If you missed it, you can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
To find a publisher, find comics that are similar to yours. Fantagraphics really publishes anything they like. I think Kim mentioned a few times that they are not taking many new projects on now because they are booked up with the reprints of classic comics. Image is basically on a model of you finance. You don’t earn any money from the books until Image has earned back the cost of printing and a little extra. It sounds like a fair model. At the after party, I asked why this was worth it and it seems to be mostly about branding and distribution – Image will distribute your book through Diamond to comic stores everywhere and then you have that I on the spine that is a signal of quality.
Megan recommended self-publishing. Many people start with self-publishing and as it becomes popular a publishing house might pick it up. In the world of comics, as opposed to prose, self-publishing is highly respected. As a side note, you might want to check out this great blog post by Faith Erin Hicks about her experiences publishing.
Mark said to go to conventions in your genre – not just comic conventions. His examples were the horror conventions in the Seattle area (there are no less than three in a year). In the convention vein, Matt suggested you make ashcan copies and give out tons of them. Megan agreed (that is how she got started, I think).
Emi said the web was vital for her (what with being a web comic and all). She says it is not necessary to hide your work – Show it! If you can get a response, people will want more. Comic fans like to hold their comics in their hands so web comics are a good starting place to gain followers. Use Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook to get your comics out there. In a later question someone asked how she gets people to buy the book, if she holds half back or makes everything available. Emi makes everything available, though just by chance people who buy her second book will get to read comics before they are put on the web.
Great question – promoting on the web. Matt actually recommended reading the Fantagraphics blog. He also said go to conventions, read and comment on comics blogs. He compared commenting on a comic blog or news site to a global comics bar. Megan pointed out that the world of comics isn’t really that big. If your participate, people will start to recognize your name. Mark said to be a social butterfly. He has a Facebook page for every comic. You have to constantly put yourself out there.
Emi recommended putting your images on Tumblr. You can connect it to your Facebook page and Twitter so everyone will get an announcement when you post a new image. She was surprised how many followers she got just through Instagram. You sell yourself through your images. When her first book came out, she emailed over 200 comic shops with a link to a PDF copy of her book to read for free so they could decide whether they wanted to sell it in their shop. She also said to hand out postcard of your art at conventions for free to every single person you see.
Brandon brought up that, when getting press, you must remember that you may be addressing non-comic folk.
Another question was about failures that they would recommend avoiding. Megan said if you have spent lots of time on a project, don’t quit. If you get bogged down, put it away for a little or for even a year or more and come back to it so you can find the good parts. Matt agreed. To keep himself from demotivating himself by over analyzing his drawings, he puts them away as soon as they are done. Don’t’ get in your own way. Emi said not to worry about what other people think. Just draw stuff for yourself. Brandon said don’t feel that you haven’t succeeded by measuring success against anything but happiness.
In regards to t-shirt profits and merchandise, Megan has found that Girl Hero swag has earned her way more than books have. Matt said it wasn’t way more for him, but still more. And he finds that the more cool crap you offer, the more real you appear. Kim said Fantagraphics doesn’t offer merchandise because it is too distracting. They want to focus on the books.
And that was it. Then we were off to the Fantagraphics Bookstore for the after party. I tried really hard and did talk to people. But we only handed out one business card. We suck. It was really fun to stand around for a few hours talking about comics with so many other people who make comics (because that is who I ended up talking to). Now that I think about it, I bet it was all people who were comic makers. Duh. So much fun. The Fantagraphics book store has that wonderful booky smell and has so many great graphic novels.
If you missed it, you can read Part 1 here. I intended to post this on Wednesday, but Drink and Draw made me forget.
Art and Writing
Someone asked what not to do in art and writing. This rather stumped some of them. Kim said not to submit too little – at least 6-10 finished pages, if not more. Show you have gumption to finish what you start. A one and a half page synopsis and a couple character sketches is way too little. A completed story is great. One to two dozen completed pages is good, too.
Brendan said to be a professional. Approach it as a job. Write inquiry letters. Everyone nodded.
Matt’s was interesting. To make comics your job, you must decide what you want from it. Indie comics feed your soul but pay shit. Marvel/DC pay great, but it is a crappy job. I bet that last one depends on the person, but that is just part of figuring out what you want.
Megan basically said don’t bite off more than you can chew and if you are bored with it, so is the reader. When she first started drawing comics, she started with a long, feminist, cyber punk story, but felt she couldn’t draw. Then (after many years) she realized that she had a problem with people walking down halls for pages to get from place to place. Then she realized she’s in charge and can make the decisions about what to show. Her rule is if she feels ennui when drawing, there is a problem she needs to work out – find a new way to transition, stop and think about what would be interesting or enjoyable to draw.
Mark said to pick a subject you love to death and can never fall out of love with.
