Interview by TORACO (NET-EGAKU)
During this recession for the publishing companies, one can surely feel the decrease in the printed number of magazines and manga volumes. In this situation, e-books and self-printable doujinshi may catch one's eye. But did you know that some services allow you to create, upload and sell your own doujinshi, without having people printing it, but making it solely available for download?
In this scene, adult-oriented doujinshi are the ones selling the most. Top sellers on these websites can make up to millions of yen.
We will be focusing on adult doujinshi today and ask some questions to a mangaka who found their fortune with this kind of output, and an editor who was employed at a publishing company for more than 10 years.
5 years after quitting a daily job, their annual income reached 50 million yen!
── Alright, we will be very direct asking you about money today. Before that though, please introduce yourselves.
Nakani: My name is Nakani, I am a mangaka. I mainly work producing adult doujinshi for e-commerce, 'to download' you might say. Lately, I've been releasing a new title every 3 to 4 months.
Pui: My name is Pui and I am an editor for manga. I have been working as an editor for adult manga at a big company until lately. My opinions are the ones of a person who has been in the industry for more than 10 years.
── Nakani's latest release "Mukashi wa Kakko Yokatta 2" is selling really well! On sites like FANZA and DLsite we can see your profit, and at the moment you sold 13.000 units. Since one is priced 750 JPY, that makes the gross profit go up to almost 10 million yen, right? You also said that your old works are still selling, so I guess this year's income is skyrocketing.
Nakani: Yes, I am very grateful for that. Of course, that is the gross profit and not the money I get to earn in the end, but I can say that I may be earning around 50 million yen this year, thanks to my fans.
── From a publishing company point of view, is an adult-content author earning 50 million yen a rare case?
Pui: Of course it's only a small number, but yes, I think there are some authors like that. If the publisher gets 10% of a 1,000 JPY print, then it would take it 500 thousand units to reach the same level. That's not something you hear every day.
── Your blog has raised attention lately, Nakani. I was surprised to see someone opening up about their earnings and the changes in income when shifting from a normal job to a freelance position as an artist.
Nakani: I didn't mean to write about my income at the beginning (laughs). But yes, I thought about the people struggling thinking to quit their job and wanted to give them the numbers and be helpful in my own way. Giving the data right away is surely easy to understand, that's why I went for it.
Pui: And it was really easy to understand! I believe that may people will find it helpful too. When you talk about the transition from your job to becoming a freelancer, shifting then from fanart to original content, and participating to circle events and finding out about the download sites... It is very well written and filled with insights.
── When you were employed at a company you started with an annual income of 3,500,000 JPY but soon saw it increasing to 6 million in three years. I bet you were quite good at your job!
Nakani: I was lucky, that is for sure. I found a good company, worked as a system engineer and got paid more than I was worth. That stressed me, a lot. I used to feel the pressure from the people around me and that led to making mistakes. I was drawing doujinshi back then, as a hobby. I started making some good money out of it so I decided to give it a try.
── Even though you were selling as an author before, to quit everything and rely on it must have been very hard. Didn't you feel unsure?
Nakani: Yes, I did, of course. I prefer a situation when I have a stable income. But on the other hand, my job at the company was not motivating me anymore and I started to feel scared by my future there because I just did not belong. Money was definitely the reason I took the plunge and quit my job. In 5 years I could put 12 million yen aside, so I thought I could be OK for a while. If I ever spent all of that, I could always go back o my parents. That's what I was thinking... (laughs)
Pui: It's an amazing story, to hear that you saved all that money by yourself.
The first publication got 200 downloads. A brand new start from an annual income of 500 thousand yen
── In the 18 months after quitting the job, the income was quite low, but from the following year it increased and topped the income you were getting at the company.
Nakani: Yes, I was very, very lucky.
── When you started as a freelancer, did you think your works would sell right away?
Nakani: Oh no, not at all. I used to go to doujinshi fairs suck as Comiket, but couldn't sell much. In 2014 I made nothing more than 500,000 JPY, so I was living out of my savings from when I used to work at the company.
