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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Too cool for book publishing, eh Stu? 
5th-Jun-2008 01:26 pm
There are a lot of things I could say about the recent round of TOKYOPOP restructuring/layoffs...that I won't.

But there are a few things I will say, for the record, that ought to be taken into careful consideration:
  1. Short of total collapse--and as long as Levy wants a multimedia corporation--TOKYOPOP will not and cannot exit the book publishing field. Book publishing is the only place where the company has a firm toehold and name recognition, and the company will want the money generated there to bankroll other endeavors. However--

  2. Multi-platform delivery a la cell phone manga is one thing (and no, not a sure thing), cross-media adaptations another entirely. And I just don't see the latter ever really taking off under any circumstances. I alluded to this dynamic about a month ago in a different context--there are some basic structural contradictions that are liable to prevent TOKYOPOP from mining its book content for, say, film content.

    • Ask anyone in trade publishing; it is not the most lucrative of businesses. Even publishers' thin profit margins are wrested from the field through fierce competition with other book publishers. (And buying up other publishers, but that's a different story.) Competition hasn't been a big problem in the manga industry while it expanded, but now that things have matured it's already starting to happen. It will, I promise, become a defining feature of the manga industry, as it is in trade publishing generally, in the future.

    • This competition with other book publishers will lead to better deals for creators. Okay, so Marvel and DC own the content they publish, but remember: TOKYOPOP will be competing against book publishers, not comics publishers. And book publishers such as Del Rey--not to mention all of the other U.S. book publishers eager to bite off a piece of the graphic novel/manga field--are going to be much more willing to allow creators to retain, let's say, film rights. This bidding war is one they've been waging for years in other categories, and I imagine that the manga industry will soon incorporate the practice. And besides, Random House does books, not movies! In other words, TOKYOPOP is going to be forced to become more generous over time with regards to its contracts--for diminishing returns in a saturated market that will neither bankroll a film studio nor provide it with much adaptable content. (Unless TOKYOPOP promises creators a combined book+movie deal or something, but even then the contracts will still have to become more generous...and the problem of liquidity remains.)

    • Thus do media conglomerates hatehatehate having book publishers in their portfolios. They don't make enough money! Those conglomerates that do hold on to publishers tend to be family-owned groups that "believe" in books as a category with value apart from dollar signs. So in the future, what we are likely to see is a Red Queen Effect: Manga publishers such as TOKYOPOP running faster and faster just to stay in the same place. Does TOKYOPOP love books enough to stay on this treadmill indefinitely? Now that is a question.

  3. We already know that stingy contracts have led to ill will between publisher and creator. Firings lead to ill will between publisher and employee. Neither is a good thing. Content (and attendant creators), monetary profit, and brand recognition aren't a publisher's only resources. Its fourth resource is its employees and the expertise, contacts, and experience they bring to the table. Firing people may be necessary from a bottom-line perspective, but remember that it also creates distrust. Publishers don't just compete for content; they compete for employees, too. It can only be bad if the people you've taught the ropes up and decide to leave you for one of your competitors (or strike out on their own), capice?
5th-Jun-2008 05:47 pm (UTC)
Reading the article made me remember the creation of Smile/Sailor Moon fiasco and fandom outrage. Was that good or bad for their business? I don't recall what came out of it.
5th-Jun-2008 05:52 pm (UTC)
I've always believed that the Mixx --> Tokyopop name change came largely from a need to shed all those Sailor Moon-related negative associations. I would argue, however, that Sailor Moon made Mixx/Tokyopop. So on the balance, who knows? ^^;

What is clear, though, is that Stu Levy never wanted a book publishing company, and that this constant pull away from the bread and butter of books has hurt the company in numerous ways.
5th-Jun-2008 06:03 pm (UTC)
refresh my memory of the Smile/Mixx incident please? I came into reading manga kinda late..

but yeah, this shakeup has my friend Holly worried too (remember her? the bubbly and cute girl in pink from NYCC)
5th-Jun-2008 06:08 pm (UTC)
I don't remember the exact chain of events, but the production quality of the Sailor Moon manga was never up to snuff, and for a myriad of reasons. It made Mixx (and rightly) look bad.

