#2. Just what are manuscript fees, anyway?
MANGA POVERTY #2
tl by dan luffey
1: Just what are manuscript fees, anyway?
right: No one told me about this!
Just what are manuscript fees, anyway?
I once demanded a "definition" of manuscript fees from the editors in the magazine that was serializing my manga.
Until then, through my entire career as a mangaka, I had never received a clear explanation as to what these fees were. I sort of had a general idea that they were "the payments you get for putting your manga in the magazine," but whenever I got into more detailed questions like "Why are they set at those prices," or "How much should manuscript fees be included in the process of drawing the manga," I would come up with nothing.
In 2004, my art staff demanded raises. At the time, my manga "Give My Regards to Black Jack" (*1) had become a big hit, and every time a new volume was published, they would always ask for more printings. My staff was proud of themselves, and said "we created part of this work, so we're also supporting its high quality." And in truth, they were doing an excellent job, so you could say that their request for a cut of the profits from the work was a natural one.
*1: "Give My Regards to Black Jack" - My medical manga that was serialized in Morning (Kodansha) from February 2002. It sold over 10 million volumes altogether, was made into a drama in April 2003 by TBS, and then into a special drama in January 2004. There are 13 volumes in all.
Meanwhile, I was already using up all of my manuscript fees to pay for the manga production costs, including their salaries, so by the time they gave me this request, I was already deep in the red. I was using the royalties to pay off my own debt.
Those volume royalties were paid to me because I owed to the copyrights to the property, so one could say that money has nothing to do with the art staff. It's just like how songwriters and composers get paid separate fees for their work. The people who are actually playing the music get completely separate payments.
By that logic, they should get paid art fees for their artwork, while the completed illustrations would belong to me, the copyrights holder. Therefore, I thought the proper thing to do in that situation was to ask for a proper raise in my manuscript fees due to my manga becoming a hit.
And so, after finally clearing up the "definition" of manuscript fees, which I had always wondered about, I tried asking for a reasonable raise in my own manuscript fees. Since I was no longer a newbie, and had earned my share of accomplishments as a mangaka, I figured we would be able to talk it over in a civil manner.
"I want to give my staff a raise, so please increase my manuscript fees."
*2: Copyrights - Intellectual property rights owned by people who create contents like manga, movies, and music. This gives the creators the right to control and manage their own work. Profits can be earned from copyrighted works when the copyright holder gives permission for a copyrighted work to be copied, screened or performed.
That's what I said to my supervising editor one day. However, he didn't have any intention of taking me seriously.
"I'm just your editor. I know nothing about monetary issues," was the first thing he said.
So, I asked him to introduce me to the editor-in-chief or the person in charge of accounting, but he never got around to doing it.
"We pay you enough through royalties, don't we? Why do you need more?" he even said.
I couldn't take it.
It's true that at the time, my income equaled that of the average wages for a salaryman my age. But that, and the fact that my manuscript fees never increased regardless of how popular my work became are two completely different matters. Aren't manuscript fees the production costs for making the manga?
So I said "Alright then, I won't draw it anymore." And after going on a hiatus for a while, my editor-in-chief finally contacted me.
Basically what he said was that manuscript fees weren't meant to be production costs for the manga, but rather "compensation for the production of the manga manuscript."
According to his explanation, "manuscript fees are normally calculated by page count, paid out by the number of pages a manuscript becomes when published in the magazine. After the manuscript fee revision year, number of serialization years, and the degree of contribution to the magazine began to be taken into account when calculating manuscript fees. But up until now, manuscript fee breakdowns have not been deeply discussed, and they should be considered as falling under the category of compensation for the work."
OK, fine, but I'm employing people here.
So I told them, "I won't draw any more manuscripts until my production costs for the manuscript are guaranteed."
In the end, they signed an agreement that they would take "necessary production costs into account along with the years of serialization and the degree of contribution of a work."
Manuscript fees are payments made simply for the art being featured in the magazine, and have absolutely nothing to do with the actual production of the story or the process of making it into a manga.
In other words, manuscript fees (*3) are basically like publishing fees paid out only when a manga is presented in a complete form.
*3: Manuscript fees - This only represents the definition of manuscript fees as stated by the Morning editors, and not that of other publishers or editors.
We can see many problems here, like how the manuscript fee revision year wasn't explained to mangaka before the fact, and how the standards regarding things like "degree of contribution to the magazine" are very vague, but getting a clear definition of what manuscript fees were and signing that agreement was fruitful in the end.
As we've seen so far, manga manuscript fees do not take into account the necessary production costs (salaries for staff members, materials, data, studio management, and rent), and create a paradox in which the more manga one draws, the poorer they become, so it was a great step forward that they acknowledged this when making their new promise.
My new manuscript fees based on the agreement we sealed bumped my payment from 23,000 to 33,000 yen a page. I was drawing 80 pages a month at the time, so I was getting 800,000 yen a month, or 9,600,000 yen a year.
When normal businesses hire someone to do a job, they examine the details of the work, and, after considering the production costs, give out an estimate. If the hired worker agrees with the estimate, they sign a contract, submit an order form, and then produce bills, in that order. But no such customs exist in the publishing world.
For example, out of all the new mangaka who are about to start a serialization, I expect not one of them is able to get a proper meeting with their editor-in-chief before the fact and negotiate their manuscript fees.
One day, after working hard to bring in his or her own home-made manga over and over again, the supervising editor goes to the new mangaka and says "ready to cut your panels for a serialization?" and the new mangaka happily, bravely goes off to plan the story.
Planning the panels is like drawing the storyboard for movies and anime -- basically, the blueprints of the manga.
The story plan gets tightened and elaborated on in a meeting with the editor, and depending on that, the serialization is finalized or not finalized.
If the serialization is finalized, creation and script fees should be paid out, but the editors never talk of such things. The new mangaka just happily starts drawing the story once the serialization schedule is planned.
1: These are panel plans.
At this point, there's still nothing said about the manuscript fees. Even if the mangaka tries to talk with the editor about them, they'll just say something like this: "Who cares about the manuscript fees? There are tons of people out there who'd let us run their manga for free. You should just be grateful you're getting a chance at a serialization like this. I can't believe you're actually asking about the money. Are you serious about this?"
Finally, the serialization begins, and a few months later, the manuscript fees are deposited into the mangaka's bank account.
That is when the new mangaka finds out for the first time how much his or her manuscript fees are. After overcoming all that opposition, new mangakas see the result of their efforts displayed before them as numerical values, and they're stunned.
"I should have just gotten a part-time job...at least then I wouldn't be in debt."
That's also when they first realize that they can't make a living on that money. Talented mangaka who disappear from the industry usually all cite the same reason: "I can't make a living off manga."
bottom: Comics and film adaptations: It takes time and money to make original films, so TV stations and film companies often choose to make film adaptations of widely-known, finished works. Publishers also like film adaptations, as it can sell more volumes for them. The merits are big for both sides, so film adaptations of comics have been greatly increasing.
1: If you want to have a serialization, first you need to save up a million yen!!
side: It's common sense!
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