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#9. A relationship between mangaka and readers without a publisher in between.


tl by danluffey

A relationship between mangaka and readers without a publisher in between.
bottom: Rollin' myself.

Several years ago, a band named Radiohead (*1) produced their own music with their own money, then sold the album on cell phones and the internet without going through a record company. It created quite a stir.
After the album was released, I bought an independent CD version from a CD shop. Business-wise, the release itself earned them the equivalent of millions of yen. It was a very interesting endeavor that allowed them to search out a new relationship between those who make music and those who listen to music.
"What would happen if I tried the same thing with manga?"
Maybe the relationship between mangaka and readers would change as well.
I had already begun thinking about building my website when I heard this news, so it made me really excited. I decided that the first thing I needed to do after opening the site was to release the manga I had drawn so far. I owned the copyrights to the work, and although I had been paid manuscript fees to draw the manuscripts, those fees only granted the publisher a one-time chance to publish the work, so the manuscripts still belonged to me.
Since I had signed publishing contracts with multiple publishers, I wouldn't be able to publish the same books with another publisher, but I still retained all secondary use rights.
*1: Radiohead - An English rock band who debuted in 1992. Their 2007 album, "In Rainbows," was distributed in MP3 files from their site. They even allowed downloaders to set their own prices, an unprecedented sales tactic.

Publishing means "Putting information on paper and distributing it to the public," so electronic publishing falls into a completely separate category. Online comics fall into the e-book/e-publishing category, so I can release my works as I like. I even considered taking New Give My Regards to Black Jack and Tokkou no Shima, which were still being serialized, and releasing them on my website simultaneously.
I immediately went to hear the publishers' opinions on my website. Some were peaceful about the issue, and others simply grimaced and accepted, since they had no legal way to stop me. They had no real qualms about old works, but asked me to wait one month after the serialized chapters were released to release them on my site, and I accepted.

I was fine with it, because I knew that at home, I had a brand-new manuscript tucked away in my shelf, ready to go up on the site when my serializations ended.
I figured I'd charge 10 yen for old chapters and 30 yen for new chapters. At BookOff (*2) and other similar large bookstore chains, my volumes are sold at around 100 yen per volume, or less, and considering how easy they can be read at manga cafes, I decided I'd have to use a payment model like this to be competitive.
10 yen per chapter meant about 100 yen per volume. My royalties were 50 yen per volume, which meant my profit would be doubled. As my negotiations with the publishers continued, I had more meetings with the web development company. After many meetings, I took a look at the estimate they had prepared, and nearly jumped through the roof.
10 million yen.
I am a complete amateur when it comes to the internet, so I was completely clueless as to whether this was an appropriate price or not.
*2 line: A very large chain of used bookstores run by the BookOff corporation. Unlike previous bookstores, BookOffs are wide and bright inside and allow users to read books inside the store, making them a very "new" type of used bookstore. On the other hand, since new books can be purchased so cheaply here, BookOffs are seen as one of the reason why new editions haven't been selling very well.

I quickly got in contact with a different friend than the one who introduced me to that company and asked him to introduce another one to me. I was trying to get a competitive bid. (*3)
I gave the second company the same explanation I gave the first, and then, after two months and multiple meetings, they gave me a quote of around 8 million yen.
Since it was going to be a pay site, there were security problems to worry about. They would also have to implement a unique payment system for the site, as well as work in a viewer (*4) so that the online comics could be read. Therefore, they claimed that they couldn't make the price any lower. In addition to that, they would need to sustain and manage the site month to month, but they couldn't give me a clear estimate of how much that would cost. This was apparently because it would depend on how much service I'd require of them, so they couldn't give me any concrete numbers.
For example, if I requested only 8 hours of support on weekdays, and paid 300,000 yen to one staff member, they could give me monthly support. If I required 24 hour support, however, then the price would triple. Then, if I wanted weekend support, things would get more expensive. The type of servers I choose could also vastly change the overall price.
*3: Competitive bid - What multiple companies produce when they're forced to give estimates for the same job in order to compare them. This makes the price competitive and gives the client more of a choice, as well as a better understanding of how serious a company really is.
*4: Viewer - Software that allows image files (or PDFs) to be viewed on smart phones and computers. Page turns and jumps to certain pages can be easily done with clicks and tabs. There are many different types of viewers available.

Feeling troubled, I had another friend introduce me to another company. There, I explained everything a third time and met with the company once a week. After another two months, they gave me another estimate.
7,800,000 yen.
Here, however, I was faced with the same problems regarding support and management. Monthly security fees, server fees, data center fees, viewer fees, support fees, payment agency fees...the list went on and on. Exhausted, I thought about giving up and stamping the contract right there, but then I decided I'd take a look at one other company, just to be sure.
I first met them in the lobby of a hotel in Shinjuku. An sympathetic acquaintance of mine had introduced me to them. Remember now, I'm a mangaka through and through. I don't know much about anything else.
bottom: uwaaaaahhh...
bottom sfx: splish

I may have been very passionate about putting my manga up on the internet, but there was no way I could do it all by myself. And so, after bothering a great number of my friends, I apprehensively sat down in the lobby of that Shinjuku hotel.
When it became time for the appointment to happen, the CEO of the development company appeared. After showing him the estimates I had received so far, he said "We can do all this for 5 million. As far as support goes, we can't just stick one person on it and leave it all to them. You'll never just be able to pay one person for support."
A few months later, I received his official estimate. Eight months had passed since my initial meeting with the first company.


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