[Editorial Tuesday] The Process of Publishing a Manga

Mangaka-san-to-Assistant-san-to-capture-2-700x394 [Editorial Tuesday] The Process of Publishing a Manga

In a previous Editorial Tuesday, we shared the path to becoming a mangaka, meaning manga artist or author. For this edition of Editorial Tuesday, we are sharing the process of publishing a manga in itself, which goes hand-in-hand with that respective article. We are positive that a great number of you readers are aspiring artists that have been greatly influenced by anime and manga and wish to publish in that style. There are a good number of roads to achieving those dreams and we hope with our Editorial Tuesday, we can assist you in that.

Submit Your One-Shots/Concepts

As previously shared, Japanese publishing companies such as Kodansha and Shueisha have contests where prospective artists can submit their own works. So if artists wish to get published, then submitting a concept manga called a one-shot is the most common method in Japan to do so. And just to let you know, Shueisha, the main publisher of Shounen Jump, happens to host contests for non-Japanese citizens on an annual basis. So if you got an idea of a one-shot that the whole world should see, then feel free to submit one for the next contest. Details can be read at medibang.com, the host site of the contest.

After all, one-shots are gathered, a collection of submissions gets published and allows readers to get an idea of what the future of manga is. Upon reviewing the survey submissions of which was the best one-shot, the publication company announces the top winners for some prize money or contract.

There are other reputable contests such as manga-audition.com to get started. Even if a contestant doesn’t make the cut, they can always try again or find other methods though it is a little longer road to getting published.

Conceptualize and Practice

As NBA legend Allen Iverson would say, the keyword to getting published is all about practice. Conceptualize your stories, your characters, and do a bit of world building for your idea of a manga. Write down a synopsis on what you want to do. Do you want to make a comedy? Romance? Action? Adventure? Or do you want to make a combination of one genre and another? What kind of setting do you want to make? Steampunk? Present? Future? Or are you thinking of a space opera? What kind of themes do you want? Love conquers all? Hard work and dedication? Teamwork? Obviously, you need to give the story a sense of direction.

After you get some story concepts down, start to design your characters. What kind of style do you want? Moe? Mature? Sexy? Shoujo? Shounen? Experiment what works in relation to your story. Just see what you can do first and if you find something you enjoy, do some more experimentation to the point you feel comfortable sharing with potential audiences with what you can do. Feel free to show some simple samples on sites such as DeviantArt to get some initial recognition and how viewers react.

In addition, doing side work in relation to art such as designing clothing or posters can be helpful in gaining experience, craft development, finding an audience, and building your resume. In terms of writing, feel free to publish your own original stories on Honey’s site to help develop your writing skills.

Last, you need to know your audience. Kids? Pre-teens? Teens? Early twenties? Elderly? Or generally for kids with some hidden adult humor that will fly over children’s heads? Though we all know this, it still needs to be consciously remembered when conceptualizing your story. Last, in case some of you haven’t, take some classes on art and storytelling. If you can’t, look up some information on the net, iTunes University textbook programs, or YouTube videos on what you can do to improve yourself in those aspects.

Some Storytelling Techniques

If you have ever taken any screenplay or acting classes, you pretty much know the standard 3-act story arc. In context of literature, you have the dramatic structure of introduction, rise, climax, fall, and resolution. If you have all of this in mind, you can get right to your foundation of how you want to make your manga’s story. In context of Japanese storytelling, they have a technique called Kisho tenketsu (起承転結).

Take, for example, you have a high school student sitting in the back corner by the window looking at the window in the middle of class. He or she doesn’t care about what’s going on in class and is waiting for something out of the ordinary to happen. This sets ups interest and makes readers wonder where it could go next. Is the high school student going to see some crazy explosion down the block? Or just see a flock of birds fly by?

All of this anticipation is the “ki,” or establishment. So what happens next? That is the “sho,” or event(s) that drives the story, and “ten” is taking action. Take, for example, the crazy explosion does happen (the sho) and everyone is in a panic and for some reason, this high school student chooses to fight for justice just to prove how cool they are (the ten) or because they don’t enjoy their ordinary life. “Ten” takes up a huge majority of the story since that is where all the action and development all happen.

During the “ten” the hero comes to terms with doing the right thing for the sake of benefit of humankind as opposed to looking cool. “Ketsu” is simply the ending, where the high school student finds the people responsible and brings them to justice. The main character could either become a hero in the shadows and be ok with it, or gain the respect of his or her peers.

There are many ways to structure a story but as long as there is a beginning, middle, and end that are all equally exciting, use what method(s) works for you. With some exception, you can just make it up as you go along. Akira Toriyama pretty much made up the story of Dragon Ball as he went along but it naturally has its own problems (such as forgetting certain characters like Launch ever existed). But it also helped when he came up with the Super Saiyan concept because it helped him get around the inking process, which can be time-consuming and would also allow him to make deadlines much faster.

The Right Tools and People

For some of you who may not already know, being a manga artist is something of a respected position in Japan. As crazy as it sounds, people equate the position to being that of a teacher, doctor, or lawyer considering how much manga is published in Japan and that’s everywhere there. In fact, manga makes up more than 25% of what is printed in Japan. With how professional it sounds, just like any other art-related career, you’re going to need the right tools to make your manga look good. Generically, you need pens, pencils, paper, rulers, and other materials you probably use in your art classes, but there are some special tools that manga artists universally use in creating their work.

