Graphic Novel- Not sure where to go from here

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briantaylor
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Graphic Novel- Not sure where to go from here

Post by briantaylor » Sat Apr 04, 2009 12:00 pm

So, just to give a little background...

I used to draw comic books all of the time and even had a few of them published. But, though I've continued to draw, I haven't drawn an entire book in a long while now. I've got my story, y'know, the one that I HAVE TO TELL. I've wanted to do this story as a graphic novel for years now, literally.

So, last year around this time I decided to make things happen, and got very serious about my goals. Completely committed, I've spent the last year of my life continuing to draw and doing a crazy amount of writing and re writing. Through it all, I've somehow figured out this story of mine from beginning to end. I feel like it's solid now and I'm REALLY excited about it.

But I'm not quite sure where to go from here, or what to do next at this point.

My goal for this thing, as crazy as it may seem, is to have it published professionally as an all-ages graphic novel through a book publisher like Scholastic or another similar publisher. I know without a large body of work to show that I have what it takes, it's a bit unrealistic at this point. But I want to at least be taking the right steps to get to where I want to be. So, I thought I'd ask for some advice on this board of what my next steps should be.

My plan so far is...

. Focus exclusively now on concept art to nail down the look of the characters and world the story takes place in, as well as how stylized it should be.

. Consistently draw shorter stories of the characters (not the BIG story) until I feel comfortable tackling something as large as a 180-page graphic novel.

. As I progress, show my work on forums to get feedback; maybe put a website up.

But I really have NO idea what I'm doing!!! I would really appreciate ANY advice I can get from people who have already gone down the graphic novel path and survived! How much concept art should I be doing before I start on the actual book? Do I dare undertake the BIG story I'm passionate about first, or should I do smaller stories to work my way up to it? How do you even approach book publishers with graphic novels? Is this insane? Am I insane? All good things to know.

Anyway, any help would be great :)

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pH
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Post by pH » Mon Apr 06, 2009 8:50 am

Hey Brian! My name's Stephen, I'm here on the forums looking for advice about my graphic novel as well, ha ha.

To me, it sounds like you have the hardest part of the creative process completed. With the heart of the story thought out, that is a wonderful place to be!

Now you're on to the hardest part of publishing your work, finding a good publisher. Unfortunately, right now the economy has made the industry even harsher. I'm on staff for a comic anthology calledParable, and even though we've had the first volume completed for two years, our publisher Viper backed out on us right at the last moment, citing economic reasons. I'm also working on a children's comic book for a publisher called Philomel, and even though we had planned to publish the book in color, we've had to cut back to black and white because the publisher's can't afford it anymore.

My advice for how to treat the current economy is don't let it get you down. It sounds kind of silly to say "just keep your chin up!" but I honestly believe optimism is a key ingredient for completing a graphic novel.

One of the things that's really working for you at this point is that you have an exciting idea for a kid's series. I can tell you right now that the kid's comic market is untapped. It's kind of ironic, but I don't think we make enough comics for children. If you go into any bookstore, you can find the graphic novel section easy, but try finding the kid's graphic novels! If you can find it, it's often smaller and less diversified.

Your advantage as a cartoonist is that regardless of whether you have a publishing deal or not, you can start drawing the comic whenever you want. So at this point I'd recommend working on 3 things.

1) Patience. This is actually a big one that I'm struggling with now, even though I've managed to get a publisher. I reread Bone for inspiration the other day, and it just made me feel very small and untalented, ha ha. But here is why I'm convince that patience is so vital: Basically, creating a graphic novel is like building a tower, and a tower is not built in a day, but instead one brick at a time. When I compare the pile of bricks I've stacked up so far to Jeff Smith's gorgeous masterpiece, it makes me discouraged and hurts my will to work. Likewise, when I think about the tower that I have yet to build, it makes me scared and insecure, which also hurts my will to work. To me, the ideal place for a cartoonist to be is where he or she is just content with the four or five bricks they get to stack that day. If I am just faithful and content to do what I love, I am confident that I will have a completed work in no time at all, and without worrying about it or comparing myself to others.

2) Keep working on the graphic novel. Regardless of whether you have a publisher you can always keep working on the graphic novel. If the next step is to draw concept art and character turn arounds, then do that. If the next step is to put a website up to drum up interest, then do that. I'd definitely recommend the website actually; I got my big break because of my website. As far as doing practice stories go, I suppose I would do some practice stories if you have something you need to practice. But don't trap yourself into thinking that this story that's burning in you will be the best thing you ever do or the best idea you'll ever think of, because then you'll start acting like you need to undergo certain trials to even earn the right to tell it. From what I've seen of your work, it seems like you have excellent draftsmanship and technical skill, and if the screenplay is done, and the thumbnails are done why not start today?

