We talked to Tokyopop publisher Mike Kiley about plans to offer some manga titles exclusively through the company's Website (see 'New TokyoPop Website Offers Exclusive Manga').  In Part 1, he discussed how they chose titles to become Web exclusives, and in Part 2, he talks more about Tokyopop's assumptions and goals for the titles offered only on the Web.


For titles that started being sold to the trade and then with later volumes are being converted to Web exclusives, is that a one-way trip?

Yeah, I think that's the only way that it really makes sense at this point. The only caveat that I would apply to that is that again, this is a very new pilot program.  We're going to be very interested in all kinds of feedback to it for obvious reasons.  Do customers like it? Do our Website users like it?  How does retail feel about it?  I would say that virtually nothing about this program is set in stone.


That's the current thinking, yes, for the ongoing series it's probably a one-way trip.


[Tokyopop VP Marketing] Chip [Meyers] said that on new series, there might be a platform release where something might start on the Web and then later go to trade. Is that a possible route?

Yeah, I think it is.  That isn't a formal part of the new program, but it's possible.  I guess what I likened it to in the past is something like an indie film approach.  A limited release pattern with word of mouth, very targeted kind of thing.  Occasionally what that results in is a bit of a groundswell, and those films go into wider release.  It doesn't always happen, but sometimes that happens.  I don't think it's inconceivable that if we get something going as an online exclusive, if it really builds an audience and there's a story there to tell and if retail is interested in it, I think those are things that could migrate over to a wider release pattern in certain cases.


I'm looking at the Web exclusive schedule for next year.  It looks like it peaks at three or four releases a month through this program, is that right?

Yeah, I can't imagine that it becomes any larger than that for the foreseeable future.  I think there are probably months where there are only one or two.  I think that number is about as ambitious as the program is going to get for the foreseeable future.


Are you going to carry backlist on these titles?

Basically what we're going to do is print what we need, and then we'll overprint.  Now that's going to be a very tough thing to figure out at first, because this is such a new business model.  Customers are guaranteed to have access to those books if they order within the preorder window.  Beyond that, we're hoping to be able to fill -- we will be able to fill -- as many orders as the initial print runs will allow, so there will be overages.  It's just that, especially at the beginning when we're just getting our feet wet on how the demand cycle will behave, there could occasionally be cases where after the first so-called release date we could be out of the product.


Do you expect to sell the same or more through the Web exclusives or sell fewer but at higher margins?

I can't imagine that at the beginning of the program, even for books that have been performing rather modestly out in the trade, that we'll be able to duplicate those numbers with this online program.  I think it's just a program that's going to take time to build.  It's a new thing.  I think it's totally unrealistic to expect those same results.


Over time, I honestly don't know.  I believe with the direction that our Website is heading in, and the way people are indicating they're willing to interact with a lot of the new stuff we're doing, I believe there's every reason to expect that the program could deliver very comparable results to the more traditional distribution channels over time.


Does that take three months?  Does it take 12 months, does it take two years?  I'm honestly not sure.  I guess the only real definitive thing I can say is that I don't think out of the box that the results are going to be immediately comparable.


But lower sales would be acceptable because there are higher margins?

Yeah, there's certainly that, but it's also an investment.  There are times when you have to make a bet on building a new business.  Lower sales at a higher margin are certainly nice and they help you manage that transition in a financial sense.  But you also have to be willing -- if you believe in something, if you believe something is worth trying to stick with it -- to take your lumps for a while, if necessary, all in the spirit of building a new channel and building a new way of interacting with customers.
Click here to go to Part 1.