Kodansha Offers Digital Mangaka 25% Royalties

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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.

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79 Comments

  • This is why the problem is publishers. Publishers, of anything… movies, gaems, books, mangoo, etc… are nothing but leeches.

    Publishers are no longer a necessity in the age of teh internets. The sooner they die, the sooner shit like this will stop.

    I have no problem paying for shit, but I’d sooner pirate whatever content, and mail the money direct to the creator than to buy it off the shelf, at least then i know it’s going to the person who deserves it.

  • Content providers [publishers] screw artists, nothing new there. With music, art, film, novel, etc, there’s always a large company, with enough clout to push around the nobodies.

    The best thing they can do is band together, to form their own standard and begin publishing their own works. These people should stop, look at how pirate sites have profited from their work and replicate it.

    Develop a site which freely distributes your content, backed by Google AdSense, that tracks individual chapter views, to properly distribute percentage advertisement revenue and you’d have a surefire method to put publishers like Kodansha in their place.

    Only problem, convincing respected names to step away from their old ‘tried and true’ method and finding a backer willing to create such a site.

  • it should be the other way around actually.

    75% to mangaka 25% to publisher. not to mention here in the states publishers are slow as fuck. i don’t even know a manga that has been release simultaneously with japan(maybe naruto,bleach? idk)

    “spite of the fact publishers such as Amazon and Apple are offering rates as high as 70%.”

    one of the more reasons why i like amazon 🙂

    • Ummmm manga is a JAPANESE PRODUCT. They would be offended if they weren’t the first readers of their own product and I agree. I know how you feel I read English manga for only a month before I said fuck this and learned Japanese. Now I get cheap manga (yes…it’s only expensive for YOU…in Japan, it’s dirt cheap and I have a local Kinokuniya) and I get to follow the stories weekly as they happen.

    • And then how would they get their stories out to everyone? Publishers exist to get the stories out, if everyone put out their works out on the internet then how the hell can you tell which is good? Every idiot with pen and paper can put one out, it’s like Webcomics, there are so many of em’ they all just start looking the same and I doubt most authors have the initiative or knowledge to effectively self-distribute, they handle everything the mangaka’s have no idea about.

  • So. Why haven’t an American college kid’s small circle gone to Japan, hosted their own server, and offered a 50/50 or greater cut to the magaka? It seems like if you offer the first few mangakas a good plan (including for future publishings) they would jump on board. And a server for pay per download doesnt seem like it owuld be too hard to create would it? There are tons of them around.

  • “According to Captain John Phillips’s articles

    I. Every Mangaka Shall obey civil Command; the Pirates shall have one full Share and a half of all Prizes; the Master, Carpenter, Boatswain and Gunner shall have one Share and quarter.”

    • But in most cases, an author has to accept the offer because there’s no other way he can sell his work. All the publishing companies are in on this, so there’s nothing he can do.

      Of course, digital distribution could change this, which is why the parasites want to kill it.

  • As if they would give up their stranglehold on their little sheep by themselves.
    Mangaka should uniformly represent themselves through a trade union and rape the asses of those fat, slave-labour publishers. That would make my day.

    • I am surprised Apple is offering at all. Not only will they chop out what can be drawn before the author draws them, they’ll chop what is drawn too. I am pretty certain they hired the censorship staff at 4kids.

  • this should be interesting.
    manga company’s in japan like to ass rape creators.

    im hoping that manga creators pull there finger out and release there works from there own site or something.

    at least that way they get there money and dont have to live on the shit that the company’s give them.

      • Then the creator’s should also pay for at least 51% of all publishing costs and related expenses. Which is pretty much impossible for any new aspiring author.

        People love to bitch about the middle man but without them many authors would get absolutely nowhere. Publishing companies cover all the costs of preparing and bringing books/manga to the market with no guarantee that the thing will sell. It’s not unreasonable to expect them to want to attempt to cover some of their costs through low royalty rates for the author’s.

        And who do you think is shit out of luck if the product ends up being a dud and sells next to nothing? It most certainly isn’t the creators.

        • “And who do you think is shit out of luck if the product ends up being a dud and sells next to nothing? It most certainly isn’t the creators.”

