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Maaaaaaaaaaaaan, I was almost worried this day would never come. Akazukin is finally available for purchase and I am finally done with the project after all this time! A lot went in to this book, so here's the FULL HISTORY
for those who are curious:Winter 2011
I'm in a digital drawing class with
(Who is also featured in this book!) when we're told our final assignment is to take some children's story or rhyme and illustrate three images/pages from the story, but we had to put an unusual twist on it to make it unique. Like a good chunk of the class, both
and I decided to do Little Red Riding Hood. My twist? Take the Katanagatari style that I'd studied and make Little Red more Japanese! A portion of the class really liked how it came out, the other knew very little about manga/had no interest in it, so they weren't quite sure what half of the details were about. I had also gotten my cousin to also translate the lines into Japanese so that it would be even more authentic, and then did all three pages in about the span of half a week (I was never that fast again, sadly!) which was quite the rush!
Well, at the same time as this was happening, I had to register for classes in my final term of University, and most of them didn't appeal to me at all, which was when I decided to go to one of the coolest professors in the department (technically, the only actual professor
), Craig Hickman
(the guy who made Kidpix for Mac back in the 90s. You know, the one with the cool explosion when you tried to erase? Google it kids) and pretty much told him "Hey, I want something I can actually put in my portfolio before graduation, but I can't get myself to finish any of my own big projects. However, I'm a straight A student who will always do the work if there's a grade involved, so I'd like to use your signature to continue this book I started in another class this last week
" and he said yes. When he signed the permission slip it read (and I'll find it if you don't believe me) "Draw at least 15 pages of manga
." I shit you nothe chose the wording, not me, and I was stunned because of the stereotypical disdain art teachers have towards most anime/manga. On my way out of the office though, I did spy a Kamen Rider action figure
No clue if he knew where it was from.Spring 2011
Looping Hige Driver albums, I began drawing a dozen thumbs for the book (which I might post later) that were no bigger than 1"x1.5," many of which became final designs in their own right. At my best I was knocking out about two pages a week when I wasn't doing assignments for other classes, studying for Japanese, or hanging out with my (now) ex. Pages were being done out of order depending on which were easier for me at the time, and backgrounds were mostly improvised, as were color schemes (something I do a lot, which is pretty stupid of me whenever I reflect on it).
Eventually I figured it'd be fun to have an omake
in my book (Omake essentially means "extra" and is usually extra artwork, posters, etc. bundled along with manga volumes and other things) and started searching amongst my friends to see who wanted a plug in the book, and send off the character sheets so that they could get to work on fanart. More on this later.
Fast-forward to graduation and I'm still a few pages short of finishing the book (It lacks covers, text, and probably the final two story pages). While the book wasn't technically completed before I left school, Prof. Hickman still gave me an A because I showed him what I was doing every time I had added a page (and he was impressed by the fact that I actively worked instead of leaving it to the last minute like a number of people usually do). Then things got tricky.Lost in Translation
Before I could illustrate the story, I needed two things: To know the script I was using so I knew what to illustrate, and the thing in Japanese. I had decided early on that in order to keep this book unique (and to make sense at all with the aesthetic changes) I had to keep it in Japanese, which meant I needed a translator. At first I started researching the different versions of the tale and settled on the Brothers Grimm version, Little Red Cap, and heavily condensed it to the parts I thought were essential. Hell, part 1.
Because my head was trying to think of how it would be translated into Japanese, I wrote the original script in a sort of broken, literal English that read really clunky and didn't flow well. It wasn't wrong
, but it definitely wasn't normal. Well, after I had that, I sent it off to my cousin who is more proficient in Japanese and began playing the waiting game. Unfortunately, at the same time, my cousin was in Japan during the earthquake and tsunami, so with that, and being forced to return to the states, she wasn't able (for good reason) to get me the translation for a while.
Once she finally got it to me, I brought it to my Japanese instructor at the time and asked her to check it over. She found some errors and things to smooth out, but that's what happens when you translate between languages and you show it to a native speaker. After correcting those for me, I had her show me how to type in tategaki
formatthe vertical text you see in traditional Japanese books/scrolls, which was a pain because my old version of Word couldn't do it, so I had to run back and forth between PC and Mac labs on campus (in the rain mind you :/) several times trying to figure out how to do it on the newer versions of the software (which I've never liked as muchI preferred the old UI). Eventually, I did it. All was well with the world, right? Wrong.
Fast forward to when I'm printing test copies.
The first copy was messed up because they reversed the covers thinking that I labeled them incorrectly. Wasn't their faultI submitted a book in eastern orientation to a western printer, but it definitely set me back half a month. Eventually, I'm in New York with my cousin with the correct version of the book I planned to sell by the end of the week. My cousin is reading it to my younger cousins (since the book is completely in Japanese) when she goes "Uh
Michael?" which was one of the worst things I can remember hearing. Apparently there were one or two errors in the furigana (basic alphabet characters that tell you how to pronounce Kanji) and kanji that slipped by me for one reason or another, but since I had my instructor's name in the back for copy-editing, I couldn't have that wrong version get out. Unfortunately, this was days after the hurricane on the east coast in August, and the house still didn't have internet back up, so I was texting my brother and best friend with my login info so they could try and pull it before anyone given the link could buy it, but they couldn't because I messed up the information by forgetting a capitalization (which I only realized afterward). Once I got internet back up, I had it pulled.
