Monday, October 16, 2006

My plans for becoming a full-time mangaka

Since the middle of grad school, I had been thinking of how to actually go about making manga. To be honest, I had no idea where to start.

It wasn’t the drawing part that puzzled me, because I figured practice would make me better and faster. It was the story writing that I had questions on, like “what should I write about?” and “how do I make a story?” They’re actually profound questions, but it’s sort of sad when a to-be writer has no clue about these things. Having been a “science type” for much of my life, I tended to ignore those literature classes in the past.

In any case, after much thought and reading, I’ve found my answers (and more), to many of those questions. Now I have to consider how I want to go about actually pursuing this path.

So what’s involved in being a full-time mangaka?

Mangaka come in a variety of flavors. There are those that work for hire. Perhaps a novelist has a script ready and a publisher needs someone to make it into a one-off manga book. Some mangaka do it for fun and sell photocopies of their work in underground markets. But what most people think of when they hear the term mangaka is those who make a living by authoring weekly or monthly series of fiction.

These fictional series are the most highly publicized manga in Japan, and generally reach the widest audience. They are published in thick 200 to 400 page newsprint magazines that each have weekly (or monthly) circulations ranging from 10,000 to 3,000,000. One of the benefits of getting published in a popular magazine is that the marketing is done automatically. Any reader who picks up a magazine will at least get a glimpse of your work, even if they weren’t originally intending on reading it.

Doing a weekly or monthly is what I eventually want to do, so I’m currently working on plans, drawing styles, and a story for such a series (more on that later).

So how does one begin this path towards becoming such a mangaka? Many people start out as assistants to established mangaka. Others might enter short story competitions in manga magazines and get noticed by editors through them (that was my initial plan, before making my Darwin book). Although I’ve published one book, I still consider myself a rookie because I haven’t worked on a series, which is where the requirements get really tough. You need great ideas and the ability to make cutting edge manga to attract and retain a large readership...all that while maintaining a rapid pace and not skipping a beat.

In any case, my plan is to do a mochikomi, which is like a job interview where you bring in some samples of your work to an editor. Most of the time this simply results in some recommendations for improvement. But if the editor likes your work, he may suggest starting a series on that sample or some other idea appropriate to the magazine.

It sounds like once you have a successful series, things become easier despite the crazy pace. A typical mangaka at a popular magazine might have an editor working exclusively with him. The most popular authors may even have a staff of 5 or more editors, who help out with not just editing but also with the ideas and the dialog. Also, once you have a successful series, it’s easier to justify the hiring of many assistants to help out with the creation of the pages, allowing you to focus more on the ideas and stories.

The tough part is how to get to that stage, which is what I’m trying to figure out now.


Blogger yume said...

well then. hello. i have the

12:40 PM  
Blogger yume said...

woops... i'm not to used to this yet.

i just wanna write to you seeing as you peruse the same dream as me.:)
it would be nice to know someone who actually understand how difficult it is.

well where do you live. like in my country the closest to what i want is an animation school.
then I've heard about a university in Kyoto, Japan.
and would like to advice you to watch this on YouTube.
and then if you don't mind write me back... ^_^

12:59 PM  

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