Rivkah talks to her editors:

Just got off the phone with my editor, and it looks like not-so-good news for Steady Beat. In fact, it looks like not-so-good news for anybody who’s working with TP right now. I’m not sure how much I should say for fear of causing an outright panic with other creators, but essentially, nearly all of Tokyopop’s future books will be going straight to web. This wasn’t a case-by-case scenario. Neither I nor any other single creators were singled out. It looks like the whole line of non-licensed material will cease printing and be promoted online only.

However, this does not mean “Steady Beat” will never see print. Borders on the verge of bankruptcy hurt a lot of people, but it doesn’t mean the end of the world. There are other publishers, other outlets, other venues. Tokyopop could in the future still print the third volume of Steady Beat.

In spite of this potential, however, I am going to try to negotiate print rights back from Tokyopop until such a future time as they choose to bring my books back in print. In the meantime, should Tokyopop fail to follow through with their promise of at least web print, I will put full “previews” all of the books online myself.


More in link.

33 COMMENTS

  1. I hope TP is upstanding enough to return print rights to creators. It’s an opportunity to do right by the people who trusted them and stuck with them.

    Print-to-web? Who ever heard of such a thing?
    I joke. At least the work will be seen. When I was in Rivkah’s situation regarding having readers see the end of a book, I did the same.

  2. Wow. This is much worse than I realized. TokyoPop is cancelling OEL, except for projects like World of Warcraft and Hellgate: London. That’s horrible.

    Pretty much invalidates a huge chunk of my upcoming how-to manga book (upcoming as in next week!) Wonder how much they will let me fix for the second printing?

    I hope TP creators are able to get their rights back and consider Image Comics or webcomics as another avenue. And then, I hope those creators pursue the above or the book market for future creative work.

  3. Wooaoh. This actually isn’t true! It IS a case by case bases. All OEL did NOT get cut as I personally know TWO OEL creators whose books are finishing their entire 3 book print run even after the massive TP cut. So I hope someone takes this down or this is giving the false impression to anyone buying OEL titles that they won’t be finished. This could really super hurt the remaining OEL’s that didn’t get cuts sales if people think they won’t be finished (as in no one wants to buy a book they’ve been told won’t be finished).

  4. Hi BD,
    Are those OEL books licensed, though? I can’t imagine those series getting the nod while Steady Beat doesn’t.

  5. Boy that just sucks. Good luck to everyone who got.. demoted to online only. At least the story will be out there for readers. Well, if they can navigate the labyrinth TokyoPop calls a website.

    Am I too old fashioned to think that being in print and in bookstores is a big step up from being published online? I see web comics as a quite viable method of starting out, but I always thought print was a much higher level, a sign of making it. It feels like a degradation to take something in print and make it web only.

    In comparison, Carla Speed McNeil stopped doing print issues of Finder and put them online, but she still publishes the trade paperback collected editions in print. Plus a number of web comics from Penny Arcade to Perry Bible Fellowship to Devil’s Panties have gone from web to print. Am I just too out of touch with ‘kids these days’ by thinking that just having something online isn’t as good as having a real physical book published? Is it time for me (in my mid 20s) to head off to the old folks home?

  6. While I pity some of the great-looking OELs getting nerfed from print to measely web… I do have to say that a lot of the OELs that Tokyopop blindly signed up and printed DO deserve to get the demotion to web. There are quite a bit of OELs that do suck. At the bookstores, those are usually the manga books still in pristine condition. Whereas, the good OELs do tend to get read a lot and misused.

    Anyway, my point is, its a shame that Tokyopop is pushing all their non-licensed materials to the web. I feel that they should still print the ones that are great and do bring in the good considerable numbers… not in orders but good numbers in sell-through at the stores. A lot… and I mean A LOT of OELs really suck and they end up just collecting dust at the bookstore shelves. Hell, even comic book shop owners just end up giving the bad ones away for free since they cant even sell them for a buck.

    Oh well.

  7. And so the Great Manga Blood-Letting begins.

    The only problem I see with web distribution is that it’s for free, which means there’s no money to pay creators, unless the readership pulls in large enough numbers that you can sell ads for more than beer money — in which case a tpb collection becomes feasible again anyway.

    Well, I’ve also run into another problem with web distribution — the webby world does not favor long-form graphic stories. Putting up 3-5 pages per week doesn’t offer a satisfying chunk of story, but readers won’t remember to come back to a site once a month or once every other month or twice a year to find complete stories.

