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#5. Printing 1 million copies myself would make me a quicker 100 million.


tl by dan luffey

Printing 1 million copies myself would make me a quicker 100 million.
text: Hooray!

Now, I'd like to discuss tankoubon volume price and how that affects royalties. For example, what does it cost to make a volume that costs 500 yen, including royalties to the author?
I happen to possess documents outlining the financial details of a certain manga volume, so I'll explain them below. Please note that I procured these documents from an outside publisher, so they aren't related to anything I published.

[Tankoubon Volume A] List Price: 515 yen / 50,291 copies published

Paper: 1,725,210 yen
Block Copy: 12,800 yen
Letter Pressing: 1100 yen
Typesetting: 28,700 yen
Printing: 853,705 yen
Binding: 1,081,256 yen
Processing/Supplemental Work: 201,629 yen

Manuscript Fees (Details Unknown): 8000 yen
Royalties: 2,589,986 yen
Direct Human Resources Fees (Details Unknown): 989,962 yen
Subtotal: 7,592,068 yen
Price per Volume: 148.97 yen

If you're bad at math, just try to understand that it costs them about 150 yen to create one volume of this manga. Remember, though, this was data taken from a printing of approximately 50,000 copies. Depending on the amount of copies ordered, the price to print a book can vary.
In an earlier chapter, I talked about how volumes that sell under 10,000 copies are seen as financially worthless, and therefore further volumes aren't published. This is because the manuscript fees, typesetting fees, block copy, letter pressing and direct human resources fees don't change whether 10 or 50 thousand copies are printed. Taking these fixed costs into account, I estimated what it would cost to print 10,000 copies and came up with 230 yen.

Looking at it this way, it makes sense. Printing a volume that only sells so much really wouldn't be profitable.
Now, let's see what happens if 1 million copies were all printed at once. Again, the manuscript fees, typesetting fees, block copy, letter pressing and direct human resources fees won't change even when 1 million copies are printed. After calculating it again, I came up with 130 yen.
Let's review what we've figured out so far: (*1)

10,000 copies at 230 yen = 2,850,000 yen in profit
50,000 copies at 150 yen = 18,250,000 yen in profit
1,000,000 copies at 130 yen = 385,000,000 yen in profit

As we can see, there is about a 380,000,000 yen difference in profit from the first printing of 10,000 and 1 million copies. If you printed 1 million and sold every single one of them, you would make 380,000,000 yen. And who does all that money go to? The publisher, of course. Every last coin.

*1 line:
10,000 copies: (List Price 515 yen - Printing Price 230 yen) x 10,000 = 2,850,000
50,000 copies: (List Price 515 yen - Printing Price 150 yen) x 50,000 = 18,250,000
1,000,000 copies: (List Price 515 yen - Printing Price 130 yen) x 1,000,000 = 385,000,000

With "Give My Regards to Black Jack," close to 1 million copies on average were printed of every volume, so selling one volume of that gave the publisher 100 million more yen of profit than they would get from printing 100 volumes of some other manga that will only sell 10,000 and bring in a measly 285 million in total profits.
And I see not a cent of that. There were 13 volumes in total, so you could say that they made 1,300,000,000 yen in extra profits which they kept all to themselves. Like I explained earlier, royalties are normally 10% for tankoubon volumes.
One day, I thought "If the profit ratio goes up, then the royalty ratio should go up as well," and I brought this idea up to the publisher. Calculating royalties in conjunction with increased profits seems only fair from a business perspective.

bottom: Publisher scale and profit - According to "Publisher News, Mid-October 2011 Issue," there were 3,815 publishing companies in existence in the 2010 fiscal year. Looking at it from a profit scale point of view, however, the 50 publishers with making the most profits make up 50% of all profits, while the top 500 publishers alone make up 90% of all profits. The remaining 3,315 companies are in the bottom 10%. In other words, almost all the publishers in Japan hardly publish anything, and are extremely small-scale.

These days, some publishers, such as shojo manga publishers, who have seen a severe decrease in profits, have been decreasing the amount of royalties they pay out to authors. Additionally, if there's a separate manga artist and creator for a series, sometimes the creator is paid 7%, while the manga artist is paid 5%, resulting in 12% royalties paid out to the authors.
If I made sure to collect enough details, documents, and show them the numbers, then I thought negotiating would be possible. And so, I went through a proxy and had a new contract made.
The results I got were pretty terrible, though. They wouldn't even look at the documents I prepared, and only said "this is unprecedented, so we can't just raise your royalty payments," over and over again.
What's the basis for keeping my royalty payments grounded at 10%, then? It seemed like they had no clear reason for anything. The only reason I understood was that royalty payments were worked into the calculations for printing costs, and profit distribution excluding royalties was already agreed on by bookstores and wholesalers, so they couldn't do anything about it.
"If you're unhappy with 10%, then how about doing self-publishing (*2)?" they asked me.
"I see," I thought, and went to go get an estimate from a self-publishing company. What do you think they gave me as an estimate for the printing cost of one volume?
1200 yen.
*2 line: Self-publishing - When an author covers the costs of publishing his or her own books. In return for paying out all the costs of production, self-publishing allows the author to keep all profits. (Cutting out the need for royalties)

If I printed 50,000 copies, I could make one volume for 150 yen, but 1000 copies would cost me 1200 yen a piece. And I would be paying for everything, so royalties wouldn't be included in the equation.
So, next I asked for a quote for 100,000 copies. It was 120 yen a volume. That sounded much better -- it was hardly different from the deal the publisher was getting. After I calmed down though, I started to think harder. Would I really be able to sell 100,000 copies?
I possessed no sales skills, nor did I have a foot in the door with any bookstores. And I sure didn't have enough money to hire someone to do all the business for me. Nor any money to advertise.
If by chance some kind of miracle was to occur, and a bookstore chain did allow me shelf space to put my books, there would still be a question of how I would distribute it all. There was no way I could just rent a truck and drive around to every store in the country.
So, if I couldn't do it myself, did I really have no choice but to listen to what the publisher says?
bottom: Publishing costs! So what?!

1: Or maybe I should just accept the fact that manga isn't profitable, and go find another job.
I ended up getting nowhere with my negotiations. In the end, mangaka are basically subcontractors working for publishers. Unfortunately, it's a long way from being an "equal" relationship.
One day, I got an idea. "What if I just made my own publishing company (*3)?" One that respected the position of the mangaka, one that could truly create an equal relationship between the publishing side and the creation side.
This idea came to me in 2006.
*3 line: Publishing company - In recent times, due to a publishing recession, Japanese publishers have been dying out one after another. 2001 was the peak, with 4,400 registered publishing companies. In 2010, there was 3,800. In a single decade, approximately 600 companies went out of business.


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