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Section 2: Getting a Manga Published (Part 9)

Well, “Short Ghost Stories: The Man with the Axe in his Back” is out, and you can get it from the links below. I have also gotten a Cintiq drawing tablet, one where your draw only the screen. Colour art is now a lot easier, as evidenced by the Megaman fanart I pumped out in a few hours. WOOT! Expect some more colour art next year! :D


  • This is part of an on-going blog series called “Being a Professional Manga Artist in the West“. The Table of Contents is here.
  • My comics-prose stories “Short Ghost Stories: The Man with the Axe in his Back” is available on Smashwords and Amazon. Read more at this link.



Part 4: You Got a Publishing Deal!

Assuming your agent is successful in selling your work, and you got a publishing deal! Likewise, I can also assume that you were successful in selling your own work to a publisher (with or without an agent), and the publishing house has offered you a publishing deal. This means that the publisher will now forward a copy of your publishing contract, plus your advance. So, what does this all mean?

Anyway, this section will tackle some of the issues that crop up in a publishing contract, and also what to expect. There will be much talk about copyright, licenses, advances, copies printed, shipped, sold and returned, and royalties (if any).

Disclaimer: I talk about the publishing contracts, 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 you’re offered a publishing contract and you’re unsure of the terms, please find a legal professional who can help you.


Part 4a: Dealing with a Publishing Contract

Every single publishing agreement is different, but I shall try and take a more generalised approach. The other thing is that it’s impossible to talk about publishing contracts without also explaining the concept of copyright. Still, it’s important I lay some ground rules down, because without it, you may end up not understanding much in this section.

There’s also the incidence of unscrupulous publishing contracts increasing, so I feel the need to warn people. A few years ago, publishing contracts only covered limited publishing rights, but now, many of them make a rights-grab for everything you have. The other issue is with the way money is accounted for inside various publishing houses for various publishing deals. What were once egregious accounting practices has now become the new normal.

This means the next big topics are these two things:


These are things that need to be addressed, in order for people to understand exactly what it is they’re selling when they sign a publishing contract with a publisher.


Part 4b: Firstly, What are you Selling to a Publisher when you Enter into a Publishing Agreement?

Read the question I posed above, and give me your answer.

If you answered “a story” to my question, then you’re wrong.

If you answered “a book”, “a novel”, “a manga” or a “manga-style comic book”, you’re wrong too.

If you answered “my story”, you’re even more wrong. If you sold “your story” to a publisher, it may well mean that you sold the entirety of your copyright to your story, which means that your publisher now owns your story, not you. When your publisher owns your copyright, they can make TV, movies, comic books, novels, audio books, video games, picture books, etc from your story without paying you a cent, because you don’t own the copyright anymore.

So, what do you sell a publisher, when you sign a publishing agreement?

You sell a license. Typically, a license to publish your work in book form, and book form only. A license is a “right”. It’s not any of the copyright you own on your story.

Specifically, it’s a license that gives the publisher an exclusive right to copy, distribute and sell your work, in a particular language, a particular region, and a particular format.

  • Region rights cover where the book can be published and sold. Usually the planet can be divided in whatever way you wish, but normally it’s by continents or countries. I can bag “US” rights, or “Canadian” rights, but typically people go for “North American” rights. I can bag “Japan” rights, or I can bag “Russian” rights. Alternatively, I can go “English-speaking region” rights, which would include the US, Canada, UK, Australian and New Zealand. (Oddly enough, it’ll leave out Singapore and India, which are considered different regions of the world)
  • Language rights are usually intertwined with Region-rights. It doesn’t make sense for a Korean publisher to bag “Japan” rights, or for a French publisher to bag “German” rights. However, it does make sense for a Taiwanese publisher to try and bag “Hong Kong and Macau” rights, including “China” rights if they can profit off it.
  • Format may be a hardcover book, a paperback book, an audio book, an e-book, or a book in braille format. (Once upon a time, the rights to these different formats were sold separately, though they’re now bundled into one publishing contract.)

The rights to make foreign-language translations, movies, plays, musicals, video games and novelizations off your story is a secondary right, known either as a “derivative right” or a “subsidiary right”. You can sell all the book publishing rights to your story (world-wide rights, all languages rights, all book formats) without selling a single derivative right to your story.

Now, a book publisher has no real business trying to get movie rights to your book, but they’ll certainly try to get it from you if they can get away with it. I call this sort of thing a ‘rights grab’, and creators need to be wary of this sort of thing cropping up in publishing contracts. Believe me, copyright is important, and understanding how to sell a license your copyright (or purchase a license for a copyright) is crucial to being a creator in this day and age.


Next week, I’ll talk about copyrights., which is very important.

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Short Ghost Stories: The Man with the Axe in his Back

“Short Ghost Stories: The Man with the Axe in his Back” is an experimental book I finished recently, a series of 8 short ghost stories. I first wrote them in proseformat, and then converted half of them into comics-prose. The purpose of this is to explore the best way of creating comics-prose – whether by converting a prose story, or by converting a comics story.

As a result, there are TWO versions of the same book. One with all 8 stories in prose-only format, while the other has 4 of the stories converted into comics-prose. In terms of conversion, it was successful… but ultimately, I found that it’s best to convert a COMIC into comics-prose, as I’ll explain further on in the past.


BUY AS EBOOK @ $4.99:
(Discounted to $2.99 until 31st August 2014)




Table of Contents

You can sample the stories on my site. I’ll be posting half of the comics-prose stories up on this site, starting in August 2014!


Thoughts on “Comics-Prose”

I’ve learned more about doing comics-prose through doing these stories, and my conclusion is this: Comics-prose is COMICS. I used to think that it’s 50/50 prose-comics, perhaps leaning more towards prose, but I turned out to be wrong. I started doing comics-prose by taking my comics and turning some of the panels into prose, and I find that this is actually MUCH easier than the other way around.

Turning my prose stories into comics-prose was HARD. Perhaps it was the way I write, but that’s why I managed to only turn half the stories into comics-prose. I found that often times things needed to be rewritten, but most of all, redundancies tended to pile up. There’s also this problem I call “prose-picture” tautology, which is where you have a picture of something, followed by prose that describes what happens in the picture, or PART of what happens. This is normal and not completely avoidable, but it seems to happen a LOT more when I converted prose into comics-prose, leading to rewrites.

My conclusion is the comics-prose is actually a form of compressed story-telling in comics. Manga is the ultimate in decompressed story-telling, and oddly enough, this form of comics story-telling is meant to compress manga-style story-telling.


Thoughts on professional copy-editing

I hired a professional copy-editor that works for a large publisher for this project, and while it was an interesting experience, I’m not sure I’ll do it again. It’s not the price, which was reasonable, nor the quality, which was good. It’s because the copy-editor, while managing to spot a few inconsistencies in the stories, also managed to INTRODUCE inconsistencies.

This became a huge problem between the comics-prose and prose-only versions of the story – ultimately, it became hard to reconcile the two versions using the same text. I imagine in the future, the comics-prose and prose-only versions of the same story will HAVE to be copy-edited separately. Which is too much hassle, so I just won’t bother (for now).

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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!


    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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