Editing for the Digital Manga Guild: An Insider’s Perspective

Melinda Beasi is continuing to show us how it is to work for the Digital Manga Guild, with two recent posts that expose some of her experiences and concerns. (She applied over a year ago; the first DMG title was released in August 2011.)

In her first recent post, Melinda explains how the group she first joined fell apart over contract issues (a not-uncommon concern). She attributes this to “lack of effective and accurate communication between DMG’s caretakers and its members … something which continues to be an issue for the Guild”.

She found another group, where she began working without credit or payment, due to existing agreements. However, when that group’s editor went missing, she was finally able to get recognition for her work, when the DMG agreed to “redo the original paperwork”. In the comments, another participant points out that contributors dropping out is a major problem for the program overall. That makes sense — for efforts where you might get paid after publication, sometime down the road, it can be hard to maintain motivation.

It’s disturbing, however, that DMG seems to value having contracts in place over having them realistically reflect who’s doing the work, with them being very resistant to modification of the documents. There are also concerns over scheduling, with questions as to how realistic the due dates are in some cases.

Melinda’s second post looks deeper into her specific role as editor, working without a net. No one required her to have experience, and there was no one for her to turn to with questions. I found it odd that, although she’s labeled an editor, the tasks she describes sound more similar to the role of adaptor, someone who takes the literally translated Japanese and turns it into readable English, and that DMG considers her suitable for that role without knowing Japanese. Ultimately, though, the piece is about how DMG is letting possibly unqualified people work on their publications, based only on their self-assertion that they could handle it and their willingness to accept the deal, and without much oversight or guidance. Of course, providing help would mean that the DMG couldn’t run as cheaply for the company.

Similar Posts: Digital Manga Guild Seen From the Inside § Digital Manga Guild Contracts Examined; Are They Exploiting Contributors? § Digital Manga Guild Expanding to Foreign Editions, Hiring a Lot § The Career of Manga Editing by Those Who Do It § The Guild: Tink

13 Comments

  1. Well, we do have to pass a test. ;) Though the editor’s test doesn’t require any knowledge of Japanese, nor does it test our abilities in terms of rewriting long passages to fit into tiny speech balloons, and other similar issues that arise in editing manga. It tests for basic skills in copy editing and rewriting a raw translation into prettier English.

  2. I hope that didn’t come off too harsh against you — I very much admire you tackling this effort and telling us about your experiences. Thank you for sharing that with us.

  3. Oh! I should also add… my impression is that many (maybe even most?) people who work as adapters (not as combination translators/adapters or editors/adapters) don’t read Japanese, at least not fluently. But they typically would have a fluent editor overseeing their work and making sure that the adaption doesn’t stray too far from the original.

  4. No, no, not at all. I share your concerns.

  5. Melinda’s right that not all adapters speak Japanese–I certainly don’t, other than some basics. I don’t know how common having some Japanese literacy is among adapters, but I can tell you I’ve adapted for three companies now and I don’t recall ever being asked whether I speak Japanese or not.

  6. Ysabet, were you working for someone who did know Japanese? A supervising editor or someone?

  7. I’m not positive that *all* of the editors I’ve worked with speak Japanese, since it doesn’t always come up in conversation, but I believe many/most of them do. (I can’t think of anyone who I know for sure doesn’t.)

  8. Thanks. Sounds like there was someone who could serve as a double-check if needed. The idea of a “second pair of eyes” being useful is unfortunately often what’s skipped when it comes to cost-cutting.

  9. Given that my job involves *being* the second pair of eyes and most publishers don’t use adapters at all anymore, I’m depressingly familiar with that. ^^; Ideally you’d want more like four pairs, I’d think (translator, adapter/rewriter, editor, copy editor).

    But yeah, I would be shocked if there weren’t always at least some people in the editorial departments who speak Japanese, even if I can’t swear that they all do.

  10. Update: A DMG representative has commented in my post to say that there *is* an editor. I am not sure he and I agree on what that means. I’m waiting for response to a couple of points.

  11. I found those additional comments between you and the editor fascinating — it definitely looks like there’s a huge communication gap in what the company thinks it’s providing and what the workers perceive as available.

  12. I feel, too, that it seems like there is a communication gap *within the company* regarding what they’re providing. Much of what Ben said in his comments directly contradicts what we were told about procedure when we signed up. And another localizer (who is not a group leader) just commented to mention that the one time, early on, when she e-mailed DMG directly about something, she was told never to do that again. This kind of contradictory information has been a pretty consistent problem since the beginning, and I’ll be talking more about that in a week or so.

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