In the past, I’ve written about the origins of our charity projects but I’ll post another refresher here: After meeting at Hal-Con 2010, Peter Chiykowski and I wanted to work together on something. A few other new friends from that show expressed interest and we thought about killing one bird with one stone. Fast-forward to 2011 and the release of What the Wild Things Read. With a tightened focus and many more contributors, we came back even stronger in 2012 with Fearsome Fables.
The reason I’m spilling some more ink about these projects is that this week, we are extending invitations to what we’re calling ‘legacy contributors’ or those who have already been a part of the Ink’d Well Comics charity anthologies. After that, we’ll be armed with new information to help recruit new talent.
This also brings me to something that may or may not be surprising to you, dear reader: Organizing a project like this isn’t easy.
Sure, pitching a charity anthology with dozens of independent, mostly Canadian talent tends to be pretty successful as we hit conventions or advertise at shops. The thing to remember is that assembling the contributors is only the first step. Then, we need to make sure people actually deliver the art… and deliver it on time.
Sometimes, people need lots of reminders. After learning our lesson the hard way in 2011, we enforced things a bit stricter in 2012. This was mostly due to the need to print earlier, a fact that was outside of our control. For 2013, we are on a slightly more comfortable schedule but it is still tight. If people are late, we have to move forward and it is just a publishing fact of life.
Presuming the content was submitted on time (and that is an easy presumption when we are blessed with such dedicated, generous people as we have been), the next stage is the editing process. Aside from something embedded in the art, Photoshop is our best friend as we can adjust something minor to avoid hassling the artist again. Prose writers and poets are kind enough to submit RTF files, which also cuts a lot of give-and-go time. I shudder to think how people had to work in the days before computers!
Once the edits are complete, we must lay out the book in a manner that makes sense. Little details, ones no one spots when they’re present but certainly notice when they’re not (e.g. page numbers, table of contents, back cover, etc.)
So, we have a shiny exported file and are ready to go to the printer. We contacted them a while back and prepped them on things and have a quote. Now, we submit and approve the proofs. This is all easy if you’ve worked with the shop in the past. Otherwise, this step alone may be an extra week or two longer than expected. That’s time that sometimes, you just don’t have – this was certainly the case for us in 2012, but our printer really came through for us. We’re lucky to have a few excellent printers in our current rotation.
Anyhow, the books have been printed and you have hooked up your contributors with their copies, as well as any who pre-ordered copies. This is something we changed from the past few years: The goal is to maximize charitable impact and anything we can do to accomplish this, we will certainly pursue. In the last two years, we spent an additional (approximate) $800 on operating costs that we’ll hopefully avoid, for the most part, this time out.
Finally, the book is ready to launch. You need to sell the concept to people, promote it effectively and then sit back and ask yourself an important question: Was the stress of the past few months worth it all in the end?
The answer is always the same: Absolutely.
On February 14, I saw this picture posted on the Strange Adventures wall, along with the caption: “‘Teacher this funny!’ – official review of Fearsome Fables from a grade 1 class of Korean children.”
I couldn’t believe my eyes, and needed to learn more.
Tylor Perry has been teaching in Korea these past few years. He recently received a care package from his folks. It turns out his brother bought a copy of the book and his mom knows a relative of one of our contributors (Gus Webb, who also signed it).
Tylor said that the comic is a reward for his students after a good day.
Thanks to Tylor for allowing us to post this. I hope you and your students continue to enjoy Fearsome Fables!
Courtesy of our pal and frequent collaborator, Ariel Marsh, here are some Ink’d Well Comics valentines!
It’s our way to give back to all the supportive people who have allowed us to keep at this whole ‘comic thing.’
We kicked things off with someone running a red light and smashing into my wife. Thankfully, she’s all right. Our car isn’t. So now, we play the waiting game. It sounds like repairs are possible (and they’re definitely fully covered by the other person’s insurance) but it’s still annoying.</p?
All three of us have battled fevers, chills, sweats and the other fun things that accompany illnesses. For the first week of the month, I think we were all sleeping 16 hours a day. Even then, we probably could have used more. My poor wife spent her birthday wrapped up in two blankets and, for the most part, asleep.
At least the massive snowstorm didn’t turn out to be all that much of a nuisance for us. In fact, it made everything rather beautiful. Our illnesses are little more than a nagging cough. Furthermore, we received word that our car should be ready in a few days.
