Monday, September 08, 2008

Graphic Novels are about.....

Relating back to my posts about what I think a Graphic Novel is(Graphic Novels are comics with levels, they say something more than the plot); Comics Reporter gathers abunch of people to talk about what Watchmen is about. It provides viewpoints about Watchmen which concentrate too much on the metatextual but that's ok. Mainly it shows that wisdom of the crowd which should be evident when defining a graphic novel.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Blogust is done

I missed one day but made up for it witha couple of extra posts about Sureshot.

It was kind of fun and i'll see if i can keep up a looser schedule.

What's next?
A bunch of reviews of local books.
And maybe an idiot's guide to storytelling (I'm the idiot)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sureshot Presents - Round Up

A round up of what i've been talking about in regards to the genesis and plabnning of Sureshot Presents and the announcement of Sureshot Comics.

The start, some self introspection and a look at the local scene.
The Spark
The Limits
Why I hate most Australian Comics (a critical look at current publishing in Australia)

Making goals for Sureshot Presents
Importance of goals
Setting my goals
My goals

Money Matters
From a retailer's perspective
From a customer's perspective
From a creator's perspective

Print Run
The Printing
Design of the book

Qualifying quality
Reviewing the concept

New Venture
Sureshot Comics

Why Self Publish in the first place.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sureshot Presents - Why self publish?

Owen's response to my what is wrong with Sureshot Presents highlights a basic assumption i glossed over but didn't really discuss. Why go to the effort of putting a book together? I started out talking about effort, considering your workload when starting a new project, but I forgot to talk about the fundamental question; Why should a creator self-publish at all?

And it's a good question. Personally, if you have the skills and the resources why not? I'm one of those boring farts that does his own home renovations that will bore you at dinner parties explaining how to keep your tiles straight. If I can - I do/make myself. I make my own beer, project number #7 is building a woodfire pizza oven (pizzas on me come 2011!). So if i could draw and write and had the time I'd be scratching something out and holding it up grinning goofily. But I can't so I move on do something else (be over-sealous fanboy).

But some people can, some people have the skills and the need to make comics. They are awesome people because they want to share their stories and thoughts with people like me. And honestly its a privlige to have the opportunity to pick up a self published book. Its a bonus when the book is good and for the most i do enjoy most australian comic books.

But enough i why I like self published books, why should people release their own books?

I believe its the only way to build a local industry. Look at cars, a lot of car companies either started as something else and moved to motor vehicles or they were started by guys who tinkered around used and used their own capital to hand build cars, they got a following and the next thing you know you have car companies, car dealers, petrol stations and mechanics. Whilst it is all good to look overseas, looking at established US companies to publish work; that's not going to be that great when US dollar falls or shipping costs increases; local creators will lose out because they'll be earning less and comic retailers and buyers won't be able to afford imported books. Having a local industry will mean that we aren't as beholden to global economic factors.

Culturally it also means we have stories about us, not stories filtered through Uncle Sam.

Look at the local music scene; it would be much easier for any of the Record Companies to just import US music and sell it in local record shops, not bother with Living End, Delta, Silverchair, etc. But for some reason the local arms of these international companies still sign local bands, put on tours for those bands, market them, etc. Mainly because when they have a good success story, they make more money from the local band than the import and it keeps a lot of people in work. Including less "successful" bands. (And before you start narking on about quality "Delta sucks!", without Delta driving people to record shops those stores wouldn't survive so where are people going to find 'good' music?)

At the moment we don't have many comic publishers (Phosphorescent, Gestalt, Local Act Comics) to make the push, to do the hard work in building that industry. I believe once we have that industry, people will be able to write and draw comics as a living, not just on weekends while weekdays are spent doing other work that puts food on the table but not spring in their step. With creators concentrating on creating we'll have much better comic books.

And I think self publishing can be a way forward. It can do something that POD and webcomics can't do. Online and Print on Demand build creators and unfortunately success can be short term. Building an industry provides more avenues when fickle fans fade away.

Yes, self-publishing has been in Australia since the mid80s and nothing has really changed. Yes, people have self-published in the past and from the tattered remains of what can be found in comic shops and second hand bookstores to the hushed weary whispers of veteran comic creators - no one was successful, to any sustainable level.

Sustainable level is an important factor because it builds a foundation, something to build on and facilitate the next step.

On a more creative level, self publishing does two things for the creator; gives them a practice ground for them to learn their craft. An avenue of criticism that extends past just showing the odd sketch on a messageboard. A place to practically learn story telling, and develop a style and build a work ethic while creating a 20, 30, 40 pages of comic.
Secondly, it allows for a portfoilio to be built and shows a work ethic and storytelling ability that can be easily viewed by publishers and editors. Eddie Campbell, Mandy Ord, Bruce Mutard, most of the creators working with book publishers toaday, started self-publishing (Only Shuan Tan stuffs me up and breaks the mold). Even internationally, most of the creators with book deals started out in minicomics and self-publishing.

