Self Publishing Manga: Everything You Need To Know

As the title suggests, this post is all about self publishing manga, but what is manga, and how do you get started with it?

Manga refers to the various kinds of cartooning and image or graphic expressions used to narrate a story in Japanese. The word manga is derived from two words; 

  • man, which in Japanese means playful or whimsical.
  •  ga, which means pictures.

The use of animated pictures to tell a story in Japan is believed to have originated in the 12th Century when a series titled Choju-giga (Scrolls of Frolicking Animals) was published.

However, the word ‘manga’ to describe this art was first used in the 18th Century with Santo Kyoden’s picture book, Shiji no yoikai, in 1798. Manga continues to be a preferred channel of information and entertainment in the modern world, having spread its tentacles in various countries. 

This post seeks to demystify manga and shed light on how you can tell your own story in manga and make an honest living.


Is manga the same thing as comics?

Manga and comics have their similarities, but they are also profoundly different. Here are some of the ways you can distinguish the two:

  1. Language

Most manga are written in Japanese, seeing that they originated and enjoyed a huge audience in Japan. Comics, on the other hand, are an American concept and are mostly written in English.

  1. Reading Style

This is one of the most distinguishable characteristics of manga from comics. Manga are read from back to front or right to left. The panels are arranged from the right. Comics are read from left to right or front to back, and their panels are arranged as such.

  1. Colors

Manga are printed in black and white. Nowadays, most manga might have their covers only printed in color, but the rest of the book is black and white. Comics will, however, enjoy full-color printing both on the cover and on the rest of the pages.

  1. Dialogues

Manga uses fewer words for their dialogue compared to comics, which have lots of dialogue.

  1. Drawings

You can easily pick out manga from their use of more detailed drawings. Comics will almost always have detailed and sometimes complicated drawings.

  1. Story

Manga are known for long-running series covering multiple volumes, a sharp contrast from comic books which have shorter stories.

  1. Publication

Most manga are released chapter by chapter on a weekly or monthly basis. They are also commonly published first in magazines then in paperback. Comic books are strictly published in paperback or hardback, never in magazines.

Manga comes in almost various genres ranging from fantasy, fiction, romance, and humor. Manga writing has, over time, been highly influenced by two major processes. 

At first, it was used to ensure the continuity of Japanese cultural beliefs and traditions. The Japanese empire also used manga to spread propaganda during the war. Manga was also heavily used during and after the Allied Occupation of Japan to stress and influence American traditions, which was instrumental in changing the manga style of writing.

There are five major types of manga:

1). Shonen

This is a manga written specifically for boys between the age of 9-18. They feature coming to age interactions between the characters, comedy, and action. Shonen covers usually have a male principal character posing as if in action.

2). Shojo

This type of manga is targeted at tween and teen girls (between the ages of 9-18). They feature lots of drama and emotion and less action. Romance is also a key feature in shojo. They are easily identifiable through their heavy use of pink color, flowers, or a female protagonist in a cute pose on the cover.

3). Seinen

This manga is targeted at adult men over the age of 18. They feature a relative amount of violence and action, usually written in a serious, darker tone. Seinen also features sexual storylines and strong language.

4). Josei

This is a manga for adult women over the age of 18. Their storylines lean heavily on mature narratives about romance and relationships. Like in seinen, josei may also feature sexual scenes and strong language, sometimes bordering on pornography. It almost always features male and female protagonists on their covers.

5). Kodomomuke

This is a manga specifically for young children. They usually feature lots of fun and moral teachings packaged in a delightful way to capture young children’s attention.


Designing characters for your manga.

The first thing to do when designing your manga characters is to set up their profiles. Decide the necessary details needed for the character, e.g., what kind of accessories or clothing they’ll need to make them recognizable for the reader.

Next, decide and write down necessary information about your character/s, i.e., their age, personality, occupation, talent, skills, etc.

