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Digital Manga Acquires, Hires and Seeks More Fans’ Help

Digital Manga Acquires, Hires and Seeks More Fans' Help

Digital Manga‘s newsletter came out yesterday and had an assortment of interesting news to share – some great, some neat and some that just left me scratching my head in confusion.

The company has licensed a new boys’ love title – Docchi mo Docchi by Nozomu Hiiragi. It’s a one-shot title about two men employed at the same company. Both are well known with the ladies and rivals at their jobs. When the two somehow end up in bed together, the big question becomes who’s meant to be on top?

Digital Manga also noted that they’ve acquired the license to the third volume of Dog x Cat. Neither title has a release date yet.

The newsletter also reminded readers of job listings posted on Digital Manga’s website. Those currently listed as new and ‘permanent’ there are: Manga-Comic Editor/ Production Associate, PHP Developer, Accountant,  Production Associate, Graphic Designer/Marketing Assistant and E-commerce Sales Associates.

The weird news of the week from Digital Manga though is that they’ve launched a Kickstarter program to fund a second-printing of Osamu Tezuka’s Swallowing the Earth. Kickstarter is a site where individuals or groups can start up a funding project where they look to the community to pledge money to support it. I’ve seen this work successfully for independent creators who don’t have the initial means to afford print runs but a company size of Digital Manga doing it?

“Fans are constantly asking us to reprint the book, but simply put, we’re a small company, this is an expensive book and we can’t afford to put up the cash to reprint it.”

They’re still publishing a fair number of books each month and that they want a second printing of this book seems to indicate it did well. So can they really not afford to print it themselves?

“We’re here because we believe Kickstarter can be a new way to fund niche manga titles in the United States. If this campaign is successful, you WILL see more, including premium editions of other older books and even new titles that would NEVER make it over to the U.S. without fan support.”

From a business point of view, I can see why this is a win-win situation for them. For one it has the perks of a print on demand, where they print specifically to match a number they know will be bought (or has already been paid for). With a set goal that supporters can see, it also shifts responsibility for whether or not the book gets printed at all to fans and, with different pledge tiers, can earn them a much higher pay-out per sale with enticing perks that they can dictate.

Different pledge amounts towards this project – with the goal being $3,950 – offer different bonuses to supporters. For example, a $30 pledge gets you a copy of the book and $10 towards purchasing digital copies on eManga. Pledging $45+ gets you the book and two extra hard-copy books of your choosing from a list they provide. The $250 tier – which could only be pledge by two (and has already sold) had some especially lengthy perks, including VIP access to all their future events. With DMP having recently acquired Yaoi-Con, this is a big deal for those who attend it.

The shift of responsibility is what seems the most odd to me. Again, it makes sense for them in some regards, but on the other hand I’m not sure what it really says for their professional appearance as a business. Can they not sustain themselves? Are they shoveling too much responsibility to fans when they should be solidifying their own operations? It chimes a lot with their Digital Manga Guild where fans are ‘hired’ to offer full production of manga titles the company then publishes digitally. Those who work on the projects are paid very little compared to standard rates, with the pay-out depending on how many copies the work sells. First Digital Manga expects their own consumers to provide the labour, and now even the money to print the books…?

Back on the other hand, fans do love feeling involved with the publishers of their books. The manga industry has a lot more connection with its consumers than most already, and making their fans feel even more connected by increasing shared responsibilities has the definite perk of making pledgers feel special and involved.

Personally, I know I’d be happy to have a similar opportunity for things such as their digital-only titles on eManga. I feel the same for the digital-only titles coming from SuBLime in 2012 as well. If I could pay a print-on-demand price to get a story I really like in print, I would do it. Still… the hope from a company that I and others would pay hundreds of dollars for that with some bonuses sprinkled on top feels like I’m being expected to financially bail them out. Should I feel guilty now that I can’t? It puts a lot of pressure and onus on the purchasing fan-base – which is relatively smaller for BL, comparatively – to keep them afloat as a whole. Isn’t that what the increasing prices we already pay per title is supposed to do? Isn’t it their job as a company to work within their means? How much is too much?

