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How I got started in manga lettering

Luck had a great deal to do with how I get into manga lettering. I am lucky enough to have a friend from college who is not only even more manga-obsessed than I am, but far more proactive in going after what she wants. Somehow, she got to know just about everyone in the industry (or so it seems to me) even before she landed an actual job in manga publishing. Around a couple of years ago, one of the publishers she knew was looking for new letterers and set her up with a lettering job. When I heard about it from her, I (of course!) begged to be introduced. Fortunately, the publisher was open to other new letterers and the production manager was kind enough to take a chance on me. I guess I did okay, since they kept sending me work after the first book.

In terms of prior experience, I had about a year and a half of book production management under my belt at the time. I was interested in book design, but had no professional design experience. I also knew Photoshop inside and out, though, again, I had no professional experience and I certainly wouldn’t consider myself an artist. I don’t know how much of that they took into consideration when hiring me: I had little experience that was directly related, but I was familiar with Photoshop and book production. Photoshop is definitely a prerequisite; one of the publishers I’ve worked for uses Photoshop and Illustrator; the other requires Photoshop and InDesign. I imagine others use Quark, too, so I’ve become proficient in all of them (though I hardly ever use Illustrator).

But notice my post isn’t called “How to get started in manga lettering” – I don’t know how other people into it, after all! However, it can’t hurt to introduce yourself to publishers at cons to get your name out there (also known as “networking” 😉 ). If they don’t have any openings at the moment (and now is a really bad time, unfortunately), they may very well keep your contact info on file in case they need new people in the future.

Anyone else want to share their stories about how they got into the biz?

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Confessions of a manga letterer

I’ll just start this out with a little about me. I have a day job in book production, which I love (but the company I work for has a strict “no blogging about work” policy, so you won’t be hearing any more about them, alas). In my free time (haha), I letter manga. Check out the books I’ve worked on (or am scheduled to work on) under the “List of Work” page, or see the “Recent Books” box on the right.

So, what does a manga letterer do? Essentially, my job is to place the English translation in the Japanese art (so far I have only done Japanese books). I get art files and a script from the publisher, and combine them to make interior files for the English edition. Usually, I also clean and retouch the pages, but sometimes they are already clean when I get them–and once I got to actually work from the original Japanese print files (and all the typeset Japanese was in separate Illustrator files). It was very exciting!

When I’m not working, I enjoy divesting hardcover books of their jackets to check out the case cloth and foil, occasionally studying Japanese (though I’m awfully behind now!), and reading. A lot. I understand it’s practically required that I post photos of my cats every now and then, so just to get us started off on the right foot, here are Bailey (left, named for the Irish Cream) and the new guy, Loki (right):