Why Yuri Cannot be Financially Successful…The Gospel According To Fandom

July 23rd, 2012

Sorry to start the week off with such heavy-duty overthinking, but something’s on my mind and I want to get it down before I lose it.

Ever since ALC announced that we’re partnering with JManga to get some Yuri titles out in English, I keep seeing the same (so *much* the same, that I have to think it’s one or two people over and over) accusations against me and the folks at ALC. A handful of people angry that they can’t get free scanlations of a title that is now legitimately available for sale isn’t something I need to address, really. I know that. But I wanted to have a response to point to in case this comes up again in the future.

Here are the key points of these repeated accusations, as I understand them:

Making fans pay for Yuri is “selling out”
Translating and editing for money is “selling out” 
I, personally, am rolling in your $ as a result of this deal

Because fandom at large is used to Yuri being a underserved audience, they are also used to turning almost exclusively to scanlations. As a result, a rather large portion of Yuri fandom expects that Yuri remain free forever and that by wanting people to pay for it, Yuri is being betrayed.

In reality, it’s the other way around. I and many other people love Yuri so very much, that our goal is to bring more of it over in a way that provides jobs and livelihood to more people, so it can sustain itself as a genre. To be blunt – if a person relies on scanlations when a legitimate version is available to them, then they are the one selling out Yuri. It’s really quite simple. Your purchase of an item goes to pay for the work that has already been done by compensating the company that paid for it, supports the current work and provides royalties to the creator. Ideally, it also creates money for investment into new projects in the form of profit.

In effect, these fans say that, if Yuri were to ever become a financially viable genre, it can only ever have done so by “selling out.” Just as any band or artist that becomes successful must, by the nature of entertainment, have “sold out.”

There’s something terribly sad to me, that some of the people who read Yuri find it impossible to cough up a few $ to support it. JManga is charging $5/volume of manga for most of what they are selling. It’s not really asking a lot for you to pay $5, is it? If it is, then I’m sorry, because when you don’t have the money, then it is hard, but for some fans, I think entitlement has attained the point that homophobia has attained in the anti-gay movement…it’s become so deeply ingrained and so inflexible a position that the only thing left to do is keep defending the position with increasing desperation. If someone out there is that unreasonably angry at being charged $5 for a few hours worth of entertainment, then I really only feel sympathy for them. It’s hard to justify that kind of position to someone who isn’t already a believer. In that sense, I guess the forums where I’m seeing this anger have become the echo chamber of this refrain.

In effect, these “fans” have decided that Yuri being financially successful is a crime against fans of Yuri and against Yuri itself.

I will not tell you what our contract with JManga says, even if I could. I can tell you this – most of the money goes to the translator on a project.  I wonder, truly, how much some of these people think we make from translating and editing a book? Whatever that amount is that those people think, I’d like half of it. ^_^;  If I offered them the ability to read a book for free, would these people still find something to be angry about? I honestly believe they would. For some fans, being dissatisfied seems to be the real entertainment value. (Don’t believe me? Read a few forum threads about how *angry* these people are at various scanlation circles for not being fast enough or for stopping work on a series that is now for sale, or for some other thing.)

I know that this post is unlikely to change any minds out there. People who are convinced that their right to free scanlations is inviolable are not going to suddenly stop and think, “What am I saying? Of COURSE the people who work on this stuff have a right to make a living!” Nonetheless, on the off chance that one person does think that, I’m saying this plainly: The people who work on Yuri have a right to make a living doing so. “Selling” Yuri is not “selling out” at all. There is nothing at all immoral in a person getting paid to draw, write, translate, edit, letter, proofread or sell Yuri to an audience willing to buy it.

Yuri is not yet sustaining itself in the west. Not in the way BL or shounen is. Shoujo and josei are largely in a similar bind – everyone wants it, but when it’s made available just not enough people actually pay for it. I know that the Okazu/Yuricon audience is the exception – I know you pay for what you want, I know you “support” Yuri in every way possible.

