#3. What kind of a life is a life lived off royalties?
MANGA POVERTY #3
tl by dan luffey
What kind of a life is a life lived off royalties?
In the previous chapter, I explained both the definition of what manuscript fees are, and how it's impossible for a new mangaka to make a living off the manuscript fees
In this chapter, I'd like to explore what life is like for a mangaka in the 15th year of his career.
Numbers-wise, in 2010, when New Give My Regards to Black Jack ended its serialization, my manuscript fee was 35,000 yen per page.
Tokkou no Shima, which is still being serialized, gets 30,000 yen per page.
It differs depending on the work and the magazine, but original works and one-shots are usually priced starting from 15,000 yen per page.
I draw about 450 to 500 pages of manuscript per year, which comes to 150 million yen in manuscript fees. For New Give My Regards to Black Jack, I also received a
planning fee of 150,000 yen per chapter. Meanwhile, I had five staff members, and labor costs were about 170 million yen in total per year.
In addition to that, I also spent money on studio upkeep, materials, and data, which means I racked up millions of yen in debt per year.
Of course, I can't save up any money for my own personal life after all that. Splitting the 170 million between 5 people results in 3 million and some yen per person.
It's a bit lower than the average salary for a twenty-something salaryman.
Art staff are important resources in the manga industry. Without them, manga wouldn't exist. With that in mind, I'd like to pay them a bit more, but that salary is the
best I can do.
Mangaka get the "sensei" honorific attached to their names, proof that a master-disciple hierarchy still exists in this industry. It's common to see art staff members
get treated like disciples of mangaka, and despite putting out a lot of work with a small number of people and being tied to their workplace for long hours, they often
get paid less than part-time workers, and in some cases are virtually working for free.
If the Labor Standards Inspection Office (*1) were to slip their scalpel into the manga industry, it would collapse immediately. Before I became an independent mangaka
myself, I worked as an assistant for various other mangaka. Out of all my experiences, the lowest pay I ever got was 180 yen per hour.
*1: Labor Standards Inspection Office - In Japan, the labor standards state that no one is allowed to work more than 40 hours per week, excluding break time. The Labor
Standards Inspection Office is an entity that investigates whether or not these standards are being upheld. They exist within each prefectural labor department.
On the other hand, when I was serializing Umizaru, I wasn't able to pay my staff as much as I pay them now. I had three staff members, and on top of that, we were doing
a weekly serialization, which meant that we were drawing 800 pages per year. We had far from enough people for the job, and had to stay up all night two or three times
a week. We didn't get a single day off for the two and half years of the serialization, had absolutely no personal lives, and yet we were still in the red.
Currently, my five staff members and I work 12 hours a day, six days a week, so we're under less stressful conditions than Umizaru, but we're still in the red. If there
are mangaka out there who are making a living from manuscript fees alone, I'm positive that they're doing at least one of the following: working extremely hard by
themselves, or forcing their staff members to adopt illegal work practices.
Now, that's enough talk about manuscript fees. Next, we'll be discussing royalties.
Royalties are profits paid out to the copyright holder when tankoubon volumes of manga are published.
When a manga is made into a tankoubon, the copyright holder receives profit without having to do anything on his or her own, so the word "royalties" comes with a lot of
dreamy ideas attached to it.
A life lived on royalties. It sounds elegant, and perhaps even conjures up images of a mangaka enjoying time off in a resort on a southern island or something. Or maybe
they're living in an expensive apartment on the top floor of a huge building in Ginza or Roppongi, drinking the finest wine...sorry for the lack of imagination, but
that's the best I can come up with.
Anyway, the point is, the word "royalties" brings with it many images of success. Now, I'd like to show you what an actual life lived on royalties is like.
For manga, 10% of the price of one tankoubon volume is paid out to the author. If the tankoubon costs 500 yen, then that means the author gets 50 yen a volume. At least
10,000 volumes are made during the first printing, so at that point, the author receives 500,000 yen. If the manga series is on a weekly serialization, then four
volumes will be published per year. That means 2,000,000 yen in royalties per year.
20% of that gets eaten up by taxes, which leaves the author with 1,600,000 yen. If he gets in the red by 200,000 yen per month, then that means 2,400,000 yen of debt
per year. Subtracting the 1,600,000 yen in royalties from that leaves us with -800,000 yen.
After publishing 4 volumes, a mangaka is left with multiple debts, and the possibility of the serialization getting canceled. This situation happens quite often.
The Annual Publishing Index that the AJPEA puts out every year estimated manga tankoubon sales as 455,220,000 for the fiscal year of 2009, with a total of
227,400,000,000 yen in profits.
Apparently there are roughly 5,300 mangaka who published tankoubon volumes that year, and according to some sources, the royalties for the top 100 mangaka average at
about 70 million yen. What about the remaining 5,200 mangaka, then? Their average royalties are about 2,800,000 yen.
After debt and taxes, there's hardly anything left.
bottom: The comics market from a sales perspective - Sales in the Japanese publishing industry in 2010 totaled in at 1,874,800,000,000 yen. Out of those profits,
409,100,000,000 belonged to comics sales, which means that comics dominated 21.8% of the market. One very special characteristic of the Japanese publishing world is
that the comics share of the market is very large when compared to other countries.
It's far from enough profit for me to amply pay my art staff members. Honestly, they'd be better off financially if they just worked 800 yen-an-hour part-time jobs.
This is basically what it's like on average for any mangaka who's running a series in a weekly manga magazine. According to a survey done by the National Tax
Administration Agency (*2), the average yearly salary for all salarymen in Japan was 4,120,000 yen.
In order for me to raise my own salary to that level from its current state, I would have to publish more than one tankoubon volume every year and make sure the annual
total of volumes published was over 160,000 copies.
bottom: The comics market from a sales perspective - 2,874,550,000 books were sold in the 2010 fiscal year in Japan. 1,027,660,000 of those were comics, 35.8% of the
total market. In other words, one of every three books bought in a Japanese bookstore is a comic book.
*2 line: Tax Administration Agency Survey - The 2010 Survey of Pay Rates in the Public Sector