Monday, June 02, 2008

Blinding Flash of the Obvious

Sometimes, it's a blinding flash of the obvious that makes your head spin with new insights.

Manga is arguably the fastest growing genre in publishing today. These companies are hot. Traditional publishers often druel openly as they watch the manga titles fly off the shelves, while theirs just sit (or worse, are returned). The conventional publishing wisdom says that manga's success is due to manga publishers creating the types of books that kids want to read, and that kids today have shorter attention spans and want more illustrated works.

OK, that makes a certain amount of sense when you look through the lens of a book publisher.

But, yesterday, near the end of a very quiet day at BEA, I had the pleasure of speaking with Jeremy Ross, the director of new product development at TokyoPop. And, as casually as you might ask about the weather, he threw out a nugget that took a moment to register in my brain. He said, "we are not a publisher, we are media company, who happens to sell books".

Later, when I was out to dinner with Doug , the implications of that simple line for our business and for publishing in general began to flood over me like a wave.

The publishers who have been successfully transforming themselves in the face of the new digital day, have gotten this concept to some extent, but I believe Jeremy's simple statement goes even further. At the PMA Graduate School on Thursday both Andrew Savikas, and Mike Shatzkin spoke to the publishers about building communities around their niche markets, and supporting their books by serving the reader with all they need, which might include the book, but might include other ancillary materials as well. All really good points, and as more publishers take those concepts to heart, they will transition into a new style of company.

However, in their hearts they will still be book publishers who happen to build communities, and not media companies who happen to publish books. It may sound like a fine line, but I believe it is one of the keys to why manga in general, and TokyoPop in particular have been so successful. They are not limited by the traditional publishing lens. Hence, they are not 'transitioning', they are just 'being' different.


Dr. Drumstick said...

Thanks for your insightful response to my comment at BEA, Fran. Here's some of the thinking behind it.

The concept that we are a media company that happens to publish books has been a precept of Stu’s since he founded the company. We platform our IP off of manga both as a book format and as a fresh, unique approach to building characters, concepts and worlds for all media that, if successful, may become franchises. We bring to the US not only Asian pop culture but also Asian business ideas and ways of building cross-media properties. In Japan the manga generally comes first and the animation or other products follow. This makes us unlike conventional US media companies that generally attempt to engineer cross-media franchises with TV or feature film as a driver.

Jeremy Ross, TOKYOPOP

Fran Toolan said...

Thanks again, Jeremy for the enlightenment. So, if I understand you correctly, it starts with the art, moves on to Characters, then story lines, then communities and product forms.

In book publishing, we tend to 'glom' that all together in one 'editorial' step.

Again, if I have this correct, then in order for (at least fiction) publishing to really change, the venerable editorial processes need to change pretty dramatically from the way they work today.

It seems to me that non-fiction publishing is already on that road to some extent. It's not unusual in the university press world, or in how-to publishers, or even in genre's such as business books, that an editor has an idea for a type of book, then goes out and gets authors to create the concept.

Perhaps, in these worlds of books, if the editors could simply think in smaller pieces, the publishing time would be quicker, and the volume of things would be greater.

there seems to be a lot to think about here...

again, you've got my brain spinning!

Nykemartyn said...

That is exactly what a good professional coach does for you too. They get you to change your mindset and your perceptual filtering, in a way that makes it possible to react positively and creatively. Next, a good coach will hold you accountable for what you said you wanted and for how you behave to help make you successful. Who will you choose to help with altering your perceptions today
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