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Inside the DMG: Week 5

In an otherwise quiet period at the Digital Manga Guild, the past week’s highlight for participants was a set of teleconferences with Digital Manga President and CEO Hikaru Sasahara. Guild members were invited to submit one question each for either of the two scheduled teleconferences (Friday, 2/25 at 3pm PST or Saturday, 2/26 at 11am PST), with the understanding that not all could be selected to attend.

As the teleconference dates approached, participants experienced some of the same kinds of glitches we’ve become accustomed to during this process, and which have certainly been a factor in the overall sense that DMP does not have their act together regarding the Guild. Notifications came a day later than promised, at which point some members received duplicate or conflicting information (my e-mail, for example, invited me to attend on Friday the 26th) or, in some reported cases, no notification at all.

Despite these glitches, however, the teleconferences were, in my view, the best idea Digital Manga has had to date in terms of nurturing member interest in the project, thanks largely to the obvious passion and dedication of Mr. Sasahara.

I entered Saturday’s teleconference a few minutes late (thanks to some technical difficulties of my own), missing most introductions of other attending members as well as attending staff, but Digital Manga employees who spoke up during the conference included VP of Production Fred Lui and Lanny Liu (aka starlightmuse on the DMG boards). Though we’ve heard Mr. Sasahara talk before about his plans for the Guild in the video posted on the main DMG page, the teleconference offered him a unique opportunity to convey his deep feelings for the project directly to its participants–an opportunity he leapt at with vigor.

With introductions completed, Mr. Sasahara took the floor to tell us about himself, the dreams he inherited from his father, his journey to the US forty years ago, and “the biggest and most serious project” of his career–the Digital Manga Guild. Another participant has posted a rough transcript of Saturday’s conference, but words alone can’t do justice to the passion and seriousness of Mr. Sasahara’s tone, which I found personally inspiring. Whether the manga industry as a whole will benefit from Mr. Sasahara’s intent to revolutionize the system remains to be seen, but it’s difficult to imagine that anyone attending the teleconference could have remained unmoved by his sincerity. I suspect no small number of us might have marched into the streets with promotional pamphlets and DMG flags, had we been asked to do so at the time, his fervor was that stirring.

Powerful rhetoric aside, between Mr. Sasahara’s opening remarks and the questions asked later by participants, quite a bit of good information came out of the conference. Here are a few particularly enlightening points:

  • Digital Manga has 100 titles already offered up by one of their participating publishers, some of which may be available for groups to work on as early as the end of March.
  • Though distribution of profit among the three participating entities (Japanese publishers, DMP, & localizers) is yet to be finalized, Sasahara is pushing for something in the neighborhood of 12% for localizing groups.
  • Some initial goals in terms of timeline: contracts signed by end of March; production starting in April; first titles to launch by early summer.
  • Packages for groups will be mixed (yaoi, adult titles, classic titles, etc.) with a view towards giving them equal value in terms of potential sales. Distribution of packages will be determined by DMP.
  • Accounting will be completely transparent. Groups will receive regular statements listing how many times each of their titles has been read on each applicable platform (eManga, Kindle, etc.), and what the group’s percentage is from each sale.
  • Though there will be some general guidelines offered up by DMP, localizers will be able to make most decisions in terms of things like honorifics and translation notes based on their own experiences as manga fans, and at their own discretion.
  • Localizers will decide how they wish to be credited on each of the titles they work on.

Mr. Sasahara emphasized over and over throughout the teleconference that the localizers are an incredibly important part of the process, and that he wants us to make money.

DMP representatives have indicated that a recording and/or transcript of the teleconferences will be made available to all, and I recommend that everyone take advantage of that when the time comes. Meanwhile, check out this thread at the DMG boards for detailed notes from those who attended!

ETA: These recordings are now available!


Anyone else who attended have thoughts to share? Any questions I may not have answered completely? Let me know in comments!

