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Last week, Tokyopop CEO Stu Levy took some criticism from a number of comics sites, including this one, after the manga publisher laid off two senior editors, Lillian Diaz-Pryzybl and Troy Lewter, and one brilliant new hire, former CMX editor Asako Suzuki. This week, Levy told Publishers Weekly‘s Calvin Reid that the Borders bankruptcy left Tokyopop cash poor:
“They owe us a significant amount of money. We’re not a big company and with less cash than we planned, we had to regroup to survive.” The layoffs, he added, were “the hardest part, because these were my friends and collaborators.”
In addition to the Borders bankruptcy, Tokyopop took another hit this year: Its agreement with Warcraft developer Blizzard Entertainment came to an end in January. Apparently, Blizzard was happy with the sales and the quality of the manga, but didn’t want to put in the time required to work on them.
But it’s not all grim: Tokyopop ended its distribution deal with HarperCollins earlier this year, but a Tokyopop representative told me they will continue to co-publish the Warriors manga (based on the middle-grade prose novels by Erin Hunter), which are among their bestsellers. According to the BookScan charts that Brian Hibbs posts every year for his “Tilting at Windmills” column, Tokyopop sold about 120,000 Warriors manga, divided over four volumes, in 2008, and 60,000 in 2009. In 2010, Tokyopop’s bestselling book was Warriors: Ravenpaw’s Path #2, which sold 22,715 copies, according to BookScan. The Warcraft manga didn’t come close in any of these years. This is just in the bookstore channel — that’s what BookScan measures — but for Tokyopop, that’s a significant chunk of its business, probably the lion’s share, so keeping Warriors is huge.