Maybe this month won’t be so bad anyhow.
Here’s a not-so-secret from the world of funny books: Unlike movies, television, theatre, radio plays and nearly everything else, there is not standard template for comic scripts.
My original scripts for Messiah (2002-ish) were adapted from the MS Word script template… um, yeah. The revised editions (that resemble the eventual printed books, rather than the first trainwreck) were heavily modified from the examples in the DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics. Faces was nothing fancy: Each sentence was a line in my first note-making software, Omni Outliner. Aside from a few meter adjustments, what you saw is pretty much what I first wrote.
Sci-Fact Comics, which I touched on in a different entry, was originally meant to be a full story centred on Pluto’s declassification as a planet. Nonetheless, I built an entirely new script template for this in MS Word – eventually recreated as an even fuller template in MovieMagic Screenwriter, where I also wrote Infantasy with very little tweaks.
Beginning with Super Galactic Space Explorers, and extended to Emma Awesome and some unannounced projects, I have used a piece of software called Scrivener. Honestly, I receive nothing for my mention of these applications and am only suggesting them because they’ve worked for me. If something else works for you, fantastic! Anyhow, back on point, I absolutely love Scrivener now but it’s a little daunting when you first open the application. Check out the brilliant tutorial by another comic scribe, Antony Johnston. It’ll help get you set up. Before long, you’ll modify the template to fit your own needs. Find it here: http://www.antonyjohnston.com/articles/scriveningcomics.php.
So you’ve learned that there is no accepted format but respected templates. Are there any other rules at all or is it like the Wild West? Yes, there are some. The ‘Recommended’ section is wholly my own but has worked for me. As long as you follow the four ‘Critical’ points – ones nearly any comic scribe will adhere to – you’re probably safe.
- Secrets: The public will, in all likelihood, never read your script. Don’t fill it with clever twists and secret reveals – this will make your editor and artist hate you. If you are editing it yourself, stop that foolishness now and find someone trustworthy. If you are drawing it yourself, it is still a good idea to be cognizant of this rule in case you ever work with a collaborator down the line.
- Pacing 01: Your script should detail what happens on each page, either generally or specifically (i.e. panel-by-panel). I’ve seen comic scripts that are almost like narrative prose where scenes will go on for pages. How in the world will you ever know if your comic flows if you don’t plot things out properly? Furthermore, if your script essentially features every idea you have in your head, your story is improperly paced.
- Important story points: If you have something absolutely essential to the story (e.g. a character quirk, an angle, or a background detail), be sure to mention this in your script. Artists are skilled at their craft and are tasked with adapting your descriptive storytelling into a visual form. Tying in with the above points, how are they supposed to know what is necessary if you do not make things clear?
- Tonal shifts: You may prefer to write the dialogue after you see the art. That’s fine, but have a general idea of what the characters are supposed to say. Otherwise, there may be serious differences in tone that confuse and put off readers.
- Visual storytelling: Talk with the artist and learn how they prefer to work. In addition to your own style guide, be sure to include anything possible to help bring out the best in your collaborator and make their lives easier. Depending on how well you know the artist, this could be moved up to critical, or down (i.e. you know each other’s methods so well, your scripts are already catered to their needs).
- Pacing 02: In addition to the notes above, you may wish to sketch out things in the margin/white space so that the artist has an idea how you envision things. A picture is worth a thousand words, so think of this as a way to keep your word count lower!
- Performance art: You don’t need a Hollywood budget, just some friends (order some food as thanks!) and a near-complete version of your script. Act out, or simply read aloud and pinpoint the highs and lows of your work. Keep things as serious as possible lest emotional weight in scenes be lost.
There are other things that aren’t rules or recommendations but rather suggestions, but those really are subjective (e.g. “edit after each pass” or “it’s never too late to kill a bad idea”).
Maybe I’ll save those for another time. You’ve read enough, after all, and it’s high time you get back to writing.
Edit: Now with pictures!
Here are two images, one before and one after, from Emma Awesome.
Note that a fair amount has remained and, unlike a lot of my comics, most of the dialogue is the same. I always treat my scripts as a near-final version because you never know how things will truly fit and flow until you have the art.
Continuing the "you asked, we answered" theme of these Virtual Writing Seminars, we have a question from Jason:
"What are you remedies for writers block?"
I did a whole series on dealing with writer's block last year on this blog, but it basically amounts to this: power through.
