Home News Comings & Goings old More layoffs at Tokyopop — UPDATE

More layoffs at Tokyopop — UPDATE


Word is going around that LA manga publisherToykopop has laid off several more people — including editors Lillian Diaz-Przybyl and Troy Lewter. The staff is now reduced to a mere handful of people — including owner Stu Levy and publisher Mike Kiley.

Although a giant and founder of the American manga boom with their authentic right-to-left manga, Tokyopop has been downsizing significantly over the last few years. The moves come just as the company had launched its “America’s Greatest Otaku” TV show on Hulu, and it had recently announced several new manga licenses, as well.

Diaz-Przybyl is particular had been a standout at the company over the years, helping introduce many creators in the amazing wave of talent in the “Original English Language” or OEL manga line. Just a few days ago she blogged about how manga titles get canceled before they are finished.

We contacted Tokyopop for comment, but email for the last PR person we talked to there bounced back.

UPDATE: Lots of Twitter talk about this. Managing editor Asako Suzuki, who previously worked at DC’s CMX imprint, was also laid off.

Freelancer Daniella Orihuela-Gruber has been tweeting all afternoon about the shake-up. She reports: “There’s still Cindy Suzuki and a managing editor, but now the rest of editorial and most of design and production are freelance.”

Tokyopop Founder Stu Levy

Tokyopop has seen lots of waves of layoffs before, the last one about a year ago, when previous marketing manager Marco Pavia left, among others. According to Orihuela-Gruber, “Before Nov. 2008, it was a 100-person company. Afterward it was more like 30-50. Now it’s like 20-30 or something.”

Meanwhile, someone is still manning the Tokyopop Twitter feed, tweeting:

A lot of great titles are coming out this month, or even this week! Which titles will you pick up?


Thank you, Ed. We appreciate it. RT @edsizemore: Stay strong @TOKYOPOP! I’m rooting for ya!

However, company founder Stuart Levy seemed to be already moving on to something else with this tweet:

Wow #GDC2011 is blowing my mind. Why have I been stuck in such an old-school, out-of-touch industry for so long?! (yes I mean books!)

and then vowing to tell the whole story to PW’s Calvin Reid:

For all of you who keep analyzing, tweeting, talking, maybe I’ll just give Calvin the TRUE STORY so then you’ll know.

Johanna has more commentary and reportage.

  1. Wow, I’m kind of shocked. Lillian was one of the nicest folks I’ve corresponded with, and had been with Tokyopop for years. She took a lot of flack recently for that article, which was done with the best of intentions. I hope publishers and editors reading this take note and keep her in mind, she’d definitely be an asset to any team.

  2. Sad to see yet more layoffs in the comics biz. Here’s hoping everyone finds new positions soon.

    I’m gladder than ever that I never pursued my idle dreams of working in comics . . . .

  3. Maybe if Stu focused on manga instead of turning Tokyopop into a 10th rate multimedia empire, the company might actually be relevant again. As it stands, it chooses to focus on a TV show instead of marketing its product. That’s bad.

  4. Depressing, and annoying. Particularly with regard to the post on cancelling series before they finish and series going out of print. I always start at Volume 1 and work my way sequentially through a manga. Boookstores which don’t stock volume one lose the sale for the rest of the series.
    Also, while I’ll be happy to give a new series a shot at $10 a pop I need a taste or some buzz before I by volume 1. Back when multiple anime magazines were out I’d have an idea what to anticipate and what I’d want to buy. Now it’s very hit or miss.

    The out of print issue is understandable in the dead-tree world due to the Thor Decision making it infeasible to keep a backlog. But in the e-book world out of print is irrelevant as is consignment. Couple this with the ease of reading manga on ebooks (the nook color shines in this regard). If they were smart, a publisher like tokyopop would set up a subscription model with comixcology or another reader app. I’d be overjoyed to pay to get the latest “Negima” or “Bleach” chapter automatically sent to my tablet promptly after publication, particularly since this would support the mangaka. In the same fashion free samples are easy to implement as well.

    The final leg of a successful publishing strategy would be to integrate direct links in Baka-Manga, ANN or similar sites with an associate program. This would make just as easy to buy (or better yet subscribe) than download from scanlation sites.

