In late 2013 I wrote the first article that was the start of Self Taught Japanese, and then in 2018 I published my first e-book containing translations of a few short stories by classic SF author Unno Juza. Maintaining the pace of a few books a year, by mid 2021 I’ve managed to reach a total of 13 books, including one educational book about Japanese grammar that I wrote myself (with the editing help of a colleague).
Each time I put out a book, I always wondered if I should keep publishing these books as an individual, or if I should put in the extra effort to make an official company. After a great deal of consideration I’ve finally decided to take the jump and have created a proper company: Arigatai Books.
There are various pros and cons to starting a company vs. publishing books as an individual, but there are two main reasons I decided to do it. First, I wanted to make it clear that the books I am translating, producing, and publishing are just not some half-assed hobby projects––rather, they are products I take very seriously, and I put great care into making a quality product that both is enjoyable, yet accurate as much as possible to the original text. This also reflects in how much time I spend on editing; with roughly 10-15 iterations per project I generally spend more time on editing than translation or any other part of the project (except perhaps author and story selection which can take quite a while).
The second reason is that I want to make a commitment to myself to continue working on these projects, and making them part of a side business makes it easier to prioritize them as opposed to some random hobby project. At the same time, I want to continue to keep quality in mind and refine the various processes I have developed over the last few years.
I said I would talk about two reasons, but I wanted to mention one more important one. Creating Arigatai Books will also facilitate working with other people on future projects, whether it is authors, translators, editors, cover designers, or some other position related to writing and producing books. I plan to continue working with classic Japanese literature in the short term, but I am now going to be more open to, for example, publishing living authors, and even potentially books that are written originally in English (things about Japanese culture, or language). I––or rather we––are not formally making a call for submissions yet, but feel free to send us an email if you have something in mind.
It’s no surprise that I’ve been inspired by Edward Lipsett of Kurodahan Press, whom I interviewed recently here. For what I understand was essentially a side-business, Edward has done an amazing job of putting out many great books of both modern and classic authors. I think the fact that Kurodahan seems to be gradually winding down gave me a little extra push to create my own publishing company. (Note: Arigatai Books has no formal connection to Edward or Kurodahan Press).
At Arigatai Books, we’ve finished re-publishing all the books I’ve released in the last few years, and we even have a basic website up and running (thanks to my wife who did a great job with that): https://www.arigataibooks.com. There you can find a little more information about who we are and how to contact us.
Right around the time I was in the middle of doing paperwork to create this company, I saw an interesting thread on Twitter where many translators were complaining how much time and effort it takes to pitch their work to publishers, and how some have even departed the industry due to these sorts of difficulties. While I don’t expect to be able to make a huge dent on this problem overnight, in the long term I am hoping I can give more opportunities to translators who are skilled, yet may not have the time or motivation to contact hundreds of publishers. Reading that thread gave me an extra kick that I was doing the right thing here.
Besides the creation of a publisher, I don’t have any product announcements to make in this post, although I am working on a really exciting project now that I hope to release in the next few weeks. While re-publishing our books I did replace the cover of our book of dark fiction by Yoshio Toyoshima. While I liked the cover I had originally designed, based on the picture of a spiral staircase, ultimately I found it too cluttered and the title text was just too small, so I decided on simplifying using the idea of interlocking rings, which is mentioned in one of the stories.
As for Self Taught Japanese, I’m planning on continuing to post new content on learning Japanese language and culture, as well as other related matters as I have been doing for over eight years now. While there will be some overlap between this site and my publishing activities, I don’t want to turn STJ into a website that only focuses on our books, which is why I decided to make a separate site for Arigatai Books.
Now that some of the initial setup for the company is done, I can go back to focusing some more time on what I truly love: reading, translating, and producing books of Japanese literature.