By David Cabrera
#72 - Are You Sure You Can't Afford To Release Tezuka? - DMP And Kickstarter
We talked about Kickstarter at this column recently with the Tentacle Bento story. The website is in the business of helping all sorts of commercial projects get direct funding from their potential audience before they're actually produced.
Say I'm a lone nut who really wants to license and publish Devilman in English (most of the manga works of Go Nagai are unavailable here), and I know that I need X amount of money to do so, but I haven't got that kind of capital. I hope and believe that there's an audience, but I don't know for sure. I use Kickstarter to ask them directly and make sure there is one.
I set up a project on Kickstarter. I tell people I need them to donate X amount to make this happen, and I offer rewards based on the amount a particular donor is willing to give. A small donor will get the book and a nice thank-you, while a big donor would get something more interesting that they wouldn't be able to get otherwise. Kickstarter is the middleman: you don't get any money unless you reach your donation goal (so people won't be ripped off), and the company takes a percentage of the donations you get.
This model has seen great success with a lot of small geek projects, because it's easy to donate a little bit and the system also accommodates large donations from big fans. Right now Digital Manga Publishing is using it with great success to work up interest in Osamu Tezuka's Unico.
There's one thing that feels a little weird about this; that the work being sold is Tezuka's. While he doesn't enjoy the level of fame he does in Japan, the Manga God's works are pretty well-known here (particularly Astro Boy) and his books have been selling well here for a long time to an active, faithful fan base. The Kickstarter has had absolutely no trouble meeting its goal, and as DMP makes more in donations, they've revealed more titles they'd like to release (Atomcat and Triton of the Sea)... if you'd just send them just a little bit more money.
One of the reasons you set up a Kickstarter is that you're concerned a project might be too niche, that there simply might not be enough people in the world interested in the product you'd like to sell. I have a really tough time believing that any work by Tezuka, even in America, falls into such a category.
Another big reason is if you're a small operation or a startup company without the capital to do the project on your own. I doubt they're huge, but I also doubt that DMP is a strapped publisher.
So when I look at the Kickstarter, I want these books. However, I would feel a little bit uneasy making a charitable donation to a major publisher that's selling the work of an established, popular artist: one of the most prolific of all time, even. What DMP is doing is certainly effective business.. but it also feels against the spirit of Kickstarter.
There has got to be someone on Kickstarter who needs my money more than they do. Today, for example, my American otaku friends and I are jealously looking at the French getting Legend of the Galactic Heroes on DVD, clutching our wallets, and saying to each other... “Kickstarter”.
Of course, if DMP turned around and said “Who wants Devilman?”, I'd come running with cash in hand.