          If a book (or manga) doesn’t sell, the author won’t get any more work (i.e. money).

          lehnerus2000

        • Reality is harsh when the books that make most profit are the ones that should never have been written. Titles like the Da Vinci code are subsidising the quality releases that don’t sell as well, so the publishers can afford to take a lot of risks.

        • an unknown new in old paper only, 10% to the create up to 25% at most, mainly to cover costs if it flops.

          after that 75%+ for a known, because you know what it sells and aren’t taking nearly as huge a risk.

        • Shippoyasha says:

          The expenses are understandable I have to admit. It’s just that if you have a book that sells, I think the proper profits should go to the creator. That said, reality is harsh for many books that may sell only little or barely make profit. So yeah, there’s a lot more that goes on. I’m not saying middleman has to go away or they’re ethically wrong. It’s an honest business and perfectly legit. It just gets crazy if they’re taking 75-90% of the profit.

    • With digital distribution, I think it’s about time the mangaka band together and -seriously- form theirn own entity. 25% for something sold electronically (thus no packaging, printing, or retail costs necessary) is utterly ridiculous..

    • the only thing making pirates to pirate is the price.
      due to the middleman’s greed. original cost goes beyond the original price and so much damn expensive and we can’t afford to all the other manga titles. the blame goes back to them.

    • Right now, as is, it’s the easiest thing in the world to get a scanned copy of any manga. But see the thing is, if you actually put up a digitalcopy for less than the hard copy, it WILL sell. And when it’s collected in a physical volume for sale? That will sell as well. Most pirates would gladly pay for a quick, up to date tranlation and help the artist\creators. Not all of course, but many. Yet this %25 thing is completely unfair. And they say pirates are the ones hurting manga? When they treat these talented people like dirt? Yeah.

    • Pirate you say?

      Anything that is in a computer can be copied en masse.
      And manga piracy is already active in the internet. Web publishing of manga will give money influx to the authors/artists without middlemen cutting their profits

      (Their market would actually be faithful otakus who enjoyed their masterpieces)

      More like paypal donation boxes converted to personal “pay-per-reading-of-my-manga-masterpiece” as long as they don’t rape costumers with high price rates

      • 25% for the publisher would be more realistic – but even that is too much for the greedy bastards.

        Online distribution, simultaneously in Japanese and translated, is the way to go. We could have that for quite some time already.

        It’s the old farts leading the big publishers that hinder growth of the market.

        • no no, you are looking at this the wrong way.

          they say 25% or what it is now at 10% or less of the proffits.

          that meas the the publishing costs and all that are taken into account before the profit is distributed.

          now that said, with a physical medium, you are taking a big fucking risk printing because you don’t know how many people want, and they try to make that and nothing more, if it undersells the cost is on the publisher. in those days 50/50 on a new work, to even 25/75 would be reasonable, but once its a proven commodity, than it would be 75+/25- split.

          digital works, it should idealy be a 90/10 split, or even less, but thats not realistic.

    • 25% is such a joke. The main person which produces the content gets so much less than a middle man who wraps the product in a fancy package (digital or physical) and distributes it.

      Such insane greed is bad.

      • Interesting. I once went to a free publishing tutorial offered by the local company, 10 to 15% royalties are given to the authors. I’m technically not sure why that is so, but 25% seems to be really high.

        I also heard that books have to be sold in the thousands to break even and make a profit, even for self publishing. The detailed breakdown isn’t offered though, so I’m not sure how much of it is true.

        Considering maybe a dollar or 100 yen is earned through a single sold manga, and you have maybe 4 books a year? There’s no need to talk about seriously popular books, but maybe a single volume gets around 10,000-20,000 (maybe generic mangaka, I heard naruto/one piece is a million per volume.)

        That’s equivalent to 40,000 dollars of profit (10,000*4 volumes for convenience sake) a year. There you go. Generic random mangaka (which I highly doubt. I think it’s more than likely the generic mangaka are pretty poor) I have not included assistants’ salaries, which ends up cutting that 40,000 dollars into smaller pies. Heh.