    I’m sure there is a solution to this, and I’m working one possible solution, but the Golden Key to Web-Comics Economic Viability remains elusive.

  8. Good Luck for the creators. I remember the troubles from the 80s over rights…
    Printing books costs money. OEL is riskier, without anime or foreign sales to drive sales. Essentially, the publishers are printing $9.99 newsstand comicbooks, fully returnable. They can only sell the comic once, as a trade, unlike the rest of the industry, which serializes the chapters and then collects into a trade.
    I hope the creators are successful, that TokyoPop helps popularize webcomics, and that the bookstore markets survive this adolescent growth spurt.

  9. Scott, I both agree and disagree with you. I think 3-5 pages IS a satisfying chunk, but I think the real problem is that we now have 2 distinct and separate markets for web comics: the web-based audience that truly wants to read free on-line comics which is usually based around humorous strips or single panel gag cartoons (or furry/yaoi/fantasy comics which aren’t easily available through the DM) while the other are the people who are just looking to sample what is free in order to track down the dead tree edition (the Wednesday crowd who is looking to sample before they buy or to read stuff free that they can’t afford but still have an interest in). However, neither one of those groups seems to want to read a long, involved story spread out over several, dozens or even hundreds of pages, especially since most of those aren’t “properly” formatted for the screen and involve lots of waiting for a large page to load and then having to scroll. Also, people surfing on-line are used to instant gratification and don’t seem patient to sit through long set-ups to get to a pay-off or to spend that much time on any one thing which is another reason why long-form works suffer on-line. The most successful web comics are the ones meant for the web and a lot of regular web comics readers won’t look at anything not formatted for the monitor.

    I always wondered when the gravy train would end- most bookstores long ago reached a full aisle of manga stock and surely couldn’t afford to give them more space. Kids tend to come in, clog up the aisle, reading the stuff for free and damaging the books so that most people wouldn’t want to buy them and the stores are likely forced to remainder or pulp them. More output from more publishers along with lots of unsold books meant at some point the market was going to suffer a contraction. Comics has a long history of everyone jumping aboard the same handcart because it’s moving so quickly, not noticing where it’s headed. In a lot of ways, I also think we’re at a similar point with web comics- there’s so much out there and a lot of it is pretty horrid that it’s harder to find the true gems. The comics industry is a snake eating it’s own (long) tail ; )

    By the way, this NPR story on unsold books might be of interest to some…
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91461568

  10. Wow. That is an unfortunate blow for many a creator. Would TP not pay them if they put the work online for free? Anybody know what the contracts are like? I would imagine TP would have contractually covered themselves for just such an eventuality (not fiscal tailspins, but non-print publication of works intended for print).

    And I wonder what the traffic on TP’s website is? Despite the misfortune, online readers are still a good and positive thing, and a means to gather readers/fans for creator websites, email lists, and other projects. I’m paraphrasing Neil Gaiman here, but all readers are a potential boon to creators, whether or not they’re buying new books, used books (no author income) or, and this is the non-Neal bit, web published.

  11. Hey Steve Horton, as far as I know the two OEL creators books have the same sort of agreement every other OEL creators had the past few years (not counting the new horrible contract TP has for the web based comics). So I’m not quite sure what you mean by licensed, but what I mean is people in the exact same boat as Rivkah contractually, 3 book deal, did NOT all get cut.

    It sounds like her editor was just giving her comforting words, equating her book cancellation with everyone getting their books cut, to soften the blow, but it is not, in fact, fact.

  12. Torsten Adair says: “I hope the creators are successful, that TokyoPop helps popularize webcomics, and that the bookstore markets survive this adolescent growth spurt.”

    Well, I don’t think TokyoPop is helping web comics at all. Their web site is disgustingly ‘web 2.0’. It tries too much to be a social networking site instead of a publisher’s site. I wish the creators well, despite any website attempts of TokyoPop. With comics on a site like that, they need all the luck they can get.

    I thik web comics are a very interesting new frontier. They’re somewhat like old comic strips. Though some are going for the more longer form novel approach. The rules of the game are still being written and rewritten. I would say these creators are better off without a TokyoPop or DC Zuda. They’d be better off self publishing, especially seeing how companies can turn on you like this.

  13. @Xenos: You know if TokyoPop wants to really head into the web frontier with some of their comics you’d hope they’d redesign the site. Ever since the new design it’s just been so difficult to navigate. I don’t know if it’s trying to be myspace or a publishing site. Seriously, I would think that they get enough traffic that webcomics would be feasible, it just needs to be done right.

