What's 'indent'? -Expanding opportunities for writers to be published commercially through the B2B original work(gensaku) agent business.

Hi there!

indent inc. is a company that conducts content business ranging from the development of products that support creative writing to the production/publishing of works in various media including novels and manga. Upon the appointment of Tsutsumi, former chief editor of KADOKAWA, Inc. as an independent director of indent, a special discussion between CEO Kamagata and Tsutsumi was held on October 17, 2023, where they shared their passion for writers and talked about indent's future.

◉ About Yui Tsutsumi

CEO of Isekai Frontier Inc., specializing in Light Novel Editing. Before founding Isekai Frontier, he worked for KADOKAWA Inc. as a manager and editor-in-chief of the Novel Editorial Department. At the age of 21, he started a web service venture, and after selling it to an IT company, he entered the entertainment industry (Frontier Works/Animate Group), where he committed himself to the establishment of publishing, Animate Cafe, and overseas café businesses. While he joined indent as a talent-spotting adviser in 2022, he became an Independent Director, or the Chief "Isekai” Officer, of indent, inc., to promote the original story(gensaku) business in July 2023.

Table of Contents

1. Meeting of two people who care about writers
2.Aiming to create a system to distribute more profits to the original writers
3. Expanding investment opportunities for writers and their works through the “B2B original work(gensaku) agent business"
4.Toward the future we want to achieve

1. Meeting of two people who care about writers

Kamagata: When I first met Mr. Tsutsumi, he was introduced to me by one of the founding members of indent. indent originally started with about 10 members who shared the same vision, and one of the members was acquainted with Mr. Tsutsumi. So to seek his advice, I arranged to have lunch with him in Akihabara, and that was our first encounter.

I still remember the heated discussion that ensued as we agreed on our thoughts about writers and the vision that we wanted to realize.

Tsutsumi: At the time, I was still working at my previous job, but I was really convinced when I heard about Mr. Kamagata's ideas. He made me think that he could actually realize what I had been always yearning for. After that, we talked and exchanged ideas and information with each other for a while. Later, when I became independent, I joined the company as an advisor, saying, "Let's commit ourselves to the same dream together."

Kamagata: On that day, we talked in a coffee shop in Akihabara, a district where contents are flourishing, and forming a culture. At the time, I was still young in age and indent was just another start-up company. Nevertheless, Mr.Tsutsumi engaged me in a discussion from a sincere, honest point of view. Considering his career, I couldn’t be more grateful... Simultaneously, it made me even more keen to have him join us.

2.Aiming to create a system to distribute more profits to the original writers

Tsutsumi: I felt compassion for Mr. Kamagata's philosophy. As an editor, my goal is to promote and maximize the intangible value of writers and creators by making it visible. For example, Isekai works are now widespread, but when I first launched a label in 2013, it was a minor field. However, when I first read them, I found that there were many intriguing works that had a different appeal from conventional commercial works. Essentially, they were diamonds in the rough that had great potential, but most of the public was unaware of the mine of gemstones. That is why I started the label to make people aware of its value. Now, 10 years later, we live in an age where everyone is provided with a place to publish their stories. The next phase is to develop beyond that, such as publishing as a book, adapting to manga, adapting to anime, adapting to game, and etc. In this age of versatility, the importance of the ‘original story(gensaku)' is growing.

Kamagata: I also feel the power of the original story(gensaku). With Japanese animation gaining popularity overseas, they are truly gemstones in the rough. That is why indent has been working to improve the creative environment for original stories(gensaku). I believe that our ideas match those of Mr. Tsutsumi, and that is why we have been able to work together. Do you have any thoughts on the issues regarding the environment surrounding original stories(gensaku) and writers nowadays?

