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Section 2: Getting a Manga Published (Part 8)

I got my book “Short Ghost Stories” back from copy-editing! Amazingly enough, there weren’t that many grammar mistakes! The joys of learning to proof-read. There are a few tweaks here and there, so I’m going to spend some time fixing these, and then putting the book out on the 1st August!

 

  • This is part of an on-going blog series called “Being a Professional Manga Artist in the West“. The Table of Contents is here.
  • Meanwhile, my comics-prose stories “Short Ghost Stories: The Man with the Axe in his Back” will be on Smashwords on the 1st August, 2014. Check it out if you like “The Dreaming” – this ebook is $4.99, but will be on discount for $2.99 until 31st August, 2014!
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    Part 3c: Where can a manga-style comic artist find an agent?

    I suppose you’ll ask me where to find an agent for your manga-style comic. I’m afraid there are only a very small number of literary agents who represent graphic novels in the book world, and my own agent isn’t taking on any new clients. You don’t need an agent to get published though, and I would always point out that while it’s a convenience, it’s not a must.

    (Besides, my agent told me a few years ago that due to the steep decline of the manga market in the US, publishers have openly stated ‘NO MANGA PLEASE.’ Unfortunately, this means that even if you do manage to find a literary agent, the fact that you’re a manga-style comic artist may mean there’s not much money to be made by taking you on. Sadly, you can’t blame them because it’s a business, and agents need to eat too.)

    However, things can change at any time, so don’t take my word for it. The one constant in life is change. Same goes for publishing.

     

    Part 3d: Warning – Unscrupulous Agents and Scammers Exist

    Lastly, I want to mention that agents don’t represent all your work, and shouldn’t represent everything you do. Your contract with your agent should never state that they represent the entirety of your output, because as an author, you still have the right to negotiate particular contracts on your own. (I hope I don’t need to mention that it’s best to get a fully qualified legal professional to check out said contract before you sign it. It’s a bad idea to sign things you don’t fully understand.)

    There are some unscrupulous agents who will try and represent all of your output, and you need to be careful of them. The majority of agents are well-meaning, ethical people, but as in all industries, there are unscrupulous individuals looking to rip-off naïve and ill-informed creators. This is especially important, because there are no laws governing literary agents – it’s a completely unregulated industry. If some spat happens between you and your agent due to an agency agreement that you wilfully signed, it can be very hard to gain any sort of legal recourse.

    Either way, getting an agent to take you on can be tough. It should be tough, since the agent will now have to spend time selling your work, and that may or may not pay off. Beware the agent who (a) asks for money upfront, and (b) is eager to take you on without thoroughly checking out your work. I’ve already said that proper agents never ask for money upfront, but more importantly, publishers also measure the respectability of an agent by the quality of the writers/artists they represent. If an agent takes on every Tom, Dick and Harry they meet, then that agent’s respectability is suspect, isn’t it?

    *****

    Next Wednesday, I move onto actually getting a publishing deal! Yay!

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Section 2: Getting a Manga Published (Part 7)

Copy-editing has started on “Short Ghost Stories: The Man with the Axe in his Back“. I think I’ll get it back by the end of this and next week. I’m a little worried, to be honest. I’ve never had copy-editing done on my prose fiction before (comics, heaps), so I don’t know what to expect.

  • This is part of an on-going blog series called “Being a Professional Manga Artist in the West“. The Table of Contents is here.
  • Meanwhile, my comics-prose stories “Short Ghost Stories: The Man with the Axe in his Back” is here on Smashwords. Check it out if you like “The Dreaming” – this ebook is $4.99, but will be on discount for $2.99 until 31st August, 2014!

 

Part 3: Agents

Agents are very important to anyone who wants to get published by a major publisher, especially in the US. If you want to get published without an agent, then that’s definitely doable (especially in places outside the US like Canada), but you’ll have to take on the role that an agent usually performs. Some may argue that it’s part and parcel of being a writer, but if you don’t have any publisher contacts or are unfamiliar with contract negotiations, a good agent can be a great asset.

Disclaimer: I talk about the role of an agent here, but this is not a definitive guide. I try and keep my information accurate, but if there are any corrections, please let me know. This is also not in any way meant to be legal advice – I have no authority to give out legal advice. If an agent offers you a contract and you’re unsure of the terms, please find a legal professional who can help you.

