Tag Archives: editing

Life of a (Rookie) Editor: Making Mistakes

Last month, something happened that I really did not expect to ever happen. I made a mistake. A really big mistake. Don’t ask me why I was so incredulous, I was just feeling like I really had the hang of things at TOKYOPOP.

The mistake was this: somehow the translator’s final script got lettered into a comic instead of MY final script.

In case you don’t know, the scripting process on a manga (for TOKYOPOP, at least) goes translator -> re-writer -> editor. I’m supposed to be the last person who goes over the script and approves it before the layout people conjoin text and art. Somehow the wrong file was sent to the layout people and I got back something that looked like your average scanlation. (No joke. I’ve read enough scanlations and printed manga to know the difference and the difference is large.) It’s not that the translator was doing a bad job, but the point of having a re-writer is to polish the rough patches over and make it sound normal instead of clunky. My job is to refine what the re-writer turns into me further and make sure all the stylistic things I want are in there. (That means, fonts, bolding, italics, etc.)

So basically, I had to re-write the whole entire manga. Except, I couldn’t really do that myself. I had to leave notes for the touch-up people on the entire book and they had to re-letter it. It took me a long time. It took the poor touch-up artist a longer time to fix and there were problems right up until the file date after multiple copy edits.

At first, however, I was freaked out and I couldn’t find a clear way for me to fix it. I asked layout if it could be redone, but their answer was no. So, I sat there, with a copy of the intended script, making notation after notation on the page. I went home for a doctor’s appointment shortly afterward and cried to my mother that they were going to sack  me for making such an awful mistake. I bought a gift basket to apologize to the touch-up artist handling my book. I didn’t know what else to do (and I had a recent discussion with another touch-up artist and close friend about editors being jerks to her, so I felt extra bad.) I was so scared that I wondered whether it would be weird to prostrate myself into a dogeza position to show how sincerely sorry I was for this big awful mess.

But nothing happened. No one pulled me aside to give me a verbal beating or tell me that I was being let go. So I did the only thing I could do: keep working on the book and make it the best damn thing I could manage.

The second worst thing about what happened was that the book was one of my favorite manga of all time. It was a series I started reading in my very early days of fandom and I was ecstatic to learn I’d be editing it (and reading it before anyone else.) So no matter what, I had to make things right. All I could think of is if I ever met the mangaka and explain that I’d fucked up this volume. I’d probably be sobbing on the train ride back to my hotel and everyone on the train would be thinking: what the fuck is this gringo’s problem?

Unfortunately, it was also a very talkative series and a little bit longer than most other manga. I didn’t get to make EVERY final correction I would have liked to make, but no one who reads it is probably going to notice. Despite my overflowing love of that manga, I’m pretty sure only about 100 people will buy it when it comes out. I’m OK with that, as long as I don’t let any of them down as they read. If the talk I had today with the person who copy-edited it is any indication, I might have done a good job yet. She hadn’t read the series before and she was immediately drawn in. It wasn’t even, to me, the most exemplary volume of the series, but since she also said that it seemed I’d done a thorough job, I can die a bit happier inside.

I guess this post has two lessons:

1) You’re going to fuck up. This is life.

2) If you’ve fucked up and you can still fix it somehow, this is the time to be that stereotypical die-hard, perfectionist editor and no clunky phrasing shall survive your red pen.

If you go through number one and apply number two to it as needed, you’ll come out feeling not as bad about it.

Oh man, I am so happy to still have my job. o_o

A few related links:

Being thankful for working in the manga industry, especially in this day and age.

A little bit more about being a comic editor.


Filed under manga

Life of a (Rookie) Editor: It’s Not Easy Being Green

Just as a preface, there might not be another Webcomics Wednesday for awhile as I’ve run out of general ideas. Perhaps going to Alternative Press Expo in a few weeks will help me pick up some new material, but the Wednesday after the convention I’m having my gall bladder removed. It’ll be a fairly minor surgical procedure, but I will be staying at the hospital overnight and might be too loopy to blog for a few days afterward. I’ll try to coordinate some guest posts to keep you folks entertained.

Meanwhile, it’s been ages since I posted about how my life as a manga editor is going. As a warning, this post is going to sound a little dismal, but do not think I’m giving up. That is absolutely not the case.

I love being a manga editor. I really really love that part. The difficult part is being a freelancer. I don’t make a lot of money yet and when I talked to another freelancer friend who works in manga (albeit a different, more labor-intensive position), I got super-jealous to find out what she made. I basically realized then that I’m probably never going to make enough money to survive off freelance editing alone, at least not in the long run. If I were to get a full-time position, that would be another story.

