Monday, June 7, 2010

Crowdsourcing manga licenses

Ed Chavez, the marketing director for manga publisher Vertical, Inc., came into the business from the fan side—he ran one of the first manga podcast blogs, MangaCast, back in the day—and he has shown a knack so far for picking books that get fans excited, like Twin Spica, Peepo Choo, and Chi's Sweet Home. So when Ed gets on Twitter, he's not just touting his company's latest release ("Tell me what you like best about Title X!!"), he is asking people what they want—and sometimes explaining why they can't have it.

It's licensing time again, so Ed is accepting suggestions from the public, and his former intern Ko Ransom compiled the Twitter conversation into a single page. It makes fascinating reading for those who are fascinated by the ins and outs of manga licensing. For one thing, many titles are off limits because the Japanese publisher has exclusive deals with American licensors; since Shueisha and Shogakukan own Viz Media, for instance, don't look for Vertical to be publishing any of their titles.

There are other constraints as well: Ed won't consider long series, 18+ titles (bookstores won't carry them) or 4-koma manga. And while he would love to publish Saint Young Men, a comedy manga about Jesus and Buddha living together in a Tokyo apartment, the chances of that look slim for now. "i've asked its editor and he has said it will not be published in the US at this time. not until the readership changes here," Ed says. But if that ever does happen, he added, the editor wants him to be the one. If nothing else, the conversation is a reminder that there are plenty of good manga out there waiting to be brought to English-speaking audiences—if only we can persuade Ed (and his counterparts elsewhere) to license them.
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