What’s Up with Del Rey Manga?

X-Men Misfits 1This is something that’s been wondering around in the back of my mind for a while now, but found a voice on Twitter this week.  With the news of Del Rey’s cancellation of their X-Men manga reboots, the question came up asking if Del Rey was having problems.  That seems a very valid question.  A look at Del Rey’s sporadic release schedule and the fact that they’ve gone to releasing omnibuses to complete some series’ does suggest problems.  But that wasn’t my take.  Del Rey is a division of Random House, one of the power house publishers, so I don’t think it’s a financial problem.  I think it’s more of an attention span issue.

In 2004, manga was a growing market.  It’s growth seemed to be never ending as more publishers and titles kept being released.  But like the economy, that bubble couldn’t keep growing.  Del Rey had some really good titles that people would buy religiously, but after Kodansha, who they had a co-publishing relationship with, announced their own imprint, things quieted down quite a bit.  Their company blog went silent shortly after San Diego Comic Con 2008, and their license announcements haven’t been all that stellar.  So, is Kodansha holding out on Del Rey, keeping the best licenses for themselves that they will never release?  Or is it that Random House has seen the wind sucked from the manga sails, and doesn’t value it as much as previous years?

Fairy Tail Vol 1 from Del ReyBeing jaded as I am, I tend to think it’s the latter.  It’s not like they’ve abandoned the imprint.  They still license and release titles.  But think, when was the last time you were excited about a Del Rey license?  When was the last time you saw/heard about a license request and thought “That would be a good Del Rey title?”  They’ve supported the Manga: The Complete Guide with Jason Thompson, and I think doing it online is a fantastic idea, as long as they plan on printing an update/supplement.  But I question their commitment to the manga line.  When a company stops communicating with the fans, that’s when I see there’s an issue.  The fact that the blog and My Space page hasn’t been updated since 2008, that they don’t have a Facebook page, or Twitter account, tells me they don’t have an interest in interacting with their readership.  The publishers I consider successful have some presence on one of these social networks and has an intern at least monitoring them, and updating them.  Even if it’s jut to retweet a review, to me this says the publisher cares about what people say and think about their books.  Is Del Rey too big to care?  Or is it just that readership doesn’t matter anymore?

Moyasimon 1I honestly don’t know which it is.  I’m just expressing my feelings.  But the last title Del Rey released that I was really excited about was Fairy Tail, and that was 2008.  I’ll finish most of the titles I have started with them, such as Ghost Hunt, Mushishi and Hell Girl.  But their lackluster performance and lack of communication sure doesn’t enthuse me any, especially when there are other companies such as CMX, Digital Manga Publishing and Yen Press actually working to get my few spare dollars.  Guess who won’t be getting any anytime soon.

13 thoughts on “What’s Up with Del Rey Manga?”

  1. I’ve also wondered what’s been going on with Del Rey, Lori — the website is still being updated, but as you point out, no one at Del Rey is taking advantage of Twitter, Facebook, or other social networking tools to update fans on licenses, release dates, con appearances, etc. What’s even more odd about this radio silence is that Del Rey has a great editorial and marketing team. All of the folks who work on the manga are serious comic fans; when I’ve seen them on industry panels, they present well and handle questions with grace and humor. So I’m tempted to agree with you that Random House is losing interest in having a manga imprint. Without knowing anything about sales, however, it’s impossible to do anything but speculate — after all, titles like Negima! are still cracking the NY Times Bestseller list.

  2. Yeah, I’m totally not pleased with the direction Del Rey is going. (I said on Twitter that besides their CLAMP titles there isn’t much I’m buying from them these days). While I certainly appreciate omnibuses over cancellation, I feel they are doing no groundwork to make the next few years profitable / exciting / squee-worthy / etc. (Groundwork = licenses I and other manga fans give a damn about).

    The theory about Random House makes sense I just find it very disappointing when publishers like Tokyopop are recovering and Viz is making an effort to become a “prestige” publisher of manga. Del Rey is being eclipsed very quickly….

