YAOI NEWS: DMP Addresses Fan/Scanlator Concerns

Clearly the recent topic of Digital Manga wanting to hire scanlators has struck a nerve with some and struck up great conversation with others. As a follow up to the discussion, I forwarded a link to the post as well as a link to the thread on the AarinFantasy forum that started the entire thing to Hikaru Sasahara, Digital Manga's President to see if he wished to address any of the concerns or to clarify his project. I'm posting his response, with permission, below:

Hi Jenny,
 
Thanks you for sending us the feedback. Reading some of them, I feel that they are missing an important aspect of this special venture. That is they are not the only people that don’t get paid upfront on this project. Neither the contents providers (publishers in Japan) nor we (Digital Manga) would get paid upfront. This is the venture where all 3 parties involved  share the “risk” and “revenue”  although the level of the share varies meaning it won’t be that translators get the 1/3 of the revenue. That is something I would have to figure out based on a level of the contribution that each party makes to the overall venture.
 
We are not looking for a cheap labor but looking for the people who have  passion to read more manga titles and this venture may be the only way to make that happen.
 
Hikaru
 
Hikaru Sasahara
hikaru@emanga.com
President
 
———————————-
Digital Manga, Inc. – http://www.digitalmanga.com
1487 West 178th Street, Suite 300
Gardena, CA 90248

Tel: 310.817.8010 x100
Fax: 310.817.8018

So what do you think? Does this change how you feel about his project or merely add more questions/concerns? He's listening so if you want to be heard, speak up! You've all been doing great so far! Keep the wank to a minimum though. You know who you are. :-)

~Jennifer LeBlanc

32 Comments

  • Well, it clarifies the risk factor and makes it less of an issue of “free labor” and more of an issue of “are you willing to take a risk with us.” My opinion of the likely success of the venture still stands as we still don’t know the scope or intended products being considered for this project.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Well, I think that explains it well enough for me. But I think the people who are determined to vilify the company are going to continue to do so. And I also think the scanlators who see this as an opportunity will quietly sign up and something will eventually happen. Whether it’s a success or not is going to be up to us. Bring it on!

    love, lore

    [Reply to this comment]

    Cait Reply:

    Well, I’m not saying I won’t give it the benefit of the doubt and try out the first few titles they make their attempt on, but I don’t especially have high expectations. We’ll see.

    [Reply to this comment]

    lore Reply:

    Well, your reasonable and open-minded approach to this idea is refreshing. I can’t wait to see what will come of it!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Cait Reply:

    Well, “hoping” for something more is different from not “expecting” anything in particular. I want it to be good, but I’m skeptical. However, I will use my wallet as my voice.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Jennifer LeBlanc AKA Asami's Girl Reply:

    Can you share your voice with me? XD

    [Reply to this comment]

    Cait Reply:

    Well, I’d be glad to, but at the moment my voice is rather “thin,” as it were. ^_^

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Like I said on AF, I don’t understand why DMP didn’t put a press release out on their blog that they’re going to be investing in a [risky] digital release platform as a serious means of selling (hence it ending up on ANN, etc) and that they’re looking for numerous translators and typesetters to help them get it off the ground–skill level will be considered in place of experience. Anyone with a clue please send in their application.

    Instead we got emails from the Vice President that we weren’t allowed to discuss with anyone else (that email still hasn’t been shared AFAIK, nor should it); hit so many red flags it looked like a text book example, including benefits like notoriety and helping the industry; and opened with news about the coalition which set a passive aggressive tone for the rest of the email.

    I personally went from “subject line… DMP propositon?” to “aw crap, they’re asking me to close the site voluntarily before they make me” until about halfway through the email, where it turned into a sales pitch.

    Not the best way to go about this by anymeans.

    So does knowing that everyone else involved is getting paid based on a per read basis change my opinion on working with them? Not for this project. It’s still spec work and I feel very strongly about not supporting spec work no matter what industry it’s happening in or what the economy’s like or if I’m stuggling on paying rent and I really, really need the cash. I’m sorry, but spec work’s wrong.

    [Reply to this comment]

    lore Reply:

    I’m just plain confused. It sounds like you’re a scanlator, and if you are, you must not be getting pay for it. So isn’t your scanlation work also not helping you pay the rent, while DMP’s proposition offers you the *possibility* of paying rent?

    If you’re not a scanlator, I thank you for expressing your empathy for the scanlators.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Scryren Reply:

    Whoops, I misfired. My reply’s on the main article

    [Reply to this comment]

    Tina Anderson Reply:

    @lore

    This notion of ‘you don’t get any profit for what you’re doing now anyway’ keeps coming up. Scanslation is a form of fan expression. It’s like making doujinshi comics – the primary motivation is to produce a product they care about for fellow readers–but they’re doing it as fans.