On behalf of the creators, translators, editors, letterers, publishers, printers, marketers, graphic designers and project managers in the industry, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart. When the Yuri audience as a whole understands that what you do and what we do is not a crime against the genre, when “selling” is not synonymous with “selling out,” then – and only then – will Yuri be successful. I await that day with anticipation. ^_^

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36 Responses

  1. C. Banana says:

    I tend to think of buying things in essence the same way as I would voting. By buying something, you are essentially voting for the continuation of products like what you are buying. Conversely, piracy is throwing your vote away.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Lemme guess…

    …some of those people take great pride in being “different”/ “alternative”/”nonconformist” instead of “normal”/”mainsteam”/”conformist”…

    …so *much* so that, instead of simply not believing it’s OK to not be normal (a la accepting lesbians no matter how common or uncommon you are)…

    …they believe it’s *not* OK to *be* normal.

    I bet some of the complainers reject paying bookmakers for books *because* paying bookmakers for books is normal in the mainstream economy.

    And then there’s the “information wants to be FREE!!!” crowd, and the “paying for content is so old-fashioned and I prefer the FUTURE!!! crowd, and so on.

  3. @Anonymous – In general, as I’ve pointed out often, anime and manga fans are very conformist and conservative in social and political outlook.

    The folks I’m seeing on the forums aren’t being logical – they really don’t have to be. Their audience wants the same thing and anyone who delays their getting it is clearly at fault. There doesn’t need to be a deeper motivation.

  4. @C. Banana – I agree. It’s my greatest pleasure to be in a place right now where I can support the artists I like best in a concrete way.

  5. I am a writer so naturally I agree with you, but I would agree with you anyhow.

    I am setting up to begin paying people to draw and translate my works [INTO Japanese interestingly enough] and my only present question is, how would I found out what a fair rate for translating my works is so I can pay my help fairly?

    Any ideas?

    Regards,
    Delicious Vodka DeBlair
    “Yuri Futanari”,
    Pentagon Recording Specialties Unlimited

  6. I agree with Banana as well.

  7. @Delicious Vodka DeBlair – Translating into Japanese is a much, much more expensive gig than translating from. Business translation usually starts at $30/page and can easily go up to $75/page. It’s true that manga has much less wording than a legal document, but I would estimate $30/page at a minimum, since there are very few semi-pros who do that, and the professional translators are few, far between and mostly used to business.

    Good luck!

  8. I don’t think people today have a realistic sense of the world any more.

    They have lost all touch with reality and I partly blame the era of ‘free’ TV if only because people first grew up with that, then their parents often paid for cable, and even then you got literally anything that the programmers wanted to post, and by paying for your monthly subscription, you were, by default [in their eyes] paying for everything accessible thereon.

    The fact that the internet in reality does not work that way is still alien to many people’s minds.

    They think that when they payed for internet service, somehow that paid for everything one could find on it and that such was ‘right’ or worse *a* (defacto) right.

    Without being able to educate the public on the reality of what the internet really is, there is no way to reach some people who somehow have gotten the idea that its their right to see and even demand to see their preferred programming as something included in their monthly internet service.

    I know this does not make up the whole of the population in question, but it makes up more than would even admit to it, because they themselves aren’t even aware of the fact.

    Some people call it the ‘welfare’ or ‘entitlement’ mentality where they have developed the idea that by being American citizens they are automatically entitled to various things simply because of the same.

  9. Erica: thank you for that lead in.

    I will share this with my prospective helper and see if they are open to this idea.

    As you say, manga is far less wordy than a full page of course.

    I was originally expecting it to be ‘by the word’ rather than the page.

    I suppose I would be able from this, however, to come to some agreeable terms with the person I’m talking to about the job.

