Book Feature Interview Light Novel

Interview With Tentai Books – Light Novel Publisher

Tentai Books is a light novel publisher, primarily focusing on romantic comedies. They have released titles such as I Kissed My Girlfriend’s Little Sister?!, There’s No Way a Side Character Like Me Could Be Popular, Right?, and How to Melt the Ice Queen’s Heart.

Tentai Books is releasing the second and final volume of How to Melt the Ice Queen’s Heart soon, digitally on 28th February 2023, and later physically.

I asked Alejandro De Vicente (Alex) from Tentai Books if we could have a brief interview about the company and he kindly agreed.

Could you tell us a little about Tentai Books, your role, and that of the rest of your team, both employees and freelancers you frequently work with?

Well, Tentai Books is what I’d call my personal project that has been going on for a while. (I think 4 years by now? Time flies.) Initially, I was planning to make it a Visual Novel company, but complications while trying to get licences got to us, and we decided to change the idea mid-way, setting down for Light Novels in the end, as it was a form of media I personally enjoyed quite a bit, too. 

My role involves… a lot of things, but to shorten it up, I handle the legal part of the company (mostly paperwork, dealing with printers, coordinating distribution, etc…) and I work as the exclusive translator for the company at the time I’m writing this. 

I work with several freelancers, but currently the team has been downsized, and now we’re just one editor (Pomelo), a couple of QA people, the person who edits the images (Vodoka), our e-book / physical book typesetter (Justus), and our social media / spokesperson. All very kind and understanding people, who work hard and make it possible for us to deliver what I perceive are high-quality products, despite their untimely release schedules.

You mentioned licences. Was it difficult to gain the trust of the Japanese publishers for light novels?

Well, just as any other process of gaining trust, as we were people who had no ins in the industry, and personally I had (and still think do) quite the low-profile track record, we approached Overlap with little hope. We managed to score a couple of their novels, those being “There’s No Way a Side Character Like Me Could Be Popular, Right?” and “Welcome to the Outcasts Restaurant,” which were single volumes back in the day. I had to do a lot of background checking on the authors and read the books to see if they had a shot of serialization, and after a lot of thinking, we decided to go in with those two.

Trust, in any case, is easily broken, and that’s probably the hardest thing to do in the industry, which is to maintain a relationship of goodwill with your Japanese partners.

Anyways, we had a couple of meetings and lots of mails, and eventually we came to an agreement.

In fact, the hardest thing was to convince them to allow us to license in English, because we’re located in Spain, and many companies still believe that unless you’re on American soil, you cannot license in English. It was tough, but so far we’ve managed to convince them that we’re more than capable of doing what any other publisher does normally.

Tentai Books - Various Physical Books

As both a company head negotiating with the Japanese companies and a translator, your language skills must be excellent. How did you learn Japanese? Any hints for our readers who are trying to learn themselves?

I started around… 9 years ago in a random Japanese academy in the middle of Madrid, after 6 months of self-studying with Tae Kim’s guide on Japanese. I learned how to write and read it to an N1 level by my sixth year, but I’m still taking speaking classes with a teacher. All I can say for those who wanna learn is that it’s something you’ve got to devote thousands of hours to, and should be considered a life investment just like a college degree would imply. Unless you simply want to enjoy media, which I’d then recommend taking it easy and being consistent with your work. Long story short: be prepared to grind a lot and study quite a bit.

With localization as a hot topic, could you tell us a little about your translation philosophy?

While I used to be more of a purist in my early days as a fan translator, now I consider myself someone who takes a lot of liberties, but it all depends. 

I’m not a hardcore “localize everything” or “keep everything pure” kind of guy. Though to be completely honest, some of my translation choices have sometimes riled up some people on social media, categorizing me as part of a “localizer cabal with an agenda,” while other professionals have openly defended it, so at the moment I’d say I’m more “in league” with current professional translation standards regarding the translation of Japanese media.

