Why I think DLsite's Translators Unite is a great way to go legit with doujinshi scanlations now

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I'm not an employee of DLsite or anything but I've been freelancing using their Translators Unite program for awhile now (OCD Translations) and just thought it's a shame it seems to be so under the radar, and thought I should share my experiences with it after going at it for over a year now.

For those who don't know, Translators Unite is a platform launched by DLsite in around November of 2021, integrated into their main website, where any manga or ASMR hosted on DLsite can be registered by its author to be translated. The author sets a reward for the translator at either 20%, 50%, or 80% of their cut of the sales, and earned revenue is sent monthly by DLsite.

Registered translators can then pick any eligible work to translate, finish it up, pass it onto an editor and revise as necessary, and then have it go up for sale within a week or so on average.

I just see a lot of potential for this in letting scanlators go official with their work, without getting tied down to a company assigning work to them they might not care to do. The model gives a high degree of freedom allowing you to pick and choose from all registered works, so it has great synergy with the whole fan-translation community.

I'm under the impression that Translators Unite started off with giving a really bad impression to readers/translators, particularly with how translators were made to use a clunky browser-based editor for cleaning and typesetting manga.

Most critically though, TLU now allows translators to just upload their own edits directly instead, allowing them to tap into whatever tools they usually work with and finally putting them on even footing with traditional scanlators. (They reaally should've advertised this update more)

...unfortunately, atm they do require you do get 6 works completed before they trust you enough to use that feature, but there's speed run strats like picking really short manga/ASMR to edit.

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Key points

Strengths:
  • Fully legal and resume-friendly (well, as far as R18 content goes)
  • Revenue earned by commission with pretty insane rates available (up to 80%), builds up passive income.
  • Simp for your favorite authors and actually support their work (revenue is split between translator/author)
  • Authors often willing to send you textless raws, resulting in higher quality releases and no need to clean/redraw.
  • Editors work with you
  • No hard deadlines, you just pick and choose your own projects and do them at your own pace.
  • Staff reliably respond to feedback from translators etc. to improve the program
  • Entry-level friendly, low barrier to entry (but the editors won't let just any MTL garbage ms paint edits through ofc)
  • Cute little bonuses/incentives like DLsite points for the value of each work you translate, 100% off coupons for eligible works, dank certificate they send you in the mail after 12, then 60 works (with a fabled inscribed shield at 120 works released o-0)
Weaknesses:
  • You only earn as much as it sells (so don't quit your job for this anytime soon)
  • Most people will still read your work for free anyways (10k favorites on NH, less than 100 sales on DLsite, I crie)
  • Editors work with you
  • Can't make a meme-filled credits page or use shamelessly use stolen fonts, only open license stuffs (but there's plenty tbh)
  • Competing with other translators on the same work if you're unlucky*
  • No de-censoring works, since it's based in Japan.
  • Currently just a thing for doujinshi, and your favorite author may not register their works for the program (though you can kindly beg them to and I successfully have before heh)

*Up to 10 translators can technically pick up the same work. Multiple translations can be released for the same work. In practice, this rarely happens, as most translators avoid picking up works that have already been claimed, but some juicy targets occasionally prompt competition.
It's rare enough, with only 3/42 works of mine being shared like that. It sucks when it happens, but... I guess it's an unfortunate side effect of a system that prioritizes freedom/flexibility. Scanlator drama 2.0, if you will.

Other criticisms:
My only other real gripe with how translations are handled is that there is a degree of pointless censorship when it comes to lolicon works. That is, like many official publications these days, they make us dance around details that imply anything to the contrary of "all characters are 18+" etc., such as censoring out specific ages or avoiding phrases like "middle schooler" etc. to be replaced with generic words like "student".

I've had the same experience with an eroge localization company I've worked with too, and it's an unfortunate and rather stupid trend imo of companies playing it safe in odd ways, but I guess it's not tooo huge a factor for me. Still want that to change though.

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Anyways, I just think it's a cool way for scanlators to earn fair money for their hard work without turning to any shady methods or being exploited by scummy employers at garbage flat rates.
The authors don't get screwed over, and the readers have more direct control/information over which translators they buy from (and even leave ratings for) instead of being stuck with a big publisher gacha and just hoping for the best.

I really do think the sales-based revenue is a generous deal unheard of for entry-level translators, but in practice, it is held back by having disproportionately low sales compared to JP sales and actual global readership. Official/legal translations have just taken waaay too long to catch up, so people just aren't used to having options aside from piracy and what I guess are technically "black market" commissions lol.

It's far from perfect, but I think it should be enticing to scanlators from both a moral and financial perspective, and I'm hoping this sees success and similar models may catch on more to make a healthier environment to support more "official fan translation" works for people who want to make this into more than just a hobby.

And to be clear, I don't think official translations will ever outright replace scanlations anytime soon, but as far as official translations can go, this really seems like a good step in the right direction.

Anywhoo here's their official page about it for more info: https://www.dlsite.com/modpub/lp/overseas/translator/index_en_us.html
(also SMH they still haven't updated the info page to explain you can just upload your own edits now)
 
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Update: They no longer require translators to complete 6 works before being able to directly upload their own edits.
They instead have you sign some agreement which AFAIK holds you responsible for not using unlicensed fonts, so uhh just stick to commercial free fonts & free blambot ones.

I also neglected to mention you can also translate ASMR/audio through the same program.
 
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I don't have a knack for learning another language but that was interesting to hear about. I'll try to spread word of it.
 
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99% of TU content that I see get reupped onto panda is barely tolerable slop written by people who clearly have a less than stellar grasp on the English language, not even getting into their grasp on Japanese (i.e., SEAsians, as usual). DLsite claims they have editorial oversight but it's painfully obvious that it is selectively applied at best, and entirely absent at worst.

Combine this with the absolutely pitiful slave labour wage they offer (recall that the program started with the laughable practice of "paying" the members of the program with DLsite points instead of, you know, money) and it's no wonder that people from developing countries are the only ones who bother going through with the whole sham.

On week 1 of TU's existence my group released a book that simultaneously appeared in the first wave of TU releases (ignore the MD date discrepancies, we uploaded it here late). Even just comparing their sample images with the corresponding ones from our version, the difference in quality is obvious, and I'm sorry to say that this is still the norm even to this day, two-ish years later. About the only thing going for TU is that it's legal. Everything else about it is on par with or even worse than the pirate scene. At least when I decide to work on something I'm not hamstrung by being forced to use something like Mantra, nor am I being insulted by being paid peanuts for my work.

For a company with as dominant a market position as DLsite, there is no reason my commercial translations with a much smaller publication pay me more than 5x the rate that DLsite offers. They can and should do better than glorified slave labour IF they actually cared about providing quality translations of the wealth of content found on their platform, not to mention all the other headass problems I pointed out. But they don't, so they won't.
 
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