Talkin’ Seven Seas and Manga Business With Conner Crooks, Part 2


Part II of my chat with Conner Crooks, Social Media guy at Seven Seas. This is the talking about a bunch of Seven Seas titles related portion, along with scheduling manga and stuff that has done well for them.

Lucifer BiscuitLet’s talk about a couple of Seven Seas titles, starting with Lucifer and The Biscuit Hammer. Can you talk about how long you guys had known you had that title and talk about the series in general.

I can’t go into specific details since we haven’t announced our official PR yet, that is coming soon though.  As far as we have been handling that, I can’t say, but it hasn’t been too terribly long.

Biscuit Hammer is a great series. We’ve been seeing a lot of support for it. After our vine teaser the reaction from that, I think everybody at Seven Seas was kind of in awe about that because the tweet itself got 50+ retweets, we got a lot of hits for the vine video, and people were talking about that for the entire week. Just that teaser. And that was just a teaser. We didn’t say anything else, we didn’t confirm it. And of course all the outlets picked it up and we had people all over the world talking about Biscuit Hammer again, and for me that was super cool, that was really cool to watch and you know I wanted to say more and want to say more now but I have to wait.

To be honest, I did like the little marketing you did using the vine, that was pretty creative.

Absoultely. We at Seven Seas are a creative bunch and we like to do things that aren’t always the norm. Some companies and people may be content with what they do and how they announce things and go about talking on social media. I’d like to think we’re kind of revolutionaries in that aspect. We’re mixing it up a little bit from what you’re used to just getting that plain PR. You know, we do that too but the way that we start and kick things off, I think people are going to continue to be surprised by what we do in the future. So I would say keep an eye out because we’re going to be doing lots of cool things in the future.

Arpeggio of Blue SteelAnother title, Arpeggio of Blue Steel. Talk about the series and expectations when it comes out next year.

Arpeggio was part of that trifecta of the perfect PR: land, air, and sea, this represents the sea. When I had talked to Jason about this series he was really interested in it and of course when series get anime announcements it’s that extra incentive. It’s like, “well, this could come back to hit us or we could just gun it and go for it.”  With Arpeggio we didn’t really have any solid information on the anime and that’s generally how it is for publishers, you won’t have precise details on the anime. You’ll pretty much be just like any other fan following the news. So it was a big surprise when it came out and Sanzigen was doing the 3D CG for the character models. That was a big surprise to us. I’ve been following the anime pretty closely and it’s been doing great for Crunchyroll. It’s consistently ranked as one of their most popular series. I’m a little bummed out that none of the US anime publishers have reached out for it yet, and I haven’t heard if anyone’s dealing with it just because we’re not too involved with the anime side of things.

But I think Arpeggio is going to do quite well for us. It was met really well when we announced it back in July and a lot of people were excited about this. I know it’s been a title that has been talked about for a long time. You see it discussed every once in a while just because there’s really nothing like it, and I think we at Seven Seas, we like to do things that aren’t the norm as I mentioned before, we look for those series, those hidden gems that other publishers may have just passed by and I think that so many people get caught up in the big, big titles that you lose track of all these great series that are often just passed by and left on the way side. I think Arpeggio is one of those series that’s gonna be an underdog for sure.

I think our company expectations — I think we’re all expecting it to do pretty well. The anime has been doing well…it was a little bit unfortunate that we could only get that in July, but as I’ve mentioned on Twitter and Tumblr, for our distributor Macmillan & Tor Books, we have to schedule a year in advance, we have to let them know a year in advance. People and fans are always like, “Well can’t you release it earlier?” We wish we could but we can’t just drop things in. That would also create a lot of scheduling conflicts for us because like I said 2014 is a busy year. I mean we have an average of 8 releases a month, which is astronomical for us, from what we have previously been doing. Like we’re up there with Yen Press and Kodansha USA with how many releases we’re going to be putting out per month. We have to spread our properties out because we don’t want to create an issue where we have too many titles to work on and we’re gonna start seeing quality control issues. So that’s also part of the thing where we schedule titles, we give ourselves enough time to make sure that these releases are the best that they are gonna be can be, and that there are no errors, no nothing. We want the release to go perfectly. That’s definitely part of why we schedule things as we do, but again, a lot that has to with how we work with our distributor and making titles available to them a year in advance. So when people say, “why are you announcing things for like, Fall 2014–” Well, because we already let our distributor know and we’ve filled up the available spots for Spring,  Summer 2014. There’s no going back.

