May 11, 2023

[Meet Our Krew] Unpacking “Novel-to-Comics,” the secret to our global IP success story

Kakao Entertainment’s webtoons and web novels are on a major roll, shaking up the global entertainment industry with over 10,000 original works that are captivating readers around the world.

At the heart of this phenomenal success is our Novel-to-Comics process. Pioneered by Kakao Entertainment in 2015, this process identifies and transforms hit web novels into webtoons, creating valuable IP that resonates with readers worldwide.

Through this innovative approach, we’ve turned out more than 840 successful webtoons in the global market, including acclaimed titles like “Solo Leveling,” “A Business Proposal,” “What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim,” “Overgeared,” “SSS-Class Revival Hunter,” and “The Villainess is a Marionette.”

We were curious to learn more about the magic behind the Novel-to-Comic process, so we recently got together with Ian and Marine, a web novel producer and merchandiser, respectively, and had a great chat! We condensed everything for you below.

Q.  Can you describe your roles as a producer and merchandiser in the field of web novels?

Ian: Novel-to-Comics largely operates in two parts, producers who work with writers to create webtoons and web novels, and merchandisers that bring all their amazing works to our readers. As a producer, I scout talented writers from various sources and provide them with support throughout their creative process. We work closely, constantly brainstorming, and offering the writers assistance so they have what they need to create high-quality works.

Marine: As a merchandiser, I collaborate with our content provider (CP) companies. When a producer or CP suggests new ideas, I review and provide feedback based on current trends and reader reviews. This is a key differentiator for us because, unlike other webtoon and web novel companies, we communicate directly and closely with CPs and producers at every stage. That’s part of the secret: a great collaboration. 

Q. What’s the culture and work process like?

Marine: It’s dynamic! Stories form the basis of all entertainment IP so it’s exciting to work with web novels that can be expanded to webtoons, dramas, movies, games, animations, and more. Our goal is to expand our key IPs across all stages of the content value chain.

Ian: Our teams are diverse. We have a production team for web novels and webtoons, a sales team for revenue generation, a business team for overseas markets, and an IP team for expanding into additional businesses. It’s this intricate web of collaboration that sets us apart.

Q. What’s the process of turning a web novel into a webtoon?

Ian: Everything starts with diligently searching for great web novels. Then, we focus on finding the best way to visually express the emotions and essence of the original work. It’s crucial to ensure that the images in the webtoon align with images that our readers would imagine. A mismatch detracts from the impact of an otherwise great work. We thoroughly analyze the original web novel during the adaptation to ensure a seamless transition into a compelling webtoon.

Marine: At first glance, it might seem like turning a web novel into a webtoon is easy. But for a title to succeed, the Novel to Comics adaptation calls for a significant amount of data and understanding. As a company that pioneered this practice, we have years of expertise in finding the most sensitive way to convey the essence of the original work into a visual form our readers will love.

Q. Tell us about your team’s biggest achievements.

Ian: We’re proud of our whole body of work, with over 840 webtoons created through our novel-to-comics process, including Netflix blockbusters such as “A Business Proposal” and “What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim.” We extend the lifespan of individual works and expand their reach to TV dramas, animations, games, and more, adding several layers that can maximize profits for a host of creators. It’s great synergy.

Marine: I want to mention the success of our webtoons in Japan. This is traditionally a very strong manga market and I believe our success there shows the global appeal of webtoons. The beauty of this content genre is that it is so accessible and there is almost no language barrier due to its visual format.

Q: Ok so, what makes a successful webtoon or web novel, and what sets them apart?

Ian: The webtoon and web novel industries are dynamic. Themes and trends come and go, so it’s not easy to pinpoint distinct differences. One key factor is that web novel, which does not include images, often rely on protagonist-driven narratives, whereas webtoons, with their visual medium, require a more diverse set of characters for reader engagement. Webtoons require more than one main character, and the supporting characters need to be introduced strategically.

Q. Do you have a platform for writers who are just beginning?

Ian: Yes. We operate a platform called “Kakao Page Stage” in Korea. We have high hopes that it will grow into a platform where amateur writers can freely upload their works. With the increasing popularity of web novels, we know there are so many budding writers just looking for the chance to go pro and we want to support them.

Marine: We want Kakao Page Stage to be a great stepping stone for aspiring writers.

Q. What other projects do you have underway?

Marine: We are involved in various things to nurture talented writers. Along with Kakao Page Stage, we are always reaching out to and collaborating with universities and young webtoon artists to identify new talent.

Q. What should Kakao Entertainment be pursuing as it continues to take on global markets? What should be its key values?

Ian: I think the most important thing is the strong relationships with top content providers and producers. Trust is essential, and communication with authors and professionals who have dedicated their time to discovering and promoting top-tier writing should be rewarded. The platform aims to be a place where both existing fans and global readers can fully engage with the content, providing an immersive experience for all.