  3. Not to mention that their product has been slipping in quality since the late 00’s. As a fan of a few Del Rey series, I’ve seen paper quality slip, and the inks, while serviceable, aren’t really any better than Viz’s at this point.

    I know that Random House exists to make a profit, and that’s probably why they’re still printing manga, but this lack of communication makes me totally hostile to picking up new series from the publisher.

    Del Rey needs to get its act together.

  4. I was a little disappointed about the Xmen news from DelRey, but I was not totally surprised. The OEL market is a tough one, but even more so when the writer and artist must produce 130-200 pages all together and not in chapter form for single issues or magazine format like Yen Plus. In the decade of OEL very, very few have been able to produce even the 3 volumes Tokyopop usually contracts out. I think it would help all the companies if they would put out anthologies like Shonen Jump and Yen Plus, or webcomics like IKKI from VIZ.

    My most surprising buy recently was Moyasimon a few months ago. I loved it and can’t wait for more of this college life/biology/chemistry lesson manga. I hope DelRey can find more such interesting titles.

  5. I’ve also had a lot of trouble actually getting review copies from them. Finally I have one contact who sends me continuing volumes each month, but Manga Recon seems to have fallen off the list for automatic receipt of debut series. I’ve mentioned this problem a few times, but nobody seems to care much.

  6. It’s not just you, Michelle — I gave up trying to get review copies from Del Rey ages ago. Even when I did receive them, there wasn’t a lot of rhyme or reason to the books I got, or how frequently I received them.

  7. I think you’re right that Del Rey isn’t at the top of its game anymore, which is too bad since they are one of the few manga publishers that historically has a really good record of including extras like translation notes, etc. They still have some series I like, but they aren’t “must reads”. I usually end up swapping for stuff like My Heavenly Hockey Club and Papillon.

    1. I’m glad to see by everyone’s comments that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

      @Alex I can’t speak to the drop in quality too much, since Del Rey is at the bottom of my read pile, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

      @Heather It would be great if more companies went the anthology route, or at least online, but Random House strikes me as too much a traditional pub to take that kind of chance. Anthologies are just for marketing, and we’ve seen the effort they’ve put into that. And online doesn’t seem to interest them much either.

      @Michelle/Kate Add me to the list of being ignored by Del Rey for review copies. I emailed the reps several times, and met with them at SDCC, dropping off my card twice and never got a single response from them. They wouldn’t even respond when one of reviewers moved and we tried to give them an updated address (he was already getting review copies before coming to Manga Village.) I’ve pretty much given up on getting review copies from them.

  8. Ditto. Del Rey certainly has dropped the bundle. The three series’ that I’m following from them (Gakuen Prince, Nodame Cantabile and My Heavenly Hockey Club) seem to have fallen off their radar – and this following fairly healthy publishing schedules before about July 09. Their forum is woeful, you can practically hear the crickets chirruping.

    I’m not sure about decreasing quality, but I didn’t see any preview pages in the last Gakuen Prince and Nodame like they usually do. I know it’s a little point, but it’s foreboding nonetheless, as if they’re “letting things go”. Yikes!

  9. I’m a little cross that the two series they publish that I read have either had their releases stalled completely (Nodame Cantabile), or spaced over six months apart and now all of a sudden being published as a three volumes in one omnibus over halfway through the series (School Rumble). I’m guessing they’re not their biggest sellers but I really love Nodame and it would be nice to get both series finished!

  10. Hard to get excited about new series from a publisher when they don’t have the respect of fans to finish what they start. I was curious about these and feel like they didn’t have a chance to succeed.

  11. I’m agreeing with this post. I’ve noticed for one of the series I really like: Aventura, each volume is released per year. I’m beginning to suspect that they’ve dropped it because there has been no mention of when vol. 4 is to be released. I’m hoping this isn’t the case..because even if it isn’t wildly popular I really want it to continue to be published.

  12. well I purchased the Zaregoto (1 and 2) graphic novels from DelRey and thought it was great. Now I’m waiting for the rest of the volumes so I enter the site to see if any news are up but it’s not even showing that they’re publishing the novels! How are they suppose to make money out of something not even shown on their website?

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