    Gratefully,
    Delicious

  10. Anonymous says:

    To complain about the contract is just being childish… The only way to make an impact is to become mainstream, and becoming mainstream does not imply “selling out” anything vital to the genre itself. Obviously, anyone who just likes to be “nonconformist” or “indie” just for the sake of it is hardly worth debating with. And it’s not like you are supporting some have-it-alls, rather compensating private, hard-working individuals who do their best to bring Yuri to our shelves. I don’t see why for example the people in ALC should not get paid for their work – bringing more Yuri to the shelves is an honourable endeavour. The complainers should be happy that there IS an organization dedicated to the furthering of the Yuri gospel. No such fancy things in Europe.

    -Secret Fanboy

  11. Frank Molina says:

    The fans don’t even realize that they are shooting themselves in the foot. How do you expect to get more anime, if you won’t buy anymore anime? There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Personally, I found it very offensive when they accused Miss Freeman of “selling out to the man” just because they want to put their work on the market?

    So you’re going to demonize someone being successful because that person is selling their material and making millions of people happy? You want to punish them for being successful? Gee, how very “Occupy” of you, you scumbags!

  12. @Frank Molina –

    No need to be rude. ^_^ No one has punished anyone.

    The Occupy movement is about making sure people get fair pay for work, so I actually consider myself on their side. ^_^

    In the case of fans, the issue of privilege is not about wealth, it’s about lack of awareness that their actions have real-world consequences.

  13. Elanas says:

    I love being able to throw money at work I like. :) I wish I had more to throw, but that’s life with chronic health problems. It makes me really happy when interesting stuff is within my budget, so that I can do my part to make it more likely that more and more interesting stuff will appear.

    I also like free, of course. But it’s not my place to dictate that everyone should have money coming in from somewhere else to support my cravings.

  14. Sounds like an entitlement mentality to me, something I’m all too familiar with in fandom. This is, as they say, “why fandom cannot have nice things.”

    I want not just manga (including both yaoi and Yuri) but LGBTQ-related fiction to be not just popular but mainstream in America.

    As for scanlation: whenever I have a choice, I always prefer the hardcopy. That’s why I still insist on buying manga trade paperbacks. But if it’s not available here, I settle until it is.

  15. soubiyuki says:

    The entitlement that I see in fandom continues to amaze me. As a writer and a fan, I long to see Yuri flourish on this side of the world. The state of manga in this country is in enough jeopardy; shame on anyone who refuses to support it financially.

  16. Anonymous says:

    “but that’s life with chronic health problems.”

    Ouch! I wish you the best health possible and I hope that more and better treatment becomes available for you.

    “@Anonymous – In general, as I’ve pointed out often, anime and manga fans are very conformist and conservative in social and political outlook.”

    They can still call themselves “different”/”alternative”/”nonconformist”
    …as long as non-fans outnumber them, no matter how conformist and conservative they are in other ways.

    The less conservative the mainstreams where they live become, the more they can even call themselves “different”/”alternative”/”nonconformist” *for* being conservative.

    “The folks I’m seeing on the forums aren’t being logical – they really don’t have to be.”

    And rejecting something *just because* it’s normal ain’t logical neither!

    At least some of them’re gonna be so so disappointed when they’re older, like

    Doctor: “Good news, your results came back normal.”
    Contrarian: “I HATE NORMAL!!!”
    Doctor: “Wait, you *wanted* this screening to show cancer?”

    Then there’s this:

    http://www.comicsbeat.com/2007/10/21/connecticut-now-run-by-taliban/

    Long story short: a school fired a substitute teacher for pirating a video and using it as an electronic babysitter instead of teaching.

    The blog writer pretty much accused that school of persecuting cartoons by firing that teacher for doing that action…because that teacher did that action with a cartoon instead of with live-action video.

    “Without being able to educate the public on the reality of what the internet really is, there is no way to reach some people who somehow have gotten the idea that its their right to see and even demand to see their preferred programming as something included in their monthly internet service.”

    Yeah!

    The internet is not Minitel.

    Stuff you get on it does not automatically go on your phone bill the way stuff you get on Minitel does.

    People who didn’t have Minitel (or even live in areas with Minitel coverage) before they got the internet have even *less* of an excuse for thinking the internet works just like Minitel.

