April 15, 2009

Manga economics

A breakdown of earnings vs. expenses by a successful manga artist. Like the manga magazines that carry his work, Shuho Sato loses money on first syndication rights and turns a profit with the compiled volumes (tankoubon).

Even there, he earns a 10 percent royalty on an average $5.80 retail cover price (which suggests his publisher uses JIS B6).

Manga magazines in Japan are typically loss leaders that serve to sort the wheat from the chaff and to publicize popular authors and series that will get anthologized in paperback format and/or made into anime.

Manga artists in Japan generally work as independent contractors, employing a small staff to do the cleanup and inking and (these days) digital scanning. (Except for SFX, lettering in manga has always been typeset.)

In popular culture, free-lance mangaka are the stereotypical artistic rebel outcasts. Very hip artistic outcasts, to be sure, as measured by the enormous popularity of comic book conventions like Comiket.

The action/comedy/romance television series Yasuko & Kenji is a good example of this. Kenji is an ex-biker gang leader who draws a fluffy girl's romance manga to support his kid sister Yasuko after their parents die.

Kenji employs two loyal members of his gang (a Laurel & Hardy pair who provide the slapstick comic relief) to do the cleanup and inking, and writes under a closely-guarded pseudonym (but still keeps getting into fights).

Novelists also enjoy this kind of nonconformist reputation in series such as Fruits Basket and Kodocha, along with the stock character of the beleaguered editor from the publisher always fretting about deadlines.

Related posts

The teen manga artist
Manga circulation in Japan
The manga development cycle

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