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Del Rey: House of Manga?

20/08/2003. Contributed by Jessica Martin

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SFF publisher Del Rey Books to launch own line of Manga comics.

Del Rey Books used this year's Comic Can (San Diego, California) to announce that it is planning to launch a line of manga titles in partnership with Kodansha, better known to the rabid fans of Japanese-style comicbooks as Japan's leading manga house.

This decision follows on from the alliance between Random House, Inc. and Kodansha Ltd., Publishers, which was announced back in January 2003.

Del Rey will launch with the simultaneous release of four titles in Spring 2004. Each will be the first volume of an individual series-all top Kodansha properties; these will be followed up by eight additional volumes over the next twelve months.

The titles will be released as trade paperbacks printed in the traditional Japanese format, reading right to left. The target audience for the program will be readers 13 and older.

"We're terrifically excited about working with Kodansha, and about the potential for expanding the audience for manga," said Betsy Mitchell, VP/Editor-in-Chief for Del Rey. "Our program will mark the first time a major U.S. trade publisher has entered the manga arena.

Random House's powerful sales, publicity, and promotional resources will bring manga to greater prominence in several markets that have not yet benefited from its current popularity."

Dallas Middaugh, former sales and marketing director for Viz, has been named as Director of Manga for Del Rey, reporting to Betsy Mitchell. He will oversee acquisitions as well as sales, marketing, and promotional strategies for the program.

Widely respected as an expert in selling and marketing manga, Middaugh saw net revenue from manga publishing triple during his tenure at Viz.

Cited as the fastest growing category in bookstores today, the graphic novel market has doubled each year for the past two years, leading to an estimated $100 million market today.

The vast majority of the growth in the market has been due to the increased popularity of manga.

There's been a lot of chat in manga-dedicated bulletin boards about the 'reading right to left' decision, as many US manga publishers who have dabbled with this traditional format have later abandoned it - the word on the street being this can limit its popularity among mainstream western audiences.

It is possible that Del Rey have the commerical muscle to get traditionally formatted manga pushed through into the stores though. Interesting - nay exciting - times, to say the least.

Yet again Betsy Mitchell shows why she is one of shrewdest operators in the North American SFF publishing world, leaving many of her competitors eating Del Rey's innovative dust.


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