It’s really tough being in my position, especially in this economy. Like most people my age, I’ve graduated college at a horrible time and jobs are hard to come by. Most of my friends who aren’t still in college or  have already managed to wrangle themselves something cannot not find a better job than pouring coffee at Starbucks most of the time. Very few of us have been able to build enough experience to easily get jobs and many jobs want lots of experience these days.

Making things worse for myself, specifically, the manga industry is a really niche industry that’s been hit hard recently. Go!Comi and Aurora have folded, CMX shut down, Viz had massive layoffs and Del Rey Manga just kind of folded and passed the baton to Kodansha USA. There aren’t a lot of places left for me to find work, even on a freelance basis. There are so many things I’d like to do, start my own publishing business or my own comic book store. But with horror stories happening left and right, this doesn’t feel like the right time. Not to mention, I’m not experienced enough to handle either at the moment.

That’s one of the reasons why I’d love a full time job. I want to experience how a publisher works more before I start a business. Either that or I’d love to get a job at a bookstore in order to better understand how they work. (But I can’t do that until after my surgery… maybe bookstores will be hiring for the Christmas rush then!)

I’ll stop complaining now. I’m still working on ways to make a better living, it’ll just take a little time and doing, like most things do, and I’ve got the rest of my life to do it!

On a more positive note, I’d like to introduce my second client, who will be debuting their first line this month, iSeeToon. They are based in Seoul, Korea and will be publishing webtoons for the iPhone and iPad (manwha/webcomics that are run through a sort of flash player is the best way I can describe it.) Their first webtoon will be Magician, which I did the English adaption for and edited. I hope you guys will check out their blog (just click the link on their name) and try out the webtoons when they come online.

On that note, I should probably get back to doing some other iSeeToon work so I will leave you with a link to the ANNCast I was on last week. Thanks to Zac Bertschy for having me.


Filed under manga

The Evolution of Manga Editing

My friend Dave threw me a behemoth of an idea my way last night as I was searching for a blog idea that would strike my fancy.  He suggested that I explore the evolution of manga editing, which honestly sounds more like a research paper than a blog post. It would cost me a lot of time and money in order to fully explore the evolution of manga editing, but here’s my go at the idea with only a few series as examples and my own experience under my belt.

So far I have been an editor on little over a dozen manga. As far as manga editors go, I am pretty sure this is a pretty paltry number, but I kind of, sort of just hit the one year mark of working in the manga industry (if you count internships.)

These days, manga editing is really streamlined. Each major company has its own style book and rules to follow and more likely than not, more than one editor reads a manga before it goes to print. Then again, most of the manga publishers these days have been around for years or have other publishers backing them with expectations, rules and editorial talent. There aren’t too many start-up companies around either.

Less than ten years ago, however, it was a bit of a different story. It was only seven years ago that TOKYOPOP first published Kare Kano (His and Her Circumstances) by Masami Tsuda. Since there are only two names I recognize on the credits page (the COO and the CEO), I hope no one takes offense to me picking one of my employer’s titles or that the company doesn’t take offense to my criticism of an old series. (Although senior editor Lillian Diaz-Przybyl tells me that all the mistakes I pointed out were corrected to the best of TOKYOPOP’s ability in the omnibus editions.)

I’ve been slowly re-reading Kare Kano over the past few weeks and the first few volumes were utterly painful. There are many things where I’m surely one of the very few who noticed, but there are numerous instances where Japanese text wasn’t erased before the English text was put over it, where the artwork or tones were erased and never replaced properly (or at all) and text intruding awkwardly on artwork, amongst other things. Sure, the editing improved after the first few volumes and I’m more than sure many things were corrected for the omnibus edition of the manga, but I have to say-no wonder legally published manga had/has a reputation of lower quality when compared to scanlated manga! Not that I think it’s true anymore…That was seven years ago, when TOKYOPOP hadn’t even been around for seven years yet! And now, I know for a fact that TOKYOPOP editors are aware of these past mistakes and know what to look out for. You won’t easily see any garish use of photoshop to replace screentones that were erased in the lettering process or an aside comment that never got translated. The company has sharper editors and sharper touch-up artists these days, but back then they were still learning the ropes.

Viz, however, had nearly 20 years to perfect it’s editing craft when it made (what I think) is a fairly big mistake of a different kind. In the first volume of From Far Away by Kyoko Hikawa, someone left the word “hella,” a Northern California slang word, in a line. When I first read From Far Away, it struck me more because I really dislike the word (being from Southern CA and all), but now it just seems like an amateurish error that they left it in there when the character never ever uses similar slang past the first chapter. (There is an instance of “omigod” in the first chapter, but I feel that it’s more forgivable because it’s just a slight variation on a very common phrase.)

Is this “hella,” however, as grave a manga-editing offense as messing up the artwork and forgetting to remove Japanese text under the English? Yes, because editing manga in the U.S. isn’t just about making things look just as shiny as the Japanese edition, it’s also about creating an ease of reading for the audience. Editors don’t want readers to be caught up in trying to understand a phrase and it’s important to keep a character’s voice sounding consistent to the readers, so using a fairly local slang word is likely to bother them and create confusion when the character does not continue to speak that way. Is it worse that they didn’t continue to use slang to make the character sound like a young girl through out the volume or worse they left in this one inconsistency? I don’t know, but either way it’s an error.

What I watch for in my editing process is a long list. Basically, I look for mistakes that have been made in the art after the manga has been lettered, I look for all the grammatical and spelling errors you would expect, I look for ways to re-write lines so that they sound smoother in keeping with the manga and the character saying them and I look for other things such as making sure the text doesn’t stray too far out into the bleed zones, making sure the size and format of the text conveys the mood and feel of original and making sure words are hyphenated properly. If there are lines that have not been translated into English, I translate them myself or get the help of someone more fluent than I am. If the translators or re-writers have left multiple choices for me to use in the script, I choose which one is the best and/or write in an explanation of some kind. I never catch every mistake that’s been made whenever I edit, but I figure that will improve with time and, in the mean time, I have other editors supporting me and finding what I missed. It’s a tough process and I’m 100% sure that other manga editors have let mistakes slip through and go to print. For example, Del Rey’s version of Mushishi regularly has text cut off. Either half a sentence will disappear at the ends of a page or you’ll have to seriously crack open your manga’s spine to get at it.

Even so, the way manga is published in the U.S. has improved greatly. There is little or no fear of reading a book right-to-left, which not only makes things more authentic to the reader, but easier for everyone who’s ever had to face changing dialogue because a character is now on the left side instead of the right! While there is major censorship around at some companies (and by censorship, I mean someone has a pair of pants on that they didn’t have before),  no one is re-writing entire manga with American names and American references anymore.  I’ve no doubt in my mind that what I’ve learned as an editor is based on years and years of figuring out what works, what doesn’t and finding the little things that no one caught before. I believe that the editorial process will only continue t0 improve the quality of manga as we editors work on more and more titles. The mistakes that I found, made long ago, are already obsolete in the manga made by those companies as it is!

Geez, Dave. Thanks for the great topic.


Filed under manga

My Life as a (Rookie) Editor: So What Do You Do Again?

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.


Filed under manga

Playing Catch-up!

Things have been so busy in my little world!

I’ve been interning at Tokyopop full-time, trying to find a part-time job and getting settled into my new surroundings… I’ve barely had time to do anything except write short tweets. Thank goodness for 140 character limitations! They’re easy to write at work.

I’ve more or less gotten permission to blog about my experiences at Tokyopop as long as I don’t reveal anything important (obviously!) so let me give you an idea of what I’ve been up to!

-Lots and lots of copy-editing! And quality checking and checking that changes have been made and making sure those changes are REALLY made when the pages go back to be corrected… Expect to see my name in the credits of a few manga in a couple of months! (Yaaay!)
-I wrote a tutorial on making crepes for the weekly Tokyopop newsletter! I actually made the crepes and everything, which was fantastic fun because I LOVE crepes. Yuuumm~~
-I’m also running a cat caption contest that’s featured on the Tokyopop homepage!! It’s super cute and all you need is a cat, a camera, photoshop and some funny to win some new manga like Fruits Basket Ultimate Edition 4 or Petshop of Horrors: Tokyo 6!
-A lot of copy writing, which is great practice for me, honestly. Too bad I won’t really get credited for that work, but in a few months a lot of preview copy (as in, In the next volume of….) you see in Tokyopop manga will have been written by me.
-A video project! Hopefully this will result in some fun videos on the Tokyopop site soon.
-Another cooking-related project I can’t really talk about yet. It’s all about a very popular dish though! I know my title isn’t exactly “cooking intern,” but I do enjoy cooking so I don’t mind.

I’ve been having a lot of fun. There are a lot of interns this time and all of us like to hang out and go to lunch together! It’s honestly been a lot of fun. There weren’t as many interns over the summer and we didn’t really click as well.

Speaking of which, if you’re a college student and you want an internship, I really think Tokyopop’s a great place. Even if you might not have the best opinions of the company (I won’t judge you), the people are great and you really get a feel for what working in this industry is like. If you’re not into editing, there’s also design, marketing, legal internships and one where you can work with Stu Levy, the founder and CEO of Tokyopop. I’ve met a number of other interns who’ve gotten into internships outside their college major too so don’t be discouraged if you love design but your major is physics. Here’s the internship page where you can learn more. Remember that it’s not a paid internship and that you MUST get college credit in order to intern there.

Next post I’ll have some choice words about the upcoming Twilight graphic novel being published by Yen Press because I can be a bit of a pessimist.

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