Yen Press' Saturday afternoon panel at New York Anime Festival was a little short on new manga announcements, but they did have news to share with the crowd. First, they shared the news that they're working on two new original graphic novel adaptations of bestselling novels from their sister companies Orbit and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Soulless by Gail Carriger and Witch and Wizard by James Patterson.
Also announced at the panel: the new Yen Press online store for the iPad, featuring several popular Yen Press titles including Nightschool by Svetlana Chmakova, Gossip Girl by HyeKyung Baek and Cecily von Ziegesar and Maximum Ride by James Patterson and NaRae Lee. The new online store will open in the later part of October 2010, and will offer full downloads of these books for $8.99 a volume.
COMING SOON: TWO NEW ORIGINAL GRAPHIC NOVELS FROM NOVELS
With graphic novel adaptations of Twilight, Gossip Girl and Maximum Ride in their line-up, the Yen Press crew is continuing their efforts to adapt some of Hachette's best selling novels for young adults into crossover hits for the comics-reading crowd.
Witch and Wizard by James Patterson, Gabrielle Charbonnet, and Svetlana Chmakova - debuting in Yen Plus in December 2010
Yen Press' love affair with the novels of James Patterson continues -- but this time, they're giving fans a one-two punch by announcing that Svetlana Chmakova will be taking on the art duties in this latest adaptation of Patterson's works now that Nightschool has completed its first story arc with the fourth volume.
Witch and Wizard is a supernatural thriller focused on two siblings who are accused of being... well, a witch and a wizard and they're thrown in jail as a result. And they're not alone -- other teens across the country have been dealt the same fate. Why is this happening, is the accusation true and even if it is, can Wisty and Whit Allgood escape from captivity?
"James Patterson is a powerhouse in publishing in every way shape and form," said Yen Press Publishing Director Kurt Hassler. "We're thrilled that Svet is taking on this massive, massive undertaking."
Soulless by Gail Carriger, artist TBD - release date TBD
Soulless is set in a not-quite-historically-accurate Victorian England, in a world where vampires and werewolves are accepted as members of society; in fact,the werewolves are police officers. However, Alexia Tarabotti is neither a vampire or a werewolf -- she's soulless. That means that if any vampire or werewolf come in contact with her, they lose their supernatural powers. This naturally creates lots of problems, as the vampires and werewolves hate her, and there are scientists who are keen to do experiments on her.
"We ran an excerpt of Soulless in Yen Plus, and we knew that we had to adapt this as a manga story," said Hassler. "It has romance and some steampunk elements, so it's a lot of fun to read," said editor Tania Biswas.
The Yen Press editorial team is currently looking for an artist to take on this series, so the release date is still yet to be determined.
YEN PRESS TO LAUNCH ONLINE BOOKSTORE FOR IPAD TITLES
In keeping with digital publishing announcements from Dark Horse, DC Comics and Marvel Comics, Yen Press had news of their own to share on that front: their new iPad storefront opening in late October 2010.
"We know that people are keen to get manga on the iPad, and we are keen to provide it," said Hassler. "We are working with our Japanese licensors to try to get those agreements made, but in the meantime, we are diving in with some of our original works and some Korean series."
Each title will be available for $8.99 per volume, a significant savings over buying the print edition, and cheaper than purchasing each chapter for $1.99 via other online comics publishers.
"When you download and support this, the more the Japanese publishers will know that there is an interest in (buying and reading manga on the iPad)," Hassler added. "Your support will give us something to bring to the Japanese publishers to make a case for this."
He also added:
"We know how keen people are into getting digital manga. It's only in the last 6-8 months that we've been able to have serious conversations with our (Japanese and Korean) licensors about this. It was not even open for discussion until very, very recently. We are actively pursuing getting the rights to do this. This is new territory for the publishers in Japan."
Interestingly, rather than offer these titles through a digital publishing service like Comixology, Graphic.ly or Zinio, Yen Press opted to use a proprietary platform. "This is not partnered with anyone; this is something that we did ourselves," said Hassler. "It's being submitted to Apple now, so we hope to have it ready by the end of the month."
"It''s an incredible amount of work," he said. "The nice thing about an iPad is that we can show the spreads as what we get in print." And plans are in the works to offer these titles for different platforms; not just the iPad. (NOTE: Maximum Ride was one of the first manga titles available for the Amazon Kindle.)
When I asked Hassler why Yen opted to go this route, his rationale was simple. "A lot of different providers have approached us, but none of them had a satisfactory solution to the moire problem." (NOTE: moire is the distortion of screentone patterns that occurs when black and white manga art that were originally prepared for print reproduction are reproduced as digital comics.)
The Yen Press iPad storefront will also offer some fun extras for fans, including chapter previews and exclusive iPad-only extras, including Svetlana Chmakova's short story about how she became a bibliophile (a book lover).
Q & A TIME: THE STRATEGY BEHIND 'SLOW' RELEASE DATES, ADV AND CMX TITLES
With no other titles to announce (other than the promised December 2011 publication of the eighth and final volume of With the Light, Keiko Tobe's true-to-life story of a young family raising an autistic son), Hassler and company launched into the question and answer part of the program.
Q: Why is there so much time between releases of the Spice and Wolf novels?
Kurt Hassler: "(People who say that) don't have to deal with the realities of selling products. Could we put out that book every other month? Yes. But we'd kill the sales for the series. Most readers, well, those of you here, you're the hardcore fanbase; just by being here, you're the most avid fans and you spend the most money on manga and light novels -- but you're not everybody and that's the problem. As much as you dedicate your resources (to buying these books), most people aren't willing to outlay $10 for a new novel every month."
"When you're talking about a novel in particular, people aren't used to buying them that quickly. With regular publishing, a new novel every six months is pretty fast. We're trying to balance that. Believe me, we're not trying to hold it back, but put it out in a way that we can support it. If things get put out too quickly, immediately the sales drop, and the more that you're only appealing to the hardest of the hardcore fan. It's our responsibility as a publisher to keep this alive."
"If there's an opportunity to speed things up, we will when it makes sense. In the case of Black Butler, the schedule was decided because of the serialization of the series in Yen Plus. But also, as a result there are more fans who find it by the time the 2nd volume comes around. It's a strategic decision to release books on this kind of schedule. It's not a coincidence that this title has held on to the New York Times bestseller list because of this strategy."
Q: How are things going with Square Enix? Why are they only publishing their manga online in English and in French?
Kurt Hassler: "We've had a great relationship with Square Enix. In other parts of the world, it gets tricky, with the way things are licensed. (Square Enix) wants to foster local publishers. If the English translation gets into Sweden far in advance than the Swedish version, then it's hard (for the Swedish publishers). (Square Enix) has to wrestle with many difficult decisions."
Q: Are you looking to pick up and publish any titles that were once published by (the now defunct) ADV Manga or CMX Manga?
"There isn't anything from CMX that we're actively looking at. Any time a publisher goes out of business, there's a lot of baggage with the retail accounts, rescuing the translations, and where you are getting the files, etc. We've (picked up abandoned titles from other publishers) in the past, but always in a targeted, selective way. We're only going to do that sportatically with titles that we think we can make successful."
So what do you think of the new titles announced by Yen Plus, their new manga for the iPad and some of the responses from the Q&A? Add your comments and thoughts below!
Image credits: © James Patterson, © Gail Carriger, © Reed Exhibitions, © Isuna Hasekura / ASCII MEDIA WORKS, © Hachette Book Group