Yen Press’s panel today at New York Anime Fest kicked off the longest string of manga-related panels at the event this year. It was also the first event I sat in on that had the pleasure of being on the opposite wall of an anime-themed dance/scream-fest next door. Huzzah!
On the panel was Abby Blackman (editorial assistant), Kurt Hassler (editorial director), Ju-Young Lee (lead editor) and Tania Biswa (assistant editor). They received a good amount of applause right from the start which was nice to see.
After brief introductions, they kicked off a slideshow with the following info:
With the Light (Vol. 08) – The upcoming final volume of With the Light. It includes the material the late-Keiko Tobe had been working on before she passed.
Soulless: An Alexa Tarabotti Novel – A licensed series of young adult fiction that Yen Press is looking to adapt into graphic novels. The original novels were written by Gail Carringer. Yen Press is currently seeking an artist for this project which will be serialized in Yen Plus. The series is set in a semi-steampunk Victorian England where a women with no soul is at odds with vampires and werewolves in a society that has accepted them.
During this point in the panel, Kurt Hassler pointed out that artist Svetlana Chmakova was in the audience and would be signing books at the end of the event. They also noted that her series Nightschool is having the fourth volume released this month and the most recent chapter was published in the newest Yen Plus installment.
Witch & Wizard – Another novel by James Patterson (creator of Maximum Ride and Daniel X), this is another new Yen Press adaptation in the works. Svetlana is doing the art for this series which they expect may begin serialization in Yen Plus by the year’s end The series is about two siblings who discover they have magical powers only after being charged with it as an offense.
Yen Press said they did have licenses to announce at NYAF but their contracts didn’t come in as expected so they were unable to announce anything further in regards to new titles.
From there they jumped into news of an upcoming digital platform for the iPad which they’d advertised briefly on the back of postcards they’ve been giving out at their booth. The download app (which is still pending approval by Apple) will be an iPad exclusive and will offer a storefront page where readers can purchase complete volumes of titles to read.
For their launch, which they’re hoping will happen within the month, they will be having their original properties as they continue negotiations with Japanese publishers. This includes their series such as Nightschool and Maximum Ride. The volumes will cost $8.99 a book, which personally I don’t find very competitive with print book copies but at $1.49-ish a chapter, they assure it’s cheaper than the majority of per-chapter purchases available for comics out there.
Along with complete volumes, they’ll be offering free previews, previously Yen Plus-only shorts and new material from contributing artists. Kurt Hassler emphasized the importance of people purchasing their content from the digital platform because it allows them more leverage to argue it’s value to Japanese licensors holding out on allowing digital distribution rights.
Interesting extra notes is that readers have the option to view pages either portrait full screen or landscape two-pages-at-once. The app will also allow buyers to begin reading the manga while the initial download is in progress.
The floor was opened to attendee questions. It opened with one of those ‘…what?’ questions that gets the painful kind of question out right away as someone asked about Yen Press saving ADV manga titles now that it’s “just gone under”. Yen Press’s answer to this was no. They also had to give a completely understandable ‘we can’t answer you’ to an attendee who wanted to know if they’d licensed any new works by a creator he couldn’t remember whose works he couldn’t remember either.
In more informative question-asking, Yen Press stated one of their upcoming series, High School of the Dead will be released every three months and that the series itself recently came off hiatus in Japan. Yen Press is currently looking to expand it’s digital distribution plans to platforms such as Kindle but they have the same issue with Japanese publishers who have been very unwilling to even consider it until recently.
When asked about license-rescuing CMX titles, they said there was nothing the were currently looking at and that picking up licenses from other companies comes with a lot of problems that makes it even more important that they’re careful about what they pursue.
An attendee asked why Yen Press has a slow release schedule for light novels to which Kurt Hassler gave an informative response about the necessity to space out release dates for novels in order to maximize sales-opportunity and best cater to the wider mainstream readers who can’t invest in novel purchases with a release schedule as tight as some manga. Hardcore readers who want to buy it all right away make up too small a percentage of the fan base to cater to exclusively. If it was ever feasible, they’d certainly do it.
Next they assured that their relationship with Square Enix (from whom they have many manga titles) is very good and they hope/intend for it to stay as such. The upcoming series, K-ON, will be released in November with the following book coming out in March 2011.
To end the panel, Svetlana was introduced and signed copies of Nightschool (Vol. 04) that were given to attendees. Panelists also gave out free books, including the newest volumes of Black Butler and Daniel X, to some of those in attendance.
And that was all folks!
Note: Soon after Yen Press’s panel came Vertical Inc., info from which will be posted here on Kuriousity tomorrow.