Oni Press is the latest comics publisher to incorporate webtoons into their print line, with the addition of Covenant (see “Oni Press to Publish Webtoon with 630K Followers”) and SubZero (see “Oni Gets Webtoon with Three Million Subscribers”). We asked Editor in Chief Sierra Hahn to talk to us about the thinking behind these acquisitions and the challenges and rewards of transforming vertical-scroll comics into physical graphic novels.

I know Oni is publishing Covenant and SubZero.  Do you have any other webtoons in your current catalog?
Not at this time, but we’ll be publishing both LySandra Vuong’s Covenant and Junepurrr’s  SubZero for years to come and we’re very fortunate that these two books in particular already have a passionate and committed fanbase.

Are you looking for more?
We’re definitely interested in looking at print publishing for other Webtoons projects and other digital comics in general. Self-publishing online is a great way to build an audience, engage with readers directly, and hold oneself accountable for deliverable content on a regular cadence. Right now, we have some more Webtoon and digital comics under review. With the tremendous success of Covenant, which came out in May, and the upcoming SubZero, we have a lot of traction with a readership who are deeply engaged, huge supporters of their favorite creators, and are eager to share a physical copy of these beloved comics.

What criteria do you use when considering a print edition of a webtoon – is traffic on the webtoon platform an important factor?
Traffic on the Webtoons platform is only one part of what we consider during the acquisitions process. We’re equally inspired by the material itself—a well-executed story, with characters we can root for and artwork you can get lost in.

What about genres and titles – are you looking for particular types of books?
Oni Press isn’t looking for any one particular thing. We have a great group of editors whose interests both vary and intersect, which help make for a robust and dynamic publishing line that reflect the sensibilities of readers today who like to explore across genres and typical age demographics.

What types of books do you think translate best into print?  What format works best?
Right now, we’re publishing softcovers and trying to publish two volumes per year, per title, to maintain engagement with an audience that are accustomed to more immediate gratification through online comics and the regular cadence in which new material appears online. Print publishing simply can’t keep up with this method, but we can bring a gorgeously printed book to longtime fans wanting a story to return to and pass along to friends. As a Webtoon reader, I appreciate having a book I can easily flip through to reference a favorite scene or some compelling artwork.

How do you do the conversion from vertical-scroll to the page?
We’re working with two exception layouts designers—Miranda Mundt on Covenant and Lucine Shell on SubZero—both of whom work closely with their editors and directly with the creators to reformat the artwork for the page. They’re anticipating page turn reveals, fluid action beats, and emotional character beats for when the reader needs to linger a little longer. They work collaboratively to help realize the vision of the author while anticipating the needs of a print readership.

Given that readers can access the comic for free, what draws them to the printed books?  What can the print books offer that the webtoon platform cannot?
Circling back to something we touched on earlier—when you really love something it’s a bonus to have a physical book to return to for repeated readings, to easily share with others, and that looks gorgeous on a shelf. We live in a world where entertainment is constantly looking to adaptation as a method to engage with fans in a manner that is authentic to their experience with and appreciation of the source material. Adapting these Webtoons for print is simply another method to share LySandra and Junepurrr’s body of work with fans and newcomers alike, which in turn leads to more traffic on Webtoons, while extending the reach of these works into bookstores, libraries, and our own shelves.

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