  17. Unknown says:

    I wonder how much of the sort of attitude you describe is informed by the “people don’t value what’s free” problem. Since they’ve been able to get high-quality Yuri titles for free, some people mistake it for “easy” and “not that expensive to do,” when that’s never been the case – they just weren’t bearing the cost.

  18. “Unknown”:

    I agree with you there, many people seem to thin that its easy and inexpensive to produce a published work.

    As one who has worked off and on in the publishing industry literally since childhood, it pains me to see those who have such an attitude.

    I wonder how we can set forth some kind of educational campaign without accidentally inciting church interference…[ponder-ponder-ponder-ponder]

  19. Only time will tell if this attitude ever changes.

  20. Anonymous says:

    About scanlations (since I’m a scanlator myself) I always try to just translate works that are still not available to the greater lot. Scanlations should only exist until the paid translation is out, because these works had been made through days and hours of hard work (sounds like I’m moralizing) and we do not have any right to continue to put said copyrighted works into streaming sites.
    You can also trust a paid translator more, because even scanlators have the times that we can’t understand a word or so. And most of us are still studying and/or practicing by scanlating. Now that I think about it, it shows how bleak a future translator’s life could be if such a view on having “free” Yuri would continue.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I don’t agree, Internet is righlty not mintel, not controlled by a single country and is an imported source for free infornation. You can’t expect people to stop sharing Yuri for free. But free doesn’t mean not making money. Google is a good example of this. Instead of fighting the Internet consider developing your business model to make use of scanlation. For instance a free site for Yuri manga that earns revenue by advertisment and gives some of that revenue to the author would be a step in the right direction.

  22. “SECOND ANONYMOUS”: Pray tell… Who is going to buy ad space on a site where the clientele only accept free stuff?

    Selling on a site filled with nothing but hard core set in their ways freeloaders is clearly a proven failed business model from way way back even before the .com bust.

  23. BruceMcF says:

    I don’t agree, Internet is righlty not mintel, not controlled by a single country and is an imported source for free infornation.
    And also an important source for paid information. I don’t expect to get my Netflix streaming for free, after all.

    You can’t expect people to stop sharing Yuri for free.
    Nor can you expect everybody to stop shoplifting, but if you really like a little shop on Main Street or in the Mall, buying something they sell is a more effective way of expressing appreciation than shoplifting.

    Some people will look for free bootlegs to consume, even when the content is available by legit means ~ but the fact that some people will be doing it doesn’t on its own establish whether or not its the right thing for a fan to do.

    Google is a good example of this.
    Yes, consider Android, which builds on software originally written as open source and then establishes a proprietary layer to operate on top of it to provide a more consistent user interface experience.

    Oh, wait, no, that’s more like the opposite of taking work that was originally created commercially, and then distributing bootlegs of the material for free.

    Instead of fighting the Internet consider developing your business model to make use of scanlation. For instance a free site for Yuri manga that earns revenue by advertisment and gives some of that revenue to the author would be a step in the right direction.
    Ah, so by the Google model, you mean the model of collecting a very small amount of ad revenue per hit from a very large number of hits in helping people access content that someone else has produced.

    Which is indeed the scanlation website business model: less than a penny revenue per chapter per view. In the scanlation website, the reason it works is because they rely on bootlegs of commercial art and writing, scanlation groups doing the localization for free, and they rely on members of the site to do a substantial amount of their site management for free.

    For that business model to work with a legit site, they need to persuade large number of artists working in the production of commercial entertainment to sign away their rights for nothing or next to nothing. Its not entirely clear exactly why the artists working to produce commercial entertainment ought to agree to do so.

  24. Anonymous says:

    @BruceMcF you seem to have be naive about market economy. Scanlation aggregators are doing money and keep running for years. If they are legitimate or not according to you countries laws or your opinion isn’t relevant. The world isn’t the USA and the USA isn’t large enough or willing enough to catch all supposedly “illegal” scanlation aggregators which means business will have to compete with these. Calling possible customers “shoplifters” isn’t going to help you start a successful business. Internet is here to stay therefore try to make the most of it.