When I finally got back to California I kind'a pushed it on my Japanese neighbor to help me find all of the errors and copy edit one more time, which she did, and I'm very thankful. However, since it was going to cost me money to replace pages, I figured I'd finally add English to the book which meant I was going to have to reformat the text a bit to try and accommodate vertical text with horizontal.
I should clear up that people had said "do an English version," but that made no sense to me because having it be English defeated the purpose of the entire project. It wasn't until my ex put it in different terms, suggesting that I have it in Japanese with English underneath (which is not the same as "do an English version") that I realized I could have done that. Little did I know we'd find the errors a week afterward and I'd go about doing it.
Well, I write essays, not stories, which meant I needed several new sets of eyes to 1. Go over my English, 2. Learn how you format text in books (dialog, paragraphs, etc.). The English had to be translated back out
of the newly edited Japanese, but because I was so used to it reading in broken English, I couldn't look at it objectively and had to get several friends and family to correct things. It still reads a little blocky, but it had to since I wanted it to not drift too far from the original Japanese that accompanied it. I also forgot that font matters, and that English comes with many more fonts in Word than Japanese, so I had to sort that out too, and the font had to have a special character which not all of them did.Omake
Well, like I said, I rounded up several talented artist to contribute extra artwork to the book, which was fun, and they did incredible workway beyond the call of the project. I will never do this again so long as I live.
As much as I love all of my artists, friends and deadlines don't mix well, and I don't like depending on other people because I get impatient. I had hoped to have the book done
by the end of June, but the first version wasn't really until probably the first week of July. One of my artists was very bogged down with projects and tournaments, so she had to give her spot to someone else, and then down to the wire I was having trouble because
(another one of the artists! [duh])'s computer hated both her and I and wouldn't wake up and give us the file, which I didn't like, because I'd seen the picture and I really liked it. Eventually, everyone got their work in, and now I have a lovely little collection of fanart in the back of the book. Some of them may even be posting their pictures soon to promote the book!Printing
This was my first time doing self publishing of a picture book, so I had to figure out how to format all of my stuff (which was annoying at first because I couldn't figure how to adjust trim dimensions for custom sized books) and work with a publisher I'd only heard about but never used. Ka-Blam
is probably one of the most cost-efficient options for a young publisher of manga, comics, etc. Their prices aren't bad, they tell you how much your thing is going to cost before you even submit the files (which lets you figure out where you can cut costs if you're trying to). My only gripe is the turnaround time between ordering and receiving copies. I estimate it takes 2 weeks depending on the season from when you order to when you receive, which while that isn't bad
per say given it's an incredible thing to be able to self-publish and in small quantities, it still held the book back a few times. Luckily, that was for the best when it came to spotting errors. I might try Blurb for any other book type project though just to see how their prices compare. That, and I think the only way to order from Ka-blam's service (Indyplanet) is Paypal (I have not confirmed this) which is hard for some people to do, though in this day and age I'm surprised more people don't have accounts, especially because a debit card is allowed instead of a credit card.
IndyPlanet doesn't really have a good interface, and because they expect it to be comics of a certain size ratio, it automatically reformats any image to the preview standards, and it doesn't let you choose which one is your cover because they don't expect people do write their books backwards, so sadly I might lose some sales because of bad UI
Also, get a bunch of friends to throw in like $20 (or go to someone in your school who might know/have one) and get a monitor calibrator. Your colors are probably off without you realizing it, and that makes a different when printing. If you get the book, it's more saturated than the digital copies for that reason (which means that some manual gradients I did don't show up as well, or are harsher than I made them). It's a good thing to look into in general.Reflections
Things I've learned from this project:
-PLAN EVERYTHING. PLAN FOR EVERYTHING.
-Expect delays. Nothing is ever going to go off without a hitch, especially if you have to print it before you're sure it's done.
-If you plan to work with friends, make sure you inform them very early in the process (not halfway) and set clear deadlines. Most of our friends are in school and have other commitments, so the earlier you get to them, the less it will interfere with their own work.
-Do research. Draw that thumbnail as many times as you need to, and redraw the picture until it's right. If you're borrowing from another culture, make sure you get things accurate (there's one nice hiccup that only a few people know about in the book, but I don't think any native Japanese have really caught it).
-Before you draw your story, have the script written out first, and have it looked over by several
qualified editors. This is especially important if you plan to translate into another language. Also make sure you know where you want your text to beon the picture or on its own page.
-Know your page dimensions and how you'll format the pictures (bleed, framed, etc) before you ever draw a page. It will save you in the long run.
-Try and find people who know about the publisher you are usingLook up reviews and see if they're really the best for you.
-Pay attention to all of your mistakes. Even if you can't fix everything, take note of it for next time. I know I've definitely learned a lot from all this, and know what things to do better next time.
I'll probably be posting reference sheets and various side artworks for those interested in a little while. In the meantime, why not, y'know, order the book? [link]
Some good friends: