Life of A (Rookie) Editor: The Privilege of Being Paid

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.

Um, what?

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.

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13 Responses to Life of A (Rookie) Editor: The Privilege of Being Paid

  1. Pingback: New licenses, translators wanted, and more digital manga « MangaBlog

  2. Ed Sizemore says:

    My rebuttal to the comment that prompted this post is simple.

    poor understanding of Japanese + infinite love of manga = poor translation

    A love of manga and a desire to do a great job can’t make up for years of actual experience translating. It’s really that straightforward.

    Yes, there are a few scanlations groups that do a great job, but they are rare. Yes, there have been some bad translations published, they are even more rare.

    Daniella, great post. Thanks for reminding me that I get to enjoy manga because of the love and labor of people like yourself, who aren’t getting paid what their worth.

    • Haha, that makes me feel awful. I don’t speak Japanese very well at all. But at the same time, I’m not usually dealing with the actual translation itself and if I do, when something is left out, I always get someone better at the language to help me out.

      It seems to me that most scanlation groups bypass the most important part of the production process, which is re-writing. I often see, when I take a look at scanlations, super-clunky and hard to follow phrasing. A re-writer is supposed to eliminate that, as is the editor, but it seems like they ignore this a lot in scanlations.

      Thanks Ed, for your appreciation. Please pass it on to other industry folks. I know a lot of them don’t get to feel it as often as I do.

  3. Nice post! Yeah, it’s always annoying to hear from people who think that anyone actually trying to make a living off of comics/art/whatever is a sellout, whereas they, with their non-manga job doing — I don’t know what? Nuclear physics? Working at the United Nations? Probably they’re unemployed college students — are living the pure, noble path, unsullied by money in their love of manga.

    That said, as an ex-fulltime manga editor, I do hate it when translators (and/or the now mostly extinct breed of ‘rewriters’) don’t bother to research anything about the series they are translating. There *are*, or at least were, a few bad translators out there. (Then again, translators also tend to get paid really badly, so…)

    • Here, here! Pursuing dream jobs that actually pay is not selling out!

      It’s probably worse than that–high school kids who’ve never had to work a day in their lives yet because they are solidly upper middle-class. I’m glad my mom made me get a job then or at least help her out with her business.

      Of course there are bad translators and whatnot, but there are still plenty of other people who work hard. Those who complain tend to point the finger at everyone in the company instead of the people who are really at fault. And then there are some “faults” with published manga that are really just subjective or uninformed.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Jason!

  4. As a college graduate myself, I understand how you feel about your desire to work in the industry despite the pay.

    Regarding translation issues, a literal translation DOES NOT always work. I’ve worked with a Japanese videographer recently to help put subtitles in an video interview I did with a Japanese band. We worked together to make sure that it sounded proper and makes sense to English viewers.

    I know the manga industry is in such a state of flux right now, but I am one of those people who are extremely passionate about manga. I love talking about it, along with anime & video games.

    Reading this has got me thinking about how I should shift my blog going forward. I do have an intention of focusing the blog towards certain psychology enthusiasts, not just the anime/manga crowd.

    I could possibly start a “manga psychology” niche in the U.S. I do know there are people who are interested in this as much as I am, albeit it’s a small number. There’s actually a group in Japan that focuses on manga psychology and a professor who’s done studies on it. I hope his work gets published online and in English.

    Also, as you said regarding pricing here compared to Japan, perhaps I should expand into the Japanese market because of the fact that a lot more people buy manga over there. My content might be even more insanely popular, because of the larger number of people that read manga, watch anime, and play video games in Japan. I could make some decent money with Japanese ads, affiliates, etc.

    The problem is that I can’t write/read in Japanese at all.

    So many things to consider going forward…..

    • Yeah…At least if I work in the industry, it’s legitimate exposure and experience I can use later. I know it’s super-tough for recent graduates to get jobs, so it makes me feel super lucky.

      Literal translation rarely works. That’s why the industry uses re-writers (or has the translators or editors do such things.) But then people nitpick because we used such and such translation and they don’t like it. Boy, that’s frustrating.

      Best of luck expanding your blog in different ways. I can’t read or write Japanese very well either, so I feel your pain there. I have, however, developed a certain sense for what’s going on in a manga, just by looking at it. But for a psychology blog, that sort of thing wouldn’t fly, huh?

  5. Well, I do credit manga as one reason that helped get my life together. I wanted to do some video testimonials from fans on how manga has helped inspire others to do well in life.

    Of course, this could be a risque subject since some anime/manga fans can be extremely sensitive when it comes to personal issues.

    Another thing is I would have to make a glossary of Japanese terms, a la what American manga volumes have at the end of the books, to educate normal readers.

    I also have a few colleagues in the psychology field that read manga and/or are interested in the things I say at times.

    The Japanese view on psychology is probably something I need to look into. I hear they do frown upon psychotherapy at times because of the harsh standards over there.

    I probably will only move ahead once I get more of the anime/manga community around to support what I’m doing.

    • I don’t know if manga helped me get my life together, but it certainly helped me figure out what I wanted to do with my life! I was a little lost in the sinking ship that is traditional journalism.

      I think the video testimonials is a great idea. Obviously people would have to be willing, but I’m sure you could talk enough people into it. The glossary of terms sounds like a fantastic idea too.

      Getting more support in the US market is probably really important, actually. The work you do is probably ground-breaking compared to the work in Japan that’s already established. Besides, the culture here is way different than what’s in Japan. I think it’s a good idea to focus here where you can do so easily and cover new ground.

  6. Hmmm, I do agree the U.S. market is extremely important.

    I don’t know if I would consider my work to be “ground-breaking”. I’m just trying to bring out another point of view. I just like to elaborate more about certain things, since they may not be touched upon or mentioned a lot by anime/manga reviewers.

    I do wish I had a psychology degree (though I minored in it), which would help immensely. I’m doing my blog out of pure passion, personal experiences, and analyzing real-life situations.

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