Word got out earlier this year, during the scanlation wars, and now Digital Manga is making it official: They are looking for translators and editors to help them localize their new manga—but no one, including Digital, will get paid until someone actually buys them.
According to the Digital Manga Guild website, the publisher has made agreements with six Japanese publishers to bring over hundreds of manga to be published online beginning next year. And they need help:
We are in search of groups and individuals to help us with the process, NOW! This entails the need for translators to translate manga from Japanese to English, as well as other languages; editors/rewriters to clean up the translations for a smooth read; and letterers to retouch and typeset text. Once a title is completed, it will be digitally distributed through our platform for purchase. With your help in this process, we can supply more manga faster, to feed everyone’s manga addiction!
Workers will be allowed to participate in Digital’s revenue-sharing program and will get a percentage of sales, but no one, including Digital or the Japanese publishers, will get a dime until people actually buy the book.
This sounds exploitative, and it may be, but Digital has a good rapport with fans, and the fact that they are holding off on their cut until the books are sold helps boost their cred. For a certain type of fan, it’s a sweet deal—scanlators who are already working for free will get a trickle of money, and it’s conceiveable someone could pull out a work they have already done and hand it to Digital with the prospect of payment down the line.
If indeed Digital is looking at works that are already in scanlation, this may be a way to get them off the free sites and onto their website without the ill feeling that litigation or threats might bring. On the other hand, the scanlators who are asking questions in their forum seem to be concerned that Digital is using the Guild as a way of flushing the scanlators out; they are wary of registering and telling Digital what they have done already.