How does an illustrator get attached to a light novel? Do writers go to an artist before they try to get published, or do they meet artists through the publisher? Does the author pay the illustrator before publication, or do both the author and illustrator get paid by the publisher? And if the author does pay the illustrator beforehand, then does the illustrator make any money off of the publication? Is it usually a “professional” illustrator that works on a light novel, or someone the author found on pixiv and launched into stardom with the publication?
Besides my interest as a light novel fan, I’m also interested in this as a writer. I would really love to do some of my works in the style of light novels, so I want to know just how I should go about attaching an illustrator to my works.
There are two Gosick light novels available in English, and they’re likely to be the only two unless fans get to work on the others. I bought the first when it came out because it was translated by Andrew Cunningham and he enjoyed it—two things that guarantee it’s good. After that book, Tokyopop cancelled the series, and it looked like there’d never be any more Gosick in the US. Imagine my surprise when two years later I see volume two on the shelves at Barnes & Noble. The second book has no translator credit (it literally says “Translator: “). I asked Cunningham about this, and he said that he’d translated the second book already before they cancelled the series, but had heard nothing about the release. I can’t imagine that they’d continue with another translator (nor do I think it’d be a good idea since Cunningham is the best light novel translator).
For those who have never heard of Andrew Cunningham, he is a translator who has done such series as the Boogiepop novels, the Kino’s Journey novel, Gosick, Missing, Death Note: Another Note, Goth, Parasyte, XxXHolic Another Holic, and several of the stories in Faust. Cunningham has received massive praise for his work from the few out there available to recognize him, and is one of my personal favorite people around in general (to the point I will pretty much buy anything he translates, and I actually follow his livejournal.) While there is no way to make this a definitive statement, it’s best to just consider Andrew Cunningham the absolute king of Japanese-to-English translation, namely in the light novel department. He is also a member of Eastern Standard, a general anime blog he shares with two others, which used to be a review site.
Long ago, on his LiveJournal, Cunningham made some very insightful and interesting notes on the importance of a translator and the difference between translating and editing. It’s a must-read in my opinion, especially for light novel and video game fans – the last paragraph in particular being something that I cite often. I am reposting this both to spread the word on this as well as to have an easy citation source as opposed to an impossible-to-find livejournal entry.
Sakae Esuno‘s Future Diary (or Mirai Nikki as it is known in Japan and still know by most fans) is a psychological thriller that might be one of the best entry points into modern Japenese young adult fiction around. The first volume, which has recently been published in the US by Tokyopop, moves at an insane, whiplash-inducing pace that burns through plot elements, action scenes, character interaction, and emotional development so fast you might not even realize at first that any of it happened. However, whether you have just finished your first blast-through or are turning the pages again for a closer look, there’s no doubt that you’ll find something enticing in the pages of the Future Diary.
If you still don’t know, I am an insanely huge fan of the light novel Boogiepop and Others. I like this novel more than anything else – anime, movies, manga, anything. If I had to recommend one thing to everyone I’ve ever met, it would be to read Boogiepop and Others… at least 3 times, because any less and you didn’t catch everything, and even then you should probably read it a few more times. It won’t be hard, the book can’t possibly take more than 2 hours to read. I re-read it for the 10th or so time today, after it’d been quite a while – a couple years ago it took me a lot longer to muscle through the volume, but now it’s like a breeze even though I’m a slow reader. Probably helps that I know the book like the back of my damn hand. I can’t recite it yet, but I do always know what hte next line will be. Even now, there are a few things in there I still catch that I hadn’t before, even if it’s totally miniscule moments. The fact that I do catch them, though, furthers my desire for rewatching some of the anime that I don’t think I’ve grasped fully yet (caughLaincaugh). But I digress.