How Much Does A Mangaka Earn – Make Money As A Mangaka

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Written by Juha

Is it possible to make money from your own manga? How much money do mangakas make? A mangaka in Japan can make over ¥2,000,000 (roughly $19,000) per year, or over ¥50000 (approximately $470) per volume. Eiichiro Oda, the top-earning mangaka in Japan, is rumored to have even made around ¥3 billion (roughly $29,000,000) last year.

So, that must mean being a mangaka is an easy way to get rich! Hate to break it to you, but becoming a successful mangaka is not possible without some seriously hard work.

In addition to that, the majority of manga artists won’t make above ¥2 million (roughly $19,000). However, there are a few ways artists have figured out how to support themselves full-time off their art in the digital age. Let’s explore some close kept industry secrets behind the salary of a mangaka.

How Much A Mangaka Earns

While some mangakas make some serious cash, that’s only a small percentage. However, according to some salary reports, the median salary for a mangaka in the US is around $65,000.

But a mangaka’s money doesn’t typically come from their salary alone. Royalties are a huge part of making a profit from manga. Merchandise, including shirts, scrolls, and figures, comprise a large portion of a mangaka’s earnings.

Those earnings double if the manga branches out to anime. Some mangakas, however, experienced a long road to being able to head their own manga.

Many started off as assistants, which earn around ¥180,000 (roughly $1,700) per year.

The Details of the Money

It’s actually not as common for a mangaka to be salaried, whether by an animation company or a publisher. Manga is sold like books; how much a mangaka earns is usually dependent on the contract they’re offered.

A publisher offers a contract for a number of pages or a volume, and the mangaka is paid an upfront fee. How to go about convincing a publisher to land a contract?

Well, most mangakas have at least a volume drawn in advance to hook the publisher in, hopefully, to request more volumes. In some cases, mangakas have nothing drawn at all and rather pitch their idea using storyboard art or prior work.

When Things Get Big

That begs the question, what happens if the artist’s manga goes viral and sells millions of copies? It’s not unheard of. Some mangas have massive followings and seemingly exploded overnight.

Most manga authors receive a royalty from the sale of each volume, and if a manga gets especially popular, the publisher is likely to extend the contract for further volumes (and at a higher rate).

This is a tricky field for mangakas to navigate. While sudden success may seem like a great thing, it also comes with a number of legal loopholes and red tape to clear.

Negotiating Contracts

In particular, manga artists have to really advocate for themselves in order to get the earnings that they deserve, especially when the manga gets its own anime.

Some manga artists have remarked that allowed merchandise to be produced of their characters in exchange for a licensing fee (which is standard). But no royalties were ever negotiated.

Therefore, companies make hundreds of thousands of dollars from the artists’ idea, while the artist only walks away with a much smaller sum paid upfront.

Being a mangaka means having the potential to make a lot of money, but it’s almost the equivalent of a sports player making it to the major league. 

Contracts are difficult to navigate, and sometimes it’s best to get the advice of a lawyer before making any major decisions.

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Drawing From A Manga Called Akira – Photograph taken from an art book called Akira Club

Do Manga Artists Get Paid Well?

Many people wonder if manga artists make enough money to support themselves full time. That’s dependent upon where they live, of course, and how much mangakas typically get paid there.

This is an important factor for anyone dreaming of becoming a mangaka to consider. Anything can be a hobby, but if you’re planning on making manga the number one priority in your life, you need to be able to support yourself.

Moving to Tokyo to get closer to where the manga markets are strongest isn’t exactly cheap either. Let’s take a look at how manga artists fare with their earnings.

Japan’s Finest

Japan is the home of manga and the obvious gold standard for the industry. Being in close proximity to the largest publishing houses and magazines will increase your chances of landing a contract or even getting views on your self-published work.

But the areas where manga artists typically work are metropolitan areas, and rent can be extremely high.

Not only that but if you’re a foreigner, you’ll have to deal with Visas and other international stipulations.

You’ll likely have to get a job to support yourself until you land a contract or assistant’s job, but the high cost of living might mean working long hours, and long hours means less time to work on your art.

