Vertical Inc., a New York City publisher specializing in Japanese prose works and manga, announced plans to launch Vertical Comics, a new imprint focused solely on manga and anime-related titles, at New York Comic Con. The new imprint will allow the Vertical Inc. imprint to focus on contemporary genre fiction and nonfiction prose works.

Vertical marketing director Ed Chavez said beginning in the fall Vertical Comics will publish about 20 new manga titles over the next year, including seven new properties. The line will eventually expand to 30 to 40 manga and anime-oriented titles a year. Chavez said that the Vertical Inc. main corporate brand will “revert its focus back to prose works in crime fiction, fantasy and science fiction.”

Chavez said, “we published a lot of manga the last few years.” While the expansion of manga publishing “has done well,” the company believes it has also confused the marketplace and changed the overall perception of Vertical Inc. While Vertical has continued to publish critically acclaimed Japanese prose works, Chavez said “there’s been a shift in the image of the company. It’s not a negative image but the growth of our manga publishing has diluted the company’s brand. It’s getting tougher to get the word out about our prose fiction.”

Chavez said, “We want to make sure our readers from the past can come back and see that Vertical isn’t entirely devoted to comics.” The new imprint will be announced today at the Vertical Inc. panel at New York Comic Con.

Although most of Vertical’s manga titles are available in digital formats, they are not necessarily released via Vertical. Chavez explained that most of its manga is available via digital licenses from other U.S. publishers. The Tezuka estate has given digital licenses to Digital Manga Publishing and other houses, while Square Enix, a major licensor of Japanese manga, has a digital deal with Yen Press. Even Kodansha, Vertical's parent company, offers many of the manga Vertical publishes via Crunchyroll, the online streaming service for anime and manga titles.

“We license from a wide variety of Japanese publishers and some of them already have digital deals in the U.S.," he said. All of Vertical Comics manga titles will be available in digital, Chavez said, “but that's determined on a title by title basis.”

Vertical Inc was launched in 2003 as an independent publisher focused on edgy contemporary Japanese prose literature in English translations. The house published such authors as mystery novelist Keigo Higashino (Naoko) and horror master Koji Suzuki, author of the popular Ring trilogy. Shortly afterwards the house began publishing classic manga titles including works by such legendary manga authors as Osamu Tezuka and Keiko Takemiya. Beginning around 2007 they began focusing on contemporary manga. In 2011 the giant Japanese manga house Kodansha and the giant printer Dai Nippon, each acquired equal stakes in the independent publishing house.

In addition to launching Vertical Comics, Vertical inc. will also step up its publishing of Light Novels, short, fast-paced inexpensive prose works that are often used as the basis for creating anime. The books are hugely popular in Japan and are beginning to pick up more fans in North America.