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#10. Honestly, doing online comics is hard.


tl by danluffey

Honestly, doing online comics is hard.

Finally, I decided on a web development company, and after many meetings, actual work on building my site was underway. Once the functions of the site were decided upon, I started thinking about the screen design and drawing illustrations. After all, I had absolutely no room to hire an outside designer. I couldn't beat out a pro designer in terms of quality, so I decided to focus on quantity.
I ended up with a little less than 100 manga pages of content. I even drew a manga for my profile on the site, which I featured at the beginning of this book.
As I was working, however, more problems arose. Namely, the payment system. Internet websites can't just charge fees to people's cell phone bills like cell phone shopping can do. Of course, there are other payment methods like credit cards and web money (*1), but then I realized that payment services won't accept credit card payments for sums of 10 and 30 cents.
*1 line: Web money - Electronic money used mainly on the internet. This virtual money is managed by different companies, including Webmoney, Bitcash, and so on. Usually it's set up as 1 point = 1 yen, which allows people to turn their money into a completely different currency that they can use solely on the internet.

Apparently, this is because to the payment company, it simply isn't worth the time required to process such a paltry sum. They won't process any payment less than 300 yen, which means that all products need to be priced at 300 or higher.
I thought about giving up on my idea of selling the online comics by chapter and selling them by volume instead, but that would make it impossible for me to sell newly-released chapters. I needed to be able to sell my manga by chapter, so I thought I'd simply have all users by their points in increments starting from 300 yen. At 1 point = 1 yen, they could use the points as they would use their own money and read manga as they like.
However, the only contents I had planned for the site were my own comics. If it only cost 10 yen, I could see a decent number of people giving the site a try. But if it cost over 300 yen to give only MY comics a try...how many people would go for that?

The truth is, at the time, online comics services weren't that hard to come by. Many publishers had already begun their own distribution services, but there wasn't a single example of one that had succeeded. The only real thing I had going for me was the fact that I was distributing my own comics. Success would not come easily. And the minute I realized my 10-yen payment model wouldn't work, all my hope dissipated.
How else could I make my site profitable, then? Should I just use the online comics service as a way to promote my comics, self-publish the new works, and then sell the books online? Maybe I could utilize online sells and turn my site into a sort of bookstore.
But then I'd be faced with the "stock" risk again.
A bookstore?
A strange thought occurred to me one day. "I know, I'll make a bookstore."
I wouldn't have to self-publish new books, I could let them be business published (*2) as I've always done.
*2 line: Business publishing - When a publisher covers the costs for a book to be published, unlike with self-publishing. In exchange for covering the costs of publishing, publishers get to keep all profits of a big being sold, and give royalties out to authors.

If I sold the volumes on the site, I would get profit as a bookstore on top of my royalties. Then, I could use that money to run the site, and possibly even funnel some of it into manga production. Compared to selling self-published books on the site, letting a publisher handle it would cut out a lot of the risks, and most importantly, ensure that the books get out to bookstores.
Usually, when mangaka take part in talk events and doujin events, they do direct sales of their manga volumes at the event space. The volumes sold there were purchased at a discount price from the publisher by the mangaka, who keeps all of the profits.
I was thinking about doing the exact same thing, except online. I would have to figure out how to handle stock, shipping, and shipping cost problems, but it wouldn't be impossible.
I immediately talked to the publisher about having more copies of my manga printed. At this point, the decline of manga magazines was an unavoidable truth.

Publishers were no longer stuck on their magazines, and had begun pumping all of their energy into tankoubon volume publishing. If more mangaka started to do what I was doing, then they could be free to serialize their own series on the internet and deal with publishers only for the publishing of the actual volumes.
Publishers would no longer have to pay manuscript fees, they would no longer have to give out any support for the preparation of data, materials, or even have meetings. Instead, they would be able to sign publishing contracts for tankoubon volumes with mangaka. Publishers wouldn't have to go into the red anymore They could pay out royalties to mangaka as always, and as long as the books sold well, both parties would profit.
I don't think intermediaries or bookstores would be happy about direct sales of volumes to mangaka, but publishers already do it, and the manga publishing industry has reached a new level of crisis. Playtime's over, folks.
Personally, I was ready to try anything I could think of. A few weeks after I contacted the publisher, I was sitting at a table in a coffee shop in Ginza, surrounded by the editor-in-chief, my old editor, and my current editor. I was just on my way home from visiting an important data contributor.
Seinen comics magazines - fighting a losing battle - There's no stopping the massive decline in sales that seinen comics magazines have been experiencing. The 2011 Publishing Index reported the total 2010 sales of both weekly and monthly seinen magazines as 270,490,000. Comparing this to 1991's sales of 566,110,000 shows us that sales have dropped below half over the past 20 years.

Because of certain circumstances within the editing department, my previous editor had handed over his duties to my current editor. My previous editor was on his way back from making this announcement and bidding his farewell. We hardly ever met, as I was letting my staff members take care of all that, so it had been a while since I'd seen him.
When I go out to collect data, I almost always wear suits. The difficulty of trying to collect data as a mangaka without a big corporation to bolster me has stung me pretty deeply, so I'm always extremely grateful to anyone who decides to help me collect data. I take care of managing all schedules and stay in contact with all my data contributors, which made it a necessity to meet with my new editor.
All three of the editors who sat around me were wearing casual clothes and jeans. I remember this irritating me.
"I informed you about this several weeks ago, so I'm sure you all understand the situation by now. I'm creating a website, and I want to sell my manga volumes on it. Well? I'd like to purchase a large quantity of my own volumes for a discounted price."


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