A few days ago someone commented on my Ten REALLY GOOD Ways and Not Steal Manga post with a lot of strong opinions about the suggestions I posted. I won’t go into detail about everything this person said, but at the end they made a comment that said scanlations are of better quality because scanlators post the manga out of the goodness of their hearts and professional manga publishing people are only after the money.
But instead of getting angry at this commentator (because that comment really hurt my feelings, to be truthful), I want to discuss how much of a privilege it is to be able to get paid for doing something I love so much.
Why is it a privilege? Well, for one, it’s not my company so I am grateful that I was asked to be a freelancer for TOKYOPOP. There are so many other interns who’ve wanted jobs just as badly, but I’m one of only two people that they’ve hired out of intern positions in recent times. Yeah, that’s something to be a little proud about! But I could lose the work I get from them if I don’t work hard to make every manga I work on as perfect as possible. So I work hard. For pennies.
That’s right, for pennies. Now, I’m not blaming TOKYOPOP here. I *wish* I could get paid more, but they’re also not in the best place financially and I am a rookie editor at best, so the pay is what it is. I take it because I’d rather do this than chase down jobs at Starbucks or McDonald’s. But then I would be working at McDonalds and how the hell do you think that would make a recent college graduate feel even if they were making twice as much money a month than at a degree-related job? Not good. What the hell did 4+ years of tuition just get wasted on? So I feel lucky to be working actually related to my degree straight out of college.
But at the same time, I am pretty stressed about money. If I had a few more clients, I’d be considerably less stressed about money. Am I actively pursuing new clients so that I may make more money? Yes, but I am being very stupid about it. How so? I’m only pursuing other manga publishers. Because I really want to work on nothing but manga. I have been so spoiled from working with TOKYOPOP and iSeeToon. When I meet other people and they ask what I do, I get the most awesome responses when I tell them. All the manga that I buy are now tax-deductible. Excuse my language, but how fucking awesome is that to me? So fucking awesome.
You see, I’ve only been an editor (internships included) for a little over a year, but I’ve been a manga fan for about 10 years now. When I learned I could get a job working in manga, my reaction wasn’t really a “woohoo, I get to make money off of manga” so much as a “woohoo, I can do something I really love for the rest of my life.” The only part about getting paid that really helped was to convince my skeptical mother that my hobby had become legitimate.
Now, I don’t know the life stories of everyone in the manga industry, but I can tell you that most people I know don’t do it because they hate manga and they only want the moola involved. As far as I know (and I’ve heard this from so many different people), you just do not get into this industry because the pay is good. In fact, I hear people saying the pay is shitty (and/or the fans make it a shitty job sometimes) all the time. I’ve never once heard someone say the pay is good, so why are all these people in the industry to begin with? Surely they have enough skills to find similar, better paying jobs elsewhere. But you don’t see them actively talking about how they’re trying to find something better to do with their lives than manga publishing. Why? Well, probably because they’ve got some deep, affectionate feelings about manga too. If they were any other way, why have I drooled over manga with so many different people in the industry? I really fangirled (or boyed) with a lot of these people at some point or another. Why would you do that if you weren’t actively interested in the medium? I cannot come to any other conclusion than these people are passionate about manga.
If we industry people were really so obsessed with money, I think all of us would try a lot harder to find other jobs and leave all the hard work to the scanlators. Getting paid to do our jobs is really just the icing on the cake.
For everyone who isn’t convinced by this because manga prices are so damn high these days, let me explain why this is. Manga in Japan is cheap because they have a more open culture about reading comic books. Their market can afford to print 3 million plus copies of One Piece because there are 3 million plus people in Japan who will buy those copies of One Piece. There are not 3 million plus people in the US who will do the same, so if you want manga at Japanese prices, you have to work hard either at finding deals or encouraging more and more people read manga so that manga publishers here can make prices lower and still pay their employees. So if your manga is $12.99 or higher that’s because the publisher knows that you and maybe 2,000 other people are going to buy it and those extra copies no one bought are going to sit around in their warehouse forever. If your manga is $8.99 it’s because the publisher knows that way more than 2,000 people are going to buy it so there are going to be fewer unsold copies that cost them a lot of money. I hope that makes sense.