 

Part 3a: What is an Agent?

The dictionary definition of an agent is ‘one who acts for, or in, the place of another, with authority from him, usually for business reasons.’ In other words, your agent is someone who acts on your behalf as a representative, usually for reasons of business negotiations.

A literary agent is exactly the same thing, but in the world of publishing. Agents vary in terms of function across entertainment fields, but they all perform a similar function. Those functions are: (a) take the creative output of a creator, one which the creator has authorised the agent to represent, (b) shop it around to interested parties, and (c) should someone be interested, negotiate the terms of contract. In return, the agent takes a portion (usually 15%) of the monies the creator gets from the work.

A literary agent need not only represent the rights to your book. Depending on what you’ve given the agent rights to represent, they can also negotiate film/music/television/video game/etc rights for you. However, it’s best to make sure your agent has training in those fields, because the contract of terms for those media fields can be vastly different to book publishing.

 

Part 3b: Why do Agents exist?

Agents exist for the same reason as publishers do: to help creators find people who can help them get their work in front of a vast audience. In terms of publishing, this means finding a publisher who is interested in acquiring and publishing your book.

Once upon an ancient time, writers used to send their unpublished manuscripts directly to the publishers to read. This was in the day of typewriters, and eventually, the submission pile (‘slush pile’) got so large that publishers couldn’t possibly deal with the mountains of paper, let alone read any of it. Some publishers tried to deal with it by hiring ‘readers,’ usually interns or low-level employees who have the job of sifting through that massive pile to find interesting work. However, due to the cost of this, these ‘readers’ became extinct sometime in the 1990s. Other publishers just let a new class of third-party individuals to spring up, one that can help them act as a filter against people who can’t write. And so, the ‘literary agent’ was born.

Literary agents make sure they kept in constant touch with various editors in various publishing houses, and offer these editors manuscripts that they may want to publish. To offer them said manuscripts, the agents have to find talented writers and represent them as their advocates, which is why the first step to getting published often requires you to find an agent. Without an agent, it’s genuinely hard (though not impossible) to get the attention of a publisher or editor.

*****

Next Wednesday, I talk about Agents scams, which are a big problem. Thanks to the changing nature of publishing, there’s a lot of scammers pretending to be agents out where, waiting to prey on the unwary.

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Section 2: Getting a Manga Published (Part 6)

I’ve put up “Short Ghost Stories: The Man with the Axe in his Back” on Smashwords! I tried to set up a pre-order but it seems the function is sorta broken… either way, the book will be copy-edited by July 15th, and published after that! I will be posting 50% of the pages up here from August to November, and starting a new series after that!

 

Dealing with Rejection from a Publisher

Of course, getting rejected is always extremely upsetting. No matter how many times it’s happened (or how many times you’ve gotten accepted before), it’s always difficult when someone (anyone) rejects what you’ve poured your heart and soul into. How you deal with a publisher rejection, however, is entirely dependent on what you think you’re getting, if you got accepted by that publisher. In other words, what you think you’re getting out of a publishing deal directly affects how well (or how badly) you handle a publisher’s rejection.

Few people ask themselves why they submit to a publisher. Most people submit, because that’s what you do, apparently, if you want a book on a bookshelf in a bookstore. Okay. I might as well tell you that this is no longer true, but I assume you’re reading this because you want to get published by a publisher, regardless of the situation. Which is fine. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get published (it’s normal to want that, actually).

Anyway, here are some ways to think of a publishing deal:

  • A business deal – Fairly straight-forward. You can self-publish and get 70% of the retail price, or you can get a publisher and hope that they push your book enough for you to reach a wider audience (and thus get you more sales than self-publishing). I can tell you that getting published does not guarantee sales or a wide audience, so it’s up to you to decide which one will earn you more money in the long run.

