After the success of their Kickstarter campaign to reprint Osamu Tezuka's Swallowing The Earth, Digital Manga Publishing is now attempting to gather enough funds from their fans to finance the licensing and release of a new, never-published-in-English manga. This time, the Tezuka manga of choice is Barbara, the twisted story of a mad novelist and the strange woman he meets at a train station. It was published as a follow-up to Ayako (as in a spiritual successor, not a sequel), the disturbing historical Tezuka manga that Vertical published last year (read my review of Ayako).
Giving at least $25 to the Kickstarter will net you a copy of the book if and when it is released, giving over $35 gets you the book plus a digital companion with "bonus art and commentary," and DMP has thrown in a bunch of other nice extras as the pledge amounts get higher. (The top prize, for pledging $145 or more, is a copy of Barbara signed by Tezuka scholar Frederik L. Schodt, your name at the top of the credits in the book, and a tour of the DMP offices, among other things.) And the way Kickstarter works, your money only goes through if the campaign is successful, so there's no risk.
As anime scholar Helen McCarthy points out in a blog post, this new strategy of financing publishing based on customers fronting the cost is certainly unusual. However, a changing industry environment requires changing business practices, and I think this is a really cool way to get fans involved and ensure that releases are actually going to be profitable. Plus, DMP is getting more Tezuka manga out there, and that's all I can ask for.