    It’s one thing to dedicate your time and your own timetable to ‘fan expression’; it’s quite another to become the cog in a company that relies on profit as its bottom line. New rules, new expectations – not the same as ‘doing something as a fan’.

    I think fans who aren’t creators can’t quite get their head around ‘why’ creators do what they do when it comes to expression in the fandom. Once a upon a time, scanslators ‘expressing themselves’ by localizing works from Japan was considered a cool thing– until Publishers made a business out of it–now it’s all about ‘we need to do something with these scanslators, they’re hurting business. :( Our sales our down because of scanslations. :(

    Scanslators in BL will always be needed – no way mangaka like Dr. Ten or Tori Maia will ever be produced here. No publisher is willing to take a risk on menslove/bara. If scanslators decide that DMPs offer isn’t for them– sobeit.

    [Reply to this comment]

    lore Reply:

    @Tina

    “If scanslators decide that DMPs offer isn’t for them– sobeit”

    Riiiight. But the person above equated her time as money, and from a purely mercenary point of view, whether she scanlates as a fan or scanlates on spec, scanlating for spec allows her the possibility to make money, while scanlating as a fan pursuit does not.

    You (the general scanlating “you”) can’t have it both ways, saying your time is money and then saying your scanlating is fan expression. I understand that you, Tina, see scanlating as a noble pursuit done for the sake of fans, but when the other scanlators start complaining about “time is money” and “I won’t work without pay”, I think it brings the idea of scanlation down from the fannish clouds and into the realm of cold, hard numbers.

    And, as I have said before, no one is twisting scanlators’ arms here. If they want to get paid, they’ll give it a go. If they want to continue to serve themselves and fans, they won’t heed DMP’s call.

    Also, I’ve never said this before, but I do my own form of “fandom service” in a different fandom. I’ve put in hard work, hours of my life, and money out of my own pocket to facilitate fandom activities for others for many years now. So, I think I can get my head around why scanlators do the work that they do.

    And I do take my skills learned in fandom service into the real world, which has been helpful. But I also would very seriously consider any paid opportunity to do the kind of work I do for fandom for an employer; because we all want to be paid to do the things we love in this world, and I would love to have a job that was all about keeping fandomers happy and entertained. Since no one is offering to pay me, however, I keep doing what I’m doing out of pure love for fandom.

    Maybe the others don’t know what they’re talking about here, but I do. Just so you know. ~_^

    love, lore

    [Reply to this comment]

    Tina Reply:

    @lore

    “I understand that you, Tina, see scanlating as a noble pursuit done for the sake of fans, but when the other scanlators start complaining about “time is money” and “I won’t work without pay”, I think it brings the idea of scanlation down from the fannish clouds and into the realm of cold, hard numbers. ”

    No, not a pursuit done for the sake of fans– it’s work done as a fan. It’s work done that requires time and money out of the fans pocket in order to create a project. Obviously you didn’t understand. ^_^

    Clouds? Scanslations were the fandom, once upon a time– and just because there’s one or two companies left producing yaoi, doesn’t mean the sky is really that far above our heads – if you get my meaning.

    Working for a company is different then working as a fan. When you’re asked to cross that threshold, things do change.

    “But I also would very seriously consider any paid opportunity to do the kind of work I do for fandom for an employer; because we all want to be paid to do the things we love in this world, and I would love to have a job that was all about keeping fandomers happy and entertained. ”

    I used to be the same way – I took ANY paid opportunity to continue writing genre [fandom] material, and I did it for the fandom and to cultivate my genre. It got me overworked, underpaid, and bitter. A gift horse is oft times just a gift horse–always check its mouth. :/

    [Reply to this comment]

    lore Reply:

    @Tina

    “No, not a pursuit done for the sake of fans– it’s work done as a fan. It’s work done that requires time and money out of the fans pocket in order to create a project. Obviously you didn’t understand. ^_^”

    Really? Many scanlators translate, clean and letter books for themselves, leave them on their hard drives and never share them with others?

    I think you’re splitting hairs with me here. Obviously, I think scanlators are fans whose work *also* benefits fans, not that they are mindless translation zombies who produce work solely for fans and not their own pleasure.

    “Clouds? Scanslations were the fandom, once upon a time– and just because there’s one or two companies left producing yaoi, doesn’t mean the sky is really that far above our heads – if you get my meaning.”

    I don’t think you get *my* meaning. I was using descriptive language to describe fandom work as clouds or the heavens or nirvana, while Real Life with its needs for money and paid work is the earthly plane.

    As for gift horses, again, I don’t think anyone is being told that they are going to win the scanlation lottery and win a bunch of money from DMP for their work. There’s just the possibility of cash when before there was none. And, again, no one is being forced to take up this work. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

    love, lore

    [Reply to this comment]

    Tina Reply:

    Not splitting hairs, just trying to understand why’d you’d jump on a scanslator expressing her issue with being offered spec work.

