Tag Archives: comics

Square One: How to focus your story

I got another question from a blog reader that may resonate with all of you out there. We all have amazing stories to tell, and often the story is huge, epic, world-shattering and life-changing. But how do we focus this and make it both marketable and powerful? You can do both. In fact, you have to. Less is more in many cases. So let’s look at the question and my answer, and hopefully this will help you reach your dream of telling stories that matter.

Q: I have 110 page script typed and finished, which is only the prelude to an even bigger comic. The bigger comic is the main attraction with over 3 seasons mapped out and 510 pages ready to go for season 1. Only submitted to one company but looking for advice and an opinion.

A: First off, we should talk about your project. Most of us have a huge story in our heads that we are eager to tell, but you have to chop it down to something bite size and marketable at first. Think of Star Wars. Lucas had a huge story in his head, but in 1977 he was a relative unknown pitching in a genre that was not popular, and he had to cut out everything that wasn’t absolutely essential. You have to do the same thing at first. What that means for you is you need to make sure your 110 page script is cut into 22 – 24 page chunks, and that the first 22 pages are a self contained story, and a good one, that makes people want to read more. Don’t worry about season 1. Make sure that issue 1 is just plain awesome. That’s where you have to hook people.

Good that you are pitching to publishers, but you must be realistic about what the market wants. Be aware that no one wants an epic. Publishers want a 3-5 issue story arc that they can sell as single issues and then re-package as a graphic novel. It has been proven that if people love the single issues, they’ll go back and buy the graphic novel because 1) it proves they are true fans and 2) the graphic novel is less likely to get damaged when re-read. So when you pitch, don’t pitch the epicness of the story. Pitch the sellability of a mini-series. The project I am publishing this year, The Rum Running Queen, is 3 issues, 96 pages. We will sell the single issues first, then release a graphic novel. The singles help create a fan base, and the graphic novel generates profit. It’s that simple.

I’ve seen a few publishers who are accepting projects – Rats and Crows Publishing has been active, and Monkey Brain Comics may have something. Firestorm Comics and Crazy Monkey Ink both recently put out requests for pitches. Scout Comics might be another way. (Avoid Dark Horse and Image – they are only taking established creators at this time.) In general however, comic book publishers don’t want scripts. There are almost no companies looking for scripts without art. You need art to pitch a project. So don’t rely on other comic book companies – they are all small presses started by people like you who just published their own book and picked up a couple other books. Get your work out there – I have a project that I wrote and desperately want to publish. It is called Ashes of Faith and it is an adventure about a Kurdish female soldier fighting for redemption. It focuses on religious tolerance, and most of the publishers out there sell super hero stuff, noir, horror, or sci-fi. I can’t find a home for Ashes of Faith. That’s ok though – your comic has to fit the company you pitch to. My suggestion –  self-publish and sell and network at comic book conventions, go on Comixology and a few other online comic sites. If you think you can meet the minimum order, you can go to Diamond, (only if you have a well know name doing the art and/or cover).

After finishing Sevara (and seeing really bad sales) here is my advice-
Make sure the story is perfect. PERFECT. Have dozens of people read the script, good people, not friends, who will give constructive feedback. (I have yet to find a good editor, I’ve paid them and they still suck.) The Chopping Block at Comixtribe is a great way to get your ass handed to you, but honestly the feedback is not constructive. So I can’t point you in the right direction but never let anyone who knows you read your story. Your friends and relatives will all praise it. Let a stranger give you an honest critique.
Go big or go small. Either make a very small cheap black and white comic and get it out there, or hire well known people to do the interiors and covers. Like people who have worked for DC or Marvel, or have a massive following on Patreon. Don’t go medium. For The Rum Running Queen, I am looking at getting a very well known artist to do the cover. It is a bit expensive, but in the long run it will make the work stand out. There are some wildly talented artists out there who will meet your price range, you just have to ask.

So like I’ve advised a few other people who wrote to me about their projects, cut the length down to something that is marketable. Focus on the quality of the first issue, not the epicness of the multi-season story arc. Make sure the basic message and story resonate with readers, and make sure you have some well know artists to bring your story to life.

For a 110 page story, re-read the whole thing and find those 22 pages that encapsulate the whole tone and message of your comic. You only get one chance, one issue, to hook your readers. So which 22 pages are the most significant? Pull those out and make a kick-ass issue.

Need help writing your comic?

Are you writing a comic book? Here are the websites and links that helped me. I adapted my play into a comic book by reading tutorials that others posted online. I love the internet!

But it all starts with the story. If you don’t have a story, you have nothing.

Perfecting your story

 

Robert McKee; I talk about McKee in depth in this book because I found this work extremely useful, I highly recommend checking it out: http://www.amazon.com/Story-Substance-Structure-Principles-Screenwriting/dp/0060391685/

 

Screenwriting 101 by FILM CRITIC HULK! on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Screenwriting-101-Film-Crit-Hulk-ebook/dp/B00H0NQE7S

 

HULK’s blog: you should seriously spend some time reading his blog posts, he blogs here: http://birthmoviesdeath.com/author/film.crit.hulk

 

Writing an episodic story; comic books are long form storytelling. Not many articles deal with this. Here’s one about TV storytelling: http://storyfix.com/the-key-to-writing-an-inherently-episodic-story-effectively

 

Sample comic book scripts; Scripts & Scribes has many other resources as well: http://www.scriptsandscribes.com/sample-comic-scripts/

 

Writing for comics, 5 rules by Joe Edkin: http://revista-comics.blogspot.com/2011/10/writing-for-comics-by-joe-edkin.html Joe’s web articles about writing for comics are fantastic. His site is down, but some of his tips are archived on other people’s blogs.

