I love social media because there’s never before been a time where I’d be likely to make a friend in Australia without actually going there. I met Narelle Battersby on Twitter, thanks to a shared love of sports anime and plenty of mutual Twitter friends.
As I began following Narelle’s tweets this summer, I noticed that this girl has one heck of an interesting job. Anime subtitle localizer and erotic fiction editor are both interesting jobs in their own rights; Narelle does BOTH for a living. Currently? She’s a localizer for fujoshi favorite DRAMAtical Murder.
I was going to just interview Narelle about her work at Crunchyroll as a subtitle localizer, since this is an anime blog after all, but the two parts of her career had such a synergy that I wanted to talk to her about both. Here’s how that went:
Otaku Journalist: When people ask what you do for a living, what do you tell them?
Narelle: Depending on the situation my answer can range from “edit genre fiction” to “read manga and porn”. Both are more or less correct, depending on what I’m working on at the time.
Tell me about a typical work day, or if easier, work week.
I generally have a rough idea of what I need to do each week—I know what shows I’m working on on which days, for example. Most days I start by checking my emails and news sites (publishers and anime/manga, movies, pop culture) before reviewing what projects I currently have to work on and the priority I have them listed in, and working out what I need to get done on that day. I usually try to get all my manuscript editing/revision reports etc done earlier in the day so I can take it easier in the afternoon.
There’s a lot of flexibility to being a freelancer working at home, so depending on how heavy the workload is on a given day my hours spent actually working vary a lot. Generally I spend about nine or ten hours a day working, though some of that time is chatting/researching/making snacks angrily while trying to work out the kinks in something difficult. I’m also in contact with my work peers/teammates via email, IRC, and Skype throughout each day.
Working on anime simulcasts is the most specifically timed part of my week. I’m working on DRAMAtical Murder [on Crunchyroll] this season, for example, which has to be done in time for the episode to be finalized to go live at 11 AM Pacific time on Sunday. My other editing all gets planned around the shows I’m working on.
How did you get into subtitle localization? Did you have to learn Japanese?
Localization work is a relatively new gig for me. I sent an application in to Crunchyroll in December last year and got a callback in March. I did a couple of little tests involving editing some sample translated scripts/clips in Aegisub before being offered a spot on the team. My relevant skill set is all my editorial experience; my Japanese is elementary at best and while familiarity with the language is an asset, it wasn’t a requirement.
What do you say to people’s accusations about Crunchyroll subs being (pardon the pun) subpar? It was a hot topic during the CEO’s Reddit AMA.
The people I work with personally on them, we’re all really invested in putting out the best subs we can. We really love the stuff we work on and care about how the subs represent us and Crunchyroll. But obviously, it’s literally hundreds of thousands of words a week on very tight turnaround, getting translated and timed and typeset and edited and checked and changed.
So yeah, mistakes happen, and it sucks when it does. But overall, I think the amount of care shows in the sum quality of our subs and typesetting. When you’re getting it right, people don’t notice so much. Inevitably it’s the big stuffups that stick out, which is unfortunate.
How did you get started in erotic fiction editing? Did you have tamer editing gigs before that?
Not many, surprisingly enough. I dove straight in the deep end. My very first editing jobs were volunteer gigs for local Australian genre magazines, and from there I got a job as a content editor at a small ebook press that published mostly romance/erotic fiction. Which suited me just fine!
How does being an erotic fiction editor put your job as an anime localizer in perspective and vice versa? It seems like there’s quite a synergy going on.
I don’t know about erotic fiction specifically, but already being really familiar with genre fiction definitely helped a lot. Being able to really quickly make dialogue sound natural for the kind of character speaking is the sort of thing you only pick up from working with lots of written dialogue.
It goes the other way too, in terms of characterisation/speech/visual storytelling (anime) and how being exposed to or familiar with lots of examples enriches your ability to be a good creative editor, particularly in terms of substantive/developmental editing.
What are your favorite parts of your career?
The flexibility for one, it’s great being able to work out my own schedule and even take my work with me if I want to go away to a convention or whatever. That, and the fact I get paid for doing things I truly love. Some days I can be lying in bed in my pyjamas working on anime or paranormal erotica, and you can’t beat that.
On the flipside, what are some sacrifices you’ve had to make?
Freelancing is a super inconsistent way to make a living, and that can get really stressful. I make a lot less money than if I had a regular 9 to 5, but for me the trade-off is worth it, and I’m building up a great resume for snagging an in-house job in the future.
What is your advice to fans who want to emulate your career?
Have realistic knowledge and expectations of the industry, and be aware that breaking in can be tough but you can’t give up if you want to succeed. Stalk every industry news site you can find and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there: I got my gig working for HarperCollins by seeing a notice about a new imprint starting and emailing the content manager directly to ask about work. Learn how to write a great cover letter that really sells your skills to potential employers. Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!
Read more interviews with anime fans on Otaku Journalist:
I love these interviews. I’m always interested in learning about different people’s gigs and how they got into them and how their workflow goes.
This was especially interesting to me as I’m a Crunchyroll subscriber and I’m always amazed at how soon we get to see episodes after they’ve aired in Japan.