    “Really? Many scanlators translate, clean and letter books for themselves, leave them on their hard drives and never share them with others? ”

    Now what’s hair splitting. ^_-

    We’re going to agree to disagree on this – you have your opinion and I have mine. ^_^

    [Reply to this comment]

    lore Reply:

    @Tina

    Yes, dropped; I imagine we’d communicate about this clearer in-person. But, for the record, I didn’t “jump” the scanlator, at least, not in my book. I’m sorry you saw it that way.

    love, lore

    [Reply to this comment]

    Tina Reply:

    It’s ok Lore. I still love you. ^___^

    Let’s talk about…. censorship!!
    Just kidding… LOL!

    [Reply to this comment]

    lore Reply:

    BWAHAHAHAAHAHA! Devil woman. <3

    love, lore

    [Reply to this comment]

    Michalyn Reply:

    I think you’re right. The issue is about cold hard numbers. There is an opportunity cost to being a scanslator no matter how much enjoyment they take in it. Scanslators factor many things into this opportunity cost when they decide to scanslate and how much to release (for example they could be working overtime at their current job) but a profit being made off of the final product is not one of them.

    The DMP proposition changes the opportunity cost of scanslating significantly. That is the issue. What it adds to it is the value DMP pays similar employees for similar work within their organization. In other words the scanslator is asking “what income am I forgoing to take advantage of this opportunity?” That income is now equal to their previous investment PLUS the income they would gain if they bypassed this scheme entirely and decided to apply to DMP through the regular channels. No matter how you cut it under this new scenario they are getting less.

    There is no such thing as a free effort. Everything has a cost. Now sure, scanslators can assess the costs and decide whether to take or leave what is offered and that is precisely what may are saying but there was never any free labor to begin with no matter how it might seem on the surface. Not because a scanslator might make some money from DMP means they will automatically be ahead.

    [Reply to this comment]

    yblees Reply:

    Quote: “I don’t understand why DMP didn’t put a press release out on their blog ….Anyone with a clue please send in their application.”

    It would be WRONG and RUDE for DMP to put out a press release at this point – without discussing things with their potential Scanlator partners first.
    That’s not the way a working partnership is negotiated because it places the weaker partner at a serious disadvantage.
    Plus, subsequent negotiations will be compromised by all the third party onlookers, all of whom will have their own opinions on how things should go.
    Plus, there there will be panic and misunderstanding among the more excitable yaoi fans.

    Mr Sasahara is ( I assume)a Japanese businessman.
    He will do things the correct and polite way. At least give the man that much…

    [Reply to this comment]

    Scryren Reply:

    …to put out a press release at this point

    That’s so not what I said.

    [Reply to this comment]

    yblees Reply:

    Putting up an announcement on their website would have the same effect as a Public news release.

    Any scanlator who wanted to apply would basically have to come BEGGING, with zero room for negotiation. The scanlators would essentially be competing against one another for a job.

    By approaching each scanlator individually via email, DMP is giving them first right of refusal. They are bending over backwards to be respectful…
    I understand that the individual emails caused concern among some scanlators – understandable. Persons used to keeping a low profile, suddenly receiving private contact from the very people they’re keeping a low profile from…

    Regardless, private correspondence is the correct way to have approached the scanlators as potential partners.
    You HAVE first right of refusal, so refuse – and move on.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Scryren Reply:

    The theoretical press release I was talking about doesn’t even involve scanlators. If DMP wants scanlators to work for them, that’s fine, but I think they should’ve tried announcing something similar to what I stated above and waited for applications from anyone before getting scanlators involved. IMHO, reaching out to scanlators for work could completely backfire on them with the industry (specifically with regards to the new coalition) and only time will tell if it does.

    While I did decided not to take DMP up on their offer, that doesn’t remove my right to discuss it or share my opinions on the topic.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • If you have an Aarinfantasy forum account, you can read our “scanlation group (no profit) vs DMP (profit) makes a world of difference” discussion on there. To answer your question though, I am a scanlator, though my co-mod would beg to differ since I haven’t worked on anything in months.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • I’ve gotten some weird emails of late. To clarify – no, I stopped reading scanslations of BL when the industry here took off – AND I learned where to buy the books on the cheap. Do I read scanslations? Yes. I’ve read my share of menslove/bara scanslations; it’s a genre I’m interested in these days and no publisher is touching it. But that could change…

    I’ve notice this double edged sword that some publishers have created in regard to scanslators. Back in the early days of Western publishing of BL – some pubs would watch the scanslator groups closely to see what was popular and what fans were reading the most. Then they would go out and license something by that mangaka–or even that series…then cease and desist letters get sent. 0_0

    *g* if only scanslators had the sense to say ‘dear pubs–don’t license this because we’re going to finish scanslating it’. But that would make them a business wouldn’t it? Scanslators aren’t a business – they’re fans operating in the realm of fandom. BL scanslators do not [to my knowledge] gets ads on google, advertise on by sending out emails, of spam ‘general manga’ groups with their scans-circle projects. If you’re a fan – you know where to find BL scanslations. I don’t think scanslations are hurting BL sales; scanslating is not piracy. [I think if anything, scanslations likely hurt the creators who may be truly keen on making a profit off their work stateside] But the BL industry here? No.

