OMNIUM GATHERUM 66
Welcome once again to the Omnium Gatherum.
As a sign of my growth within the comics industry, I sat on my first panel on Thursday night, courtesy of The Antidote Trust.
The Antidote Trust, that gathering of likeminded self and independent publishers, has held a panel on how to do this comics thing for oneself for three years now. Even though the panel takes place late in the evening, the audience has been growing each year. People who are on the outside want to learn how to get on the inside of the comics industry and will attend any panel that can offer “The Secret”.
There is no real secret.
If there is one secret to making it in comics, it is being willing to keep going, to outlast everyone else. To know what you want to do.
Which was the theme of The Antidote Trust’s Indie Comics How To panel.
The group and the audience in the hallway waited past the time the panel was originally supposed to begin. The preceding panel was running long. I didn’t know what to think of that. I often see into certain happenings as if they were omens. At the time of this delay, I hoped it wasn’t an omen of anything bad to come.
In time, the panel cleared out and The Antidote Trust members entered room 5AB to set up for the how-to panel.
Geoffrey Thorne, gentleman writer of comics and screen, acted as moderator, introducing each of us. Starting with Robert Roach, creator of Menthu and The Roach; Dale Wilson, creator and writer of Caffeine Dreams; Richard Hamilton, creator and writer of Return Of The Super Pimps and Miserable Dastards; Andre Owens, creator of Force Galaxia; and myself.
Geoff decided, after speaking with each of us, to shape the panel along the lines of any questions a newbie to comics would ask. This choice allowed for each of us to give our thoughts on a particular topic, all aiming towards the goal of offering as many different ways to craft and publish comics.
Now, having covered different events over the years, I won’t claim to be a reporter but will do in a pinch. Unfortunately being an actual participant this time around plus the freezing cold of the conference room, I did not take any notes and can’t fully capture from memory that details of the panel.
What I can do write about the highlights in the hopes they will help anyone who wants to publish their own comics.
Geoff, as moderator, walked us through the development of an idea into a comic from the perspective of someone who wants to make comics and is starting from scratch.
So, first, the idea. How to write it?
The consensus from the panel was writing was as much about learning the craft as it was about telling an interesting or exciting story. The idea which starts the project should attempt to find the balance between being a love of the creator and something that can find an audience to which to sell. It was pointed out that resources about writing are all around if one takes the time to look.
And here is where the beginnings of the secret of perseverance enter the conversation.
If one has an idea, the panel put forth, then one has to take and make the time to develop it properly into a form that will find acceptance by an audience. And that takes knowledge, the willingness to keep learning, and just sticking with it.
Second, assume the perspective creator can’t draw, where to find an artist?
Places to find artists, according to the panel, range from one’s local comics shop to online resources like Pencil Jack and Digital Webbing and Deviant Art. Once one has the artist, keeping him or her may require giving some equity in the idea or working out a quid pro quo with the artist. But be wary of companies out there who will take advantage of one. Richard recounted his story of dealing with one such company that connected him with his artist but stole all of the money intended to pay for the art. He was able to contact the artist and cut out the bad middle man, but learned it might be better to deal directly with an artist.
Third, how to get the nearly created creative team to gel and work together with differing personalities?
Here the panel couldn’t completely agree. Robert pointed out as writer and artist, it can be more about letting one voice speak in the story more than another, about decided when to let the writer shine or the artist kick butt. But it was felt by more of the group that, given the greater likelihood of distance between the writer and the artists, the chances of building a friendship or relationship may difficult and unnecessary. The real important was to get the work done. To have a good enough of a relationship between the team that work begins, continues, and comes to some point of completion. And that may take a few tries to get it right.
Again, perseverance is the key.
Fourth, the tough choice: to go with an existing publisher or to self publish.
With the exception of yours truly, the other panelists were all self publishers, so the choice was obvious from everyone perspective. Richard mentioned he had contacted a number of publishers with no luck before being encouraged to do it himself. For Robert, Dale, and Andre, going the self publishing route was the first and last choice.
But, even being one’s own publisher isn’t the end, just merely the end of the beginning.
Fifth, how to get out into the marketplace? To deal with Diamond or not to deal with them? How to brand oneself?
Most of the other panelists weren’t going through Diamond, the major distributor of comics to comics shops. Their paths took them other places. For example, Dale came to comics from more of a literary and science fiction background. His book reflects that sensibility. For him, having The Antidote Trust set up at the West Hollywood Book Fair one year was a no brainer. Unfortunately, just about no one did well at that show. The exception being Dale’s Caffeine Dreams. So he returns there every year. Because that’s his audience, his marketplace. And that’s how he gets out there. He is also using the web with webcomics.
Richard countered by saying his experiences with Diamond were not so bad as long as one remembers they are a business. The current sales threshold of $2500 wholesale cost of product may mean deciding to go the trade paperback route instead of going with the floppy.
Doing shows like Comic-Con is another way of getting out into the marketplace to find one’s audience. I brought up the title I edited, Lazarus: Immortal Coils, and how it is available via IndyPlanet.com as a print on demand book, another way of getting one’s comics out there to the people. The real trick is to be flexible and find all the possible ways of reaching an audience at one’s disposal.
And flexibility is another aspect of perseverance.
See a pattern yet?
Next up questions from the audience.
A couple of folks asked more about the process of putting together a team and getting a book out there.
The panel, within the limited time remaining, did their best to answer by going back to points made earlier about finding the right people and doing whatever it takes to get one’s project out there. The point is to do the work, a point that many folks have made and continue to make to those who seek The Secret.
Do the work, learn as you go, and you can achieve a level of success.
With that the third Antidote Trust Indie Comics How To panel came to a close.
Until next time, folks.