It’s been a long time since I had anything to say about my experience with the Digital Manga Guild—eleven weeks, actually, since my last update. Now, at long last, I can report that members of approved groups have received their contracts, with instructions to sign and return them to Digital Manga headquarters.
I received my contract last Friday, June 3rd, and took some time to look at it over the weekend. It’s a lengthy document, and while confidentiality requests prevent me from revealing its specifics, there are a few general comments I can share.
First of all, aside from some pretty standard sections of legalese which may be unfamiliar to those who don’t work with contracts regularly, there isn’t much that will be surprising to those who have been following along with discussion in the DMG forums or recordings of the original teleconferences with DMP President, Hikaru Sasahara. The picture he’s painted publicly of his vision for the Guild is very much in line with what appears in the official contract, including some of the fuzziness of that vision.
One issue in particular that remains unclear, even after distribution of the contracts, is exactly how much work any group will be expected to produce over a specific period of time. While the contract lays out expectations in terms of meeting deadlines and so on, there’s not much clarification on exactly how much work is being ultimately agreed to, which may be a real problem for localizers trying to determine whether they can commit to the arrangement. While Sasahara and DMP have been clear from the start that this new system can’t provide payment up front, localizers seeking to manage their time in order to ensure that they can maintain the work that currently pays their bills may find this lack of clarity unhelpful, to say the least. ETA: a DMP representative has posted some clarification on this question in the DMG forums.
Another point that seems unclear is whether Guild members have recourse if they object to any of the contract’s terms, aside from simply quitting the Guild. Now, I don’t work in publishing, but aside from my experiences with union contracts (which have already been heavily negotiated before they reach members), in my line of work, I’ve never offered (or been offered) a contract for work, even one I considered standard, without expecting that there might be questions and at least some level of negotiation on any questionable or undesirable terms. While DMP is clearly open to questions (rumor tells me that some members who have had multiple issues are being encouraged to bring them to a teleconference), it remains to be seen whether they are open to changes on an individual basis or whether this is an all-or-nothing offering.
Contract aside, however, it seems that the biggest issue muddying the DMG waters these days is inconsistency in information, something that has been a problem since the beginning. For instance, member dashboards were recently updated to include information indicating which tests each member has taken, and of those, which were passed or failed. This is terrific, but word in the forums is that what some people are seeing does not jive with the original pass/fail e-mails they received, especially since we were all explicitly told by company representatives (as is still stated in the Guild FAQ) that receiving a “pass” e-mail indicated that we’d passed all positions we tested for.
To quote the FAQ: “Q. I got my acceptance email and I took more than one test. Which position is it for? A. It’s for every position that you sent your test in for. The same goes for a group, if a group leader receives in email it’s in regards to everyone.”
With members suddenly finding out that they have not passed tests they were originally told they passed, I think the greatest challenge now for DMP, in terms of attracting more members and keeping the ones they have, is inspiring confidence that they have the organizational structure needed to really pull this off. This is an ambitious project to say the least, and while it’s understood that the Guild is somewhat a work in progress, it’s going to be important that members feel they’re in competent hands.
So with all that in mind, am I signing my contract? Yes, I am.
And onward we go.
Readers, please feel free to ask any questions you like. I will answer anything I can without violating the confidentiality I’ve agreed to.
kagenshou saysJune 8, 2011 at 4:03 pm
DMG doesn’t want members to discuss about questions or concerns in their forum and encourage members to send PM or email to them, but DMG doesn’t really answer any questions members asked by PM-ing or e-mailing either…. :(
Melinda Beasi saysJune 9, 2011 at 6:54 am
Is that so? I’d heard that some people were getting answers. Sounds like they may not be quite equipped to handle the volume of questions they’re getting.
kagenshou saysJune 9, 2011 at 2:55 pm
Oh never mind. We got few answers on a new thread on DMG forum. Producing a book for 3 to 4 month isn’t bad. Here I thought they want us to produce 5 to 6 books a month… ( that was what President were expecting from us according to the Tel-Conference…)
Travis saysJune 9, 2011 at 1:26 am
I have been ambivalent about this from the beginning precisely because of the lack of details, and I’ve had the contract email sitting in my inbox wondering whether I want to go on with this or not. Even if I were still primarily freelancing, it’s hard to commit to something like this when I have no idea how much money I’ll ever get or how much work I’ll be expected to do. I need to prioritise work that actually brings in money. And now that I’m working 35 hours a week outside my home, in addition to the small freelance projects I still do, I really don’t think I can continue. If I knew for sure that the work would be manageable and I would make enough money to make it worth my time, then I would prioritise that over translating doujinshi or lyrics for people or whatever other small projects. But I don’t know. And for all I know, the schedule could be such that I would not have time to finish the projects, or they would take every bit of my free time that I have when I’m not at work. It’s really ridiculous.
Anyway, so. While I still haven’t contacted my group and told them I can’t do it, I probably will tonight. :-/
Melinda Beasi saysJune 9, 2011 at 6:52 am
Yeah, I think the lack of clarity on the workload is a big problem, and your situation is a perfect example of that. Any working person needs to know details about workload and deadlines in order to manage their time, especially for something where the pay is unknown.
Melinda Beasi saysJune 10, 2011 at 4:18 pm
There’s been some clarification on the workload issue, if you are interested.
Travis saysJune 11, 2011 at 12:52 am
Thanks for the info. I already dropped out, though, and even with this clarification, I still feel better for doing so, because it’s not just the workload but the fact that I may end up doing all that work and not see much if any actual money. (Especially since the money has to be split between the group members…) If I were still in the situation I was in at the beginning of the year where I was trying to scrape by on freelancing, I would give it a go, but I just don’t have enough time now.
passing by saysJune 13, 2011 at 3:14 am
Thanks for this series – interesting stuff, I used to be heavily involved in the scanlation scene years ago and freelanced on a handful of published volumes as well. It’s been fascinating catching up on some of the developments that have happened since then.
The concept is quite interesting but the actual organizational structure seems a bit questionable at this point: from what I can tell you’re being required to not only have faith in the company as far as time commitments and future payout, but in your internal team as well since DMI won’t be involved in the distribution of payment among team members. I will take a pass on this venture for now, but I’ll keep an eye on any developments and may still decide to give it a go some time in the future (sounds like translators are in relatively high demand…I guess some things never change)