  25. @Anonymous – I’m going to bet that Bruce knows more about the economy of the Internet than just about anyone else you’re likely to encounter. I sincerely think that you ought to read what Bruce has to say.

    Your understanding of Internet business models and how scanlators, aggregators and internet ad revenue works is incomplete at best.

    But please, for your own sake – and to save you embarrassment – don’t insist you know more than Bruce about economics. He’s an economist by trade.

  26. mendhi says:

    Good sales of Yuri manga lead to the creation of Yuri anime as well, right? :) (Well, I hope that’s how it works, anyways)

    Do you think a manga-version of something like Crunchyroll would work? I only watch a few series on there, but they keep me hooked with the ‘funding the anime industry’ line, even if I don’t watch something for a month. Maybe not necessarily selling physical books either – obviously I don’t speak for every Yuri reader out there, but I’d pay for a digital version of a manga (I mean, I buy digital books on my Kindle, so…) through some kind of subscription model.

    Maybe ‘funding’ is a better word than ‘selling’? To some degree, I think for a genre/intellectual property, it’s more appropriate, since it’s more about spreading an idea/concept/message (‘Yuri’ itself in this case). ‘Supporting’ really.

    Anonymous said:
    “Calling possible customers “shoplifters” isn’t going to help you start a successful business.”

    They aren’t possible customers, because customers buy things.

  27. @mendhi – JManga *is* the crunchyroll for manga. That is exactly why we are working with them. They have a wide variety of genres from a wide variety of publishers. Including Yuri.

  28. A double ‘amen’ to everything Mendi said!!!

    *\(^_^)/*

    Ok…so that’s TWO digital subscribers now…

    By the way, Mendi, have you ever read Spinnerette?

    ITs written by a guy and its a super-heroine comedy but its also a Yuri with no apologies and it has a growing following.

    They have a ‘free’ ongoing episodic story and 2 printed episodes for sale but they gratefully accept charitable support.

    I personally hope they eventually can become animated at some point in the future because they’re really wonderful!

    It all begins here and goes on to 12 episodes at present count.

    http://www.spinnyverse.com/2012/06/18/06182012/

    Wishing all Yuri people everywhere a wonderful day! <3 <3 <3

    Delicious Vodka DeBlair
    aka
    “Yuri Futanari” [still unsure how to publish to the internet in e-nooks and looking for technical help]

  29. BruceMcF says:

    “@BruceMcF you seem to have be naive about market economy. Scanlation aggregators are doing money and keep running for years.”

    I am afraid you did not read carefully enough. I did not say that scanlation aggregators are failing to make money for themselves. Their business model is for someone else to scan the manga, someone else to translate the manga, and volunteers at their site to upload the manga. They then sell advertising, pay server and bandwidth costs, and pocket the difference.

    They make very little per chapter per view, so the ones that generate a substantial annual income for the respective site owners do so by virtue of a very large catalog and a very large reader base.

    $125,000 income for the site owner is a quite substantial annual income for an individual, but divided among the most popular 250 titles would be $500 per title. Why should the mangaka sign away their digital distribution rights for $500?

    “If they are legitimate or not according to you countries laws or your opinion isn’t relevant. The world isn’t the USA and the USA isn’t large enough or willing enough to catch all supposedly “illegal” scanlation aggregators which means business will have to compete with these.”

    The vast majority of the nations in the world are signatories to the Berne convention, which requires its members to respect the copyright of works created in other nations. The reason that Manga creates in Japan are under copyright in most of the world is not due to US copyright law, but due to the respect guaranteed to Japanese copyright under the Berne convention.

    165 nations are signatories to the Berne convention, including all of the Americas, all of Europe, and most of the nations of Asia, Africa and Oceania. Japan has been a member of the Berne Convention since 1899. The US did not join until 90 years later, in 1989.

    “Calling possible customers “shoplifters” isn’t going to help you start a successful business.”