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Comments

  1. I’m glad you’re doing this Melinda. I would have forgotten about the project if you hadn’t started doing this series since the readers have been a little out of the loop. I’m excited to hear about titles other than yaoi, especially older titles!

    If you read between the lines in Sasahara’s opening statements that’s really open for a publisher and there’s a lot of info there on publishing and the scale of DMP. I hope people can appreciate it, Sasahara really is opening up about DMP’s operation as much as is feasible here. It makes for a good read with or without any interest in the DMG.

    12% is a pretty big cut, but people need to understand that may not add up to much even with decent sales. It’s best to look at the project the same way Sasahara is, a better alternative to the scan scene and the possibility for a small healthy market. It was actually reassuring for me to hear Sasahara’s lay down these realistic foundations

    An interesting side note to the portfolio question: The localizers won’t just be visible to English-speaking audiences, they’ll be working closer with Japanese publishers than what we’re used to. With the smaller scale, it might be more possible to communicate with the original artists and editors; that’d be a rare opportunity.

    • I’m glad there are folks interested in reading!

      I hope people can appreciate it, Sasahara really is opening up about DMP’s operation as much as is feasible here.

      The overwhelming feeling I got during the teleconference, is that openness is really important to Sasahara. He knows he’s asking people to take a risk with him, and he wants them to know who he is and what his company is so that they feel like they’re on even ground. I, too, was impressed with his willingness to do this. I think that’s evident in the way he responded to my proposal for reporting from the inside as well. I offered to keep certain things confidential if he wanted to lay down some ground rules, but he said no–report anything and everything you think people would want to know. I was impressed.

      12% is a pretty big cut, but people need to understand that may not add up to much even with decent sales. It’s best to look at the project the same way Sasahara is, a better alternative to the scan scene and the possibility for a small healthy market. It was actually reassuring for me to hear Sasahara’s lay down these realistic foundations

      I agree. I meant to mention, too, but my brain’s a bit addled with the flu, that I liked his take on the scan scene, and his feelings that bringing out more titles quickly would make it less necessary for people. I feel like he’s got a solid plan here. Obviously there’s no way to know for sure how successful it will be until he tries it, but it was very enlightening to hear him talk about why he felt this change of process is important.

      • > I liked his take on the scan scene, and his feelings that bringing out more titles quickly would make it less necessary for people.

        Despite all the concerns the teleconference brought up for me, I totally agree with a lot of what you’ve said here. And particularly with this piece about scans- I think he’s completely right here. If he can get manga out fast enough and to the standards fans want, they’ll be much more willing to purchase it.

        • Ooo, could you share some of your concerns? Everything seemed pretty positive to me, so I’d really be interested to hear a different take on some of the points.

  2. I am glad to hear that such passion is going into this project. Nothing pleases me more than publishers caring about this stuff as much as I do.

  3. I appreciate these updates. Thanks.

    The substantial cut of profits — and transparency of the accounting — dispels doubts i may have had on how serious they are about making this work. Really, they are attempting something amazing.

    As a consumer/fan/reader, I’d like to see a blurb advertising released titles as published with “Digital Manga Guild” — or something similar. I want to make sure that some of my monthly purchases go to volumes produced by this effort.

    Perhaps you can do one of those Project X business mangas illustrtating this innovative and ground breaking effort. :-)

  4. Barbara says:

    Thanks for this report. I agree 100% with you–I was unnerved by the apparent disorganization leading up to the teleconference and very enthusiastic about the content of the teleconference itself. I was moved by President Sasahara’s sincerity and enthusiasm for the project and completely charmed by him. I’m really excited about the Guild.



Trackbacks

  1. […] Beasi reports from inside the Digital Manga Guild on last week’s teleconference with Digital president Hikaru Sasahara, in which many of the […]

  2. […] of last year, with those who signed up and qualified notified in February, which also featured teleconferences with Digital Manga President and CEO Hikaru […]



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