Heidi MacDonald is reporting that Tokyopop 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”, which doesn’t include, based on Heidi’s experience, the PR person, who is also gone.
Lillian Diaz-Przybyl was the longest-running Tokyopop person I knew (not counting company head Stu Levy). She was an excellent editor, especially known for reaching out to fans, including most recently an essay on buying manga instead of waiting that caused a lot of useful discussion online. Earlier, she was a presence at the webcasts the company did in 2009. (I miss those. They were fun and informative.)
This is a little earlier in the season than the time last year that manga companies were announcing closures and layoffs. I guess the economy is not so recovered as one would hope, or the loss of Borders has had more impact than suspected.
Freelance editor Daniella Orihuela-Gruber, who works for Tokyopop, when asked about the status of staffers, responded:
There’s still Cindy Suzuki and a managing editor, but now the rest of editorial and most of design and production are freelance.
This appears to be aiming at massive cost-cutting by replacing employees (who have benefit costs and the like) with freelancers, even though that allows a lot of industry knowledge and experience to walk out the door. Daniella continued:
We’re horribly underpaid. But Lil and Asako know SO MUCH more than we freelancers do. Lillian was especially in-tune to what TP’s audience liked. She was responsible for all their solid mid-selling shoujo.
Those were the books I was enjoying recently from the company. Sad to hear that we may be going back to their previous approach.
Wait! The company guru has just weighed in on Twitter! Seems he’s just changed his mind about what he wants to do: “Why have I been stuck in such an old-school, out-of-touch industry for so long?! (yes I mean books!)” He continued, “it’s not that i don’t personally love books. but it’s a very old-school, out-of-touch industry compared to gaming.”
I used to work for a guy who, whenever he read a business book, we all avoided him, because he would change the entire company focus based on whatever idea he’d just been introduced to. Does Levy have similar company focus ADD?
Update: (3/2/11) Brigid argues yes, in an historically grounded piece at Robot 6 that suggests Levy should quit instead of letting so much talent leave.
Update: (3/5/11) ICv2 confirms that Tokyopop attributed the need to cut costs to Borders’ bankruptcy.