Kodansha is telling mangaka they will get only 25% royalties on digital manga, if they deign to publish them – in spite of the fact publishers such as Amazon and Apple are offering rates as high as 70%.
Mangaka Minoru Suzuki (author of a number of relatively obscure titles, such as “Zeni”) complained about the high-handed treatment meted out to him by Kodansha in a series of tweets:
I published 2 tankobon with Kodansha, and they sent me a “digital distribution rights contract.” They only offer 15% [he later revised this based on a more detailed reading of the contract to 25% of the wholesale price, split 10/15 between original author and mangaka in the case of adaptations], and take all the ownership rights for themselves.
They also say “it is not yet decided whether we will release the title in question electronically.”
Aren’t they supposed to at least negotiate a deal first?
Amazon and several other modern publishers are offering royalties as high as 70% on digital publishing – in comparison Kodansha’s offer is pathetic.
In addition, Kodansha offers no guarantee they will actually publish a mangaka’s works electronically, whilst ensuring they can freely prevent their mangaka from doing so elsewhere should they wish, although they have announced plans to start their own digital distribution service.
25% is more comparable with rates traditional paper publishers offer authors in Japan and elsewhere – rates in the region of 10% for paperback books are not uncommon or ungenerous in the US and elsewhere, particularly as this covers the not inconsiderable costs of retail distribution, printing, marketing and editing.
However, the more forward publishers are already trying to sell digital manga at a higher price than the actual paper editions – needless to say, it seems they are doomed to fail if establishing a new market for digital manga is their goal, although if retarding the growth of a scary new technology threatening to weaken their control over authors is their objective, their actions at least make sense.
Commentators on the Japanese publishing industry have voiced concerns that the big Japanese publishers are attempting to establish a cartel over the new (to Japan) digital publishing market – most of them are offering the same pathetically low royalty rates on digital publishing, an unlikely coincidence.
With the likes of Amazon and Apple not playing along, and with growing discontent amongst mangaka at treatment many regard as little more than pure exploitation, the old guard may yet find the new market slipping between their fingers faster the harder they squeeze it.