Anime Vice News

Required Reading: More on Manga Money

A few tings to keep you guys busy while I spend some time at Stumptown Comics Fest!

I know, I know, I abandoned you all Saturday to sit on a plane and play Dokapon. (Dokapondokapondokapondoka-- where's my DS? Wait, was I in the middle of doing something? Oh! Right!)

The most important thing you could possibly read this fine Sunday, at least within the otaku world, is Zepy's translations of some of Blackjack ni Yoroshiku mangaka Shuuhou Satou's blog posts in which he discusses the financial side of making manga. Shuuhou talks about how much it costs him per month to pay his assistants, rent, food expenses, and everything else, versus how much making the manga actually pays. He talks about what new mangaka make nowadays, how little manga magazines are making in general, and how he operates at a loss to publish his manga until tankoubon are released and he can make his money back.

It'd be interesting to compare the numbers Satou offers to how much American comics creators make, but I think it'd be difficult to do so fairly-- full-time artists working at, say, DC or Marvel get paid salaries, not on a per-page basis, and I expect they don't have to pay their own assistants either. On the other hand, an indie comicker may make even less in the end than a mangaka since it'd be based more on sales than a per-page payment, and freelance illustrators' pay will probably vary based on the client.

Moving right along, there were other things worth reading this weekend!

Over at Sporadic Sequential, we have a study of what makes a manga “addictive”-- i.e. makes you absolutely need to pick up the next volume instead of being negligible. The key ingredients? Cliffhangers, good art, varied characters and moods, and interesting hooks and subplots. I think it's worth pointing out that easy access to the next chapter/volume/etc. can be key, too: the manga that inspired this post was Ranma ½, which isn't just finished in Japan, but in the US as well.

Yes, I know, the word “yaoi” is involved here, but don't worry, boys and homophobes: the content is completely non-yaoi-related, directly anyway. Yaoi Press' Yamila Abraham published an article on eHow about how to publish a 250 copies of a ~20-page doujinshi for about $1 each. Considering how much North Americans are used to paying for Japanese doujinshi (easily $10-20 per), if you've got art and story that appeal, even $5 a book would make you an easy grand, assuming you could move the copies.

That should keep you busy for a few minutes! And for the record, I can't remember whether I technically stole this photo from Japanator or not, because I may have been the one who actually took it in the first place.
DickMcVengeanceon April 19, 2009 at 3:21 p.m.
Nope, I was the one to photograph John for that ^^
giaon April 19, 2009 at 5:34 p.m.

(Actually, I'm pretty sure I took a photo too, just not the one you used. And doubtless it's long, long gone from my own data stores.)
paplooon April 20, 2009 at 5:49 a.m.

Pay for domestic comic artists is really all over the place, and a lot of it is private information covered by contracts, so it's rare numbers are shared. Here's what I know from what is publically said by publishers and artists-

Domestic Comic artists, primarily those
working with larger publishers, get paid on a page by page basis. There is a royalty rate at Marvel/DC, but it's not as big as some people might think, and is only given if a certain number of copies sell. Most of the money comes from the page-rate.

When a comic artist is Exclusive, they'll generally get a better page rate, and guaranteed work for the period of their contract- I haven't heard of many being salaried, something that I think only CrossGen experimented with [and they sort of completely bombed out, and are long gone]. They'll also get stuff like health insurance,  something many artists normally don't have, or get through spouses or artist guilds. There might be some salaried positions, but generally these are only at editorial levels, so I imagine somebody like Jose Garcia Lopez, who was responsible for DC's style guides for decades, might be a rare example.

Comic Strip artists are a bit different, and I don't really know much about their pay, but generally the amount you get paid depends on how many papers carry your strip, and like manga artists, the book trade and merchandising is where a lot of the money will come from.

As for assistants, assistants DO NOT get paid by the company. They get paid by the artist, and this is true for comic books and for comic strips. If you hire someone to do your backgrounds, or other work that would usually go uncredited, you have to pay them yourself. This is more common in the more work-load-heavy world of comic strips, though not unusual in comic books, though generally artists work by themselves with no assistants [which might be why lateness is kind of a normal thing ^_^].  A good example is toners on Tokyopop's books- you are responsible for hiring them and paying them yourself on creator-originated work [licensed stuff is probably done more similar to Marvel/DC comics, where work is divied up]

This is different than people getting contracted by the comic company to ink, letter and colour your work- they are paid seperately by the company, and hired by the company. You have no choice in who does all of this, so it's entirely up to the editor who the team is. They get paid on a page rate basis as well, though sometimes letteres and colourists are inhouse [salaried or not], depending on the publisher or book, working on multiple series, though usually it's cheaper to farm it out.

It's interesting to note that artists fought in the late 70's to have their original art returned to them [something some japanese publishers still don't do- artists fighting over "manuscripts" is a regular headline in manga news], which is something that has helped the income of many- lots of professional comic artists sell their original artwork after it's been published through art dealers or by themselves as a way of supplementing their income. Many, when work is slower, will also take on commissions, something that older artists who are looked at as less popular will often do [I think John Bryne is taking commissions currently].