Write the character describing his shoelaces. Write the characters's fantasies. Write anything until the block is gone.
While we disagree a bit on whether or not Writer's Block exists (I feel it does, in a manner of speaking), I agree with Matthew on the concept of Writer's Procrastination.
On the 14th, I had this brilliant idea for an entry. I sat down, made some notes and set it aside. My daughter’s birthday was the next day and I wanted to wait until after before getting down to business. Toss in a cold I’ve been battling for the past week and, well, the timing was poor.
On the 16th, I sat down and looked over my notes and the entry came together easily. I didn’t post it just yet, for whatever reason. Maybe fate was tugging at my shoulder, since I soon came across a fresh editorial touching on the precise same notes — this on a website with millions of daily readers.
Undeterred, I scavenged my original piece and took some great points away. By the next night, I had a new entry whipped up… until I read a similar article on my tablet as I sat in bed not two hours later.
Here I am today, moaning about the fact that I didn’t have anything to write and turned it into something. Clever.
The real reason I’m touching on this is that it ties into my creative life as well: No matter how much time we spend online or absorbing material, and believe we have hit upon something unique, there’s bound to be someone somewhere who has already done so. Heck, even this idea is not unique: “Nothing is original,” stated Jim Jarmusch.
I ran across this a few months back with an unannounced project. Despite myself and the co-creator being fairly knowledgeable in both mainstream (he’s like a walking encyclopedia) and indie books, we somehow missed a recent, similarly titled book from the third largest American published that was created and drawn by an industry legend. Thankfully, the only similarities seem to be the title and that it’s a comic book. Nonetheless, I’m sure it won’t be the last time my work abuts another’s.
Some folks may point to the existence of the internet and say, “How could you not know?” To this, I ask: Have ever tried finding something one day and failed, only to discover it when you least expect it? Well, multiply that by and endless stream of numbers and it’s the state of the internet. A whole lotta nothin’.
Back on point, it’s inevitable that we’ll come up with something unoriginal so just soldier on and make do with what you have. That’s what I did today!
Previous entries under “The process” heading examined my working relationship with artists. This time around, I’d like to examine… self-examination. Enjoy!
There are many important pieces of advice you are likely to receive along your creative path. For a long time, we have been told to follow suggestions and take them to heart, but is this truly possible? If someone suggests we kill off our lead character in a one-and-done story, whereas another says we create an entire series around him or her, can we do both?
With all that out of the way, allow me to give you a piece of advice: Know when to heed, and know when to ignore.
Um, you may want to heed this.
I was going to write this as a reasons-to-do-one/reasons-to-do-another entry but realized that simplifies things to the point where my point is lost. This isn’t binary but rather an organic situation that requires critical thinking and honest introspective processing.
So someone tells you that your lead character needs to be killed off? That could simply mean they feel your story lacked a climactic punch. Someone tells you your character should have his or her own series? Then they must find elements captivating and want to see the hero (or anti-hero, or even villain) in many other interesting scenarios.
You aren’t going to please everyone, and you certainly aren’t going to please yourself – creative types are almost always their harshest critics – so there are times to stick to your guns and tweak, rather than revamp.
Of course, there are times you need to revamp. If you and your immediate circle are heaping lavish praise on your work (and your immediate circle doesn’t consist of other creators who can view things with an honest, yet critical eye), you may truly have a hit on your hand. You may also have something else on that rhymes with hit. How do you know the truth? Well, first off, I’ve already told you: Expand your circle. Don’t be afraid to send your work to people with experience and see what they have to say. You may realize that there are many crucial aspects you overlooked, or plot points/threads that simply do not connect, or your character’s voices and motivations are all wrong, or…
But then again, you may not…
See what I mean about knowing when to heed and when to ignore? It is at this point that you have to really sit down and go through things. If you find that you typically are not one to handle criticism well, this may be very difficult. This is why meeting creators at shows, or via social networking or comic shops, is pivotal. You need the advice even if you aren’t going to follow it. Why? Because critical examination strengthens our own work and abilities – again, unless you feel your work is always perfect and if that’s the case, good luck with that.
If we look at our work and feel, after edits and re-edits, that the story is precisely how we want, then by all means push forward. Nobody knows your creation like you. Remember that all art is subjective and what pleases/displeases some will not elicit the same response from everyone.