── You started selling around 2016?
Nakani: Yes, I published my first original title for downloads, Ane no Oppai ga Marudashi Datta Hanashi in 2015 and it was downloaded 200 times in 2 weeks. It's a 750 JPY title, so that is quite far from what I need to make a living out of it, but I thought that was the standard and kept developing the series. I published 3 titles from that series in the same year and the response kept getting better and better. Fans downloaded about 2,000 volumes that year, that is why 2016 income increased.
── Why did you gain popularity so suddenly?
Nakani: To be completely honest, I don't know that myself. If I had to say something, I'd say that the ads on the website did their job and brought me more fans, but that's only my assumption.
Pui: 2016 was a golden year for that market. Downloadable adult manga popularity peaked. It is when many artists from Comiket circles switched from fanart to original creations.
Nakani: Many doujin authors realized that the downloadable content was selling and e-books meant good money. I am one of them, of course.
Pui: E-books may have taken a larger share of the whole pie, but the pie itself has grown for sure.
Nakani: It is a really good system for marketing because it allows you to see what is selling and how many times a title has been downloaded. Don't you think that's amazing? Anybody can see and calculate how much this and that author are earning. Something you could not even think of at a bookstore or at a fair.
── Do you still sell at fairs?
Nakani: In the last two to three years, no, I haven't joined any. But I do print my works and sell them at bookstores because many people still want to read their manga printed. As an author, I don't see much difference in seeing my work printed or on a screen, but as a reader, I think I prefer the paperless version.
I release my titles as soon as they are ready. I don't want the hype to fade.
── I feel that lately there are more authors releasing on both printed pages and e-book formats. The latter feels like a huge merit when you think of stock shortage or unsold copies.
Nakani: Exactly. One more thing is that there is no idle time between completion and release.
── What do you mean with that?
Nakani: You can release your title as soon as it's done, while with printed versions you would have to wait for it to be printed and delivered. Also, fair and event dates are set. I always avoid the rush and print my titles ahead, to get better prices, but that means that I have a whole month before the event I am meant to sell that at. If I don't sell that, it's going to sit there forever, and a month is a long span to kill the good vibes you had after completing your work.
── I want many doujin authors to hear this...
Nakani: I want people to look at my title right away, I want them to see it and give me feedback because that serves as new energy to me, energy to dive into the next work. That is why I think that being able to upload your title when you want to do it, is huge merit. Feedback does fulfill its purpose at best when you are still with your mind on that title, it helps you think about what that work was and move on to the next one with more motivation.
Pui: As an editor, I can say that it is impossible to edit and go over printed publications, so we have to be sure that the censorship on the genitalia is done at its best from the beginning. Some times we would have to go to fairs and stop them from selling some products. So of course, to avoid that from happening, many authors censor more than they need to. With downloadable content, it is extremely easy to switch the data, and that is merit to us editors.
── Were you ever asked to go over the parts you censored on downloadable versions of you titles?
Nakani: No, never been. I do that by myself all the time, but if there needs to be more censorship, I will have the staff from the platform I am selling on do that for me. That helps me a lot, as an author, because it's a task that takes up much more time than one could think.
Pui: I guess so, yes. And you can never say what is the right amount. It kind of depends on the website.
Posting the whole volume for free on release day?!
── I think you will be working on these platforms for a while now, but are you thinking of going back to events and such?
Nakani: As of now, not really. There are some demerits I mentioned before, and also the fact that everybody at the same event is releasing on the same date, and that makes the competition skyrocket. While I am very glad that you came for me for an interview, I am well aware that there are many authors out there selling more than I am, so it wouldn't be a smart idea to pick up a fight with them.
Pui: The more popular you get, the more you start thinking about your sales I guess.
Nakani: Popular authors are really on a different level. You see titles selling tens of thousands of copies in total, selling hundreds per day. Every day, for like three months. And not only one title, but many at once. It is amazing really.