Yeah, this is not a great time to be a creator. The dynamic I'm describing in the post re: competition between pubs that will lead to better deals for creators hasn't really really happened yet, and in the interim people are hurting.
5th-Jun-2008 06:48 pm (UTC)
Wasn't another problem that Smile/Mixxzine magazine combined Sailor Moon with series that were obviously a bad match for the younger readers who were probably watching the TV series? IIRC, there was even an op-ed in some paper from a parent shocked by the contents of Mixxzine and seemed to think that titles like Sailor Moon was just a lure to get kids to read violent, sexually explicit titles. (It was a really dumb op-ed but one that wouldn't have happened if the line up made better sense.)
5th-Jun-2008 06:53 pm (UTC)
I don't recall that, but it seems like just another in a loooong list of problems that has dogged the publisher over the years. Someone says, "Mixx's Sailor Moon fiasco" and I can't help but think, "Which one?" *rueful laughter*
5th-Jun-2008 07:08 pm (UTC)
This may be neither here nor there, but they also don't pay translators very well.

(Sorry for the anonymous post, but I don't know if I'm techinically supposed to say this)
6th-Jun-2008 08:08 pm (UTC)
Forgive my curiosity, but what are your motives for posting this?

I'm all about freelancers uniting for better pay, of course, but your IP makes me suspicious. ^_~
6th-Jun-2008 04:28 am (UTC)
Oh, I wish you'd say more. ^_^;; This whole thing is a mess, and was very poorly handled - but that's par for the course for ol' Stu.

I can't help but wonder every time I see a new Princess Ai book if it's actually selling that well, or if it's just more Stu Levy self-gratification.
6th-Jun-2008 04:40 am (UTC)
Oh, I wish you'd say more.

My God, what I wrote turned out to be a lot. It wasn't enough? *laughs*

Seriously, though. Any more and I'm gonna start sounding like Gawker.

You should write about this somewhere as well if you have some strong opinions. You have some name power in the industry.
6th-Jun-2008 04:42 am (UTC)
You have some name power in the industry.

News to me!
6th-Jun-2008 04:44 am (UTC)
Well, a couple of people in the industry I know recognized your name when I mentioned you. Which = name power as far as I'm concerned. ^_~
6th-Jun-2008 04:57 am (UTC)
Too strange! Now you have me wondering who, and why I was mentioned. ^_^

I'd write something up myself, but I'm too worried about sounding like a complete ass. And swamped with books to review - no writing for two weeks put me farther behind than I thought possible.
6th-Jun-2008 05:05 am (UTC)
Well, it was the LJ circle of friends, shall we say? XD

And swamped with books to review - no writing for two weeks put me farther behind than I thought possible.

How would you define "swamped"? >_< Just curious, since I'm pondering my foot high stack for ANN right now.
6th-Jun-2008 05:07 am (UTC)
Counting the ones in transit - seventeen books. Publisher supplied ones - that doesn't count the series where I want to go back and fill in the gaps if I ever get the time. Apparently, every series I review had a book out this month...
6th-Jun-2008 05:14 am (UTC)
Lovely. You've definitely got more "work" than I do. I think I've got eight books left, and I doubt they'll last me the month. After that, I have to start dipping into my own collection until something else materializes.
6th-Jun-2008 05:17 am (UTC)
I much prefer keeping the stack under ten - it's manageable, and I can still keep to my self-imposed deadlines to get things out when they're still fresh. Since there's usually a month from the time I submit a review to when it actually gets posted, quick turnaround on my end is kind of important. With this many? I just have to prioritize the stack and slog through them. Which is so much easier when they're at least good books. The bad ones are just...bad.
6th-Jun-2008 05:22 am (UTC)
Yeah, it's one thing to have a stream of consciousness rant about a crappy book, another to develop the "This is a crappy book!" thesis over 1000 words. ^^;

The AoD format, if I recall, is really rigid, too. Which can be a pain. With anime, I know I'd find it unbearable.
6th-Jun-2008 05:25 am (UTC)
Only the first volume format is rigid - after that, it's much more flexible. Happily - if I had to do the full template for every review, I think I'd have to stab something.
6th-Jun-2008 05:32 am (UTC)
To be perfectly honest, I don't enjoy reviewing anime nearly as much as manga. Unfortunately... *sighs* (Last week was a four-disc marathon for Protoculture Addicts. Might I mention that "Origin: Spirits of the Past" SUCKS?)
6th-Jun-2008 05:35 am (UTC)
NO argument there, on either count! I don't do anime reviews, with a few rare exceptions. And Origin was awful.
6th-Jun-2008 05:38 am (UTC)
The other three discs were xxxHOLiC 1-2 and the CLAMP Double Feature. Those were only marginally better. *sighs* Those are NOT my favorite CLAMP titles...
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