    Again, you need to be more careful in reading, since that is not what I did. I was not talking about “potential customers”, I was talking about fans. Being a fan means that you appreciate the work of the artist who created a work.

    If you were a fan of a shop at a mall or on town’s main street, buying their merchandise would be a more effective way of showing your appreciation than shoplifting. Similarly, if you are a fan of a manga-ka’s creation, reading it by some legit means that includes agreed payment for use of the work is a more effective way of showing your appreciation than reading a bootleg on a scanlation aggregator site where the site owner leeches off the work of the manga-ka, the work of the scanlation groups, and the work of the site’s volunteers and keeps all of the profit from the advertising for themselves.

    “Internet is here to stay therefore try to make the most of it.”

    Your argument is not about making the most of the Internet, since you do not consider any alternative business models which might in fact be workable.

  30. Anonymous says:

    “”SECOND ANONYMOUS”: Pray tell… Who is going to buy ad space on a site where the clientele only accept free stuff?”

    Maybe he or she was thinking of the advertisers who bought airtime on radio and TV to reach listeners and viewers who paid for their radios and television sets then got the broadcasts for free?

  31. Anonymous says:

    “Who is going to buy ad space on a site where the clientele only accept free stuff?”

    Whoa, just realized who already did: soap manufacturers. Soap manufacturers bought ad space on TV channels where the viewers only accepted free content for a certain genre of melodrama but did fork over cash for soap. They bought so much ad space that the genre got named after them: soap operas.

    Thank you for the mental image of soap manufacturers buying ad space on manga translation sites. Customizing their ads to appeal to manga readers (ads half in Roman letter Japanese! ads with big-eyed drawings! ads with sound effects in kana!). Manga readers buying lots of soap/ Manga fandom gaining a reputation as the cleanest, freshest-smelling geeks in America.

    Never mind how the business model on the site works, I just wanna see those ads now.

  32. And you realize that technically with a niche market, you have to target the audience with products that they will be prone to buy…

    Maybe that is possible, who knows…

    I won’t say yay or nay on that one.

    Still unless or until you gain adequate documented viewership, most advertisers won’t bother with you…

    So how will you boost your veiwership to such numbers while knowing that you begin seriously cutting into the paid market’s share of space…?

  33. Anonymous says:

    “And you realize that technically with a niche market, you have to target the audience with products that they will be prone to buy…”

    Yeah!

    Basics like food and soap have lots and lots of people prone to buy them. Maybe Pocky would buy ad space?

    “Still unless or until you gain adequate documented viewership, most advertisers won’t bother with you…”

    True!

  34. BruceMcF says:

    @Anon/12:02am (NB: you can pick Name/URL and type in a pseudonym ~ despite the title, you don’t have to put a URL in):

    The documented viewership is why a “free member w/ads” and “premium option w/out ads” model works well for Crunchyroll, since the membership sign up process can collect the demographic information that can the be reported to the advertisers.

    Streaming ad revenues for manga requires a flash viewer so that the streaming ad can play to pass through chapter breaks. Even the 15 second snippet streaming ads that fund free flash gaming sites would deliver far better ad revenues than the banner ads that the leech scanlation aggregator sites rely on.

  35. LovelyN says:

    Great point! I agree with you. Everyone should just wake up from this nonsense fantasy and realize that this is the harsh reality. There’s nothing free out there with all the crappy debts that a lot of people have. But due to the era of the internet, there’s so much bliss ignorance going on. To be frank, I don’t like this young generation personally ’cause in general, there are more selfish, greedy, spoiled, lazy brats who keep getting stupid and stupider. (Sorry if I offend you.) I believe that’s what it caused Yuri to be suffering like that. There’s no way I want it to be gone. :[

    Aside from that, Girlfriends that are being licensed by Seven Seas will come out this Fall, right??? I can’t wait to buy them! :]

  36. @LOvelyN – The Ancient Roman Senator Seneca wrote about youth of his time. He said the same exact thing you said. It’s far more likely that youth hasn’t changed a bit and you’re just getting old and grumpy. ^_^

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