Tokyopop in Trouble: Manga Pilots

Tokyopop logo

In their continuing strategy of signing up young wannabes before they have much experience in determining what a good deal looks like, Tokyopop has launched Manga Pilots (link no longer available).

… promising manga creators are selected and hired by our editorial team to create a 24-to-36-page “pilot”–a short-form manga that will be used to determine whether or not a full-length manga will be created. The Manga Pilot will be published online for TOKYOPOP community members to review, rate, and discuss. The Manga Pilot program is not a competition. It’s a proving ground that will give manga creators exposure to an enormous audience and help TOKYOPOP develop the next generation of manga superstars.

In other words, it’s their version of Zuda. They say it’s not a competition, but it sounds like they just want an out in case someone stuffs the ballot box.

Tokyopop logo

As is typical of their efforts, they’re counting on starry-eyed kids not paying attention to the details and winding up signing away all their rights. Lea Hernandez took a closer look at the contract an aspiring creator is asked to sign in order to participate, and she finds some huge problems. Read her post for the gory details, but as she sums up:

I am comfortable going on record as saying this is the most childish and disingenuous legal document I have ever read.

The biggest stumbling block for most people is the moral rights clause, which uses a racist approach to get creators to give up the right to have their own name on their work.

How much are they offering for signing away all this? Right now, the contract is blank, but Niki Smith (link no longer available) saw an earlier version with the figure $750, or $20 a page. Plus, they only pay after the entry has been received and approved; in other words, this is spec work.

Bryan Lee O’Malley (link no longer available) is disgusted:

I’ve seen this. Tokyopop ads that don’t specify creators. You know, all their comics come from the same hive mind. All their creators are replaceable cogs in a giant machine. … I don’t normally get into these discussions, but I am really sick of this twisted, evil corporate garbage.

A commenter there shares, “Tokyopop screwed over one of my friends from college (they ended up with all the rights to the characters she created, she can’t even buy them back to finish the story arc the way she wanted) so I am never surprised by how slimy and evil they are.”

Another tells of trying to negotiate with Tokyopop: “I finally contacted their legal department which allowed that yes, T’pop had received my amended contract, but that T’pop was not in the habit of negotiating with creators; their contracts, I was informed, were on a strict “take it or leave it” basis.”

Advice: leave it. Much better choice: do it yourself. You’ll still be working, at the beginning, for pocket change, but if you keep at it all of the profits will be YOURS. And you won’t have the heartbreak of having to leave beloved characters in the hands of someone else who cares nothing for what you intended for them.

Even from Tokyopop’s perspective, this is a bad idea — because nothing guarantees that the stories online fans are willing to read and vote for when they’re free will sell once it’s in print on shelves. And they’re driving away the long-time loyal readers, who get very angry at tactics like this.

I sampled a new Tokyopop series this weekend that I considered writing up (although I didn’t like it enough to finish the first book), but then I thought “nahh, why give them the attention?” And now I’m very glad I made that choice. I think this site has reviewed its last Tokyopop publication for a while.


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