For example, manga artists use g-pens for inking and outlining, which you can buy in many arts and crafts stores. What makes g-pens different from generic pens is that you have to put the ink on the tip. The shape of the tip allows artists to draw lines of various thinness and thickness. Also, have you ever wondered how manga could have excellent textures with certain backgrounds or other objects? It is thanks to a special small art knife called a tone cutter. The tone cutter allows certain places to establish texture on a building, piece of clothing, or other objects that require it.

Some artists can work alone, and there are artists who work with assistants. Certain assistants may have a specialty such as drawing vehicles, buildings, or animals. Considering the round-a-clock schedule they work (if in the instance the manga is published weekly), the assistants live with the author! So within give or take a week, the author and his assistants much make the story, pencil, ink, and so on to make the deadline to the point that manga authors only sleep 3-4 hours a day!

Depending on what aspect of the industry you are in whether it would be online or standard print, certain software programs may be necessary for creating your manga such as Photoshop, or manga centric software such as the manga studio edition of clip studio paint ex.

Starting with A Publisher In the US

For you American based artists who wish to work domestically, the application process is simple but getting the job is by no means easy. First, you submit a synopsis of your work (along with the typical cover letter and resume) to a publishing company of your choosing. Depending on the company, some would like a short page while others would like three to five pages so it is best to prepare both types. In both versions, you need to provide the beginning, middle and end so they have an idea of what the appeal is and they can judge if it is a seller.

As a companion to the synopsis, you must also submit your character designs and their bios. Next, publishers are also going to require a sample chapter or some sample pages of what the manga is. In some instances, they may even require them to be in color (it could be used as a cover). After submitting your work, on average, you may need to wait two months. If they don’t get back to you, then move on.

If in the event you work with a publishing company, it is strongly recommended that you do your research on them and negotiate the kind of contract you want, especially if you want to keep the copyright to your work (which has been a long controversy in the American comic book industry). As for the company, do they specialize in selling materials in relation to your conceived genre and/or target teenage audiences? If teenagers are your target audience, then go with a company that concentrates on that. Or if you want to make a sci-fi manga, then submit your work to a publisher that is known for sci-fi.

Working with Editors

Though we have previously shared in becoming a mangaka, we feel that need to reiterate this again because when publishing your own manga through a powerhouse company like Shueisha, while the original author is the sole credited creator, it doesn’t always mean they have 100% creative control. Compared to the US comics industry where staff can change on a Spider-Man and/or Batman comic for the last five to eight decades, Dragon Ball will always be recognized as a Toriyama comic, and not necessarily as a Shounen Jump and/or Shueisha comic in the same vein that Superman is mostly recognized as a DC comic. Even so, editors in Japan do have input and when getting a manga published, and there have been some disputes in the past between editors and manga authors.

There is confirmed history of Toriyama’s (civil) disputes with his editors through the duration of Dragon Ball. One controversy is whether or not Goku should grow up because the editor felt it violated the rules of Shonen storytelling. Toriyama, on the other hand, wanted to make Goku grow up because it would make the action sequences easier to draw. As we all know, Toriyama got his way in these instances. In fact, he has based a number of his villains in Dragon Ball on editors he has worked for humor purposes and not out of spite.


If the normal channels don’t work out for you, with the Internet today, you can publish your own work such as the cases of One Punch Man and MegaTokyo. In fact, self-publishing can be beneficial in a way where you can keep the copyright to your creation as opposed to the publishing company (though it is easier to negotiate this today in comparison to the old days). You get to be your own boss, but you need self-managing skills and discipline to get the job done. In the past, there have been dedicated sites such as Inkblazers.com to help aspiring artists display their own original manga and get money but are unfortunately gone.

As of present, submit.comixology.com is the best site to show your work. The site has the information you need in regards to how you can submit your work, how and when you get paid and maintaining the intellectual property of your work(s). However, if you already have a reputation for other art related sites such as Deviantart or Instagram, you can then use it as an avenue to promote your manga as well. Sometimes, you can still physically print the manga yourself and sell it to local bookstores or on the internet but is very time consuming and will cost some money.

Final Thoughts/Whatever Road You Take

We encourage all aspiring artists reading to pursue their dreams. As you have read, there are numerous avenues you can take in getting published and recognized. Manga is no longer a Japanese thing and people from all over the world can now make their mark in that style. So go out, network, and share your talent with the world.

Mangaka-san-to-Assistant-san-to-capture-2-700x394 [Editorial Tuesday] The Process of Publishing a Manga


Author: Justin "ParaParaJMo" Moriarty

Hello, I am originally from the states and have lived in Japan since 2009. Though I watched Robotech and Voltron as a child, I officially became an anime fan in 1994 through Dragon Ball Z during a trip to the Philippines. In addition to anime, I also love tokusatsu, video games, music, and martial arts. よろしくお願いします

Previous Articles

Top 5 Anime by Justin "ParaParaJMo" Moriarty

Recommended Post

Top 10 Mangaka on Hiatus

Recommended Post

What is Mangaka? [Definition, Meaning]