Unless it does. Universal praise? Congratulations… unless your circle consists of your best friend and mom. Universal criticism? Torch the piece and try again… unless your circle consists of your high school bully and Clancy Brown’s prison guard character from The Shawshank Redemption.
Confused yet? I understand there is a lot to digest but hopefully the above at least gave you something to think about. So, with all that out of the way, allow me to give you a piece of advice: Know when to heed, and know when to ignore.
Since starting Ink’d Well Comics in late 2009, we have printed multiple books and series with many different printers. These projects have been of varying sizes, page counts and colour method. Because of this, the most popular questions I receive from aspiring comic creators revolve around choosing the right printer for the job. Hopefully this post points you in the right direction.
Before you start, there are a few things you need to determine:
1) Budget. Absolutely every decision you make needs to revolve around your ability to pay for something without it crippling you or the project.
2) Colour or B&W (or greyscale – some printers differentiate between the two, so be sure to ask)
3) Print run. If this is your first title, or you are putting something out that may not have the widest appeal, it’s best to err on the side of caution.
4) Page dimensions. Despite standard comic books having a specific dimension, not all printers follow this – some differ by the smallest amount, yet enough to cause problems down the line. Skew larger, as it is always easier to shrink down.
Many of these points may not matter if you’re simply printing off an ashcan run. This is a cheap, easy way to get your work out in the wild. A photocopier (or home printer, if you don’t mind swallowing the ink costs), large paper-cutter and a long-reach stapler will be your best friends. Keep costs to a dollar or less (split between materials and costs incurred making the cover pop) because you’re likely to give most of these away. The rest can be displayed at local shops or sold through ‘zine festivals.
Traditional printing resembles the comics released by major publishers and, as expected, costs a lot more. Ashcans are great for their purpose but if you want to establish yourself as a professional, you need to look the part. Expect to pay – depending on size, colours, print run, dimensions and shipping — $1 to $4 per standard 22-page issue, more for graphic novels. Don’t expect immediate profits, as you will first need to recoup your up-front costs. On the plus side, comic shops and convention attendees are more likely to be attracted to your high-quality books. You’ll also have incredible flexibility with regards to page and cover weights, tones, etc. One last bit of advice: Spring for pre-assembled books (most good printers don’t even offer options for self-assembly).
I haven’t had as much success as others with print-on-demand (POD) services but having worked with both of the big two, in terms of variety, let me share what I’ve discovered. The more popular of the two, Ka-Blam, only accepts TIFF files, unless a recent change in policy has been made. This is quite annoying due to the layout programs I use. For you, this may not be an issue so keep that in mind. I’ve also had bad luck in general with Ka-Blam. This is not necessarily indicative of the company on the whole because many of my good friends have never once had a single problem. Furthermore, I’ve purchased books from their amazing online store (IndiePlanet) without issue. ComixPress have been very good to me, in terms of service, but their shipping is much slower and their online storefront isn’t as impressive. Nonetheless, the quality is equal and the costs are lower. One thing about POD books is that, at their best, they still always have a certain ‘feel’ about them that isn’t quite right compared to traditional printing. You’ll note I did not mention Lulu or any other POD service. All I know about Lulu is that when I was researching options, they offered the least amount of options for the highest cost-per-item. I have not used any other on-demand printer so I cannot provide additional information about them.
When getting a quote from a printer, kill multiple birds with one stone: Get B&W and colour quotes at once for standard issues and graphic novels. This will save them a lot of time and give you all the knowledge at once.
In addition to your printer, you still need to decide on a format. My first series was printed as three separate issues. This was a bad idea. You make so little on each issue that, depending on your run, may need a second just to hit profit mode. Bear in mind that your choice of printer will play a huge role here. I recommend having a few cheap one-shots to help entice people and get them acquainted with what you have to offer. So-called ‘brand loyalty’ will often bring people back for your bigger releases.
No matter what, you will need to offer digital versions of your comics. Sign up with PayPal or a similar service that allows for a user-defined redirect page and have it point to the file. Remember to price things reasonably! Alternatively, you could investigate the digital storefronts like Comixology to handle a lot of this for you. You’ll have less say in the matter, though, so consider yourself warned.
The most important thing to remember is that when people buy your work, they are buying you. Your ability to sell yourself and your product is most important as it brings people to the table – figuratively and literally. The quality of the product is next because it brings people back. Your choice of printer ties everything together; it’s the icing on the cake.
I hope this helps you in some way, shape or form. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!