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Digital Manga’s bold move

Moonlit Promises, a typical Digital offering

Manga blogger Deb Aoki talked to Digital Manga Publishing CEO Hikaru Sasahara about his plans to change the way the manga licensing industry works, and it has broader implications than are immediately apparent.

Sasahara has created a Digital Manga Guild, in which amateurs would translate and edit manga with no upfront payment but would be promised a cut of profits should the book sell. What makes this less exploitative than, say, the Bluewater Comics model is that both the American and the Japanese publishers would also wait for their cut—no one gets paid until the books are sold. (Nowhere does Sasahara mention the production and printing end of things, but I’ll bet the printers get paid up front.)

The problem with the current system, Sasahara says, is cash flow: The Japanese licensors demand a minimum of “several thousand dollars” up front, and then the company has to pay translators, editors, and other staff when they complete their work, so the company ends up spending quite a bit before the books ever reach bookstore shelves. What Sasahara is looking for is nothing short of a complete inversion of that system, with the licensors allowing their books to go overseas with no guarantee, and the editorial staff getting no pay as well. That would be a fundamental change in the industry that could have wide-ranging implications—or not.

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Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Uncanny X-Force #1

Publishing | No comic cracked the 100,000-copy mark in the direct market in October, with the top title, Marvel’s Uncanny X-Force #1, selling an estimated 96,500 copies. Diamond’s graphic novel chart was led by DC Comics’ Superman: Earth One hardcover, which sold more than 16,000 copies. Retail news and analysis site ICv2.com notes that was the best number for a graphic novel since new volumes of Scott Pilgrim and The Walking Dead shipped in July. The website also pursues John Jackson Miller’s recent analysis of comics that don’t make it into Diamond’s Top 300, concluding: “Sales below the Top 300 may be growing in importance, but when we look at a fairly long period (10 months) either they aren’t big enough in the aggregate to make much difference, or their sales are changing at about the same rate as the Top 300’s. If anything, looking at year to date numbers, sales on titles below the Top 300 are shrinking faster than sales in the Top 300, at least in periodical comics.”

Meanwhile, Miller sifts through data made available by Diamond to determine that comics sales are 69.6 percent of the total market. [ICv2.com, The Comichron]

Conventions | Wizard Entertainment has announced its acquisition of Central Canada Comic Con in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Johanna Draper Carlson also picks up on rumors that the company is adding Mid-Ohio-Con to its growing stable. [press release, Comics Worth Reading]

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Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Wolverine #1, the top seller in September

Publishing | John Jackson Miller delves into September’s grim direct-market sales figures and discovers a (relative) bright spot: Sales of lower-tier titles — those that don’t crack Diamond’s Top 300 — appear to be increasing, to record levels. “How do we know?” Miller writes. “Believe it or not, a record for high sales was actually set in September. The 300th place comic book, Boom’s Farscape #11, sold more copies to retailers in September than in any month since November 1996: 4,702 copies. That’s a record for the period following Marvel’s return to Diamond. This bellwether tells us about the shape of the market, and how prolific the major and middle-tier publishers are; when many of their titles are being released and reordered, higher-volume titles tend to push farther into the list.”

However, the higher you go on the list, the worse things look: “The average comic book in the Top 25 is selling more poorly in 2010 than in 2003. At the very top of the chart, 2010′s average top-sellers are about 25% off what the best-sellers of 2003 were doing.” [The Comichron]

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