The controversy on 'Say Hello to Black Jack' author Satou Shuuhou, the financial situation of manga artists

Shuho Sato has been one of the most vocal authors over what are the earnings and the expenses of a manga artist, think of Fukuda Shinta from Bakuman in real life.This all starts with the news that the author pulled out of his contract with Kodansha, due to his dissatisfaction with the publishing company, stating that they were "making light of him."

 He explained that the certificate was stamped with the seal of the editor-in-chief of Morning, the magazine that Say Hello to Black Jack was serialized in, rather than the Kodansha company seal; the certificate is technically for an agreement between Kodansha and Sato's own company.

In a follow-up post, he stated that as a result of the contract being cancelled, the book was immediately considered as out of print, and that readers who find any unreturned copies of the title in bookstores should report them as "illegal publications."

He is famous for indicating that the top 100 mangaka in Japan apparently make 70 million yen a year on average from royalties. Sato met with some manga researchers the day before and the topic had come up in the discussion:

In 2009, 5300 people published mangaka in tankoubon format, and among them, the top 100 mangaka earned around 70 million yen a year. Everyone knows that Japan's best-selling manga of all time is Oda Eiichirou's "ONE PIECE", and it has been estimated that his yearly earnings amount to 3.1 billion yen (38 million USD), of which 1.3 billion come from tankoubon royalties. However, the rest of the 5200 mangaka who were published earned only a meager 2.8 million a year. The average salaryman earns 4.9 million a year, so for a mangaka to maintain a similar lifestyle, they need to publish at least a volume a year and sell over 120,000 copies in total. It is said that it is next to impossible to live one's whole life as a mangaka.
If we also take Bakuman series into account:

The average salary of a mangaka is: (5200 yen) $2905 monthly / $34860 per year, which is the equivalent of what an Illustrator / Graphic Designer earns in the US.

 In Bakuman (chapter 35), we are told that for a one-shot, mangaka are paid 9000 yen (~111 USD) per page. As for serialized mangaka, they are paid 12000 yen (~150 USD) per page as their starting pay (increases with seniority), though color pages are worth 1.5x more.

 The main cost is going to be assistant salaries. Assistant salaries were mentioned in the manga (Chapter 35, page 11). 380,000 yen a month (that's roughly $4,750 per month) for a head assistant and 160,000 yen a month (that's $2,000 per month) for a newbie assistant.

Assuming a veteran and two newbies, that is a monthly cost of approximately $8750 for assistants. But in the series the assistants were paid by the company.

Assuming a 16 page chapter each week (the color pages are variable), a mangaka makes $9,600 a month, ignoring royalties. Rent and other costs would probably eat away the difference (likely more).

When Shuho's Uzimaru was serialized. He made public his expenses, and it mostly goes away with the payment to assistants:

Costs per month: 

Tax: 80,000 yen (~USD$895)
Monthly pay for 3 assistants: 470,000 yen total (~USD$5,257) 
Monthly food expenses for the staff: 100,000 yen (~USD$1,118)
Cost of drawing materials and reference materials every month: 100,000 yen(~USD$1,118)
Rent for the studio: 70,000 yen(~USD$782)
Utilities bill and other misc expenses: 50,000 yen(~USD$559)

Satou Shuuhou got 800,000 yen(~USD$8,946) a month for Uzimaru, so deducting everything he has a deficit of 70,000 yen(~USD$782).

He stated that he makes a loss of 200,000 yen(~USD$ 2,236) a month if he includes his daily expenses and needs. Of course, since the cost of living in Japan is very high for all, natives and foreigners. And I'm not even mentioning that a mangaka works 20 hours a day.

So either you are a famous author who earns an insane amount of money per month, or you struggle at the bottom, earning less than the minimum wage, no wonder it's a gamble.

The question that remains is: would digital publishing change the situation for manga artists?

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