On Professional Publishers using Kickstarter

I sometimes forget that people read my twitter feed, so here’s a few clarifying thoughts about DMP’s use of Kickstarter to fund manga projects by Osamu Tezuka. Their Kickstarter is at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/digitalmanga/publish-osamu-tezukas-unico-in-english-in-full-col.

– I am really, really glad that there are going to be more Tezuka projects in print. They sell well for us, and UNICO in particular will do well through Little Island. I will be happy to own Barbara and Unico and whatever else gets printed.

– I like Kickstarter (and Indiegogo). I’ve backed 4 or 5 projects myself, and only one of them flaked out, and I’ve been assured that one will get sorted too. I think crowdfunding is a remarkable thing.

– It is disconcerting to see what should be a well-invested professional publisher need to take 380 preorders before a book is published. It’s only 380 pre-orders, that’s not a huge amount, but that is presented as the crux upon which the project will happen, or not. It is incredibly disconcerting as someone who is worked in the publishing industry in which this publisher operates for the past 16 years. It is disconcerting as a fan of Osamu Tezuka.

– I feel it speaks to a lack of confidence in the product, and a lack of confidence in the publisher to see a return in their investment of licensing this property, or has been hinted, “these properties”.

– Kickstarter has seemed to me, since its inception, like a method to reach beyond what might normally be possible into achieving something extraordinary.

– The basic acts of publishing are printing and promotion. If you are a publisher but you can’t print or promote, are you still a publisher? Some very smart people say yes, and I’m honestly not sure, because you’re unable to fulfill your basic roles and are counting on others to do that, and that’s where my conflict is.

– I want to stress that I feel this way about professional publishers using this apparatus, not an individuals or artists self-publishing, as an individual publishing a book and putting it into the world is still a remarkable thing. 🙂

– Further, I feel that this is a different apparatus than “accepting pre-orders”, as the implication is that publishing the work will require successful Kickstarting, which means Kickstarter is theoretically the beginning and end of the publisher’s commitment to printing and promotion, at least to get the book out into the world. And that number was 380 people. Again, some people see no problem with this, mostly because they want the material and the end justifies the means, and as a fan I’m on board. As someone who asks questions like “Well what’s a publisher then?” I’m not.

– I have no doubt that the future is going to continue to change the definition of “publishing” a great deal, and this is likely one such change. But it’s a change and it’s worth talking about and considering, rather than dismissing it as a new iteration of “pre-selling” or “pre-orders” or whatever.

– Finally, it should be stated that the opinions expressed above and at my Twitter are mine alone, and do not reflect any past, current, or future people who might employ me.



7 Replies to “On Professional Publishers using Kickstarter”

  1. I hear where you are coming from on many of these points, in particular the “lack of confidence” issue when larger publishers go on KS, but I feel like you aren’t addressing the reasons why publishers may want to use KS.


    Whether or not you need the dough, putting a comic project on Kickstarter is a fantastic way to promote that product. It’s a way to stick out and find new fans on a still new platform… and it’s a great way to make existing fans feel ownership over a project, which means they’ll be even more passionate about sharing projects they’ve supported.

    I’m fine with seeing any publishers using KS to “fund”/promote their product, I just wish they could better leverage it for cheaper products. In other words, if a project does fantastically well, I’d hope they could use that larger order to negotiate better pricing for the final book.

  2. A Publisher that neither Prints nor Markets remains a Gatekeeper. They are using their name cache to say “This is something we like, so you should like it too”. Admittedly, the Creators themselves should be able to do that. But given the industry that we have, at the moment the Publishers have a greater/wider name recognition.

    If this is the last gasp of the Great Houses, and we will see the rise of “Warrior King” Creators that will carve out their own turf using KS and IGG as their (mercenary…)armies, this could be a good thing. But it could just as easily become existing powers filling up grassroots efforts in an attempt to block anyone else from usurping them.

  3. Generally KS is used by an individual creator, for example, to get a web comic into print.  You’ve followed the comic for a couple years, because the creator has generously shared their creation with you, for free.  You’ve anticipated updates, left feedback, maybe you’ve learned (too much) about the creator’s personal life.  The idea of KS comes up, there is sincere enthusiasm and appreciation in both the audience and creator, who have been on this journey together, that this project can go to the next level.  There is transparency about the process, audience involvement, maybe unexpected setbacks, the triumph of things going right, and finally getting that book in the mail.

    DMI is an established company with 1) access to means of production, 2) a mixed record on responsiveness to fans and 3) as a private company no obligation or demonstration of transparency.  It is using KS not for original content, but to produce a licensed project with guaranteed profitability (how much? we’ll never know).  This seems like a violation of the spirit of KS at least; not the traditional KS audience/creator journey but simply another way for DMI to get money.  I’m not interested in the Tezuka projects, or maybe I’d feel differently.

    OTOH I am a buyer of their BL, and I admit to selfishly hoping that if KS is a success for DMI, they might use it to fund smaller projects, like printing the final book/s of certain BL trilogies that have been left hanging.  I have zero interest in t-shirts, posters, full-color, etc., I just want the standard pulpy paperback, but I would certainly be willing to pay for it in advance through KS, if that’s what it takes.

  4. While I was surprised that DMP needed to do this in order to fund these books I don’t think it’s a bad thing, in fact I’m relieve KS is there to help when needed.

    Maybe my perspective is a bit personal, seeing as I’m in the middle of closing down my comic book store and liquidating the inventory online as I speak, but after several imprints closing and then Tokyopop hanging by a thread right now, I think we need to keep in mind there is a major issue going on with the manga industry, money. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised DMP is effected as well. In the last 3 years at least 8 lines I read have gone out.

    I agree and disagree with the “I don’t care as long as I get manga mentality”. On one hand I think KS it a great legitimate way to fund a project, on the other I don’t believe in scanlation even if it brings me good reads, it hurts the industry and fundamentally tramples the writers/artists rights which is appalling considering your enjoying said artists works.

    I also think that while I agree this can be risky and some people will lose confidence in the publisher, I’m sure DMP considered this carefully. And we must aslo keep in mind they publish several books a month via DMP line and their other imprints like June and Doki Doki, so using KS to fund a bigger more premium books, for me is ok, I’ll support them because I want this industry to survive.

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