Tag Archives: freelancing

Life of a (Rookie) Editor: Dealing with Taxes

I apologize that this post is a little off-topic. I tried to bring it back around to manga, but it’s a little shaky. Here goes:

If there was one thing I wish someone had taught me how to do when it came to life’s many lessons, it would have been to sit me down and tell me how to do my taxes.

Let me explain: having to do my taxes is one of the few things I’ve dreaded about being an adult. I’m horrible at math more complicated than basic arithmetic and I don’t understand economics in the slightest. Before becoming an independent, all I did in terms of taxes was sign the forms my mom got from her tax guy.

So after said tax guy gave me a quick de-briefing on when to pay the IRS, what to deduct and all that jazz once I became a freelancer, I kind of forgot about it all. I knew I had to set aside a certain amount to pay the IRS, so I did that every few months. Then I came home off my trip to Thailand, caught up on work and realized that I had to pay the government soon! In only a few days, actually! Oops.

I tried desperately to understand the tax forms, but it just read like gibberish or there was information I couldn’t provide blocking my way. It was frustrating. It’s not like I didn’t know how to fill out other stuff, but somehow I couldn’t get over the hill and into “this makes sense”-land.

I wound up asking for many people’s help, including other freelancers, former freelancers and that tax guy I mentioned earlier. While many people were more than willing to try to help, still nothing pushed me over the hill into understanding until I finally got a hold of my mom’s tax guy again.

And then he did it all for me. I was kind of flabbergasted at how simple it was. I just told him how much I made, what my various deductions were and he sent me an invoice to send to the IRS with how much money I owe them for my quarterly estimated payment. (What freelancers/small businesses have to pay the government.) Why isn’t doing taxes on your own this simple? (Seriously, there’s something wrong with our government if taxes can’t be done by someone who isn’t trained to do them.)

What does this have to do with manga? Very little. But to be honest, I see the manga industry heading in a direction where a large part of the work is sent outside the company. I see very few full-time job listings from publishers except for sales people, programmers and the occasional executive or designer. If another type of post pops up, it’s because someone has vacated a job the publisher deems vital enough to keep. So what’s left? A network of freelance translators, adapters, editors, letterers and designers. To be frank, I think this entire nation is heading towards freelance because so many Americans don’t have jobs except for the ones they can create themselves. Anyone preparing themselves to try and enter the industry needs to be aware that their taxes are a bit different from everyone else’s and you aren’t going to be panicking with everyone else on April 1st.

Here’s a few quick tips:

1. Get help from someone: Unless you studied to be a CPA in college, you probably won’t understand the tax forms and myriad of literature that tells you how to fill them out. If your parents, other family members or friends can’t help you get things sorted out, it might be worth it to pay someone. I’m super glad my mom had a trusty tax guy under her sleeve because I went into panic mode once things really stopped making sense. Worth it.

2. Don’t wait til the last minute: Trust me, you don’t want to be at Step 1 wondering how you’re going to all this two days before that estimated payment is due. The ensuing panic attack is horrible.

3. Keep good records: This totally saved my ass this time. I had all the information I needed to give the tax guy, it was just a matter of putting it all together, which didn’t take very long. It will also serve you well if the IRS ever decides to audit you, so don’t throw things away just because you’ve made your payment.

4. Learn what you can deduct: I was hoping to deduct some of my rent, but since my home office is pretty much just the extra chair on our small dining room table and not a whole separate room used only for work, I couldn’t deduct it. Bummer.That being said, deductions won’t be the same for everyone, so double check what you CAN deduct.

5. Deduct your manga: If you freelance in the comic book publishing industry, or at least as a freelance editor, all your comic book purchases are deductible. This is a super-awesome fact that I grin about every time I hit the comic book stores. It makes me so happy!

Anyway, I hope this post does some good for someone who is just as clueless about taxes as I have been. Educate yourself if you’re a freelancer!

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Layoffs for Viz; Death Rattle for Go!Comi

This week has been a truly terrible week for manga publishing.

First the news swirled around the manga community that Go!Comi’s forums came down and last week it was reported that their domain name registration had expired. There have been no moves to revive the publisher’s website and a contact number came up as the personal number of Go!Comi’s CEO, David Wise. The publisher had not released any new books since September 2009,  well over six months ago.

On top of Go!Comi’s demise, it was announced today that Viz has laid off 55  employees, approximately 40% of their workforce. While this likely doesn’t mean the death of the U.S. manga giant, it certainly means that they might be having a little trouble money-wise and need to cut the chaff in order to survive. My heart goes out to those laid-off, as I’m sure it was quite a shock for them to hear. It’s definitely quite a shock considering the large number of releases Viz puts out and the company’s recent aggressive new initiatives such as SigIKKI and the New People building.

