Tokyopop Layoff Update & OEL Marketing

As a followup on the rumors surrounding recent Tokyopop layoffs, Heidi MacDonald (link no longer available) posted word from their editorial director:

We have not told any OEL creators to stop working on their projects as a result of Aaron’s departure. The projects that Aaron was supervising are being reassigned immediately to other TOKYOPOP editors who will provide continuity.

Meanwhile, Lyle at Crocodile Caucus (link no longer available) has thoughts on OEL production schedules and marketing.

The OEL titles are a new beast for Tokyopo with some unique challenges. For one thing, the “quantity” factor isn’t there, there isn’t enough material (or the funds to produce enough material before selling it) to quickly give a series the kind of shelf space it can easily get with moderate popularity and a large number of volumes in print. Buzz is also more challenging to maintain as readers have a whole year to forget about a series before the next chapter arrives — additionally, some readers may choose to defer sampling Tokyopop’s OEL titles, since there’s a long window until the next release.

I hadn’t thought about it that way, but he’s right. I have copies of several of the OEL titles on my “to read” stack, and knowing there isn’t more I have to decide on buying means less pressure to get to them now. After some insightful advice (read the whole thing), Lyle concludes

it’s likely that Tokyopop has some creatively strong series in their backlist that haven’t fully met their sales potential, it would be satisfying to see some of these titles getting a renewed push…. Such a move would be precedent-setting since most manga marketing efforts (aside from Viz’s anthology magazines) rely on the title’s pre-existing fanbase to generate buzz… but setting industry precedents isn’t unfamiliar territory to Tokyopop. It’s time to innovate again.

He also asks the still accurate question “whatever happened to their Manga After Hours chick lit plans?”


  1. This is the problem when you’re trying to sell original material after having sold reprint material (which is both cheap, relatively speaking, and plentiful.) Original material is neither. And unless they want to front the funds and time necessary to get three or so volumes of work finished before they start selling any, this problem isn’t going to go away.

    I’m wondering what the chances of mixing OEL manga works into a magazine anthology, the bulk of which could be reprint work would be? I’m not sure it’s an issue of outright rejection of “fake” manga (not my pejorative term, but I’m sure that there’s an equivalent amongst hardcore manga readers), but that could be playing into it. I don’t follow the pulse of that particular subset of the comics world really.

    The above is an interesting comment because there really hasn’t been a lot of marketing on the manga side of things, other than healthy convention presence, that I’ve seen. A lot of the manga publishers seem to be relying on familiarity with the characters by way of anime series and fan buzz. Again, this is an obversation largely from the outside, and might not stand up to closer scrutiny.

  2. […] their best-remembered experiment will be OEL manga, original graphic novels published in manga format by young creators. Running in 2005-2006, rumors […]

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