Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Writers: Take Control!

I've heard one too many concerns from writers who want to get into comics, only to realize that comics publishers aren't too hot about taking in new writing talent compared to those who can work magic with a pencil. It's a sad state where we find many comics "writers" who don't have much of a writing background, virtually bastardizing the craft. Comics may be a visual medium but, as far as I'm concerned, great art can't save a terribly-written story.

So I'm going to pitch an idea to any enterprising writer who wants to take matters into their own hands. It's going to take some coordination work, but I believe that the end product will justify all the effort.

The finished project can either be a self-published effort or coursed through a literary agent who can represent graphic novels. If I had to do this project, I'd do the latter.

Working Title
Naked America: A graphic anthology

An anthology of ten graphic (comics) stories or vignettes of 12 to 28 pages each. Each feature is a slice-of-life featuring one lead character of no particular demographic, placed in a quirky or weird situation that touches on social--not political--issues America is currently facing. These stories are humorous but insightful, frank but poignant, and never forces the issue.

Sample stories are as follows:

1) A 50-ish Nebraska woman decides to go back to her first love--teaching elementary school. On the first day of class, she discovers that her students are goblins, ghouls, and gremlins, who change back to human form when they leave the classroom.

2) A 35 year-old man, down on his luck and contemplating suicide, decides to get lost in the Colorado wilderness. Deep in the forest, he indeed gets lost, but discovers a crater containing a meteorite made of pure gold. It is huge...and very heavy.

3) A struggling 20-something actor in New York gets a high-paying stint in off-off-off-off-off Broadway. The stage play is a dramatic love story between a man and a zombie. On opening night, the actor discovers that the audience is composed of high-class undead.

These are akin to Twilight Zone stories, and for the most part there isn't much difference. The point, however, of the anthology is to present social issues in a non-abrasive manner. The key is telling highly entertaining and quirky stories, with the thesis of issues only evident to those who look hard enough. (See Selling Points for more information)

Physical Specifications
200-page paperback (content only), 6" x 9", 80lb book paper (interior) and 160lb matte board (cover), full color cover, one color interior

Potential Audience
Naked America's primary target is anyone who's into American pop culture and the social sciences. University students and young professionals are included, with a balance of male and female between 20 and 28 years old. Because of this, the language can be a bit off-color as per the needs and treatment of a story. There can be a spillover to older audiences, possibly capping at 35 years old. Those who read Wired, Slate, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and GQ are also potential audiences.

Selling Points
1) Naked America is innovative and in-tune with the times, telling stories in an entertaining but insightful way, without dumbing itself down.
2) The commercial success of graphic novels with contemporary themes has yet to be fully exploited. Works like Jimmy Corrigan, Ghost World and Persepolis have paved the way for similar material, though Naked America won't use "depressing" as part of its editorial policy.
3) There aren't a lot of graphic novels that provide a multi-faceted view of social America. This anthology presents ten.
4) Naked America can be sold to professors of the social sciences to reinforce their teaching. This is a built-in audience.
5) The success of this first anthology can pave the way for more Naked America anthologies, thus starting a lucrative publishing franchise.

Benefits to Comics Writers
1) A writer is only required one story of 12 to 28 pages. It won't eat up a lot of time, and provides an opportunity to flex writing and craft muscles because of the editorial requirements.
2) Naked America provides a venue for solid insight and an opportunity to showcase one's unique voice, very much an advantage in the fiction writing world.
3) When marketed successfully, Naked America is an aspiring comics writer's business card. Even though royalties/profits will be divided over so many creators, the potential boost in reputation is priceless.

How To Set It Up
If you're a writer of an enterprising sort, ask your fellow writers to join in on this project, with you serving as the editor. "Editor" meaning the guy who's going to do most of the work.

Because your story will just be between 12 to 28 pages, your initial investment will be relatively low. The stories will all be in black and white, so a fee of about $20 per page to an artist who's also looking to break in can be acceptable. (Better than asking for art services for free.) Convince your writers to pool some money together to pay the artists. Oh, and make sure that at least one of the artists knows how to prepare artwork for prepress in case not one of you writers do. Pay extra for the service.

Once the scripts are done, pass them around your fellow writers for some nice and healthy critique and edits. You're all in this together, so you've gotta make sure everyone puts their best foot forward, with zero ego.

The entire process from script to finished pages can take anywhere between two to four months, depending on how fast the writing and art stages go. The good part is that artists don't have to worry much about going full "Marvel" style, since the anthology isn't for the superhero audience. Ixnay on the hyper-indie styles, though, since this can alienate some of your potential audience.

Once you have a few completed stories submitted, you can opt to contact some literary agents who represent graphic novels. If you haven't done this in your life, do some research on how to go about communicating and dealing with agents. They would need information about the project, a few samples of completed work, and perhaps even some input on sales potential.

If one agent doesn't bite, try another and another. Or, better yet, if one of your writers knows someone from a publishing company, you can take the short cut. In my book, the less you spend on printing and distribution, the better. Some experts, like self-publishing guru Dan Poynter, will tell you that a good deal of promotional activities will have to be done by authors, so let others worry about distribution and collection while you sell the book.

What do you think of the idea? Any takers?

Labels: , ,


At December 23, 2007 at 11:22 AM , Blogger Crestmere said...

This sounds like a great idea.

I'll see what I can come up with.

At December 23, 2007 at 11:55 AM , Blogger Comics Creator said...

Hello Crestmere! Thanks for visiting.

This is all hypothetical, of course. I just came upon the idea while having dinner but I seriously don't have the time to work on it. If you want to have this idea, it's yours, though it's possible that others may have something similar cooking. :-)

But if you act quickly, you can be the pioneer of this.

At December 24, 2007 at 6:30 AM , Blogger rw said...

Again, I'm impressed by your approach to the entire package of a graphic novel. The serialized format for the chapters is a solid way of building up the book without it seeing daunting. Great ideas and a great overall vision for production!

At December 26, 2007 at 12:24 PM , Blogger Comics Creator said...

rw... Thanks much! I hope it's a big enough idea. Thanks for visiting again. :-)


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home