Manta (manta.net), a webtoon / digital comics app platform has announced their first official entry into the print graphic novel market with a direct-to-consumer, full-color print edition of Disobey the Duke If You Dare, a fantasy-romance series by Romance Machine K. We spoke with Manta to get additional details on this, plus additional information about why it’s not yet available via comics/book distributors for retailers and libraries yet.
The print edition of the first volume of Disobey the Duke If You Dare will be available to order via Amazon starting on Saturday, March 18, 2023.
The series, one of the most popular on Manta, serves up new chapters every Thursday. The digital comic version of Disobey the Duke is currently in its second season, with 58 chapters released so far. The page for the series notes that its popularity has led Manta to speed up releases of English chapters to be simul-pubbed/released the same time as the Korean language chapters are released to readers in Korea.
Here’s the description, from Manta:
You must never see the duke’s face
After her second husband’s death, Lily is forced into a third marriage by her father. Her new husband is rumored to be a monstrous warmonger, but to Lily’s surprise, the Duke turns out to be a kind man and husband. There’s just one catch… she must never see his face.
You can get a taste of Disobey the Duke If You Dare via the Manta website.
While the release of Disobey the Duke if You Dare is their first official print release, Manta has previously released two volumes of their popular BL series, Semantic Error as ebooks via Amazon Kindle in Summer 2022, and gave away a limited amount of print editions of this story as giveaways to fans via their social media channels and at San Diego Comic-Con at the Manga Publishing Roundtable panel.
Manta’s release of this series as a direct-to-consumer print release raises a lot of questions. While the press release states,
Starting with Disobey the Duke if You Dare, Manta is committed to bringing more of its hit originals into high-quality graphic novels through direct publishing and partnerships.
Moonseok Jeong, Head of Content for Manta said, “Manta already has a strong, well-established fandom from offering the hundreds of best and exclusive stories in digital comics form, and we are definitely proud for Disobey the Duke if You Dare to be our first entry into print. With this graphic novel initiative, we aim to extend the success of Manta’s popular IP, diversify the reading experience, and most importantly, bring what our fans will love and enjoy.”
That’s fine for individual readers who want to buy this series as a printed book, but what about retailers (bookstores or comic shops) or libraries, who rely on distributors like Ingram, Penguin Random House or Diamond to get books on their shelves? I reached out to Jeong for more information. Here’s what he said:
Who will distribute these books to retailers and librarians? Are your distribution plans only for direct-to-consumer via Amazon?
JEONG: It will be distributed direct-to consumer via Amazon. However, we are open to collaborations in the future with other popular titles of Manta.
How are you determining which books will get print distribution this way? Is it based on popularity / read rate/reactions from Manta app users or something else?
JEONG: Disobey the Duke is one of Manta’s most popular titles, and our first title for distribution in print. It’s more for our fans to extend their reading experiences while having the joy of keeping their favorite Manta title on the bookshelves.
I’m also curious about how many books Manta is planning on publishing this way over the next year?
JEONG: We are open to more titles coming to print in the future and are exploring how to expand into this print publication.
Are you also talking with other publishers, re: licensing titles showcased on Manta to be published in print?
JEONG: As mentioned above, as an IP owner, we are open to conversations and opportunities with other titles. We have a rich library of romance stories which we are strong at, and that our fans love, including Under the Oak Tree, Finding Camellia and more.
So in other words, all of these larger questions about distribution, licensing series featured on Manta to other N. American comics publishers are to be determined later, possibly based on how things go with this first direct-to-consumer book release.
Perhaps the most useful way of looking at this is to think of it like as being somewhat like how graphic novels get self-published via Kickstarter. A creator may use a successful Kickstarter campaign to show publishers that there’s strong interest in the book, in order to make a case sign a deal with a publisher to pick up the series and give it wider distribution. If that’s the case, we’ll just have to wait and see how readers receive the news of this print edition, and what this leads to next.
Manta is one of the newer entries into the webtoon / digital comics app space, offering something slightly different than similar services: Instead of the pay-by-episode model used by other webtoon platforms, Manta offers all-you-can-read comics for a flat monthly subscription fee of USD $3.99 in N. America. It’s free to download on Android and iOS devices and is available in 175 countries, with a monthly fee that varies by country. It’s also available in English and Spanish.
Manta is owned and operated by RIDI Corporation, “one of the top storytelling companies in Korea.” Several series featured on Manta have been adapted into live action TV drama and animated series. Manta also works with “third-party IP rights holders to extend existing storytelling into comics.”
Since its debut in November 2020, Manta became the No. 1 comics app on Google Play in regions including the U.S., Mexico, and Spain shortly after launch, with its apps downloaded eight million times as of October 2022.
See what’s on Manta for yourself by visiting Manta.net or visiting the Apple App Store or Google Play to download the app.