Yen Press Talent Search 2: On Being Good Enough
With the Second Annual Yen Press Talent Search officially on it’s way and excitement, hope and the promise of victory sloshing around the burgeoning manga artist community, it’s worth remembering a few things to clarify the intentions of the good folks at Yen Press and avoid misconceptions.
This is good but it’s not a guarantee of anything.
Yen Press putting its feelers out there for good storytellers can be seen as a positive way to engage with a motivated art community interested in pursuing manga as a profession. Their willingness to sort and read through piles of entries means they are dedicated to keeping their eyes open for local talent. From what I know, they recruit a lot of Korean talent for their OEL manga and this search is a good way for them to discover just-as-great artists at home. In some ways, it does recall earlier efforts by Tokyopop with the Rising Stars of Manga contest but the difference is definitely in the details.
If your entry does get chosen by Yen Press editors, it does not guarantee publication of any sort. I say this out of my humbling experience from last year but I don’t begrudge their choice for structuring it this way. I’ll explain this momentarily. The editors explicitly state that “only professional-level works will be considered for possible publication” this time around and it means that they will only start talking contracts when an artist submits polished, industry-standard work. From a business standpoint, this is much more practical than “instant-publication” because it slows down the process to assess if the artist is truly prepared for the challenges of working in the industry.
And while it was heartbreaking for someone imply “you’re not ready,” I’d rather that was made clear beforehand than be unable to meet their expectations down the road. This ordeal made me realize that successful artists are people always willing to be critical of their own work and pursue improvement relentlessly. At this point last year, I knew my work still doesn’t have the confidence of a professional. I knew my figures, compositions, perspective and inking still needed practice and I knew there was nothing else I could do but keep drawing. That’s what I’ve been working on all year and I’m hoping to keep pushing myself from here on out.
I don’t know if I’m good enough.
I’ve seen this set of words on Deviantart comments – almost always right under the journal post sharing news about contests and exciting opportunities so here’s my two cents about it.
Good enough for what exactly? I’m sure most of you are thinking – the only point of ever joining talent searches and contests is to win, right? So, if I know I’m not clearly not going to win, what’s the point of even trying? Well, if you’re really serious about becoming a good comic artist, this is actually one goal post along the path of your training. Getting in the habit of meeting a deadline, rising up to the challenge of completing a self-contained story and actually executing the work are transferable skills that feed good work ethic.
To put it simply, the more times you manage to dedicate yourself to comic-making, the better you prepare yourself for a making a career out of it. That’s the way I think of it anyway and I’m sure you could argue that your epic tale in-progress and future cash cow is your way of doing that but creating a compelling short story within a limited time frame demands so much more of you. When you face those challenges and come out with a tangible body of work, that’s not only a feather in your productivity cap, it also determines the baseline from which you can jump forward from. When you know what needs fixing, you know how to get better.
If I were to add just one complaint about the way Yen Press handled things last time, I had wished that they had some way of showcasing entries that were chosen. I know asking them to put up our entries online alongside their usual manga may be asking for too much. But some sort of shout-out or recognition online would have been neat since everyone has a web presence nowadays, it would have been an acknowledgement of people whose work stood out as well as given future entrants examples of the kind of work that speaks to the editors. We were mostly left to find each other online since Yen Press did not even have a forum for us to engage with each other. In my opinion, they are missing the chance to foster an invested community. I understand they are aware of this but suspect they have limited resources at their disposal.
Overall, it’s quite exciting to have an ongoing talent search and I highly recommend artists go for it. I’m sure there are also artists out there whose style and subject matter may not necessarily fit into Yen Press’ publications. I think it’s cool YP doesn’t limit their definition of manga to shojo or shonen so it really doesn’t hurt to turn your best work in. Having working editors willing to review your work is really a fabulous opportunity, no matter how you slice it.
Thanks for reading!