Yen Press Head Interviewed

I’ve seen plenty of interviews where someone had nothing much to say and yet managed to camouflage that with puffery… but this interview with Rich Johnson, one of the publishing directors of the new manga/graphic novel/hot buzzword imprint Yen Press, is stunning in its complete lack of information.

I feel sorry for the guy, because clearly his new job is newsworthy right now and he wants to take advantage of it, but every single answer here is “I don’t know”. Except for the first question where he says, “[Manga] will certainly be an integral part of the publishing program along with more traditional American-style graphic novels, Webcomics collections, and some books for younger readers.” How many “integral parts” can you have before you’re spinning your wheels going in too many directions at once?

He doesn’t know whether they’ll do OEL manga, why he’s reporting to the children’s books head, when they’ll start publishing, what else the parent company does, how duties will be divvied up… I think it would have been better to have passed on the interview invite until there was SOMETHING concrete to announce. This just makes him, and by extension the company, look unprepared.

Update: Publishers Weekly Comics Week has a more balanced overview.

While there is some skepticism about Johnson’s knowledge of literary comics, his hiring is almost universally praised. … Reaction to Hassler’s move was split between general praise for his role in establishing manga in the book market and pointed complaints that he can sometimes be a dismissive and difficult gatekeeper.

PWCW goes on to compare the news to another recent change, saying “Diamond wasn’t able to bask in the media limelight very long before the Hachette announcement. But clearly the launch of Diamond Kids Group–and the hiring of Janna Morishima to run it–is equally significant.”

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