  5. Oh man, this makes me really sad!! I’ve enjoyed and appreciated Lillian’s input and interaction with readers on behalf of Tokyopop over the last several months. Ugh. I’m so, so sorry to hear this; I wish and hope for the best to all affected by these layoffs!

  6. Sad news indeed. My sympathies to all those laid off. I used to run into Lillian now and then on the circuit; she is indeed a great person and I wish her–and everyone else–nothing but good luck in getting to the next step in their post-Tokyopop career.

  7. I would like to back-up the idea that some company should snap up Lillian right away. She’s one of the most groundbreaking editors of the past decade. And one of the nicest to boot.

  8. I’ve worked with both Lilian and Troy and found them to be great people and great talents.

    And TPOP alumni have never had any trouble landing on their feet, so I have no concerns for these two either.

    Good luck and godspeed, guys!

  9. Troy has been a friend for years (though we haven’t spoken in awhile) and I didn’t know he managed to hold on to his job at TokyoPop for this long — six years after I almost did an OEL there. (Remember those?)

    Really hope he lands on his feet. He’s a great guy.

  10. Stu Levy is a bull with a dozen swords in his back and neck staggering towards the matador as if he can still win this, but has no idea he’s already dead.

    With the talent they just threw away I hope those editors start their own publishing company and fully realize the “OEL” model all the way.

  11. I also believe that if your company’s main direction – publishing – is suffering, then maybe you should take care of that business and let the fluffy stuff – Internet reality shows – go. They are risking the fate of a great company, and it looks, at least from the outside, that there is no leaders or direction anymore.

    I’d also like to comment that the article itself could use a little more editing ;)

  12. Having written eight books for Tokyopop I’m going to jump on the bandwagon for Lillian, Troy and Asako.

    They are amazing talents who would be an asset to any company. Good luck, y’all!

  13. I will also add that Lillian is an awesome editor and I will be really sad that she is no longer my contact at Tokyopop. Any company she goes to will be lucky to have her!!!

  14. Sad, but, from the sounds of things, if there are jobs available at other companies, they shoudl be able to get them easily. It does leave me wondering if Tokyopop will survive. And the one quote (“Why have I been stuck in such an old-school, out-of-touch industry for so long?! (yes I mean books!)”) just throws me through a loop. If he’s wondering this, why hasn’t he sold the company to someone who actually gives a crap about Tokyopop’s primary products (at least, manga and books are what I thought the companies primary products were)?

    I remember when I first started seeing Tokyopop manga. When I first got into manga, I didn’t even realize it was flipped. Then I started noticing the occasionally odd thing about the artwork, the flow from one panel to the next, etc. Tokyopop was amazing to me, and I loved their manga once I got used to reading differently. Not only that, but manga finally started becoming more affordable – prior to Tokyopop, I had only ever purchased one volume of manga, a hideously expensive (considering I was a jobless highschool student) flipped volume of Inuyasha. It’s sad that this company I have such fond memories of appears to be falling apart.

    If Stuart Levy wants to go in new, exciting directions, maybe he should be creative and figure out new and exciting directions into which he can take the company’s primary products, instead of doing the lemming thing and following the directions of a competely different industry. If he hadn’t fired so many of the company’s best and most experienced people, he could have used their input to figure out what those new, exciting directions might be. Freelancers might help cut costs in the short term, but they can’t help with the big picture stuff.

  15. This is Rob Tokar, former Editor-in-Chief of Tokyopop. Someone is using my name to post his or her opinions on this site. I am a professional — I don’t publicly comment on my employers or co-workers, former or current, no matter the circumstances. Anyone who actually knows me can verify that this is true. I have asked that the comments falsely attributed to me be taken down. And if you want any proof that it wasn’t me, here it is: I actually know that “clueless” is one word.

  16. Glad to hear it wasn’t Rob Tokar who said that nasty comment. Thanks for clearing it up. And my apologies for addressing a comment that was a fake. Like I said before, Tokar has always been kind and upstanding–so the comment was very out of character and surprising. Plus, I was taken aback with the clueless misspelling.

    As for the general talent pool at TP (whether it be editorial, marketing, design, etc.)… it has always been exceptional, and having to layoff anyone is heartbreaking. The good news is that they are all closer to a new path that will be even more rewarding and fulfilling.

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