International Mangakas

But today, more artists are able to work virtually, especially in the time of the pandemic. That’s also enabled people from other countries to strike success in the anime and manga market. If you’re foreign to Japan, this might be your best bet.

Many Western people have found jobs as mangakas, assistants, or animators while still residing in their home country.

You can gain valuable experience by interning at a graphic novel company or for another artist, even if it’s not in the manga style.

Many mangakas from the US got their start by working for companies like Marvel or DC. While the art style is different, the organization and structure of the companies are very similar and offer valuable experience.

The Story Behind the Richest Mangakas

While it’s important to think realistically about making it big as a manga artist, it’s also fun to explore what may lie ahead. When mangakas make it big, they make it really big.

Their mangas (and subsequent animes) can gain cult-like followings. Some artists have gone on to gain not only millions of dollars but fans as well. If fame isn’t something particularly revolting to you, then read on to hear some of manga (and anime’s) top success stories.

Masashi Kishimoto

Widely regarded as one of the most well-known manga artists, Masashi Kishimoto is the mastermind behind ‘Naruto’ and its subsequent spinoffs. 

From a young age, Kishimoto dreamed of writing his own manga and drew all throughout school. In particular, he was a fan of the beloved magazine Shonen Jump.

It wasn’t long before Kishimoto tried his hand at producing a shonen manga, and to his surprise, Shonen Jump picked it up.

The rest was history, as his naive and somewhat rebellious ninja in training character Naruto became a massive hit. Today, Kishimoto’s net worth is a staggering $25 million USD.

He’s ranked as the 6th richest mangaka in history, and his fortune only continues to grow with the development of new spinoff series and merchandise.

Eiichiro Oda

If Masashi Kishimoto is only the sixth highest-grossing mangaka, then who is the first? The answer might not surprise you. It’s the legendary Eiichiro Oda.

According to CBR, the artist has sold over 450 million volumes of his One Piece manga. At only 46 years old, his net worth is valued at around $200 million dollars.

It’s incredible to think that a man who began with a single volume in 1997 has expanded to a massive fortune and multiple shows, video games, merchandise lines, and more.

If that’s not surprising, then perhaps is the fact that Oda even has the Guinness World Record for the most published copies for the same series by an individual author.

Despite his success and massive fortune, Oda seems to stay true to his art, still publishing new volumes as of 2021.

Akira Toriyama

One more successful artist to note is Akira Toriyama, the founder of the Dragon Ball franchise. Toriyama is consistently ranked as the second highest-grossing mangaka in history, although there’s quite a steep disparity between his net worth and that of Oda.

It’s estimated that Toriyama clocks in around the $45 million range. That’s somewhat surprising since Dragon Ball first debuted in Shonen Jump in 1984.

That means the series and its wildly successful crossover, Dragon Ball Z, has been around for 37 years. So why does the mangaka of such a long-running series have a significantly lower net worth?

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There’s a lot of hush hush surrounding the issue, but it could be due to royalty and licensing issues. Counterfit merch is a huge problem, as are manga pirates who upload new content, so others don’t have to pay for it. 

Oda’s not immune to that either, but he seems to have taken a note or two from mangakas before him and argued his way for his rightful dues.

Is Being a Mangaka a Good Career?

The highs and lows of being a mangaka is enough to scare young dreamers away from the career path. Is being a mangaka a good career? The answer is yes. If creating manga is your absolute passion, then you will do anything and everything in your power to create like you were destined to. If you’re only interested in being a mangaka for the fame and the royalties, then it might be wise to pick another career path.

What distinguishes the best mangakas apart? They’re fiercely dedicated to their work, including both their characters and their fans. They started small, first writing for magazines like Shonen Jump and working up to larger installments and volumes.

They started off as assistants to other manga artists, and most importantly, they practiced their art each and every day.

Mangakas Gone Virtual

The typical mangaka path to success involves drawing a manga, pitching the idea, and getting picked up by a publisher. Or, as an alternative, getting published in a magazine like Shonen Jump and finding critical acclaim.

But today, the rising stars of the manga world had a little different path on their way up. In particular, many manga artists are able to grow their own followings online, sometimes amassing thousands of readers.