Kind of like how people are probably asking, “wait a minute, why are you announcing a Strike Witches title for 2015 — it’s still 2013!”

Haha, yeah. When I heard from my boss the January 2015 release date for One Winged Witches, I went oh wow, we’re already in 2015! He went yeah you know, this is our first official public solicitation for 2015. We already have specific volumes for series that we’re already working on or haven’t announced yet that are already scheduled in 2015, but this was the first one we’ve made public. So yeah, it’s a little bit jarring — here we are in November 2013 and we’re announcing things a year and one month ahead of us. I understand the confusion and frustration of fans where they’re like, “why would would you announce something that far in advance?”  Well that’s what I’m talking about in changing your mindset. Once you step out of the viewpoint of a fan and become somebody that works in the industry, you’re already working so far into the future that you’re just like, “oh yeah, we also have manga coming out today!” For instance our third omnibus of the manhwa Witch Buster, that’s out today so it’s a little bit easy to lose track at times and for fans I definitely share the sentiment of “wow that is way too far into the future for me to even put on my radar, you’re going to have to tell me about it a few months before.”

And we do that: we announce things and then on social media that’s been part of it, it’s gradually reminding people and I guess that’s a lot of my job, it’s just reminding people that we have releases coming out, that is this coming out on Tuesday, this is coming out in two weeks, this is coming out in two months, and you just kind of have to reiterate that because some fans just don’t see it. That’s part of Twitter and social media: you’re just gonna have to repeat things almost all the time because you’re gonna constantly be gaining new followers, there’s gonna be people that weren’t following you a year ago when you announced something different, or they’re in different time zones and they didn’t see when you tweeted that because it was 2 am where they were and it was afternoon where you were so it’s a lot of that. I don’t mind that and if it helps people, reminds fans that “hey this Strike Witches title is coming out in February” “Oh yeah great, I forgot to pre-order that so I better get on it.” I don’t mind doing that. But yes I understand when people just put up a question mark when we’re announcing things a year in advance.  That’s kind of how it is for a publisher — we’re already in the future so we have to do a lot of time traveling.

Monster MusumeOne more title: Monster Musume. I’m not entirely sure people would sell well over here, but I guess we’ve been proven wrong since it’s ranked #1 for weeks in the New York Times. In your honest opinion, what were your real expectations for the series?

I’d like to mention that this title was acquired before I was with the company, but I had discussed it in detail with my superiors. Monster Musume is a title we expected to sell. We had a good feeling about this one, that monster girls were going to be a big thing. You have to try and predict trends, and that’s part of being in the industry: you have to take risks at times, you have to keep your finger on the pulse, you need to try and predict what will be the next big thing. You can kind of look into Japan for that. I brought this up the other day on my personal twitter account that you can look at a lot of Japanese trends, and it isn’t always going to translate into success here in the US but you can pick up little details and say “that might do well here.” So Monster Musume  — I think it was a known quantity that, yes it’s gonna to a find a market and it’s gonna do well. How it has done…we’ve just been blown away. It’s definitely exceeded our expectations. It’s just phenomenal on how it did. Amazon put in a big order for Musume so we were happy about that, then in a matter of a week, we had already sold through most of our amazon stock. Then a week after we already had to rush a reprint for Musume because it was just in such demand. We were like “oh gosh, we need to get more of this out to bookstores!”  And we’ve been hearing from fans all over that Monster Musume is the first thing that they see when they walk into Barnes & Noble, that they see Monster Musume shelved up there with the rest of the New York Times best sellers with acclaimed novels and graphic novels, and there’s Monster Musume sitting there on the shelf.

Wait did people send pictures to you of this???

I think we have seen it. I haven’t been in the local Barnes & Noble yet but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s also up there on the New York Times best sellers shelf. A lot of people riff on series like that but to us, we’ve published a lot of similar harem and fanservice titles. It’s good, simple fun. It’s not meant to provoke deep thoughts and emotions out of you, it’s meant to be a fun read. So if you like fanservice titles there’s nothing wrong with that. When you look at the current state of anime, or anime and manga in general, fanservice has always been a staple of the medium. You can look back decades and you’re going to find fanservice. It looks different, but it’s still the same. A lot of people get caught up in it and go, “fanservice is evil and if you like fanservice titles well you’re terrible why do you like such terrible things?” It’s like you know it’s ok to like them.

