Since I officially became a freelance manga editor only a few weeks ago, there’s been a holiday season (think Christmas-style.) A few of the parties or dinners I’ve gone to since involved perfect strangers and relatives who haven’t seen me in awhile. A lot of people were asking what I did for a living or what I was up to these days. Had I graduated college yet?
When I told them that I edit manga, I was met with: “That’s the coolest job ever!” and/or “So what exactly do you do?”
While the process of editing comic books and manga might seem obvious to some, it clearly isn’t so obvious to others. Considering how I didn’t even know what it entailed a year ago, I figure there might be some people out there who could benefit from a little divulging.
1.Research- There’s a lot of manga out there. The industry has been going on for so long and is so much bigger in Japan and other countries, but the U.S. has only just started paying attention to manga. So the first step is to get look up, read and decide which manga an editor most wants to publish, keeping in mind popularity, tastes, ability to acquire and so on. Once it’s decided by a larger group of people which manga a publisher really really wants, it’s really up to the Japanese publisher to grant them a license. (With some persuasion, of course.)
2. Translation, adaption, editing- Once a manga is on the calendar and it’s a certain number of months ahead of the release date, the manga is translated and adapted, usually by outside sources, and the final script is looked over by editor. This usually involves making decisions like which phrasing to go with if the adapter or translator leaves multiple versions of a line, carefully placing the right fonts at the right places, making sure there isn’t anything missing in the translation and generally correcting errors. Editors also do a pagination so that people involved in laying out the actual comic know what goes where in terms of credits pages, advertisements, illustrations and the like.
3. Copy-editing- After the lettering is done and the English language script and the comic are finally joined together as one, an editor has to make sure that the spelling and grammar is correct as well as making sure that the art is decent and making sure that things are consistent overall. There’s also a bit of re-writing involved just in case something sounds a little awkward or jarring. This gets done at least 5-6 times and may have many different guises such as quality-checking or “going over the proofs.” It’s the most time-consuming part of the work.
4. Writing copy- Every manga has copy on it’s back cover and, if it’s a continuing series, some preview copy of the next volume. The editors write that and any other related promo copy for the book. (I’ve written promo copy for book trailers and press releases.) There’s also a lot of writing for other things such as newsletters, although that kind of thing is not always tied to a book.
5. Covers- While the designers make the covers, the editors have to sign off on them before they go to the licensor for approval or go to print. Editors make sure they like the concept of the cover art and that all the super-important stuff is in place such as ISBN numbers, age ratings and trademark symbols.
6. Brand managing- While I don’t do this personally as a freelance editor, other editors at TOKYOPOP are in charge of managing the “brands” of the series they work on. I’m actually not entirely sure what their duties are as brand managers, but I imagine that they involve keeping the titles looking consistent and pretty, making sure fans hear about the titles and generally getting them out there.
7. Managing original titles- Most of the titles put by manga publishers come from other publishers, so they’ve already been through that stage of “this is good, this is not good” stage of editing. Still, there are titles out there that are original to a U.S. manga publishing house, like Bizenghast. Editors who are assigned such titles are supposed to monitor and guide the creators as they work on the title in order to create a better product.
All in all, it’s a super fun job if you like this sort of thing. You have to really not mind looking at the same books at least 2 million times in a short period of time and have good writing skills to like it, but if you don’t, I imagine it gets boring pretty quickly.
I wouldn’t give it up for the world.