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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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Section 2: Getting a Manga Published (Part 4)

I’m half a page from finishing “Civilised People”! Ever since I finished my Real estate course last week, I’ve jumped right back into it and now is almost done on that last story. Great progress there…

  • 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 2b: Putting Together a Submission

Here is a list of things a manga submission should include. Just because this is a list, it does not mean that this is the list. Use this only as a guide, not as the gospel.

  1. A Title Page – This should have your name, the story’s name, and your contact details on it. It’s best if you put your contact details (address, email, phone) on the header/footer of each page, but it’s not a big deal if you don’t have that.
  2. Table of Contents – Not necessary, but makes it look more professional.
  3. A One-Page Summary of your Story – This is extremely important, and should be no longer than 1.5 pages. This page is the first impression of your story the editor/publisher is going to get, so you need to summarise your story well and show that you understand what it’s truly about. Never waffle, and keep your language simple and minimal, almost report-style. This is often the hardest part of the whole submission, because if you lose the editor’s attention here, they’ll stop reading and move onto the next submission.
  4. Character Summaries – This will include a full-body shots or head shots of all your major characters, plus half-a-page summary of each character. This is the section you get to show that your characters are interesting and well-developed, so keep that in mind when you write your character descriptions.
  5. Volume Summaries – If your story is told over multiple books, then it’s best to summarise the plots of each in point form. Even if your story is told in a single book, it’s best to show that you have a well thought-out, orderly plot. Only a few sentences for each chapter will do, and preferably no more than 1-2 pages per book.
  6. Manga Page Samples – Always make sure you have 6-12 finished pages of your story, to include as part of your submission. If the editor made it this far into your submission, then they’ll want to see your drawing and story-telling skills. Mind you, don’t send illustrations or character profiles unless you’re looking for work as a cover artist. The point here is to show you can tell stories in comic format, and if you can’t, the submission gets put aside.

This has covered most of the basics of a manga submission. Remember to use a legible font, to always use spell-check, and to structure your submission in a way that’s easy to follow. Watch your grammar and punctuation, and to not ramble or waffle. If you’re submitting via a submissions guideline, always check your submission against those guidelines before you send it in.

For people who still need guidance, I have here an old PDF submission from 2004 to TOKYOPOP (all the manga pages have been removed. Read them here: It’s for ‘TwinSide,’ a romantic comedy set in a high school, and it shows an example of how I structured my submission. The way I write these things haven’t changed much, but you should only use it only as an example. Download it here:

Part 2c: Sending a Submission

These days, most submissions are done via email, so it’s rare for a publisher to even want paper submissions. If you do send a paper submission, make sure you never send originals, because an editor will just lose it in the piles of papers in their office. Always send copies, and if you want your submission back, include a self-addressed and stamped envelope for the editor to use. No one is going to send your submission back to you on their dime.

The best piece of advice I can give someone trying to get published:
You should never, ever just send your work to a publisher, then sit around waiting for a reply. That’s the worst thing you could possibly do. There’s no guarantee that you’ll even get a reply, so what you should be doing is starting work on a new story or a new pitch. If you’re a manga artist, that can mean self-publishing, working on and hopefully finishing your web-comics, starting a new story, or just doing work in general. In other words: continue working, drawing/writing and making pitches. Don’t stop working.


Next Wednesday, I talk about getting rejected… which happens to everyone.

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Section 2: Getting a Manga Published (Part 3)

This is the last week of my real estate course, and there’s only the one big accounting exam left on Friday! Getting back to finishing the last 6 pages of “Civilised People” next week!

  • 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 2a: Submission Policies

When a publisher is open for submissions, they will have a submission guideline on their website somewhere. All publishers who are in business ought to have a website these days, so do take note if one doesn’t – that would be a little odd in this day and age.

Anyway, make sure you read their submission guideline and follow all the instructions on it. It doesn’t matter how well you write or draw if you can’t follow simple instructions. This is especially important when the guidelines cover genres or formats that the publisher accepts. If you submit a romance novel to a horror publisher, it won’t leave a good impression of you on that publisher. It shows that you have no idea what books they publish, and no inclination to do research.

A guideline will cover the things you need in a submission, but if you’ve been invited to submit something privately, you’ll have to come up with a professional-looking submission on your own. This isn’t as hard as it sounds – as I said before, a submission is a summary of your story, and as long as you give a concise and accurate summary, it should be fine.

Unfortunately, giving a good summary doesn’t mean a publisher will green-light your book. A publishing schedule is dependent on the needs of the market and that particular publishing house, so if you’re rejected, it could be any number of reasons. Most of them probably have nothing to do with the quality of your submission, though I must point out that ‘pitching’ is an art form in itself. A good writer may not be able to ‘sell’ their work well, so it’s important you take that into account when you write your pitch. You’re a salesman, not a creative, when you pitch.


Next Wednesday, I detail what’s going to be in your pitch. (Meanwhile, I guess you can scour the Internet for publishers looking for open submissions.)

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