With book publishers, it can really vary, from getting an advance all at once or in installments as you finish the work. Generally, book publishers will pay people well, but it really depends on the company. As with comic publishers, work is generally on a project to project basis, and not necessarily regular, unless you get signed on to do a certain number of books, which might keep you busy for a few years, but isn't really a full time job.

With smaller publishers, like Oni or Slave Labour, most of the time you'll basically only be paid royalties on the published work- you'll get a better royalty rate then you would from a bigger publisher, but . So sometimes this works to your advantage, sometimes not, but hey you get to publish comics, and you keep all the rights to your work, and with smaller outputs from these publishers, they tend to be okay if you have another job [most domestic comic artists have other jobs, often not in the art industry at all].

Selfpublishers like Cartoon Books, or everyone at Image [Image is a publishers CoOp--- they just approve you to be in the group, and help with promotion, distribution and printing, while you have to do everything else yourself, and pay them a fraction of your profits], Lightning Press[ Finder by Carla Speed MacNiel[ or anyonelse printing their own books, are pretty much at the mercy of readers for their pay, and have to deal with everything involved with making a comic, as well as editorial stuff, and every other aspect of the business imaginable. Webcomics are in much the same boat, and are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy less profitable [though cost less to publish, which is why it's a common hobby]

So something like manga artists, where you'll be guaranteed work as long as your series continues, get a page rate, get royalties, and make enough to afford multiple assistants while working on your series for 5 or 6 years under the same magazine is something that doens't really exist here, although with stuff like Yen Plus might evolve if readers are open to it.

Keep in mind with Marvel/DC, unless it's a creator-owned book, you can get booted off a book whenever editorial decides to do a revamp, same with work on licensed titles [unless your Joss Whedon]. So it's by no means permanent, which isn't to say long runs can't occur [look at Tom Defalco's recently ended Spidergirl run of almost 10 years], but that they're an exception.

giaon April 20, 2009 at 7:46 a.m.
Wow, thanks for all of the info, Paploo-- a lot of my conceptions were definitely way off! (Just goes to show you: Google searching does not answer everything.)

It sounds like comparing American and Japanese comic artists' pay scales is much more plausible than I thought...or would be, if pay rates in America were more readily available, anyway.
paplooon April 20, 2009 at 10:52 a.m.
Your welcome Gia. I've been doing webcomics for ages, and have watched the industry for awhile, as this kind of information is useful when considering submitting proposals for print.

Other little tidbits-

Tokyopop's contracts are probably the ones that have recieved the most press recently, due to controversies relating to creator rights-  in Japan, sharing rights on a property like TP's contacts isn't uncommon, but it usually involves some kind of rights reversion [which is why Sailor Moon had a kerfuffle in recent years, as materials and rights went back to Naoko, who now has a different arangement with Kodansha, or why you'll often see new editions from different publishers]. Also in Japan, some contracts will often allow you to reuse characters or settings for other publishers, so long as it's in new material. This is something that you might also see in the US with creator-owned characters. So in a sense, the creator-owned situations are pretty close.

TP's issue was that their page rates worked out pretty low compared to DC/Marvel and other publishers of a similar size to them- they also had an odd cap in many contracts apparently, where if you drew beyond the 140-ish page book size, you wouldn't get paid any more for those additional pages.

Generally, with publishers who aren't DC or Marvel, creators have complete copyright of their work, and publishers only have the print rights to it for a certain number of years. In recent years, Marvel has very rarely published creator owned work., although in the 80's and 90's they published a lot of creator owned work under the Epic imprint [including ElfQuest, which had been selfpublished, published by bookstore imprints, and published by DC and Marvel!] . DC/Marvel generally pay less for creator owned work- supposedly, the pay on the Minx line of books was lower then on other titles [though still more then elsewhere]

Most selfpublishers are similar to original  [ie- not fanart] doujinshi artists, though in some cases they work through the same distributors as bigger publishers, so are professional publishers in a different way then doujin artists, and sell at conventions as well.

Contracts are pretty diverse, so the best thing for artists to do is protect themselves, consult a lawyer or agent or someonelse knowledgeable before signing anything , and consider whether or not a contact is worth it for them, and their goals/career. Japanese artists sound to have good contracts in general, but sometimes horrific working conditions, which I guess is part of the nature of their market being larger. More potential for a good living, but more potential for a poor one due to insane demand for pages and really strict editorial made possible by having such a large concentration of artists in Tokyo...... it would be impossible for editors to stalk artists and writers on a daily basis in the US and Canada due to how widespread talent is. If you have a writer in England, an artist in Spain, and a colourist in Canada, and you're in New York, that's just not workable [and there's e-mail now- imagine the phone bills in the 80's!].

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