Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Publisher's Weekly with 12 more GN articles! 

Check this out.

I mentioned they had a new article the other day, but it turns out they did a huge spree of them on the same day and linked them all together from one easy index page. This has to be about the most concrete info. on GNs and bookstores that I've seen in one place before. There is lots and lots of useful stuff in these articles...

Besides the top 15 list from the other day and the Marvel info. my last post, what else? Some interesting manga quotes:

Levy says Tokyopop's manga titles offer "dramatic stories about relationships and love—Sex and the City–type stories. They're like chick lit for comics," he said. The result is an American audience that is about 60% female. But boys read Tokyopop titles as well, and Levy estimates a market of $150 million in the U.S. "From the numbers I see, it couldn't be any less and it can grow even more. Teenagers will help this market grow and penetrate the culture over the next 10 years." Levy adds, "Some people want to call manga a fad. But it's a fad like film, TV and video games are fads."


Tokyopop has big plans. The house is publishing more than 500 titles next year and is looking to expand its kids' comics publishing. Tokyopop's top-selling titles (Chobits, Love Hina, Sailor Moon and many others) can sell in the 100,000-copy range. But some titles have sold 250,000 copies with the assistance of book clubs or TV or DVD releases of anime, the animated film version of manga titles. Levy said he expects to get "a non-media–assisted 250,000-copy book hit in the very near future." Over at Viz, director of sales and marketing Lisa Coppola tells PW, "Every day retailers are coming to us for help to sell manga." Viz is probably publishing more than 200 titles a year (the house declined to give exact figures) across many multivolume manga series. Viz uses Shonen Jump, a monthly anthology periodical of comics, to test and promote the popularity of different titles.


Many publishers are concerned about a glut of titles. But they also point to differences between the bookstore market and the traditional comics shop market, which has been flooded by overproduction several times in the past. "The bookstore market is different," O'Donnell says. "Good books flush out the bad and raise the bar. The market is intelligent– you can't fool the audience. It's not like buying a toaster. Once you've read one book, you need to get a new one."

On Courtney Crumbin in bookstores:

"Kurt thought the book had good potential and wanted to see it repackaged into a digest size with a simpler cover," explains Nozemack. The book was placed in Walden and Borders in a three-month exclusive. It was also racked at Walden checkouts for two weeks at the end of June. In addition to the checkout display, Middaugh and Hassler also gave the book a special display in the general graphic novel section after the checkout program was over, and Borders placed it in the New Books section in August.

As a result, the title outsold all of Oni's other books (about 9,000 copies). Middaugh had expected sales to start big and level off, but instead the opposite happened: "We've seen a gradual increase over time."

On Disney comics:

Kids love the comics medium," says Deborah Dugan, president of Disney Publishing Worldwide, "and there's been a distribution issue with Disney's comics material in the U.S.—we haven't been serving it up right."


Right now, Tokyopop's top kids' titles are coming from Disney—Digimon, Lizzie McGuire, Kim Possible," referring to Tokyopop's "cine-manga" line of comics made from film stills. Disney's also been testing out new comics talent in its Disney Adventures magazine, looking particularly to develop material for boys. The company's currently working on a new comics project based on Tron (the 1982 movie and the new computer game) put together by the Canadian 88 MPH Studios, which will appear in graphic novel form next year. Graphic novels with the classic Disney characters will be advertised in Disney's video releases this holiday season—"We're going to use the Disney machine to get them into the hands of kids," Dugan laughs.

Disney has a very big project coming next year, too. W.I.T.C.H., aimed squarely at 9-to-14-year-old girls, was developed as a comics series in Europe, and now appears in 42 countries worldwide. It will be a TV show on the Disney Channel, but it will be introduced as a series of graphic novels and "hybrid" books, with comics at the beginning and end and prose in the middle, to be published by the Hyperion imprint Volo.

