazon), Delivery Cupid, and Pet in Love, a Pet on Duty side story (Pet on Duty is still available). I have e-mailed Animate to confirm that these titles were removed by Amazon and not by the publisher.
While the deleted Digital titles are still available via the Nook and Digital’s own eManga website, Animate U.S.A. publishes only to the Kindle, so these titles are no longer available digitally.
A side note: In the earlier post, we mentioned several non-yaoi graphic novels that seemed to be at about the same level of explicitness as the ones deleted; one of these, Christmas Creampie, is no longer available in the Kindle Store.
Yaoi manga is a niche genre, but like all niche genres, it has a devoted following. Yaoi readers gobble up the books like romance fans read Harlequin novels, which is not surprising as they are basically the same thing, except that yaoi 1) is manga, 2) is a love story between two men, and 3) often includes lots of sex.
It’s hard to know whether number 2 or 3 above is responsible, but Amazon has instructed at least one publisher to remove its yaoi books from the Kindle store, while allowing considerably more explicit male-female titles to remain. Digital Manga Publishing, which puts out several lines of yaoi, ranging from the fairly tame June imprint to the pretty steamy 801, posted this notice on its blog yesterday:
Recently Amazon has become more strict in enforcing their content requirements for ebooks. Several DMP books that have been available online since 2009 are getting the axe, beginning with our 801 Media titles like Weekend Lovers and King of Debt. However, in the last few days the issue has spread to the June imprint by Amazon’s refusal of The Selfish Demon King, and the removal of The Color of Love from the Kindle store. We fear that Amazon may target more of our books for removal so we’re warning all Amazon Kindle store users that providing you with our content may become more difficult in the future. However, if you purchase our ebooks before Amazon decides to remove it from their store you will still be able to access the book from your account.
All the books mentioned are already gone from the Kindle store, and several are missing from Amazon’s print book selection as well.
(Warning: NSFW image below.)
If this was the year that publishers started taking legitimate digital comics seriously, it was also the year they started taking bootleg digital comics seriously. A group of American publishers banded together to take down HTMLComics.com, while American and Japanese publishers banded together to target bootleg manga scan sites. Six months later, HTMLComics.com is still down (and likely to stay that way, as the authorities have confiscated their servers), while the manga sites are back in business—in part, perhaps, because many are hosted overseas and thus out of the reach of American and Japanese authorities.
Kicking off a year in which piracy and creators’ rights took center stage, Colleen Doran reveals that former clients have released some of work to the Kindle and Google Books without her consent, and despite the fact that they have no right to do so.
I’m not sure, but I think this is a first: Digital Manga Publishing is publishing manga on the Nook, Barnes & Noble’s proprietary e-reader. (Like all smart e-readers, the Nook is available not just on the device itself but also as an iPad, iPhone and web application.) There are only a handful of graphic novels available for the Nook, mostly indie material; the best known is probably Mike Jasper and Niki Smith’s In Maps and Legends, which started out as a Zuda comic.
Digital, which has been in the vanguard of, well, digital manga publishing, with their eManga website and Digital Manga Guild, will launch with Vampire Hunter D, in both color and black-and white-versions, divided into two parts for $3.99 each. It’s also available on Kindle for $7.95, and the cheapest way to read it is on the iPhone/iPod Touch, where each of the six chapters in volume 1 is priced at 99 cents. You get what you pay for, though—I read the first volume on the small screen, and it doesn’t adapt well. This is a book that needs a little breathing room.
Retailing | Diamond Comic Distributors has announced it will close its Los Angeles distribution center in March, with the facility in Olive Branch, Mississippi, taking over its functions. Regional Manager James Nash will relocate from L.A. to Olive Branch. There’s no word on how many jobs will be eliminated in the move, but ICv2 reports that “other staff has been encouraged to apply for positions in Olive Branch after their tenure in Los Angeles ends at the end of March.” [ICv2.com]
Publishing | Following Tuesday’s announcement that Ron Perazza has been named vice president of online for DC Entertainment comes word of two more additions to the department: DC Comics Online Editor Kwanza Johnson will be digital editor for DC Entertainment, and Technology Editor Dave McCullough will become director of online, both based in Burbank, Calif. The department will be headed by former WildStorm Vice President Hank Kanalz, who was promoted in October to senior vice president, digital. Heidi MacDonald also has a letter to freelancers from DC Vice President Terri Cunningham announcing that the Editorial Administration department will become Talent Relations & Services, which will remain in New York City. [Twitter, Twitter]