Tsutsumi: This goes directly to why I am involved in indent, but literally, even if you put rough stones on display in a store as they are, they will not be noticed. For example, even in SNS, while easy-to-understand media such as videos and images easily goes viral, long novels are unfavorable in that they are "hard to be noticed". Nonetheless, expectations for manga and anime derived from original stories(gensaku) are rising rapidly, and inquiries from overseas are increasing. While there are many cases where manga artists write stories by themselves, there are also many cases where manga and games are developed with a specialized writer. In the latter pattern, I feel that the challenge is the phenomenon that the original story(gensaku) itself does not sell at all as it is, while it would be a mega-seller when converted into manga, even though the story in its original format is what truly has value. Kamagata: Yes, we do. I also feel that there is room for improvement in rewards to original story authors. It seems to me that in Korea, a scheme to reward authors has been established in response to the growth of Webtoon, a type of comic that is read vertically. I think that in Japan also, the cost advantages of electronic publishing could be better returned to the authors. I would like to create a system that can maximize the distribution of rewards to authors through a scheme that is possible only through digital development. Kamagata: If we look overseas, we can also find the light novel market. Even if an author is struggling in Japan, for example, by translating his or her work into digital format, the work may be picked up by publishers in other countries and published in book form. This is the kind of worldview that we are aiming for with our community translation project at indent.

Tsutsumi: Original works have intrinsic value because they can transcend language barriers. That is why Nola, the platform that indent provides to support the environment of authors, is so valuable. I myself have a strong desire to bring Japanese content overseas. I want to

support and create an environment where Japan can create original stories(gensaku) and a system for authors to generate income, because 'content' is where the uniqueness of the Japanese spirit is most evident.

Kamagata:Production is one of the prides that Japan can boast of. As the world where Japanese authors shine is expanding, I hope that Nola will be able to support them as a behind-the-scenes player.

Tsutsumi: Until now, the general royalty rate of 10% for authors was reasonable in the sense that publishers were taking on a certain amount of risk. However, with the development of technology, it is no longer required to hold more inventory than necessary, and if you work with e-books, it doesn't even cost you anything. That is why I feel that it is possible to design a system that far exceeds the old royalty system.

3. Expanding investment opportunities for writers and their works through the “B2B original work(gensaku) agent business"

Kamagata: If we can lower the risk of investing in a production, companies will be able to improve their chances of recovering their investment, which in turn will allow them to increase the amount of money they pay to authors. As one of our measures, we have launched the "original story(gensaku) agent business" for companies together with Mr. Tsutsumi.

Investing in an entrepreneur may be a close example- I think it is quite challenging for an investor to invest only in an idea that an entrepreneur has. But if the entrepreneur has knowledge and experience in marketing and management, then the barrier to investing in a novel business is removed.

Because indent is in a position to collaborate with companies as an operator of the platform Nola and original story(gensaku) agent, we are able to understand the trends and characteristics of works that are demanded by the market and readers, and we are able to communicate this information to the writers. We believe that works written with an understanding and consideration for the readers who will ultimately purchase their work can reduce the risk during commercialization, allowing the companies to recover their investment and increase the payment to the writers. Aiming for this cyclical structure, we would like to discover promising original stories(gensaku) that have not yet been discovered for companies, and at the same time, we would like to expand opportunities for authors to publish their works commercially.

Tsutsumi: There are two perspectives in the "original story(gensaku) agent business," namely, the so-called "market-in" type and the "product-out" type. The market-in approach, in which content is created in line with the needs of readers and companies, has become more established over the past 10 years. Nola is in a very important position as a platform that connects authors and readers. On the other hand, we cannot deny product-out.

Kamagata: I agree. However, I feel that even when working on product-out projects, it is necessary to have a market-in mindset. If you always think about what the market and readers are looking for when you are writing, it will gradually become a part of your thought process. Then, without forcing yourself to be conscious of it, you will naturally reflect the ideas and knowledge you have cultivated through market-in approach, and thus provide support to yourself as an author, even when you are thinking of a work in a product-out way.

Tsutsumi: Ten years from now, when a large amount of content will have been produced through market-in, there may be a demand for new works that present a completely different sense of value. That is why it is good to learn market-in with Nola first, and then aim for product-out.

4.Toward the future we want to achieve

Kamagata: It has been a year since we started the current project with Mr. Tsutsumi, and thanks in part to his expertise in discovering original stories(gensaku), we have been able to increase the number of opportunities to connect works to commercialization. We are now in the process of preparing to release works in the next fiscal year. We are very grateful that we were able to focus on creating this mechanism. We will continue to provide an environment where authors can create works and challenge themselves, as well as work with Mr. Tsutsumi to broaden their field. I hope that we will continue to work together with the authors in this endeavor.

Tsutsumi: I am also very excited about this project. I would like to create a new world by combining our strengths!

Kamagata: Indeed! I hope that we can continue to expand the possibilities for authors who use Nola!

*Company names and product/service names mentioned herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies.

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