Being a Professional Manga Artist in the West

Note: I put my “Queenie Chan: Short Stories 2000-2010” collection up on the internet as a USD$4.99 PDF (plus EPUB, DRM-free). Get it from Smashwords!

Hi all! As promised, I’m going to start writing a series of articles talking about my experiences as a ‘professional manga-style comic-book artist’ in the west. (Perhaps the proper term is ‘OEL manga-artist,’ but god forbid we bring back the spectre of the ‘is it manga or not’ debate).

Anyway, my first published work was in 2004 with TOKYOPOP, and this year marks a 10-year anniversary of life as a published author/artist. Along the way, I’ve had 9 books published with four different publishers, and learned a lot about the industry, not to mention the ever-changing state of the industry.

Both the book and comics publishing industry is constantly in flux, even more so with the onset of digital publishing in the past 5 years. Part of the reason why I’m writing these articles is because the publishing landscape has changed so drastically, the advice I’ve been giving out on my website FAQ is now useless.

The other reason is that there are challenges unique to Manga-style comic-book artists in the West that I want to address. To be honest, I’m not sure if the advice I give will apply to comic book artists who don’t draw in a manga-style. Let’s face it, while indie comickers and the superhero crew tolerates manga from Japan, they don’t want to be lumped in the same category as westerners drawing so-called ‘OEL manga’. Obviously, this can make things difficult from a professional point-of-view if you’re an aspiring manga-style artist looking to get published. Doors can literally slam in your faces, not because publishers don’t like manga, but because western-style manga doesn’t sell.

I don’t know what form these articles will take, but I think they’ll follow this general form:

  • My own experiences as a professional manga-style comic artist, from 2004 to now
  • An explanation of how the book and comics publishing industries work, and what’s currently happening
  • How to self-publishing your own stories, in both e-book and print format
  • A guide to doing ‘comics-prose’ (a mix of prose and comics, which is what I’m currently doing)

For that second point, I wish to focus on the business side of things. I get emails from manga artist wannabes from time to time, especially art school graduates, and I’ve noticed that many of them seem to have no business skills or understanding of the creative industries whatsoever. I’ve no art training myself, so I have no idea what they’re being taught in art school, but I know that it’s not enough to do deal with these changing times. These past 10 years have been a traumatic time for publishing, so I want to use my knowledge of inform people of the potential pitfalls should they manage to get a publishing deal. Especially when the pitfalls seem to be getting bigger all the time.

Anyway, feel free to ask questions in the comments as I go along. I shall try to answer your questions as much as I can. See you all next Monday.


...Because I might as well have some fun talking about my work as a manga artist in the west