Ever wanted to publish a guide book?
Here’s a a short overview how I created Digital Manga- A step-by-step guide, teaching more or less everything I know about Photoshop and turning an initial drawing into a full rendered work of art. Perhaps you’ll find it useful, or interesting to learn what was involved?
People have often been impressed with my digital colouring. And so I’ve wanted to create a book on how I colour my character art since my last year at Uni, back in 2007. Finally in 2013 I put together a proposal and asked the Publisher of my previous titles if they’d be interested in the project. It got the go ahead!
Originally, I wanted full control of the project, even down to creating the layouts. Although I was asked to alter my initial idea somewhat to make it work for the publishers. But I was so keen to see it out there that I was happy to compromise. We dropped a section or two and added in something else and I needed to collaborate with an in-house graphic designer who took the lead on layouts.
In 2014 the book was finished and Published. I was happy!
It took a while to complete- the initial given deadline was around 4 months to submit both the text and images. I then needed a number of weeks some time later to revise the page layouts and re-check over the edited text.
Initial planning took a few weeks prior. I had already created a 30 page BLAD (book layout and design proposal) years ago, which helped speed the initial planning stages up, and of course aided in pitching the idea to the publisher.
Fortunately, I also already had several finished character artworks I’d go on to contribute to the book. Each of which would have otherwise taken a good 20 hours to complete.
I worked my own hours. Some days spending 15 hours solidly working. Other days, just 4 or 5 hours. With 160 pages to fill up with well written, fresh content, it was never going to be a breeze. If I were to guess, all in, I must have spent well over 500 hours on the project.
I wanted the book to be one of the best things I’d ever produced! I was willing to go above and beyond to bring it up to my standards, even if the publisher was otherwise content with a product that was passable. Unlike my previous book TAODM, Digital Manga needed about 55% more written content and 50% more image content. Unlike the previous book, I also didn’t want to use a writing assistant or several image contributions from collaborators this time around. It was important that the work would be my own. Other than a a couple of pages at the back offering tips from fellow artists I happen to follow.
I also took it upon myself to record / screen capture several of the book’s character tutorials. These were converted into time lapse videos and upload to a web page I’d created along with downloadable content.
The book had been available for years now. I appreciate it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, or it may not be the best instructional book in the world, but I’m really proud of the end result. After having researched hundreds of online art tutorials, forums and videos over the last decade , I know the book is covering all the necessary bases and more. It draws upon everything I’ve learned about Photoshop art creation since I started using it back in 2000. Years later, the book’s content is still relevant even with modern versions of Photoshop having been released.
Like with many books sold, I realise a lot of readers will simply just buy it for the pretty pictures and with the intention of one day making use of it. But I really hope people out there get the chance to read it fully or practice some of the content I’ve provided. I’d love to know readers have learned something interesting, useful, and for the book to help with their digital art endeavours.
The book isn’t as perfect as I’d like it to be. Frustratingly, I found several small errors still left in the book after having gone to print! (Mostly not my fault). These could have been easily resolved, but unfortunately, I was not given the opportunity to check out a final proof. I imagine the publishing team were up against deadlines or problems of their own and not as invested in the project? I did all that I could to make sure many of these errors were rectified when to book was reprinted in my expanded Art Class: Manga Art title.
I remember having to spend a lot of time adjusting the graphic designer’s layouts or advising upon how each page was presented. There were an unacceptable amount of inconsistencies and some cases, horrendous design choices- use of garish, clashing colours, tacky background images. I hate to think how the book would have ended up had I not insisted on overseeing the layout stages. It was frustrating that the publisher insisted on using their own graphic designer for layout when I knew I could have done a much better job.
I suspected sales wouldn’t reach the same levels as my previous titles. While the book is, in my opinion, totally awesome and a huge step up from the last ones, I realize Photoshop isn’t as accessible to manga fans as a pencil and paper. Or indeed cheaper and free art software which many beginners use. While the book is accessible, some of the content is more advances and not something for complete novices. The book teaches how I work, but this may not be to everyone’s taste.
Dealing with Publishers
Communication was done completely over email. It was great to have a record of everything sent and received and suited my late working hours.
Although there is this detachment whereby I don’t know exactly what is going on their end. Like me, are they also frantically trying to get everything done and staying up until the early hours to do so? Or are they not taking the project as seriously, slapping together a half-baked job and calling it a day? If often felt like the latter. It can be easy to fear the worst if there is a lack of face to face communication or if there’s a problem and I can’t talk to the designer, the sales team, the accountants directly. Instead everything is going through the editor as a middle-man.
Another tutorial book perhaps? I was asked to work on something else which has the same of visual impact as Digital Manga. At the time of writing, nothing has been confirmed yet. I’ve already given my all to this book. It’s hard to know how I can top it. For now I’ll continue to build up a new portfolio and give myself a back-catalogue of fresh, full coloured artwork to use in a new title.
Until then, I’m looking forward to producing some more artwork and moving onto the next stage of my career 🙂