  • Prestige by association with the various vanguards of literary culture – People in this category know what they want: adulation from people who have been anointed as the arbiters of good taste. They’re not interested in money, only praise from the right people. Again, these people know what will make them happy, and they have a goal in mind they want to achieve. They also know which publishers to submit to as well.
  • A validation, whether personal or professional – People in this category are the most insecure. They’re not like prestige-seekers, who want to be positively reviewed by the New York Times, but they’re not like the business-deal types either, because often they’re clueless about money. In fact, they seek some sort of nebulous, ill-defined form of validation from the publishing industry as a whole – which makes these sorts of writers the most emotionally vulnerable when it comes to getting rejected by a publisher.

If you’re reading this post for advice on “How to deal with being rejected by a publisher”, then you probably belong to category 3 (or category 2. It’s almost never the category 1 folks, who are all self-publishing these days).

My bit of advice is this: Have perspective. As I said before, publishing is a business, and while it’s driven by culture and love of books, stories and the written word, it is also largely driven by money. Every time you ask yourself about whether it was that badly-drawn leg from pg135, or whether it’s too niche (or not niche enough), or perhaps your inking is kinda wonky – tell yourself that it’s probably not that.

You can get rejected by a publisher for a multitude of reasons that have nothing to do with you or the quality of your work. The publisher could have already bought a book that’s very similar to yours. The editor might just dislike that particular genre. It could be they don’t like your art style. Or the editor loves your idea, but the sales and marketing people don’t know how to sell your work. These days, you’re just as likely to get rejected because they don’t think they can make enough money off you.

Also, just because ten publishers rejected your work, it doesn’t mean that the next fifty will. Luck, market trends and who’s reading your proposal has a lot more to do with it than you might think. (Also, what sales and marketing thinks)

*****

Next Wednesday, I talk about agents!

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Section 2: Getting a Manga Published (Part 5)

I’ve finished all four stories of “The Man with the Axe in his Back” today! “Civilised People” and “The Hollow Tree” are all done and toned!! It’ll be available for pre-order on July 1st (with a 40% discount), and officially available on August 1st. The only thing left to do is copy-editing, and I’ve lined up a copy-editor for early July already. Time to get to work on my next series!

  • This is part of an on-going blog series called “Being a Professional Manga Artist in the West“. The Table of Contents is here.
  • You can buy my “Queenie Chan: Short Stories 2000-2010” collection as a $4.99 ebook. Get it from Smashwords, Amazon, Apple iBooks, Nook.

 

Part 2d: Getting a Rejection from a Publisher

If you got a rejection note from a publisher, then you should be thrilled. Hardly anyone ever gets a rejection slip – most publishers simply don’t have the time or resources to send rejection slips. If you got a hand-written rejection slip, you should be excited. Wow, someone took the time to actually put pen to paper, and let you know why they rejected you. If you get a hand-written note of rejection, it means you work is promising enough that someone may want to take you up sometime in the future (when you improve more).

The other thing about getting rejections is that it’s the norm. Hardly anyone but the extremely lucky gets a contract offer right away, and even then, that’s no guarantee of getting published. Contracts and deals can fall through any moment. A change of a publisher, editor or a shake-up in a publishing house can at times cause an entire publishing slate to be wiped off the surface of the earth. Other things that can happen is that your publisher can demand changes to your book, and then ultimately refuse to accept and publish it. (Can they do that? You’re probably thinking. Of course they can do that, it’s not common, but not uncommon.)

The thing to remember as a manga artist:

Getting a manga or comic published is much harder than getting a prose book published. The market is much smaller, the cost of publishing is higher, and every publisher knows that Western manga doesn’t sell.

Prose books are also finished when they’re submitted to publishers for new authors – rarely does prose fiction sell on pitches, unless the author is already established. With manga/comics, however, the cost and time of drawing a full manga/comic is so high, that manga/comics are rarely submitted finished. That means the publisher is looking only at a pitch in order to figure out if the book they’re buying is going to be any good, and that you’re asking the publisher to invest in a story that they haven’t even seen. Either way, unless you have a massive PAYING fan base, is a long shot.

(NB. Having a massive NON-PAYING fan base will still get you published. Your publishers will be interested in you, up until your work fails to recoup them the money they’ve invested in you.)

*****

Next Wednesday, I talk about dealing with rejection. Which is very important, because publishers reject MOST of the submissions they get. Most people don’t deal with rejection in a healthy way, and I hope to give a reality check.

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