Maybe this is why they’re looking to hire an Accountant.

What do you think? Is this really a viable new way to do manga business? Does it make you have more or less faith in Digital Manga as a company? Would you pledge money like this to see book you want in print and in what way?

About the Author:

Lissa Pattillo is the owner and editor of Kuriousity.ca. Residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia she takes great joy in collecting all manners of manga genres, regretting that there's never enough time in the day to review or share them all. Along with reviews, Lissa is responsible for all the news postings to the website and works full time as a web and graphic designer.

Kuriousity does not condone or support the illegal distribution of manga online.
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7 Responses

  1. Rainy says:

    I think the Kickstarter campaign can also be a test to see the demand for the book. Yes a lot of people can ask for the reprint but I’m sure you’ll get different numbers all together of those willing to put out money to have it come out. Not only will something like this give them numbers of people wanting it and willing to pay for it, but they’ll also get a small investment from the people who want it.

    It’ll be interesting to see how this works (or maybe doesn’t work).

  2. I’m running the Kickstarter for Digital Manga, and I wanted to hopefully reassure you about this project.

    First off, we see this as a win-win not only for us, but also for fans of this book who don’t have it. Right now it’s selling for $60-$65 and this campaign puts it into people’s hands for less than half that amount.

    Second, it’s not a charity drive — Digital Manga isn’t in danger of going out of business, we’re simply trying new ways to put out even more books and, as you mentioned, get respond more directly to the desires of manga fans. If this campaign is successful, we’re looking to use Kickstarter to bring over very niche titles that a publisher would never take a chance on releasing conventionally.

    I understand this looks like an unusual move, but I think it’s worth a shot. If anyone reading this has any questions or concerns just e-mail me at ben@emanga.com. I’d love to hear your impressions.

    • Lissa says:

      Hi Ben,

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

      Digital Manga using Kickstarter feels like a strange move to me because it utilizes a system intended for those who have few to no alternative methods to raise the money needed to get their work in the hands of those who want it. Things went pretty quiet in regards to Digital Manga\’s Web-A-Thon program though, so I understand the experimentation with other methods.

      Much as I want my bookstore shelves to be endlessly stacked with every title, I do believe print-on-demand is going to become a part of the manga publishing industry and I\’m glad to see you using it to bring back a much-requested title. I\’d love to see a similar method used to put your currently digital-only titles in print someday but the pledge system leaves me concerned I\’d be sending in money for a \’maybe\’, gifts or not.

      • Thank you for your coverage of this project! And I’m definitely hoping this is something we can apply to bring our most popular digital-only titles into print, so I think we’re on the same page there.

        Necessarily, at least with Kickstarter, you are backing a “maybe,” since you don’t have an absolute assurance that the project will hit its target. However, Kickstarter users are not actually charged until a project’s funding deadline hits, so you’re not actually sending money until the project is a definite “yes,” which is part of what made it appealing to me.

        The other difference between this and the Web-A-Thon program is that we’re going to use Kickstarter to try to carry out projects we would not have attempted otherwise, while Web-A-Thon was applied to already-scheduled releases.

  3. […] week with their launch of a Kickstarter drive to reprint Osamu Tezuka’s Swallowing the Earth. Lissa Pattillo and Johanna Draper Carlson discuss the pluses and minuses of this […]

  4. […] Lissa Pattillo points out, this is a win-win situation for Digital and its readers: Digital gets the money for the reprint up front, and participants in the drive get a pretty […]

  5. […] The last time Digital Manga used a Kickstarter drive to fund their operations I was skeptical and even after the first’s success, I still am. I’m thrilled to see another older title get a shot at English publication, let there be no question of that. But that Digital Manga is again using a system like Kickstarter – typically used by individuals or small groups without financial backers or partners that companies have – still just doesn’t sit right with me. While I shared my initial thoughts back in November, this second project prompted elaboration as I continue to try and pinpoint what this kind of move means to me and other manga readers. […]

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