I would like to commend Gia Manry’s excellent reporting at  Anime Briefs on both subject matters. I’m really just doing a quick rehash so I can add some commentary below.

I would have to say that Go!Comi’s slow, quiet death hurts me the most. They had quite a number of great series and even though some of their later licensing choices were probably the worst decisions they could have made, I would have still bought them if it meant saving the company. Since the California company was in the Greater Los Angeles area, I had been hopeful that the company would resurrect itself so I could go bother them for a job. I say that not because I wanted more money or anything like that, but because I really DID want to go work for them. (I mentioned in a previous post that I’d met some of their employees and loved their attitudes.) I loved Tenshi Ja Nai, Cantarella, After School Nightmare, Bound Beauty and many others from the bottom of my heart and it kills me to know that I won’t be seeing the end of some of those wonderful series anytime soon. I’m sorry this is goodbye, Go!Comi.

While Viz’s huge layoff’s are a little shocking because everyone thought Viz was doing better than any other manga publisher at the moment, I’m not as surprised as I thought I would be. Viz is putting out a large amount of titles right now and not all of them are as successful as Viz would like, I’m sure. The company has clearly gotten a bit too big for it’s britches and now it’s legs have been cut out from under itself. This reminds me a little of what happened to TOKYOPOP a few years back and while it sucks that people have lost their jobs, perhaps it will be better for the company overall. I also can’t help but think that maybe a few of TOKYOPOP’s recent recovery strategies, such as publishing fewer books per month and spacing out releases more, might have saved a few jobs. Again, I am worried that Viz won’t be hiring soon (I would also really like to work for them as an editor someday. A girl can dream.), which puts a damper in my plans to seek out more manga publishers as my clients. Maybe in another year or so, Viz might think it needs another editor to keep up with the demands of it’s rigorous publishing schedule or might hire a few freelancers such as myself in the meantime. Until then, I am crossing my fingers and hoping my friends who work as freelancers for Viz aren’t affected by this too.

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TOKYOPOP Memories

So today marks my last day as an editorial intern at TOKYOPOP.

It sounds a little sad, but if you don’t already know, I’ve been hired as a freelance editor. It’s my first job post-college. I feel incredibly lucky to have it.

While I’m super excited to finally get paid for what I’ve been doing for free (For 40 hours/week, for 6 months last summer and this winter), freelancing means I won’t be here in the office as much and talking to the editors. I won’t be able to have lunch with my other interns at the food trucks outside our building. I won’t get to participate in some fun stuff like acquisitions meetings and writing for the newsletter. (If you’re wondering why I was moaning about noodles on twitter on Wednesday.) It just won’t be quite the same.

But I feel so happy to have broken into this industry. Towards the end of my college years I realized that straight journalism wasn’t for me. Blogging works for me, but standard newspaper style writing? Interviewing a set number of sources? Calling and emailing and practically stalking people just to get them to talk to you? Not anymore, thanks.

But manga… manga, I really do love. I love being able to read it, even if it means I have to read a certain manga about 10 times in one month. I love being able to say: “I read manga for a living.” or “I work with manga.” I’ve been in love with manga for almost a decade now. I’ve loved comics for untold years before that.

It’s actually kind of funny. When I first got into manga, I didn’t even realize that there was such a thing as a manga editor. Don’t ask me how I thought manga got licensed, translated, adapted, lettered, etc. from Japanese to English, but that’s what I thought. Now, obviously, I’m a bit more knowledgeable. So much so that it surprises my superiors sometimes, even if I don’t think I’m THAT knowledgeable. XD

I first got the idea to even try for an internship from my good friend Annaliese, who was a design intern for Viz and now freelances for them. I didn’t even know you could do that until she told me about it! Where the hell had I been?!

So thank you Annaliese, for putting the idea in my head and telling me to go make TOKYOPOP better with my awesomeness. Thank you Christy and some other gals from Go!Comi for putting up with me at Yaoi-Con ’08 for talking to you ALL CON LONG about manga, wanting to break into the industry and a million other things. Thank you, Stu Levy, for randomly finding my whiny tweets about not hearing back from TP and getting Tom’s email for me. Thank you, Tom, for not dismissing me when I accidentally made a typo in an e-mail when I was still an intern applicant. Thank you, Marco and Lillian, for liking me enough to hire me before I’d even managed to get out of L.A. immediately after our interview. Thank you, Cindy, for taking me under your wing when you realized that I wanted a job with TP. Thank you to everyone else at TP who I worked with closely for your patience with me and giving me feedback when it was necessary. (I love feedback!)

You guys made me feel really really loved. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, believe me, but at the end of the day, I can say I get paid for doing something I really really love: reading manga. That’s pretty damn awesome and it makes me pretty damn happy.

So, anyone need a freelance manga editor/writer?

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