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#12. OK, so how much will it actually cost?


tl by danluffey

OK, so how much will it actually cost?

The prices of books are protected by something called the resale price management system. If you go to a store and buy a book, you'll pay list price for it. Depending on the region or season that a vegetable was produced in, its price can go up or down, but this never happens with books. Book prices are the same nationwide.
This is because bookstores buy their books on commission from the publisher. When a greengrocer sells his vegetables, they're bought by the market and then sold to customers. The greengrocer incurs 100% of the losses from leftover product, but can try lowering the price to sell them all off. Since bookstores don't buy their books through normal transactions, they can have their leftovers taken off their hands by intermediaries. The idea is that publishers consign their books and allow bookstores to put them on the shelves. Then, if the books are sold, then bookstores are allowed to keep one portion of the profit.
With consignment sales, it doesn't really cost any money to order the books.
*1: Resale price management system - This system requires that a set price is attached to things like books and CDs. Forcing bookstores to abide by this price protects from unauthorized price drops and copyright infringement.

Of course, if a bookstore just orders a bunch of books that won't sell, they won't make any profit and their funds will be eaten up by store maintenance and labor costs. With that in mind, bookstores do take big risks, but in exchange for the additional risk of purchasing books at full price, the stores are required to sell them at the list price determined by the publisher. When they're sold, bookstores usually claim 20 to 30% of the profit.
In the previous chapter, I recounted my meeting with some editors from a certain publishing company that I wanted to purchase my own copyrighted works from. In the end, they told me "we can sell the books to you at 80% of the list price, but we cannot make transactions with you as a business entity."
Basically, what they were saying was "you can buy and resell our books if you want, but if you do, you'll need to resell them at list price." They wanted me to sell their books at list price, with the additional risk of having to purchase them all without a consignment discount.
Despite all this, I still decided to go through with my idea of selling my own tankoubon volumes online. Even if it was only out of my own stubbornness, and even if it led to no real profit, I still felt that being able to sell my own products was a necessary skill I'd need for the future.

In the following days, I stood my ground and went to have the same talk with other publishers. They still insisted that I purchase their books as a regular consumer, but dropped the discount down to 70%. After being told by the first editor-in-chief that 80% was the maximum discount they could give, I was surprised to see some places give me an additional 10% discount without any trouble. How were they able to do that?
"From time to time, you may get people who tell you things like 'Do you know how hard these people are working to sell your books,' and 'Who do you think's been selling them for you up until now,' but they're in the wrong. It's true that the books are the publisher's products, and therefore, they aren't 'yours.' The publishers are the ones managing the stocks, and if the books end up not selling and the publisher goes bankrupt, the mangaka wouldn't be responsible for paying off the debt. Therefore, it's only natural that they'd work hard to sell their own products. It may sound a bit cold, but the publishers aren't necessarily working hard just to sell YOUR books, so authors should all work hard for themselves. But, if the publisher and mangaka can find spots within their separate work where they can help each other, then they should cooperate."

That editor-in-chief's words gave me a bit of hope. It was all about attitude. And, of course, whether or not I really had the guts to do what I wanted.
I decided to sell my books online as they were released. Of course, I had no intentions of making any kind of profit.
I imagined what would happen if a hundred mangaka started posting their new manga on my site. Readers could pay 30 yen to read the newest chapter of various series, and if that got them interested, then they could pay 10 yen to read older chapters. 100% of the profit would go back to the mangaka.
bottom: Why has the publishing industry gone sour? - People say the reason for the slump in the publishing industry is "loss of readership." According to a reader opinion survey that the Mainichi Newspaper runs every year, the amount of people who read books daily is 50% of the total population, 75% if magazines are included. And guess what? These statistics have hardly changed since the 70s. The world still has many readers in it, yet books aren't selling. What do you think the true reason is?

Registering manga on the site would be free. All mangaka would need to do is fill in the necessary registration information. Content would not be judged, nor would page number or quality be restricted. Any and all artists could register. Site fees would be free for the first few months, and then, regardless of whether mangaka made profits or not, they would be required to pay system upkeep fees to continue using the site.
My initial dream was to require no extra fees. However, if by chance the site happened to get really popular, and a huge amount of unscreened manga started to get posted on the site, I wasn't sure I'd be able to handle all the system upkeep on my own for the free periods. I slowly began to see how requiring mangaka to pay only upkeep fees could burst my little balloon in the end.
If that was the case, then, perhaps I should allow everyone to register their manga, and then only release and require fees from works that I saw as "sellable?"
bottom: I'll do whatever you ask!