 

Outlining your comic book by Joe Edkin: Joe’s resources are the best there are, unfortunately his page is down. This is a saved snapshot of a page from his website about outlining and page breakdowns: http://archive.is/vWv5

 

Plot points; The Script Lab has lots of resources that are handy. Check out this page and many others for help with story and plot. You can see that the movies that have weak plot points tend to be weaker movies overall. Click on your favorite movie and look at the plot points. This will help you look at your comic book story: http://thescriptlab.com/screenwriting-101/screenplay/five-plot-point-breakdowns#

 

mtvU Sand In: Trey Parker and Matt Stone talk about getting rid of the ‘and then’ moments and making sure your story is full of ‘but’ and ‘therefore’: http://storyfirstmedia.com/storytelling-tip-the-principle-of-buts-and-therefores/

 

Dialog; sometimes I just get stuck on dialog. When that happens, I reread this article by Chuck Dixon. I can’t find it on his site, but it has been reposted here: http://apologiesdemanded.blogspot.com/2006/08/chuck-dixon-teaches-dialogue.html

 

How to give your character some flaws: http://scribemeetsworld.com/2012/screenplay-writing/six-things-need-fixing-definition-examples/

 

Making a good bad guy; Chuck Dixon has many worthwhile articles, you can start with this one and then check out his other posts: http://dixonverse.blogspot.com/2015/05/once-twice-three-times-bad-guy.html

 

Comic book scripting, 10 short and simple words of wisdom from Chuck Dixon: https://dixonverse.wordpress.com/2015/01/28/the-ten-commandments-of-comic-book-scripting/

 

From plot to script: Cullen Bunn always had the best posts about plotting and scripting. His site isn’t always working, but try this link or find him on social media: http://www.cullenbunn.com/process/plot-to-script/

 

How a comic book page works; this is a fantastic, must-read article about how panels work and how action takes place in comics: http://www.adamgeen.com/guest-post-the-write-stuff-writing-comics/

Selling Your Comic Book Concept: A Step-by-Step Guide for Creators

My book, Selling Your Comic Book Concept: A Step-by-Step Guide for Creators, is now on Amazon. I didn’t intend to write this book, it just happened. After I published my comic book, I had all this knowledge in my head. I felt I needed to share. Here are some thoughts about Diamond, who does the distribution for printed comics.

If you’re doing a comic book project, know the rules about Diamond before you jump in. If you don’t reach the minimum order threshold, you’ve just wasted a lot of money.

What’s the minimum order threshold? 

Diamond is going to put your products in an order book, called Diamond Previews, and send it to comic book shops. Previews Magazine not just an order form but a massive glossy-covered magazine that serves as the definitive guide to what’s coming to shops in the next two months. Customers can buy this magazine and place their orders by filling out the order form inside it. It takes them a month to set up your ad in Previews Magazine, and then they have to print and ship the magazine. That’s a month you’ll have to wait before the comic book shops get the order form.

Now the order form is in the hands of about 2,000 comic book shop owners and a few thousand customers. The shops collect the order forms and tally them. Those are the pre-orders, the guaranteed sales. They’ve got about 30 days to place their order, so that’s another month you’ve got to be promoting your book, and maybe the most important month on your calendar.

The problem is, if comic book shops don’t order enough of your book, Diamond won’t even place the order from you to ship the book.

That’s right, if you don’t reach a minimum order, your books won’t get ordered from Diamond. DC, Marvel, Image and Dark Horse don’t have to worry about this, but the little guys do. So all your work could have been for nothing if you haven’t been aggressively marketing to comic book shops and asking fans to place orders over the last two years. Even if comic book shops placed orders for your book, if the order is too mall, Diamond will cancel it. Years of work and thousands of dollars of your investment is now complexly down the drain. You’d better be marketing like crazy at this point, and marketing to the right people.

The comic book shop owners are the ones you need to market to. It’s your job to convince them to place a few orders of your #1 issue, because no one can subscribe to it and no-one will pre-order unless they read about it online and specifically tell the store owner to order it.

How many people are going to do that for your unknown comic book? If you have very loyal fans, maybe they’ll come out and order copies. But if you have no following, you’re in for a disappointment. If you have a publisher backing you, you might get your book orders in as part of a larger order. But an individual who only gets 100-200 copies of their book ordered is facing cancelation.

You’ve got to be marketing the retail shops aggressively to get to that minimum order.

Let’s say that you get 5,000 orders from across the country. Diamond will issue a call for you to purchase, and you’re now responsible for printing the books and shipping them to the Diamond warehouse.

I talk about this a lot more in my book.  Just hop over to Amazon and check it out for only $0.99 cents. http://amzn.com/B011M3I4XS

how to sell