In an ongoing feature that addresses queries from their fans, Tokyopop recently touched upon the subject of publishing manga novels in the U.S., an endeavour they say isn’t quite feasible for a number of reasons.
The first obstacle, according to Tokyopop, is the matter of placement at retail stores. Do manga novels belong in the manga section or alongside regular novels? What section do they belong in, young adult or sci-fi/fantasy? At the localization end, there’s also the matter of increased translation costs, due to the large amount of text.
For this reason, all novels currently published by Tokyopop are given rather short print runs. Slow initial demand means a shorter run, which means less opportunities for new readers to discover novels over a period of time.
As far as digital distribution is concerned, Tokyopop say they’re looking into the possibilities of publishing novels digitally, which means there’s still hope for making them available to a wider audience than they are now.
If you’re curious to learn more, Tokyopop also specifically point to different problems with various novel series such as Full Metal Panic, Gosick and Romance of the Twelve Kingdoms to explain what the publishing challenges associated with each one are.