        I have never heard of the 70% online rates, and I think it’s pretty remarkable that no other artists are gearing up for this deal. Seriously? 70%? How much is going into advertising?!

        • Do note that mangaka generally pay their own assistants from the royalties they get. Even if the royalties seem high at first, imagine paying three other people with them in order to get your stuff done on schedule.

          Plus, yeah, internet publishing. Which basically does not have a breakeven at all. A server is paid for, monthly. A high bandwidth connection might cost a lot. Then there’s software running on there that handles payment verification, and you need some maintenance staff. Tadah, done.

          This is a monthly fixed cost, to unlimited-publish all manga from the same publisher online. The cost per individual chapter is going to be neglegible, and since costs barely change with the addition of more content, as I said, no breakeven, the first sale is a profit. I bet you could pay 95% to the author while still maintaining the servers, assuming you recouped the initial investment already and that you host at least one or two very popular works. Giving the author less in turn makes you profit. Hence fair rates like 70% to the author at Amazon happen. Author gets 70% of the cake, amazon gets 20%-25% of the cake, rest is maintaining the service.

          Win-win, really. In the face of that, 25% to the authors is a pure ripoff. Especially when they take all rights to the work for themselves.

        • you must remember, this is not conventional publishing, its INTERNET publishing, which is much more simple and cheap, since it does not require you to make thousands upon thousands of physical copies, all you do is upload the data to a server and you are done.
          and if you havent noticed, the “royalties” that are traditionally given to mangaka are likely to be in the low single digit percentages, even popular mangaka dont make enough to even have a decent sized home, instead they work with a team in a cramped condo, subsisting on instant food.
          i dont think you really understand how things work… and no, its not 100jpy to 1usd anymore, that was the case about a decade ago, its closer to 80jpy to 1usd now… the usd is worthless now, even the canadian dollar is about 1 to 1 to the usd… now thats a pretty bad indication.

      • The mangaka should finally tell the greedy publishers to fuck off and publish on their own. Selling via internet is easy, mangaka could use the big doujinshi sites like melonbooks.

        They’d get all the profits and won’t have to draw what someone else tells them to do. We’d get cheaper manga faster.

        • I do believe she is a shoujo mangaka, therefore the women reading only want to see sexy men? And aside from that she was rich for some other reason. A side business or family ties. So it’s disappointingly irrelevant. But the point is good.

        • no, she draws for a very specific demographic that doesn’t give a shit about art as much a the shonen do. all of shoujo looks alike, and that is a fact. if you can do even close to that you can make money so long as there is a decent story behind it which i think she has.

        • well there was a case that pressed the point earlier on sankaku, that one woman that was not very good at drawing bishoujo, where she apparently does not do any research nor make an attempt to use references. you know… that one lady who bought an airsoft sniper rifle?
          apperently she said “fuck off” to her publishers earlier, and even with pretty low quality production, she still makes enough to afford a big ass house with a BMW in her driveway… IN JAPAN… so yea, that just shows, you can make a shitload if you drop conventional publishers.

        • personally i would like an editorial department like in bakuman, where over all they bring ideas that the mangaka dont think of to try and make it better, but dont have as much say as to what actually happens, if the mangaka says no to their ideas.

      • And plus to this (forgot to login) – the automatic acquisition of the author rights – that’s insane. Tell something like that to an author of the shittiest soft-covered novel which is bought only for “toilet use” – he’ll laugh in your face.

        I am not familiar with Japanese publishers, but such a contract makes an impression that this “Kodansha” is the only publishing monopoly in Japan, something like Microsoft in it’s best days, since they treat authors as mud under their feet.

        • “And plus to this (forgot to login) – the automatic acquisition of the author rights – that’s insane.”

          Hey, guess how copyright is handled for American comic book characters.

          Yup, that’s right, publisher are given full rights and don’t have to return it to the original creator unless they don’t use the character for something like 20 years.

        • I don’t understand why they cry about not having any new talents in this market. of course who would work his soul out to get raped from publishers??
          they dig their own grave until the very end.

        • well, in the age of the internet, publishers really need to start paying their content providers allot more. i see the near future with nearly no publishers, since there is no need for a middleman for internet publishing since its so simple and requires very few resources.