Formally launched at the 2003 San Diego Comic-con, Del Rey Manga has turned a strategic alliance with Japanese publishing giant Kodansha and a small, targeted list into a recipe for success in the still developing U.S. market for manga.

"We're not the biggest," said Dallas Middaugh, publishing director of Del Rey Manga, "but we started with sure sellers and now retailers trust our titles." A little more than a year after its first list, Del Rey Manga has sold more than one million copies combined of its first 20 books, averaging about 40,000 copies each. Multiple-volume series Negima, Tsubasa and XXXholic show up on lists of bestselling manga, and the house will publish eight series (36 books) this year.

The bulk of Del Rey's sales are in chain bookstores, but the comics shop market is starting to respond. Del Rey is also starting to target independent bookstores as a new market. "They haven't really gotten behind manga," noted Middaugh.

Del Rey is also introducing works of naturalistic manga like Genshiken, Othelloand Notabile Cantabile, "slower paced and aimed at young women, not teens. We want to reach different parts of the audience," said Middaugh. "We're in this for the long haul."