#8. I haven't had a single meeting with an editor for several years now.
MANGA POVERTY #8
tl by danluffey
I haven't had a single meeting with an editor for several years now.
In the end, are publishing companies truly a necessity?
There's self-publishing, where the author covers all the funds necessary to publish the book, and then there's business publishing, where a publishing company covers the costs necessary for publishing (NOT creating) a book.
For manga, publishing companies employ editors, or "book planning professionals," who keep their eyes on the trends of the world and work with mangaka to produce manga that will sell. Sometimes, the editor takes care of the planning while the mangaka simply does the brute work. Whatever the division of labor is, business publishing is very unique. Since the publishing company is in control, they tend to prioritize the editor's opinions over the mangaka's opinions.
My series "Tokkou no Shima" (*1) was born from a Houbunsha editor's idea. That editor was very passionate about his idea, namely, "creating a manga set in World War II about a suicide torpedo named Kaiten." In this case, my job is simply to exercise my own personal style as much as I can within my limitations, do research, and write a good story.
*1 line: Tokkou no Shima - A historical manga about a special attack squad, centering on a Japanese suicide torpedo named "Kaiten," a.k.a. the "Human Torpedo," based on actual history. It began periodic serialization in Weekly Manga Times (Houbunsha) in 2004. As of March 2012, 4 volumes have been released.
The editor checks the finished manuscript, and if there are any mistakes or panels that look too confusing, he orders the mangaka to make changes. Then, after checking to make sure the changes were made, he goes through the final process necessary to get it into the magazine. Copyrights for the finished story belong 100% to the mangaka, while the publishing company reserves primary use rights to the finished manuscript.
This sort of relationship only becomes a problem if the power balance starts to crumble. Mangaka have to pay for all production and human labor fees on their own, and then actually draw the manuscript. As far as the law goes, they retain 100% of the copyrights to their work, but as far as the publisher is concerned, "this manga belongs to us." Many times, publishers and editors treat the finished product like their own.
Not only that, but it seems that even some people come to believe that they're the ones who are really creating the manga.
The other day, I met with a fellow mangaka, and he told me this: "I ran into this Koudansha editor named "__-san," and apparently, he used to be in charge of you, Satou-san, when you were working on Black Jack. He told me that he was originally the one who thought up the character named Akagi. Is that true?"
I never heard anything about that.
I haven't had a single meeting with my editor for several years now.
I design my panels on copy paper, and then fill in the story from the first page to the last, exactly how I think it should go. When I'm finished, the first thing I do is show it to my wife (yes, I'm married) and get her opinion.
With her comments in mind, I revise the panels and then draw the groundwork. When I've finished a good deal of it, I fax the manuscript to my editor and simultaneously begin work on the art. After my editor sends his comments back, I make changes that can be done in the final stages as I draw the actual manuscript.
For "New Give My Regards to Black Jack," my editor never saw any of the latter half of the serialized chapters. I just handed the panels to the editor and made him promise to not give me any opinions or thoughts on the work and simply let me know whether it could be published or not.
I had my staff members take care of all contact regarding scheduling and manuscript delivery. I consciously avoided all chances I had to speak with my editor, and never mentioned the name of the publishing company when I was collecting data. I simply tried to do everything on my own.
It wasn't like I hated my editor or anything. I was merely experimenting. "Can a mangaka create a manga at a constant speed and quality level without relying on the publisher?" Or, rather, "Can a mangaka make a direct connection with his or her readers?" That was my experiment.
Taking that step and releasing my manga online meant stepping into a world where I was completely disconnected from any publishing company. Of course, they wouldn't be able to help me there. What I wanted to know was, in that world, would I be able to provide good manga to my readers at the same pace?
It would require the ability to setup, plan, research, and produce the manga entirely on my own. I was trying to get myself prepared for that kind of lifestyle.
The answer I found was: all you need to make manga is a mangaka.
All I had to do was remember the days before I became a mangaka, when I was bringing my manuscripts in to publishers. Mangaka all start drawing manga on their own.
Of course, publishing manga requires the help of a publishing company, and it's fact that I relied on the help of publishers in many areas to create my works. Honestly, I'm very thankful, but as far as drawing manga goes, I do not believe that publishing companies are absolutely necessary. I understand that there are many mangaka out there who deeply value the meetings they have with their editors, and I'm not here to argue against them. Meeting with editors allow mangaka many chances to hone and sharpen their works, and it can be a great chance for them to kick the quality up to the next level. It's also true that publishing companies have played a big part in building manga culture. However, I hope you remember that "services" aren't all they've done for us.
One day, I wrote a manuscript. I haven't decided on the title yet. It's the first chapter in a new, long-term series. I wrote it all on my own without meeting with or talking to anyone.
Sooner or later, the media known as "magazines" will be no more. And when that happens, publishers will no longer pay manuscript fees to mangaka, and volume royalties will no longer be the only thing mangaka rely on to make a living. Publishing companies will most likely lose most of the functionality in their editing departments. At that point, perhaps cell phone comic companies will step in to support mangaka.
From a mangaka's perspective, I believe it's necessary for us to present an answer from our side as well. After I finished my manuscript, I sealed it neatly in an envelope, and then went to visit a website company my friend had introduced to me.