Digital Manga Guild Launches; Free Fan Labor, Pay on Profits

Digital Manga Guild logo

As briefly mentioned earlier this summer, Digital Manga has launched the Digital Manga Guild, their bid to get fans to work for them for no money upfront.

The plan, actually, is that everyone will work for free. Fans will translate scanned works, and everyone, including Digital Manga and the original Japanese property owner, gets paid based on sales. They’re also looking for editors/rewriters and letterers, same system. As posted:

Digital Manga Guild logo

With the changing tide of the economy and the high cost and slow pace of producing print editions of your favorite manga, Digital Manga, Inc. has moved forward into this new digital venture to localize and produce manga online! Digital Manga has made agreements with six major Japanese publishers to provide content to our online platform, planned for a 2011 launch. Hundreds of untranslated titles will need to be adapted to the rest of the speaking world.

… Once a title is completed, it will be digitally distributed through our platform for purchase. … By becoming a member, you will be offering services to Digital Manga, Inc, and will be eligible to join our revenue share program. Members who work on specific titles will receive a revenue percentage from all future sales of that book. This means you get to share in our profits. However, no party — Digital Manga, Inc., the Japanese publishers, or you (the localizers) — will get paid until a sales transaction is made. That means, we are all in this together!

Join today to become one of the pioneers in revolutionizing the way we make manga. Pre-registration is open, and Digital Manga, Inc. will contact members to provide further details.

The biggest question open still is, what’s the percentage? How much will a translator get, and how much is DMP keeping for itself? I also wonder just how the revenue will come in. They’re likely using their existing digital store, but I’d want to know what sales of an average volume are like, and how little of that I’d be getting, before I signed up.

Instead, they seem to be hoping that those already doing this for free will jump at the chance for the potential of income under the theory that something (plus official recognition) is better than nothing. Registrants are asked to provide an email address and links to sample work. I would have thought that they also would have wanted an age statement (to guarantee that the respondent is able to enter into a contract), but perhaps that comes later, with the other missing information.

At their forum (link no longer available), they’re taking questions and promising an upcoming FAQ. I do hope that this doesn’t indicate a general decline in the perceived value of translators — I know they’ve had a hard few years in terms of getting work at a reasonable rate to support themselves.

Update: There are some excellent concerns brought out in comments at Manga Bookshelf, about whether this is a fair deal and why or why not fans may want to participate.

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