What Dugan would like to see is more bookstores moving comics material for kids out of the graphic novel section and into the children's section. "You serve up Digimon and Spy Kids and Lizzie McGuire and Kim Possible and Mickey Mouse and Power Rangers and W.I.T.C.H. in this new medium, and watch sales. We intend to be a big player in this market," she says. "Quite frankly, we're just beginning."

On Diamond and bookstores:

When comic store distribution powerhouse Diamond decided last fall to create a separate book distribution division, that spoke reams about the growing importance of the bookstore channel to graphic novel publishers. Over the past year, Diamond Book Distributors has added more than 50 publishers.

According to Kuo-Yu Liang, v-p of sales and marketing at Diamond, bookstores are "extremely important" to traditional comics publishers. It enables them to "reach out to new readers that comics shops do not reach, mainly women and kids, and it allows them to do certain books that traditionally do not do as well in comics shops, such as literary comics and manga," says Liang. Adapting to the book market has meant adding ISBNs and preparing jackets four or five months ahead of publication, as well as creating returns policies. Comics stores buy books on a nonreturnable basis.

"Chains have been much more open to graphic novels," notes Liang. "They are consciously trying to grow new business for their stores. Independents are much more status quo. The mindset is very different." And it is that mindset—"I don't have the customers for this"—that Diamond and other distributors are trying to change. Liang, who worked at Ballantine for 13 years, compares the conversations he has now with booksellers about graphic novels to the ones he had with them about stocking science fiction a decade ago.


There's more to come. This month brings the release of French sensation Christophe Blain's Isaac the Pirate, a literary seafaring story, and there are plans afoot to bring more work by another acclaimed French comics author, Lewis Trondheim (including graphic novel versions of Dungeon in 2004), to these shores as well.

With an eye on the enormous popularity of manga, NBM will begin publishing Lea Hernandez, who Nantier credits both as a rare American manga artist and one of the very first to publish her work in the now explosively popular 5"×7" manga format. Her upcoming December release, Rumble Girls: Silky Warrior Tansie, is the first of a continuing manga series designed for ages 16 and up.

Hernandez's work is known for its sharp characterization and intricate plots, which Nantier hopes will help separate it from the rest of the burgeoning genre. NBM is shipping more than 6,000 copies initially, and it's a substantial departure for the publisher in terms of its market and audience.


Nantier plans to keep looking to expand NBM's audience: "Comics are a mass medium. We need to return to that."

On Drawn & Quarterly:

What began as a break-even project and labor of love is now profitable. D&Q's last two anthology volumes have sold more than 6,000 copies and have begun to show a profit. This, despite the fact that volume four was published before D&Q's new expanded sales and distribution deal with Chronicle Books. To complement the new deal, D&Q recently lured publicity and comics industry veteran Peggy Burns away from industry giant DC Comics to be its full-time marketing and publicity director.


[Regarding volume 5] There is also a gem from Yoshihiro Tatsumi, an influential 68-year-old Japanese cartoonist considered the inventor of Japanese alternative comics, or "gekiga," in 1957.

On AiT/PlanetLar:

Larry Young originally named his small-press graphic novel company PlanetLar, after a nickname he'd had in college; then he prefaced it with the initials of his first major book, Astronauts in Trouble, so it would be listed under A instead of P in distribution catalogues.


AiT/PlanetLar is distributed by Diamond to bookstores, where its bestselling titles are "far and away" Mike Brennan's two-volume kids' graphic novel Electric Girl, Young says. "I have to work very hard to sell 30 copies a month of Electric Girl in the comics trade, and we sell about 500 a week in the book trade. It's the librarians—YA librarians love it, and they all talk to each other." The title is up to about 10,000 copies on each volume and, says Young, "Mike just had a little baby girl, so he's committed to doing more Electric Girls for her."

There's a lot more that I haven't quoted (Palomar, Preiss, religious comics, Carla McNeil, Pantheon, etc.), so take some times to go through these things. Lots of good info.!

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