Once done setting up the character profiles, draw rough sketches using the ideas you wrote down. You can draw them in as many poses as your imagination allows. Be sure to showcase your character’s most outstanding traits. Make these drawings simple and easy to relate with.

From here now, you’ll need to develop your designs to show your character/s from all angles. You might have to draw them many times to get the best views possible. Get the characters’ back, front and side views to know exactly how they’ll look from all angles.

Most manga are black and white and don’t require any other coloring. However, if need be, you can pick any colors to use on the cover of your manga.


Basic Layout of manga

Manga texts and pictures are usually set out in a 2 by 4 grid.

This is to mean four rows, with each consisting of two panels. You can tweak this a little to either large or small panels, to an average of 6-8 panels.

It’s advisable to make the gap between the rows bigger and the gap between the panels smaller. This allows your reader’s eyes to have a continuous line of motion while reading. You can also mix up the panel sizes to make your manga more captivating. Larger panels are more impactful than smaller ones. Feel free to divide the panels vertically or at your preferred angle to create better flow and energy for your manga.


Choosing the right size for your book.

The most common book sizes for manga are;

  • Japanese B6 which is:
    5.04″ by 7.17″ or 12.8cm by 18.2cm
  • ISO A5 (5.83″ * 8.27″ or 14.8cm * 21.0cm).

If you are in America, you can also choose to print your manga in the now-famous “digest size” book,

which is 5″ by 7.5″ or approximately 13cm by 19cm.


Where do I sell my manga?

Once you are done writing your manga, you can choose to sell through various channels offline and online.

  1.  Print your manga yourself. It is cheaper than taking it to a publishing press and gives you the advantage of having copies to give as you await to promote your work.
  2. Publish it as an ebook: Use programs like Kindle Comic Converter, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo Writing Life, or ComiXology Submit to publish your manga. These platforms allow you to promote & sell your manga on various digital platforms.
  3. You can also opt to self-publish your manga. Self-publishing presses allow you to self-publish and print your manga for selling. Some popular presses like Lulu.com, Doujin Press, and Cafe Press let you sell your manga on their platform.
  4. You can also choose to sell your manga at comic conventions near you.
  5. Advertise your manga with other manga artists. You can have your manga cover printed at the back of their books, and you can also advertise for them in yours. Always ensure the artist’s work is in the same genre as yours.

How much money can I make Selling My Manga?

There’s no fixed figure that you can make from manga writing since, like any other creative industry, the income you make is dependent on so many factors that are not all achievable at once.

However, you can make a decent income as a manga manuscript artist. In Japan, manuscript artists get paid an average of JPY 5,500 per manuscript page. Manga is published on a weekly or monthly basis, and a typical story is around 20 pages.

Roughly, if published weekly, a manuscript artist can make an annual income of (JPY 5,500*20) * 48 =JPY 5,280,000.

This is roughly $50,106. If your manuscript is published monthly, the estimated annual income is (JPY 5,500*20) * 12= JPY 1,320,000, which is around $12,526.

You can also make money as an assistant to manga artists. These assistants make a monthly income of around JPY 180,000 ($1,708).

When your manga is published, becomes famous, and is compiled in volumes, you can earn money from the book’s royalties. Artists qualify to be paid 8-10% of the pre-tax price of every book printed for the first run. Subsequent runs also pay royalties of only the number of volumes sold.


Other things to consider.

For you to succeed in manga writing, your story has to be unique and compelling to your audience. Ensure that it’s appropriately targeted.

Consider creating your website for marketing your manga. This allows you to engage directly with your fan base. You can make a blog post related to your manga book/s and give readers a chance to pre-view and directly order your manga.

Build a strong online presence. You can use social media platforms like Twitter, which supports manga writing, to showcase your work. Be consistent in your postings and engagements on these platforms as they allow you to communicate directly to your fans.

Also, be part of a community. Go where other mangaka (manga authors) go and do what they do. Showcase your work in forums where the community around you is. Take every opportunity available to promote your work, make friends and do business.

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