Tentai Books published some series in both English and Spanish. Are there any challenges around that and will all series get this treatment?

The main challenge was coordinating releases to be at the same time. It was also convincing Japanese companies that Spanish wouldn’t be as profitable as English releases. Overall, I think I was naïve back then, believing I could support both languages at the same time. I quickly realized this wasn’t viable, and that’s why I kind of dropped Spanish as a language (that, and the effort not being worth the payback, we gained little to no profit from the Spanish releases). 

Will other series get this treatment? Most likely not. We’re not well-liked in the Spanish community, and I personally do not miss appealing to that market myself.

To clarify, is Spanish completely dropped now for all future volumes, including those that have some already translated?

Yes, that is indeed the case. We terminated our contracts with Overlap in that language.

Which is your personal favorite of the series that Tentai Books has worked on? What would you say are the selling points of that series?

Side Character is and has always been my absolute favorite of them all. The main reason is because the characters in that novel are written from a more realistic standpoint compared to other romcoms I’ve seen out there in the market. I’m not sure if it’s because publishers/translators prefer things to be written in that way, but I feel like a lot of romcoms have characters in them that are written like young, well-spoken adults, when in my opinion, teens should sound like, well… more like teens, which doesn’t help me and many others to get engaged with the story. 

Side Character has characters that are well-written, and the author seems like he genuinely understands modern teen culture compared to others I’ve read. On a side note, the art of the novels is stellar, and I buy things with my eyes more than with my brain most of the time. 

In the past, there were complaints about delays and a lack of communication from Tentai Books. Could you let us know briefly what happened to cause that?

Though I’d rather not delve too much into specifics, the reason lies with me. I had a very rough last year. A chain of negative events in my personal life led me to not be in the best moment, to the point where I neglected my job and duties towards the company. Obviously, I am to blame for that, because business shouldn’t be related to how I am on a personal state, but my lack of experience running a company showed, and I ended up not communicating at all for a long period of time, which resulted in massive delays with releases, losing the trust of customers, etc…

While I am currently working to gain that trust in us back, I’d be lying if I said that I am a little scared right now of how well people will take to our coming releases, but I’m trying my hardest to let everyone know that no, I am not running away / disappearing / not paying my taxes (since everyone loves to compare us with the funny light novel company that went under). We’ve also recently been the subject of untrue rumors, like business partners terminating contracts with us (which is not true) and many other things, so the intention is to at the very least keep releasing things at our own pace and being communicative.

What I want people to know more than anything is that I know it wasn’t the right move to license as many things as we did, or delay the releases so much. However, we all learn, and I am committed to finishing everything we’ve taken, no matter how long it takes. While I am alone, I am quite fast working, and this year we’ll catch up with many of the series we’ve got going on, to the point of hopefully making people feel less anxious about us and be more open to trusting in our products.

Despite the other issues, I’ve always been impressed with the quality of Tentai releases. Is there anything in particular that you feel Tentai Books does to stand out here?

If anything, I’ve always been proud of a bunch of things we do:

  1. I think our choices in what we license are always well-liked. 
  2. I believe our physicals have a good quality standard. 
  3. I’ve gotten little to no complaints about the quality of the releases in terms of text and readability. 
  4. I like how we stay unique through the extra contents we provide with physicals and digitals whenever possible.

On the licenses chosen, it looks like a lot of your titles are romance comedies. Why did you focus on them?

Our followers prefer those kinds of titles, and on a personal note, I tend to license whatever catches my eye. Romcoms are my favorite genre, and I’d definitely love to continue this trend through our current and future licenses if possible.

I like to sit down after a long day of work and relax reading a light-hearted romcom with little to no drama, and I believe many others think like me! That’s one of the main things that moves me to keep providing this kind of content

While I imagine you’ll be focusing on current commitments for now, you previously mentioned looking outside of romcoms on Twitter. Do you have any thoughts on the types of titles you may look at in the future?