Then I'd just be taking the place of the publishers. That wasn't what I set out to do. Humans encompass the whole spectrum -- erotic, violent, good, bad, everything. I believe that manga has a duty to show this chaotic world exactly as it is.
Would it be possible, then, for me to put ads on the site and use that revenue to support it? But wait, hold on...I still didn't even know how much the development costs would be. And what about the running costs to support such a huge system?
Judging from the estimates I had received so far, I had a pretty good idea of what it'd be -- I could probably build a house with what I was preparing to spend.
After further research, I learned that several free manga sites already existed. And there were even more pay-to-read online comics sites. (*2) I also learned that apparently, none of those sites were doing very well. Someone had already thought of everything I had, and it wasn't looking very optimistic.
*2 line: Pay-to-read online comics sites (See P104) are web sites that offer manga for sale online. There are sites like eBookJapan that deal with flat fee payments, as well as e-book rental sites like Renta! that offer viewing for a limited period of time.

At the same time, however, the "media" known as manga wasn't doing so hot either. Young Sunday (*3), which Umizaru had been serialized in, went on a break in 2008. In magazine terms, "a break" essentially means it's been canceled. Once they go on break, magazines never return.
About half a year before it was canceled, I started hearing rumors that they were "going to go under," but I received no contact from anyone at Young Sunday. Then, one day, I had a chance to talk with a Young Sunday editor on the phone, so I just decided to ask him outright.
"I heard that the magazine is going to be canceled. Is that true?"
The editor was silent for a moment, and then he chuckled. "So it got out?"
Several months later, a postcard notifying me that the magazine was going on a break was delivered to my office post box.
*3 line: A weekly seinen magazine published by Shogakukan, created in 1987 and put on a break in 2008. It had many popular titles that were turned into dramas, including Sato Shuho's "Umizaru," Mase Motorou's "Ikigami," and Yamada Takatoshi's "Dr. Koto's Clinic." Just before it went on a break, its sales were recorded at 190,000 copies, a straggler among other weekly seinen magazines.

And then, one day, Young Sunday was no more.
This is how magazines die.
Because the magazine went on a break, all the mangaka attached to it became unemployed, but not one of the editors were let go from the publishing company. Most of the Young Sunday editors were split between the Big Comic Spirits (*4) and Shonen Sunday (*5) editing departments. And because they chose to keep their entire editing staff on board, Spirits and Shonen Sunday ended up diving deeper into the red than any other Shogakukan property.
Kindai Mah Jong Gold (*7), the magazine that ran my series "The Death-Defying Negotiator M," no longer exists anymore either. I don't like it when manga disappears. But I also don't want to ignore the fact that it may all eventually disappear.
I don't want to leave my future in the hands of someone else. It all comes down to whether or not you've got the guts to make your dreams into a reality. I made all my money drawing manga, so it's only right that I should try and use it to save the future of manga. When I run out of money, I'll just draw some more manga.
*4: Big Comic Spirits - A weekly seinen magazine created by Shogakukan in 1980. Representative titles include "Oishinbo," written by Kariya Tetsu and illustrated by Hanasaki Akira and Urasawa Naoki's "20th Century Boys." In 2010 it sold 260,000 copies.
*5: Shonen Sunday - A weekly shonen magazine created by Shogakukan in 1959. In 2010 it sold 680,000 copies. It's carried many big-name authors, including Takahashi Rumiko, Adachi Mitsuru, and Aoyama Gosho.

In February 2009, I opened "Sato Shuho on Web" without any problems. At that time, it was just a small site with a few basic functions aside from forums and blogs. No online comic functionality, shop system, or payment system had been implemented yet.
The adventure had begun.
bubble: Sometimes there exist things only idiots can do.
*6: "The Death-Defying Negotiator M" - A mah jong manga serialized in "Kindai Mah Jong Gold" (Take Shobo) from 2001-2002. There were nine chapters in all, published in a single volume in April 2003.
*7: Kindai Mah Jong Gold - A monthly seinen manga magazine published by Take Shobo. It was created in 1987, and put on a break in December 2005.


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