So why self publish? For the long term health of the industry. Sure now you might have to deal with retailers and printers and the post office. But if retailers start making a buck from you, they'll order more. If the books are good and the readers start bugging retailers for your books, they'll order even more. When you than go pitch a story to a publisher and say "I sold 300 copies of these in Sydeny alone by hand" that may give you some sway. After a couple of books they start a graphic novel division, they have marketting people and distributors do the work for you. And you can just draw and write, get advances.

Sure its a bit pie in the sky, but if you want a a local industry that sustains itself its a matter of building an audience and to do that you need good books and retailers involved. You also want it to be sustainable so you don't lose the shirt off your back.

And I think Sureshot does that, it puts money in retailer's pockets, its not priced too high so customers aren't scared away, there are 1-3 set of eyes that look over the books to make sure it can be considered quality and it puts money in the creators pocket after the very first issue they sell. Why self publish? Because I think it'll be worth it in the long run.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sureshot Presents - Sureshot Comics

One of the submissions I did receive for Sureshot Presents, was too long at 60 pages. For Sureshot Presents, that number of pages doesn't work; the printing and postage is too expensive meaning i have to work harder to loose less money.

But with the acceptance that the model wasn't working and an interest in still being involved with the local comic scene, i've come up with a new model.

Sureshot Comics.
Upon an accepted submission I'll buy 50 copies of a one-shot comic for $150.

Sureshot Comics is more of a co-production/co-publishing deal. If a propsal looks good, I'm happy to work on the editorial side of a project, readying it for printing, helping formulate marketing and in return for Sureshot badging and 50 copies of the finished book (and the right to sell them) I'll provide $100-$150 to go towards printing (colour cover, better printing), administration (postage, web ads) or just as a distribution deal (I'm buying 50 copies wholesale).

I still intend to keep Sureshot Presents as a avenue of publishing for creators. Both will run concurrently (depending on my workload and finances).

So if you are interested

Monday, September 01, 2008

Sureshot Presents - Quality Assurance (where it went wrong)

When you deal with goals or doing an activity such as publishing a book its always a good idea to have some sort of test to see if you are succeeding. Evaluate some key performance indicators (KPIS) is the wanky business term. Its about quality assurance to - am i meeting my goals.
Most models of production follow a general structure of quality assurance; Plan, Do, Review and Act.
I've pretty much been going through and detailing my Plan in the last couple of weeks. I did publish four issues of Sureshot Presents (the Do bit). So next is the Review phase.

I released four issues pretty much on a quarterly basis. I sold out issues #1 (Crab Allan) #2 (Ordinary Eyeball) within 6 months. Mandy sold out her lot even faster and we did a reprint. I did a small reprint of Crab Allan. Holgate's flipbook boys own adventure will probably be sold out after the next convention (both our shares). Issue #4 (Guide to Australian Comics) did well.

Retailers were reordering.

People liked the books, the smattering of reviews published were good.

But I didn't get submissions. Ok, i did get some (4) one was too big and the other was good but the creator had done much stronger work. The rest weren't good.

Of course this was a bit deflating, i was expecting an avalanche of submissions - but i didn't.

Why? Superficially, the book isn't sexy. It doesn't have the glossy colour cover, its small and nuggetedy. That's a fallout from the model, to make it commercially viable i had to 'cut' corners. I think "zines" are still a dirty word, local creators want to match it with the big boys and most likely end up broke on the other side with unfinished series.

Also in the time that I started planning and eventualy publishing Sureshot Presents we had n explosion of Web Comics and Print on Demand (POD). People who wanted to publish their own comic have access to various mechanisms to do that; sidestepping comic shops, retailers and cons all together. I've talked about my thoughts on POD before (essentially for it to work well it is not a set and forget concept but somwhere to drive customers to in the hope they buy). This is the same issue about webcomics; its very preach to the choir, people don't find it by accident like they would in a comic shop or convention/zinefair. They are vral, the need to be passed on from someone view a link, but if no one is posting links than there is little chance of the audience growing.

Anyway, sidetrack over, Sureshot Presents had competition. Printing was no longer the only way of distributing comics. Plus, I think people who had the motivation to make printed comics, didn't need Sureshot, they went their own way.

So, again, i got deflated - the model wasn't working. It didn't help that i had started some other projects around the house (renovations, landscaping and cellar digging) meaning i just had less time to try and push the books. Also i chickened out a number of times asking for creators directly if they'd get involved - what i say I'm shy.

Without submissions and subsequent published books i can't reach my other goals. It's like I just designed a fuel efficient car that worked and people liked, i just didn't have enough batteries for production.

So it was time to Act.