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#6. You know, I'm starting to think I should just die along with paper media.


tl by dan luffey

You know, I'm starting to think I should just die along with paper media.

Why can't publishers and mangaka be on equal terms? I don't think I'm any more important than my editor. We aren't even doing the same jobs, so it'd be nonsense to try and compare ourselves. I just want to negotiate with my editor as a business partner.
"Then I'll just create my own publishing company, where mangaka and editors are treated as equals." After getting frustrated over my failure in royalty negotiations, I considered establishing my own publishing company. This was about 5-6 years ago.
I immediately called upon a publisher friend of mine and asked him some questions. He told me that in order to deliver my manga to everyone, at least three entities would be necessary.
1. A Publisher. 2. A book wholesaler who we refer to as an "intermediary." (*1) 3. A bookstore chain.
Even if I did make a publishing company and created my own books, unless I started business with an intermediary, I wouldn't be able to get my books into any stores.
*1 line: Intermediary - Wholesalers in the publishing world who act as intermediaries between publishing companies and bookstores. After publishers create books, intermediaries ship them to bookstores all over the country. Aside from shipping, intermediaries usually also deal with returns and storage.

Intermediaries are responsible for taking bookstore orders and delivering books all throughout the country. In order to begin business with one, it's necessary to register a Japanese Book Number (ISBN). (*2) After that, you can apply for a trading account to be established with the intermediary you wish to work with. Once it's created, transactions can begin. The application conditions are very strict, though, and it's difficult for brand-new customers to get a foot in the door.
These days, publishing is on the decline. My friend also told me that there are some publishers who already have established relationships with intermediaries, but fell into business slumps and are basically "sleeping," so buying one of those smaller companies would also be a viable option. Even if I did buy a sleeping company, however, I'd need to keep publishing books at a sustained interval in order to stay in business.
The publishing and profit numbers that come in each month affect the transaction conditions with the intermediary, so you need to constantly be creating results, and if the numbers get too low, then they won't deal with you anymore.
The real question was: did I really have what it takes?
*2 line: Japan Book Number (ISBN) - The International Standard Book Number for published works. These numbers are placed on books all over the world so that they can be cataloged by computers. Since intermediaries require ISBN numbers for the books they deal with, bookstores aren't able to send books to online bookstores like Amazon. After applying and paying the fees, even individuals can register ISBNs.

No matter how hard I work, I can only produce 4 volumes of manuscript per year. If I worked as an editor instead, then, would I be skilled enough to prepare 10 or 20 volumes of manga that would definitely sell per month?
Not on my own.
Would I be able to direct other people, then? Would I have enough power to bring in new authors? Did I really have what it takes to run a company while dealing with a vault of books? And after it all, would I have any time left to draw my own manga?
I soon gave up on the idea of starting my own publishing company. This was right after I finished the psychiatry story arc in Black Jack and went on a break.
My distrust toward the Morning editors (*3) had come to a boiling point, so without deciding what magazine the series would continue in, I went to do writing and research for the organ transplant arc while I also tried to find the right path for myself.

*3 line: Morning - A seinen manga magazine that Kodansha started in 1982. In 2010, 340,000 issues were published. Representative serializations include Hirokane Kenshi's "Shima Kousaku" series and Inoue Takehiko's "Vagabond."
*4 line: Manga on cell phones - This refers mainly to the manga releases aimed at 3G cell phones. Bitway is one of the most famous companies that started releasing manga early on, and in 2004, au, Docomo, and Softbank began their initial support of such services. There are many other companies who deal in this business.

Five years ago, manga on cell phones (*4) had made a lot of progress. It was normal to see people staring at their cell phones on the train, so reading manga on cell phones and paying for it through cell phone payments was probably a perfect fit. All cell phone companies were desperate to gain new manga content, and many corporations even invited me to "please let them distribute my manga."
Some even strongly urged me to "continue the serialization online," but I didn't budge. No matter how good the manuscript fee and royalty conditions were, for some reason, I had a very strong belief that told me "manga is something that should be read on paper."
I couldn't self-publish, and I couldn't make my own publishing company. Magazines were dying out, and I couldn't bring myself to like the new cell phone trend. My tankoubon volume sales were also steadily declining. I felt like I was on a sinking ship. Maybe I should just die along with paper media, I thought.
So, I continued my research on my own, writing a manuscript that would probably never see the light of day in any magazine, and glaring at my shrinking checkbook whenever my staff's payday came around. I was being steadily crushed by my own powerlessness.
In December of 2006, I signed a writing and publishing contract with Shogakukan.

My tankoubon volume royalty percentage was to start at 10% and then change to 11% after 100,000 copies were sold. My manuscript fee, as I explained earlier, was 35,000 yen per page. Aside from that, I also received a planning fee of 150,000 yen per chapter. I changed the manga's title from "Give My Regards to Black Jack" to "New Give My Regards to Black Jack." (*5) I agreed with the condition that the finished manuscript would be published in the magazine under temporary rights to use (*6). Tankoubon volume publishing is limited to within Japan, and all secondary use (*7) of the work, such as in film adaptations and international tankoubon volume publishing, would be administered by the Satou Manga Works company I manage. In short, I did not sign a secondary rights administration consignment contract (*8) with Shogakukan.
At the end of the negotiations, the sliding royalty percentage system I had wanted for so long had finally become a reality. Depending on how much was sold, my royalties would slide from 10% to 11%.
A 1% difference may seem like a small one, but with that tiny percentile, I had succeeded in destroying the unwritten "10%" rule that the manga industry had established. I'm deeply thankful to Shogakukan, and I'm still indebted to them even now. However, pangs of frustration came along with my success.
*5 line: "New Give My Regards to Black Jack" - The medical manga "Give My Regards to Black Jack" (see P. 62) was given a new title and began running in Weekly Big Comic Spirits in January 2007. Due to the creator's demands, the final volume's cover was almost purely white, and created quite a stir. (9 volumes)
*6 line: Temporary rights to use - When a magazine publishes copyrighted work under consent of the author. Usually publishing can only be done once. If the company wants to publish the work again, it goes into the realm of secondary rights.

In the end, I was only able to deliver my manga to my readers by going through a publishing company.
I compromised. The circumstances surrounding me as a manga artist really hadn't changed. As usual, I was unable to make a living on manuscript fees alone, and I had to gamble my entire life on the royalties I could only hope I would get.
Midst the publishing decline and the raging waves that digital manga was creating, I had been unable to make a real stir. Perhaps, out of fear of drowning, I had merely lunged out at the closest ship I could find.
Was there anything I could do for the sake of all manga? As long as I continued to rely on the existing system, I would never be able to overcome it. In order to change something, one needs not to gain, but rather lose one's wisdom.
There certain things only idiots can do.
And so, I thought about riding on the waves of the internet.
*7 line: These rights are required when a copyrighted work is used a second time. Strictly speaking, manga tankoubon volumes also require secondary rights. Depending on the contract signed between the copyrights holder and the publisher, extra payments may arise.
*8 line: Secondary rights administration consignment contract - This contract basically says "Normally, I would do this job myself, but this time I'll entrust it to a company that specializes this kind of work." Normally, with manga, it isn't the author but the publishing company that manages the secondary rights usage.


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