I like this question for Kim: What to do it I have a great story but my art isn’t up to par? Should I wait? Kim said give it a shot and see if you can get something that will work. Some artists have started making a graphic novel to force themselves to draw so they would get better. This is actually why I do mini-comics. I get to practice and get better, but I can try new techniques and tools and maintain visual consistency within each story.
Someone asked at what point do you need to layout where a lot of scenes occur. Of course, this varies from person to person, but led to interesting answer. Megan’s first comics all took place in her apartment for this reason – she knew it like the back of her hand and could get visual reference whenever she needed. Matt once took 25 hours to use Sketch Up to plan out a detailed 3D model of a house for a story. When sounds useful.
Then my favorite part: Tools! Though the question was specifically about computer tools:
Mark – Word for the script, Photoshop for the scanning, Illustrator for framing and layout. He hand letters everything.
Megan – Photoshop to scan and fix line art and color. Hand drawn and lettered.
Matt – Finaldraft (and Notecard) and Word for scripts Art laid out by hand in ink and pencil – he actually scans and resizes throughout the process. Sketchup to build 3D models Illustrator to letter Photoshop to color Manga Studio is for comics like Photoshop is for photos. I am actually starting to be tempted by this program. Might need to look for a demo. He likes to do bruises because he gets to dip his thumb in ink.
Emi – mostly traditional. Photoshop to tone. She finds that she loses the grittiness that traditional provides (I agree).
Brandon – Word and Google Docs. I always wondered if professionals used Google Docs and now I have my answer.
I will post Part 3, the final part, tomorrow. Look forward to it!
On Jan 28, Abe and I went to a Graphic Novel Panel hosted by the Seattle Graphic Artists Guild. We missed the last one and I had heard of three or four of the five speakers that would be there this time. It’s a panel, so it was directed at Q&A basically. The moderator would start things off and then the rest of the time was spent with the audience asking questions.
We spent almost the whole first hour listening to them introduce themselves – entertaining, but not useful. I took 9.5 pages of notes in my 8×5 inch drawing pad, so I will try to just hit the highlights.
Mark Monlux – moderator and member of the guild. He has been an illustrator and cartoonist since the 80s. I think he was a decent moderator. Forgot his own rules sometimes, but he was jovial about being reminded.
Megan Kelso – she was supposed to speak at a Cartoonist NW once, but she lost her voice from having so many speaking engagements! I have two of her books, Artichoke Tales and Squirrel Mother, but neglected to bring one for her to sign. Whoops. Oh well.
Matt Southworth – He draws Stumptown for Greg Rucka and does some more mainstream DC/Marvel stuff for the money. He had a lot to say and is a charismatic speaker.
Emi Lenox – of Emitown. She was the newest to the comics game and the only web comic. She felt too new but added a good voice from both the web and newb point of view.
Brandon Jerwa – mostly writes for licensed characters. He was the most mainstream of everyone, but still had interesting stuff to add. Not that mainstream Marvel/DC is bad, just not my interest.
Kim Thompson – co-owner of Fantagraphics, who hosted the event. He was pretty quiet. Felt like he felt he didn’t belong, but I thought he brought a good voice from the publisher viewpoint.
They went into their histories more than I did here. Those were just the final impressions I am left with.
I thought Emi had an interesting planning process for Emitown. Emi town is a daily autobio comic. Each day she writes down notes of interesting things that happened over the day. That night or even that weekend or later, she goes over her notes to draw some pictures that she later adds text to, if I understood correctly. She stayed on top of it for a year, but fell behind. Then she went back to her notes…1 year later! And had to decipher her notes from each day. She mentioned that Flickr, Tumblr, and Facebook were handy references to decipher her cryptic notes.
Megan likes to go to a place and get a few sketches down to cement the idea in her head. Then she can use those sketches as a memory jump later. She seems to do a lot of planning work. For instance, she did lots of sketches of a climbing knot for a scene in Artichoke Tales. She knew it wouldn’t be prominent, but wanted to get it right, make it authentic. She also solves her visual problems in the layout.
Matt said editors for a comic are not like editors for prose. In comics, they are more like a film producer. For mainstream comics, they really just keep hold of their licenses, making sure the guidelines for the character are followed. Brandon called them traffic cops. At this point, the dreaded graphic novel v. comic book question came up. However, (and they all agreed with my point of view, that in the end, it doesn’t really matter), we did get some interesting information from Kim out of it. The difference in publishing a monthly/pamphlet vs. a whole graphic novel I 30 days vs. 30 weeks or more. This panel was the end of January 2012 and Fantagraphics had already locked in their publications through March 2013! He also mentioned that monthly/pamphlet format is dying out for indie comics.
Part 2 coming Wednesday! Art and writing portion of the panel.