Uh, my general issue with fanservice is that sometimes they’re just boring. They somehow manage to make me fall asleep.

Yeah, that can be definitely be part of the problem is you’re reading/watching series without a hook. For us, we may take a series that feels like familiar territory, but we always make sure we look into series that have an extra hook. With Monster Musume it’s like, “Oh great, you have this guy and all these girls that want this guy,” but they’re monster girls. How many times have you read a series that this guy has a literal harem of monster girls? You’re not gonna hear many people say, “I’ve been here, done that–” “No I don’t think you have.” So we’re actually proud to have this series and be the first publisher to explore monster girl manga.  That’s a big thing for us and we take a lot of pride in that. We’re not ashamed of this, we love Monster Musume, we love monster girls, and we hope to continue exploring other areas of monster girls…obviously, releasing more Monster Musume.

Another part of that too, when I had been watching all the reaction, which has just been tremendous, there’s always going to be a negative but there’s also going to be a positive. For Monster Musume it has been astoundingly positive. We actually got a lot of Japanese coverage, a lot of Japanese fans were watching the reaction to the English release of Monster Musume. It’s a niche title there over in Japan. Different from how we talk a niche market here in the US since the manga industry is a niche market here, that’s a different kind of niche. It’s still pretty popular in Japan, but it has a very dedicated following, so a lot of those fans were actually watching the US release, and we got a lot of Japanese coverage. The Nico Nico news website covered our US release and they talked about how it was ranking in the New York Times. This was just after the first or second week when it ranked as #1. And that was a first for us: Monster Musume ranked at the #1 spot on the New York Times manga bestsellers two weeks in a row. That had never happened to us before, where we would have a title remain at #1. And for it to be on the list for 5 weeks consecutive, that was really fun to watch because you don’t often see the other side of that, with Japanese fans so involved in English releases of manga; this even caught the interest of the creator, OKAYADO. He tweeted about it, he was so excited that it was doing well in the US, so that was cool to watch because that’s gratification and I felt good for him because it’s like, “Yes, you have fans here. Look how many fans you have here!” So it’s been a really cool thing to watch is how the Japanese side plays out. Even a lot of Japanese fans were picking up our English releases. It had ranked pretty well on Amazon Japan, so lot of Japanese people picked up our English release and wanted to see how we dealt with it. A lot of them were surprised it wasn’t censored. Like, “doesn’t America still censor a lot of manga?” Well censorship isn’t a huge thing anymore, you’re not going to really run into it any more with a publisher. So yeah that’s definitely been a great thing to watch. It’s been an amazing success for us and it’s very, very cool.

KanokonCan you share any titles that have surprised you, and any titles that haven’t done as expected?

Titles that have done a bit better than expected: Kanokon, our fox girl harem manga, that has actually done pretty well or us, did a bit better than we expected; titles like Haganai and Mayo Chiki, they’ve always performed really well for us. Haganai has been a big, big part for us this year. We’ve picked up a lot of fans from that, and a lot of people are continuing to buy that. That actually pops up frequently after a new volume comes out on the Amazon rankings, that’ll be in the Top 10 for a while. So a lot of people don’t realize these titles, and they don’t give them merit but Haganai is a great, really fun title. It’s really that otaku-centric humor and it just works so well. This is actually a manga that I felt delivers the humor more naturally than the anime. I was a fan of the anime as well, but I think that the manga delivers that so well. From what I heard it’s more a faithful adaptation of the light novel series.

For series that haven’t done as expected, I can’t comment on that, don’t want to point any series out. For the most part our series have all done pretty well, it’s more or less been what we expected them to do. Some things obviously don’t catch on as well as we would like but that’s part of the industry, that’s part of being a manga publisher. Some things will sell, some things won’t, some will sell more than you can hope it would ever sell. There’s ups and downs but for the most part we’ve had consistent ups in our industry and in our business.

Part 1 Interview: Talking About Joining Seven Seas and Manga Sales
Part 3 Interview: Talking About US Manga Reporting and Digital Manga

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