DMP’s Kickstarter Issues, Continued: Feedback Loop

This is a continuation of a 3 part series I wrote on DMP’s latest Kickstarter project. DMP’s goal is to take in $589,000, and in return, publish 31 volumes of Tezuka manga before July 2015.

I expressed concerns regarding the total price, the loss of value, and the relative lack of book quality. Check out the links for more information.

Links: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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Late last night, Hikaru Sasahara, the President/CEO of Digital Manga Publishing posted a 6 minute video explaining his reasoning behind the price structure of their latest Kickstarter project. I’d like to embed it, but I can’t, so let’s link to it, and then I’ll recap:

LINK—> Check the link for the video. <—LINK

Here’s what I’m hearing:

  • DMP has the license for the entire Tezuka Library and plans to print something like 400 books.
  • The current plan of printing 2-4 books at a time using Kickstarter will take the company 40-60 years to complete
  • There are invisible costs backers aren’t seeing, including but not limited to Sasahara’s past 7 years of work getting the license
  • Tezuka Pro is very picky about localization quality, so DMP pays more money for this
  • Six of DMP’s 20 employees have been assigned to work the project
  • Expediting the project has impacts, which leads to increased cost

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So first let’s talk about how costs meet up. First and foremost, it seems that Sasahara is paying himself out of this Kickstarter cash pool. This isn’t what Kickstarter is for – certainly I don’t mind DMP making a profit, in fact, I want them to continue to be able to publish and pay their employees. But I don’t think it’s a reasonable expectation for Kickstarter backers to pay for the costs that DMP has accrued to make this licensing deal on top of MSRP. If you want MSRP to be higher, then make it higher to cover your costs. This includes licensing fees, employee salary, etc. If your books are actually worth $24 apiece, price them as such.

Again, this is a change in mindset/strategy- Captain Ken was announced after DMP had acquired the entire library rights, and its costs were $6500 a volume. Now DMP is asking or $19000 a volume.

And, to be fair, maybe the actual cost per volume of this Tezuka Kickstarter is higher than $14 – but that means DMP is redistributing wealth unfairly on the backs of Kickstarter backers. Favoring direct market purchasers (i.e. Amazon) over the people who are willing to pay them for a promise of content, and no guarantee.

Furthermore, if the price to print each book is higher than $14, you are purposefully manipulating the market to make books seem like a reasonable buy from customers of Amazon/B&N/etc while forcing Kickstarter backers to make up that cost.

This isn’t even considering the fact that book publishers should be setting MSRP to account for their labor and licensing fees, knowing that many book distributors want somewhere to the tune of 60-70% discount, based on information I’ve gleaned from some simple Googling.

And here’s something else that’s nagging at me, now that I think about it more. The “all the books” pledge is giving you 31 books for $750… but what happens if the Kickstarter “succeeds’ but only makes it to $380,000. Did you just spend $38 a piece on 20 books?

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There’s also this expedited timeline that is stuck in my craw – Sasahara is claiming they’ll have 400 new Tezuka books, individual books, mind you, on shelves within 6 years. 

How many times, then, is DMP going to come to Kickstarter, hat in hand, asking for half a million dollars?

Based on my current projections, that would be something close to 11-12 times. Roughly speaking, DMP is going to be requesting funds that are somewhere close to the tune of $7.6 million dollars.

I’m glad that Mr. Sasahara took the time to make this video. But if anything, I am not convinced that any of my questions have truly been answered. Mr. Sasahara’s video response only further deepens my concern regarding DMP’s price structure, the potential loss of Tezuka manga as a possible print product, their long term plans, and does nothing to assure me that end product will be of better quality.

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