    BL manga here as plateau’d. In the early days, bringing over cult favs = instant profits; in the early days, bringing over anything yaoi where there was none = equaled sales. Now North American licensors are faced with what Japanese publishers face every month – finding material that may be hit or miss with fans. Taking losses while waiting for that one big hit that makes up for the losers. The ‘print yaoi and they will buy it’ days are over. Scanslators are still doing ok though?? Why? Because they’re fans, always have been—and they’re not fueled by profit. They’re not printing their books; they’re not investing in large ad campaign to recoup expenses—because expending sweat equity is a sizable part of any niche fandom. They can take chances on all forms of BL, and because they’re fans to begin with, tend to hit gold more then rock.

    So DMP wants to tap into this, I can respect that– but DMP is still a business. Of course non-creator fans are down with their proposal—it means more books; but don’t fall into this notion that scanslators are responsible for you not getting the titles you want licensed. That’s crap. That’s between you and the publishing company – and scanslators shouldn’t be blamed for this considering they were once [and still are at times] the beacon for publishing finding the hot material. DMP’s bottom line is profit [bless em, we have a BL industry here because of DMP] – and offering a peanut to scanslations teams up front is more acceptable then offering nothing. As a business, DMP needs to find a way to explain THAT potential business model to the Japanese publisher/creators and get them to understand that America is not the cash-cow they think it is for their material. Once that sets in, they’re likely to come down with their high price demands, and DMP will have something to offer scanslators, other then promises of back-end payment.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Damn! BL manga here HAS plateau’d. Ah my spelling errors!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Gods,
    Jennifer I’ve avoided signing up to Aarinfantasy for ages because of their *complex* rules and regulations.
    But I just gotta read that thread…
    there’s a *** timer on so I have enough time to read the rules (T__T) *bitch* *moan*…

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Haven’t finished reading, & too tired right now, but;
    I DO HOPE The Yaoireview is going to YaoiCon, and will have an observer present at any interesting discussions – please?

    [Reply to this comment]

  • In my former life I was a fabric designer. Most of the time I had salaried jobs but I did freelance at a studio for about two years. We did service work (where you’d get paid a %)and design work (where you’d get paid if the piece sold). This proposal is kind of like the latter but with no “service work” to pay the bills so to speak. So I don’t know if that’s all that bad although I don’t know anything about publishing, perhaps they don’t work that way.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • I think I must be really dense here because I don’t see how this statement clarifies anything.

    1. Japanese companies are not getting paid right now when scanslators scanslate their stuff.

    2. DMP doesn’t get paid when scanslators scanslate titles they do not have a license for.

    3. Scanslators are not affected by the fact the DMP has a backlog of titles they cannot bring to market because they do not charge fans for their scans.

    If I am understanding correctly then, the only thing which will change in this scheme is that scanslators will be laboring to bring to market products which may or may not turn a profit and they will not get paid the equivalent salaries of someone working at DMP never mind the 1/3 share hinted at here.

    Japanese companies and DMP face the potential of getting “paid” if the work of scanslators turns a profit. Of course this is not an equitable split. Scanslators are still absorbing most of the risk.

    This is not a search for business partners as DMP is suggesting. It is a search for cheap labor. If DMP is looking for employees then they need to put an ad in the Washington Post like every other employer instead of pussy footing around under the guise of this “business model”.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • I came into this WAY LATE, but would probably warn most off of this.

    Having done work for DMP in the past and knowing one or two people who still do, I really feel that this is just a way that they can get cheaper staff. I have no ill will against DMP, but they haven’t been doing very well financially over the past couple of years and have consistently been late on paying freelancers.

    If the % to scanlators is the same figure that I’ve heard tossed around (from someone who has already talked to them about this), then it’s a bad deal all around.

    The only upside, unless I’ve misunderstood what I’ve been told, is that the revenue sharing is based on the purchase price/amount and not on “potential profits”, which could easily be fudged. So, if you’re getting 10% and the book sells for $10, you’d get $1 from every sale.

    I don’t think they’re trying to screw anyone, I think that they’re just trying to find a way to survive in an increasingly difficult industry. That said, the potential gains for anyone scanlating would be minimal at best

    [Reply to this comment]

  • [...] about the original discussion surrounding this project on the website, The Yaoi Review, including a follow-up response from the company [...]

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