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.