The other day we reported on DMP’s new Kickstarter which hopes to publish some untranslated works by Osamu Tezuka but as a pretty hefty price: $360,000 to put out 20 books, and stretch goals that go all the way up to $589,000 for all 31 volumes. Understandably, a lot of manga observers have questioned this amount and the reward tiers— for instance, when this all started the lowest amount you could pledge to actually get a book was $150!
Alex Hoffman at Sequential State began the examination, with a three part series looking at the campaign. In part one he examines the funding amounts, pointing out that the reward tier is more than MSRP. In part two he compares DMP’s past Tezuka volumes to Vertical’s recent editions, a comparison not very favorable to DMP, since Vertical’s books are all gorgeous. Hoffman points out that this is a sound approach since Tezuka fans tend to be older and probably have more income to spend on a beautiful object. In part three, he offers some suggestions and rounds up other concerns about the project. Among the suggestions:
DMP should reexamine its Tezuka assumptions – DMP has never failed with a Tezuka project. Their success with previous projects may have lead them to believe that any Tezuka project will succeed. But the fact of the matter is, the costs for this campaign are high, getting access to actual physical books is extremely cost prohibitive, and the asking price for 31 books may be more than some people spend on comics in an entire year. DMP is losing many potential customers (including me) because of their price tag.
With such a clear discussion of the campaign’s issues, DMP president Hikaru Sasahara actually posted a video explaining their approach, and DMP responded elsewhere that they were considering other changes. New reward tiers were added, with lower entry points to get print books. As summarized by Hoffman, Sasahara’s point were thus:
- DMP has the license for the entire Tezuka Library and plans to print something like 400 books.
- The current plan of printing 2-4 books at a time using Kickstarter will take the company 40-60 years to complete
- There are invisible costs backers aren’t seeing, including but not limited to Sasahara’s past 7 years of work getting the license
- Tezuka Pro is very picky about localization quality, so DMP pays more money for this
- Six of DMP’s 20 employees have been assigned to work the project
- Expediting the project has impacts, which leads to increased cost
Hoffman responded to this in the above link and while he appreciated Sasahara’s response, he wasn’t persuaded. Since DMP has 400 Tezuka books in the pipeline, how many millions of dollars are they going to ask for in crowdfunding before this is all over?
Manga expert Deb Aoki also looked at the whole campaign, and was similarly underwhelmed:
On top of that, fans who want to get an actual printed book in exchange for their pledge were dismayed to discover that $150 was the minimum pledge required to get one volume of Three-Eyed One and Rainbow Parakeet. I wish DMP well with this campaign, and I’ve supported almost all of their Tezuka efforts in the past — but after seeing these relatively steep minimum pledge levels to get a single book, even I had a hard time pulling out my wallet for this one.
We’ve moved to an era where publishers using Kickstarter as a boost or funding is way more accepted. DMP’s Tezuka efforts predate last year’s six-figure (successful) Fantagraphics Kickstarter, but we’ve also seen efforts for Last Gasp, and countless micropresses. One of the objections to the DMP campaign is that it includes salaries for Sasahara—it’s not outrageous to expect for the salaries of publishers to get paid, but is the idea of a publisher being supported by book sales and not holding out a hat on the digital street corner just another romantic notion of the past?
Wait don’t answer that.
I agree that this particular campaign doesn’t seem to be very well thought out. I understand DMP wanting to cut to the chase and get all the money for the project upfront, but the net effect is to have a crowdfunded operating loan. I get that that is the way of the future in our micropayment focused/feudal society, but in the end, our options aren’t going to be that great, unless Facebook suddenly starts publishing Tezuka translations.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.