Ok, so just to let you know, it’s not a word-for-word transcript of the Tokyopop Insider with Q&A with CEO Stu Levy, but it does include some interesting stuff.
I kind of feel the need to talk about Tokyopop a little right now because I know a LOT of people have bad opinions about the company and how it handles things. I know I’m biased because I’ve interned for them and hope to get hired by them in the future, but you have to realize a few things…
1. Tokyopop and it’s employees try really hard to publish great content. But, in publishing, every book released has a high risk of failure and Tokyopop has had a lot of failures. Unlike Viz, they are not backed by a larger publishing giant and they don’t have titles like Naruto or Bleach that are so wildly successful that they can breathe easy. Fruits Basket, their big money-maker title, is over. They don’t have anything to fall back upon if their sales go down the tubes. Is that Tokyopop’s fault? Perhaps, but not for lack of trying to get it right. Business ventures fail all the time and force companies to work on lower levels than they would prefer to be working on. You wish they could help it, as a fan, but if you look at it from their side, they can’t always do so.
2. Tokyopop made some really big mistakes and they know it. They essentially released WAY too much content at a time when the market wasn’t able to support it. They had to stop publishing a LOT of titles because they just couldn’t publish that much all at once. If they had been more moderate in their growth, it probably wouldn’t have hurt them as much, but if you had something really hot to sell, you’d probably make the same mistake. Now, they don’t have the choice, even though they really want to publish the next volumes of all the series they had to postpone. Hindsight is 20-20. Take for example, the huge investment they made in OEL titles. Since they couldn’t make money from it, they cut what they couldn’t afford. It sucks that they burned a lot of bridges that way, but I don’t think they wanted to. They were just trying to make smart business decisions. If you remember the small uproar about their paper choices, that was because they had a choice between choosing bad paper or no paper at all. No paper would have meant no manga and I’m sure that would have been a much bigger problem.
3. All the people at Tokyopop are actually really nice people. I should know, I spent three solid months working with them. They were always sweet to me and they trusted me even though I was just a little intern. Sure, I did my best to earn their trust, but they were above and beyond nice. When I left to go back to school in September, they bought me a cake and gave me a really touching send-off that brought a tear to my eye. But I knew they were nice people the day that interviewed with them for the internship. I felt at home with them. They kind of get this rep as the big bad manga publishing company. Maybe they were at some point, but they’ve had a lot of changes in their company and their business. Now they’re entirely different and they want to do what’s best for everyone. That’s why you’re seeing them slowly return to publishing series that were on semi-hiatus. It’s because YOU told them that you want a certain series back and because taking their time is better for them financially. Either way, they’re a company that has tried to embrace the changes they are going through and react the best ways they possibly can.
I wish I could tell you that they absolutely will do better, that they will release the next volumes to all the series you want to read. But they might not. What you absolutely must remember, though, is that they want to bring you what you want. I’m really hoping that the print on demand is successful. Not only would it allow readers to get titles that are older, out of print, etc., but it would allow the company to give you what you want at less cost to them, which means they can give you more of what you want. A standard print run isn’t cheap, you know.
I think this is the time that we should really show Tokyopop what we want from them. Now is when they’re eager to please the fans. If we make our voices heard, they will listen. The Tokyopop Insiders they have done really show that. Every single one has had Q&A in order to get you to ask them what you want. We should tell them in no uncertain terms. We should not be afraid to ask for this or that. We should be vocal because it will get us a lot farther than just grumbling that Tokyopop sucks.
If you still want to say Tokyopop sucks, say WHY they suck. Then Tokyopop can take that and change. Just because you said so. Wouldn’t it be nice if Tokyopop listened to you? I think it would. But it won’t if you only say they suck and don’t explain why you think so! You’ve got to remember, that we are who Tokyopop is trying to sell stuff to. It helps them spend money on us if they know what we want.
I also want to apologize for misspelling Lillian Diaz-Przybyl’s name in the liveblog transcripts. I can’t go back and edit them, but one of my unfortunate grammar quirks is switching words and letters. I constantly have to edit for this quirk and sometimes I can’t catch it as I type something quickly.