Sites like Fanbox make it easier than ever to connect with other manga fans and self-publish your own work.

There’s something to be said about self-publishing. In the traditional book industry, some authors made headlines when their names reached the New York Times Bestsellers List, yet they weren’t represented by a publisher.

They were entirely self-made. And self-made seems to be a common theme among today’s emerging mangakas.

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The New Path to Making it Big

The answer to becoming a self-sufficient mangaka doesn’t necessarily lie in “making it big.” Some well-known mangakas have made their own personal fortunes without ever publishing in print. The reason why? They’ve found a niche to call their own.

Niches in anime and manga have dedicated fans who are more than willing to devote themselves to a series. Examples of niches include zombies, the supernatural, royalty, romance, historical fantasy, and even mermaids in bathtubs.

Dedicating yourself to a niche means having exclusive access to an audience and raises your likelihood of earning monthly support via sites like Patreon.

It’s no surprise then that some of today’s top mangakas are making thousands of dollars per month on Patreon. In fact, some of the all-time earning users on Patreon are anime and manga artists.

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Manga in and of itself is a niche, so to narrow that down even further is a great way to maximize your income streams.

So, in answering the question of whether or not being a mangaka is a good career, the answer is really determined by what you want out of your life.

Do you want to stay at home, drawing manga instead of your boring office job? Or are you looking to go big or go home and be the next big anime and manga superstar?

Either way, it’s more than possible to make a decent, average income solely off your art. That’s not to say it’ll be easy, but it’s possible. If you’re willing to put in the consistent effort to reach that point, you’ll find yourself at a place where you can be a full-time mangaka.

With so many content creators in today’s freelance world, mangakas fit right in.

How Much Does a Mangaka Make Per Volume?

Let’s break down how and what mangakas are actually paid for. Almost all mangakas start off by publishing a chapter of their manga at a time in a serial magazine or another similar platform.

If the story garners enough attention, they’ll receive a contract in which their chapters will be compiled into a single volume or a tankōbon volume.

Industry Secrets

Initially, manga artists are usually paid per page for their manga. The price for that varies, depending on how well known the magazine is, how featured the story will be, and more.

Mangaka Shūhō Satō gave a rare insight into his personal contract with a big name manga magazine and how it compares to his contracts today. 

According to Medium, Shūhō first earned approximately ¥10,000 per page and was requested to draw 80 pages a month. That totals to about $8,000 USD.

That amount may seem quite a bit, but it’s actually not much and on par for mangakas just starting off. Shūhō details the expenses that he had to subtract from this total, including his assistants and his materials. After subtracting these, Shūhō walked away with about $1300 USD for his 80 pages in Shonen Jump.

For his own personal salary, that’s not too entirely bad. If he lived alone and in a smaller apartment, that could potentially be enough to get by.

But Shūhō didn’t stop there in his manga career. His earnings today? For Say Hello to Black Jack, the mangaka makes ¥35,000 (roughly $300) per page. That’s a huge difference from his first manga.

The funny thing is, his payment from Shonen Jump doesn’t even cover the expense for his assistants. The difference this time around is that he receives royalties, which likely makes the bulk of his income.

To Be or Not to Be

It’s quite fascinating to think of life as a mangaka. Adored by fans, with your own personal assistants, your books selling copies by the second.

Today’s digital climate makes things a little more interesting for mangakas. At the same time, however, it also makes being a mangaka a tangible career for anybody. Any career involving art is always going to be prone to some challenges.

However, you could consider it like opening your own store. Your goods are your manga pages, and you have to be strategic about how you sell them. Not everyone opts to put their products in big box stores, although it appears that’s where all the money is.

But the trending strategy is to move your business online, and mangakas have done just that. Engaging with your fans directly is not only rewarding but will help build your following as a mangaka.

Soon, you’ll be able to transition into supporting yourself directly by your art. You might even consider moving to Japan if you don’t already live there. There, you’ll find the connections to take your art even further.

It may be a long road until you see one of your beloved characters as a merch item or a volume of your manga sitting on the shelf of a book store.

But however long and winding that road might be, the trip is worth it. If creating a manga is your passion, then today’s the day to commit to doing what you love.

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