Seven Seas Entertainment launched in 2004 with a line of Original English Language manga and started licensing Japanese titles the following year. Since 2007 they have been a distribution client of Macmillan, under their Tor imprint. They specialize in titles with a strong niche following, such as Blood Alone, Dance in the Vampire Bund, and A Certain Scientific Railgun.
Over the past few years, several insiders have pointed to Seven Seas Entertainment as a manga publisher that is flourishing in a down market. Seven Seas’ BookScan sales have tripled over the past three years. PW Comics World spoke with Seven Seas founder Jason DeAngelis about the company's strategy and outlook for the immediate future.
PW Comics World: How was 2012 for you--were sales holding steady, up, or down overall?
Jason DeAngelis: Our sales have been growing steadily each year since our inception in 2004. 2012 was our biggest year yet across all channels.
PWCW: Looking at all the ways people can buy or read manga—bookstores, comics shops, mass-market stores like Walmart, library sales, and digital—which are the most important to you? And how has that mix changed over the years?
JD: Digital has become increasingly important to us in the last couple years. We have some big plans for digital later this year which I can't yet reveal. Bookstores, by far, are still where we make our biggest sales.
PWCW: Seven Seas is often mentioned to me as a publisher that is staying solid by doing things a little differently. Can you explain a bit of your approach—what do you look for in a manga license, who is your audience, and how do you market to them?
JD: Because we're not the biggest kid on the block, we have to be nimble and creative when choosing licenses. We often look for licenses that may have been overlooked, but that we know will appeal to fans. No one company can publish everything, so we'll look for undiscovered gems, big or small, in any genre.
PWCW: What were your strongest performing books or genre?
JD: Dance in the Vampire Bund, Alice in the Country of Clover, Toradora!, A Certain Scientific Railgun are currently some of our biggest titles. Recently, our yuri omnibus Girl Friends has done surprisingly well, so our genres run the gamut.
PWCW: We have heard that for many publishers, the Borders closure increased sales in 2011 and depressed them in 2012. What was your experience with that?
JD: The Borders closure was the loss of a major sales channel, which is never a good thing from our perspective. Barnes and Noble and Amazon did seem to pick up some of the slack, which certainly helped our sales in 2011. As for 2012, it was our best year yet.
PWCW: While manga sales in bookstores are down over the past few years (not for you but overall), attendance at anime cons continues to grow at a steady rate, which suggests continued interest. Do you think there is still a strong manga market in the U.S.?
JD: Sure, the manga market is strong. The fear most publishers have is dwindling sales channels. If we lose more brick and mortar stores, it could get tricky, but who knows for sure? Whatever happens, I believe someone will figure out a way to supply the ongoing demand of manga fans, whether it means different brick and mortar channels, online stores, direct fulfillment by the publisher, or some new model no one has thought of yet.
PWCW: What are your plans for 2013? You indicated a 50% increase this year--why the big jump?
JD: Licensing is like treasure hunting: you're always on the lookout for an undiscovered or forgotten license. And now, with fewer competitors than previous years, we have access to more licenses than ever before. I also think we've honed our ability to pick and choose licenses that will sell in our market, whether they're well-known titles or not. With record sales in 2012, we feel it's our job to equal or surpass what we've been doing, and keep providing books that manga fans are excited about.