We actually have a manga we’ve kept licensed for a year now, but we need to announce soon (most likely next month) since we’ve been asked to start releasing it from Japan. Fortunately, we have all volumes ready (6 of them) so we’re ready for a stable monthly release, but taking aside our current commitments, I’ve actually been very interested in exploring new avenues, like more serious stories with different contents, such as mecha (in fact, there’s this one series, Schwarzesmarken, that I’ve been dying to get my hands on). Apart from that, my train of thought at the moment is to continue providing our core audience with romcoms, as it’s the thing they crave, and there are so many of them out there that we’d have work to do for ages.

While many other publishers do some series as digital-only, Tentai Books seems to do a physical version for everything. Why choose this direction and do you think you’ll be able to continue?

Long story short, we currently cannot get deals with publishers unless we promise some physicals being involved, and I bet other small publishers like us have this conundrum as well. Big companies can get away with it because they have special partnerships with Japanese publishers, are bought by these publishers and can do whatever they want, or have enough of a customer base to justify not doing physicals and still gain a substantial amount of revenue.

Will we be able to continue with the physical trend? Yes, of course. We do small print runs that tend to run out quickly, and our strategy has worked finely so far, so I’m pretty sure this treatment will continue existing for current and future titles to come.

With many fans preferring physical copies, which are often not available until some time after the digital release, are there any future plans to do anything like bundles with a preorder of the physical and a digital copy on release?

Ideally, once the new website is completely finished, I’ve been meaning to implement a policy of being able to buy a physical book on our website, and if you do, having access to its digital version for free, which I’m pretty sure would be something new out there.

Apart from that, no other plans in mind related to bundles at the same time, no.

How to Melt the Ice Queen Vol.2 is coming out soon. I loved volume one, but with the series dropped in Japan, as the one who translated it, how do you think readers will feel about the series ending?

Ice Queen (as far as the original Web Novel goes) is divided into arcs. Each with its own logical, satisfying ending. While the series was ended prematurely, it merely means that only the first arc of the story was developed, in which Asahi and Fuyuka get to know each other and start their relationship together. Would it have been nice to get to see more of their interactions together? For sure, but volume two has a satisfying ending that could be considered a proper ending, and I’m convinced the readers will not feel like the series ended abruptly, but quite nicely.

As I understand it, Seatmate Killer Vol.2 and World Teacher Vol 2 & 3 are tentatively after Ice Queen. How do you choose which series to focus on next?

Basically, I focus on the licenses I have access to the earliest, and move forward from there. I try to think of which one should be released before and based my schedule partially on that. I also focus on series with less volumes, so I can finish them faster and get to completing those with more volumes, like world teacher.

Tentai Books - Extras

I really like the extras that Tentai Books includes. Do you have any favorites of the ones you’ve released?

Touka’s postcard of Side Character 3 is definitely the best thing we have, along with Sister Kiss’ postcard. Both are gems.

Can you share which series has been most popular in terms of sales? Judging by the views of our light novel reviews, NookGaming readers seem to have chosen I Kissed My Girlfriend’s Little Sister?! by far

And you’d be correct. So far, Toxic Classmate, Sister Kiss, and Seatmate Killer are our best sellers. The one that has sold the best without a doubt was sister kiss, though.

To end on a light note, what light novel would you love for Tentai Books to someday release? The perhaps unrealistic dream project, disregarding whether the Japanese publishers would allow it or financial viability

Without a shadow of a doubt, Rokudenashi Majutsushi (Roku de Nashi Majutsu Kōshi to Akashikku Rekōdo/Akashic Records Of Bastard Magic Instructor). Rakudai Kishi (Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry/Chivalry of a Failed Knight) is another title I’d love to rescue, but there’s so many complications with that title that I actually see it never coming to light. Also, Schwarzesmarken.

Thank you to Alex and Tentai Books for talking with us. If you’d like to check out their work, you can buy their published light novels on their website, join the discussions on Discord, and follow them on Twitter for updates.

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