  14. I don’t read many comics on the web, as I barely have time to read paper comics. Is anyone putting manga comics on the web?

  15. @Torsten Adair: Don’t know of any notable ones that someone’s actually doing as a full time gig. Any manga I’ve ever seen or read have usually been personal endeavors and in other cases they’ve also self-published it.

    Examples: http://www.underlock-and-key.com/comic.html and http://www.pie-ix.com/ (Can’t remember if it was online before being published though) and http://www.destiny-makers.net/fg_pgs.html

    I’m sure there’s probably more, but that’s all I could think of right now.

  16. The biggest other than Megatokyo is probably Red String, an extraordinarily popular shoujo manga webcomic that’s now on volume 2 with Dark Horse in print as well.

    There are several others. The Drunk Duck site’s fans are extremely receptive to manga, and several independent manga webcomics have done very well as PDF collections on Wowio.

    I’ve done a lot of thought and research and writing about long-form comics on the Web, and I have to conclude that rampant scanlation (and piracy) proves that there is a huge audience that can and will be patient enough to read long-form comics on a computer screen. Mostly manga fans, but there are several traditional long-formers that are doing very well right now.

    Two of my favorites that are seeing explosive success are Octopus Pie (http://www.octopuspie.com) and Anders Loves Maria (http://anderslovesmaria.reneengstrom.com)

  17. So a few volume 3s will be trickling out after all (which prompts the question: if they’re all selling equally bad, why pick and choose a few volume 3s and not others? They’re generating tremendous bad will by (what seems to be) arbitrarily choosing some to cancel, some to Web and some to publish. Better to either print volume 3s for everyone under contract or put everyone online.

    And it also means that nobody new will be getting original books, except for the rare creator that makes it through several Pilot Programs first.

    My good friend Jeong Mo Yang is positioned well at the moment with TP. He’s drawing a licensed book, the extraordinarily successful Hellgate: London videogame prequel. (He also illustrated my how-to book.) I predict good things for him in the industry.

    Not to be crass – but I’ve mentioned it enough times that I might as well post a link to my book. A lot of useful info about securing an agent, breaking into the book market, submitting to Image, and using Manga Studio. Definitely a good pickup for TokyoPop refugees.

  18. MegaTokyo?! Bah! That isn’t manga! It’s just another web comic. He’s not not even f—ing Japanese! He’s from Wisconsin, you f—s! Um.. sorry. I’m been hitting the Pocky a bit much.
    http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/04/26/

    As for other more long form comics, Dan Kim’s Paper XI won a Shuster Award. I met him at a con and got a self published book of it. Then there are more comic strip comics like Penny Arcade or Pretty Bible Fellowship that have moved from web to print. I got MacHall self published by the guys who do that comic.

  19. Steve, about that long-form on the comics thing: Don’t you think people reading scanlations and pirated material only do so because they are already interested in the material and either cannot get it in print such as with untranslated manga or with pirated Big 2 stuff are fanboys who are maxed out on current purchases who just want to check up on the titles they can’t afford so they can “peek in” just to see if something is happening that may affect the continuity in the books they are buying or to follow crossovers without paying the extra money? That’s what I suspect but don’t have any empirical evidence (well, I’ve read a few board comments that suggest pirated Big 2 comics are done to follow crossovers on books fans don’t want to buy), but if my suspicion is true then I think those are special cases and may not necessarily point the way to future successes for those wishing to make their own long-form comics successful on the web since much of the desire to read those is based on have an existing and successful property in high demand, something which individual creators can’t exactly replicate.

  20. Joe, my point wasn’t which comics people choose to scanlate and read, my point was that the fact that it is being done means that there really are no barriers between a younger audience and reading long-form comics online rather than in a print book. Many people are comfortable reading long material on a screen.

  21. Hi Steve,
    I find it really interesting that Red String is that popular, ‘cos we just couldn’t sell it at all. The store I worked in had very decent Manga sales, but OEL just didn’t sell very well at all for us. Megatokyo did okay (maybe 5-6 copies of each a year), but the Tokyopop stuff hardly at all. Mail Order Ninja, Dramacon, Peach Fuzz & I Luv Halloween ticked over, but Steady Beat, RE:Play, East Coast Rising and most of the others rarely sold, even when we were shifting 20-30 copies of Demo a year.

  22. Hi Chris,
    It seems that OEL really requires an in-store advocate (or a creator that lives nearby to do frequent signings) to really push the material. Also, OEL seems to be doing much better as graphic novels in bookstores than through the direct market.

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