── But both of your books from the Mukashi wa Kawaikatta series sold more than 20 thousand copies and Mukashi wa Kakko Yokatta was downloaded 30 thousand times. You talked about ads before, do ads take off a big part of sales?
── Isn't that wonderful!
Nakani: Indeed. So please, buy my e-books when on sale!
── The whole title? That's not a sample anymore... On release day?!
Nakani: Yes, even uploading it for free, usual customers bought it and I got a lot of retweets that called in for new customers. I think I did right, it served as promotion after all.
Pui: When talking about a publishing company, even more than 10 pages would be considered too much, so we're talking about something never heard of before.
Nakani: I released about 90% of my previous title for free as well. it still sold more than 30 thousand units, that is what brought me to entirely upload the new one for free.
Pui: You are trying to make yourself a name by uploading them for free...
Nakani: Yes. But still, I think that it depends solely on the author's style whether the will sell or not, so this may not work for some. More than concentrating on sex scenes, I want to show the dialogues and dramatic side of my titles, that is why 10 pages will not be enough.
── I will never release something that I am not 100% sure about. I don't want people to regret buying any of my creations.
Nakani: Web promotion is really important to me because I want customers to know what they are buying. Some mangaka don't even do promotion through social media platforms, but I think that's a huge mistake when you think of sales. 作It goes without saying that it is important to offer a high-quality product, but let's not forget about the importance of choosing which part you want people to see, and thinking about what pages of your work are representative of it and can get you new fans.
Pui: From a different point of view, many websites lately give directions about the number of pages. Consumers think that if they are going to pay the same amount, the more pages they get the better it is. Some years ago 20-30 pages would have been enough, but now we are going up to at least 40...
Nakani: Yes. It depends on the author as well, but I feel like it is better to have more pages to be able to showcase more of your style. Sometimes quantity is what it takes to catch the consumers' interest nowadays.
Pui: And that is another point that goes in favor of e-books. More pages to be printed would mean more expenses and fewer bookstores dealing with the title because of its volume.
── What do you think is the reason for your books selling even though you uploaded them for free?
Nakani: I think that being on social media helps you get closer to your fans, and works in your favor because customers don't mind spending money on titles they like or by authors they feel close to. Some people even asked me what platform should they buy my titles on, in order for me to get the most profit. I am very thankful to be in that position. We authors should not concentrate on the selling platforms, but also get customers for ourselves on social media. Of course, I also see the point in people saying that they would not spend money on something they can read for free.
── Customers lately have more awareness about the paying process, and they are happy to pay and give money to the authors. That might be something we would have never experienced out of the social media era.
Will publishing companies and editing still be needed from now on?
── How will these two change in a society that is giving more and more power to self-publishing?
Pui: As an editor, this is a problem I can not help but think about. Us editors (and publishing companies) in the adult manga section of the industry have always been a discussed position, and I can really feel reality hitting me when I sit next to Nakani.
── Even so, many authors are not so strong on the promotion side as Nakani is, or even some need an editor to set their deadlines or they will never finish a title.
Pui: Yes, that's true. Many authors still want to get ideas from their editors, and I think we play an important role with people that are just beginning as well. Also, editors are really necessary for different genres, different from the erotic one. There is more competitivity, the possibility for a title to turn into anime comes in, and the promotion is surely on a whole different level.
── Thinking about it the other way around, if an author can do marketing by themselves, they won't have any fee to pay to editors, and keep the whole income!
Nakani: The system has changed a lot, and authors can do much on their own right now, I surely feel that. There may be someone out there who has already done what you were thinking about, so there is no need to be a pioneer, you just have to study what they have done and adjust it so that it works for you as well. It is a walk in the park, really, if you can work well in that environment.
We saw many sides of this new selling system that we could have never thought of in the now existing publishing market. It is incredible to think that someone can make such a huge profit out of it. Of course, today's case was all thanks to the author's potential, technique, and sense of sales.
- Editor. Has been working for a big company dealing with adult content for more than 10 years, now specializes in comics on the web. Published a study on adult manga in 2019, Ero Manga Henshugi.