Industry veteran blames Internet talent scouting for massive young adult literature rewrites by people who aren’t supposed to be writing.

Over the last few years, there’s been a huge boom in Japan’s light novel industry. The pulpy paperbacks are loaded with fantasy, science fiction, and romance storytelling conventions, which not only makes them an easy sell to Japan’s sizable otaku population, but also means that the light novel industry as a whole has become a major seedbed of possible anime adaptations with resulting multi-media franchises.

It’s also easier than ever for would-be authors to get their foot in the door, since many light novels start off as writer-uploaded works to content sharing websites like Shosetsuka ni Narou (which translates to “Let’s Become Novelists”). Publishing companies regular scan these sites in their search for new talent, reaching out to the writers of the sites’ most popular stories and offering them a deal to publish it in print or monetized online form. However, a light novel editor, who prefers to remain anonymous, recently spoke with web magazine Nikkan Cyzo about what he sees as a major problem with this method.

As first, the system seems like it should be an easy road map to success, since the publishers are starting with stories that have already built up a fanbase. However, the editor said that hardly any of the web novels that earn the authors publishing deals are polished enough to be published as-is for an audience that’s actually going to pay to read them. “So before publishing, editors request revisions from the authors, but we’re seeing an increasing number of authors who can’t get their books to a publishable level, no matter how many rewrites they attempt.”

The editor laments that he’s sent manuscripts back to the author with numerous requested revisions, only to be kept waiting an entire month for only a handful of changes to eventually be made in the new draft. “The version they put out on the Internet was the result of them using every last bit of their skills, and there’s no way they can do any better.”

However, publishers are only willing to wait so long before they have a product they can start selling, and the editor says “the author can’t write” isn’t an excuse that will buy a lot of time. “So the editor ends up doing the rewrite himself,” he says, claiming that the market is in the middle of a rapid increase in the number of light novels that are written almost completely by their editors, instead of the authors listed on their covers. In regards to one of the books he himself worked on, the editor recalls “The author just gave up, so I wrote about 200 pages of it.”

On the one hand, being a novel’s editor is all about looking for ways to improve a less-than-perfect manuscript from the credited author. However, there’s a point where an editor is doing so much writing that he’s at the very least a co-author, and this unexpected crossover of duties is becoming increasingly frustrating to the editor quoted here. “There are some light novels which are written by editors, but the royalty payments go to the authors. It’s upsetting,” he says. Toss in the fact that the light novel industry is heavily sequel-driven, with some popular series continuing for dozens of books published over the course of years, and getting stuck with a writer who can’t actually handle writing sounds like a serious nightmare for an editor.

Source: Livedoor News/Nikkan Cyzo
Top image: Pakutaso