3) Put together and submit proposals. The only route I can see for getting a publishing deal if you don't have any contacts in the publishing business is by putting together a proposal to send in. First think of what comics you've read that are similar to the one you want to do, and then look up their publishing house. Then go to the house's website and look at their submission guidelines. Here's Image's submission guidelines, even though each house is different usually. And if you're really keen, you might be able to find a publisher that doesn't have a book like yours but would want to break in to the market you're addressing.

That's all I've got! Good luck man. I think you're quite capable, it's just a matter of time.
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Post by thirdeyeh » Tue Apr 07, 2009 4:30 am

Hey Brian-

I love posts like these. It reminds me I'm not the only one out there. I can share with you some of my journey so far. I finally had THAT story you have to tell a few years back when I created From Death Til Now. I spent some time writing it and actually redrawing an entire portion of it for about a year before I finally showed it to anyone. My intention was to see how committed I was to the project before going forward. Two years later I still love it. Now my real point isn't about From Death Til Now. It's about what its taught me. It's taught me to consistantly produce a comics page every week just about for that time and I still hope for it to go somewhere. BUt my point is start drawing that story! You're excited about it! Whatever keeps your drawing.

But I had a second idea that I really feel is aimed towards a younger audience and I wante dto get it publihsed. I've had this idea about the same length of time as FDTN. So last year I prepared a sample of the opening scene, about 13 pages, a synopsis and a query letter. My goal has been to get it picked up by publisher of children's books and a lot of them won't accept unsolicited submissions. So short of knowing someone who likes your work enough t show it to them, you'll need an agent. I then sent the preview I had created of the The Unknowns to a group of agents and got representation for the book. That process can take a few months and is time consuming, but is worth it. So far that's where I am and I hope its helpful.

As far as what should you do now... Generally I say work on some section of the story or a preview so an agent or publisher can get a feel for your storytelling and style. My experience so far has shown that what is being looked for is a good synopsis, short preferrably (which is a monster to try and do), a preview of what the book will look like, a character sheet with illustrations and bios (only some agents seem to want this), and a cover type image. It really does seem to be open actually. The idea seems to be if you create and sell your work well, what the agent/publisher wants to see will be communicated to you. The fundamentals though are a good query and a good preview. Knowing someone who knows someone helps a lot as well, but that's not always an option. 8)

So get plugging away and keep us posted!
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Post by gau dog » Wed Apr 08, 2009 12:23 pm

The most important thing is commitment and dedication. Everything else is researching/following your own abilities, thoughts, and instincts to figure out what's best for yourself, going with it, and getting it done. If you're confused, definitely explore if you have the time and patience.

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Post by briantaylor » Sat Apr 11, 2009 1:35 pm

Hey, thanks for the replies and encouragement! It's nice to know that there are others out there with similar goals.

ph: Yeah, the economy is pretty brutal right now. I didn't realize how much it would effect everyone. I actually just recently lost my job at an animation studio because of it. That sucks that it's effecting printing and publishers too. But regardless, I'm not letting myself get discouraged. I've always believed that if I can just put out good work, it'll find an audience and I'll find a way to get it published.

I like what you said about patience and especially about thinking I had to undergo "certain trials to even earn the right to tell it". I hadn't realized it, but that was EXACTLY what I was doing. The thing about art is that it will NEVER be good enough. I will ALWAYS be able to draw better as time goes on. So I might as well begin, mistakes and all. I feel I've wasted enough time waiting on this project as it is anyway. I feel a lot more confident about going forward now!

thirdeyeh: It was cool hearing about your journey you've taken. A while back, I'd listened to a couple of your podcasts and read some of From Death Til Now. Very inspirational man! I'm impressed by how disciplined you've been with your own project and I'll take your advice to heart about producing a comics page at a consistent pace. I'm going to look into getting an agent as well, once the book it nearing completion.

gau dog: Agreed, commitment and dedication is the only way to get anything done in this crazy world!

I've got a ton of concept art done now and should be starting on the comic soon. I'll start posting some of my work on here as things progress!

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Post by thirdeyeh » Sun Apr 12, 2009 7:51 pm

I'm glad that was helpful and that FDTN and the podcasts have been too. I need to podcast more soon, but I find myself now being way more consumed with doing the work and listening to others on it that I just don't think to do it anymore. Soon maybe.

I looked at your work too and man you got some mad skills! I can't wait to see more of this project. If you ever want an eye to bounce the work off of, I'd be happy to help.
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Post by PerryDS » Wed Apr 29, 2009 12:32 pm

For me, this is helpful knowing that are others trying to wrap their heads around a plan to make a Graphic Novel happen. Same issues coming from people in different circumstances with the same agenda.

I operate as a small business, but I find myself consistently busy which is not a bad thing in itself, but I work in many different areas from organic 3D modeling , to print and Flash application development. So many disciplines that it takes an immense amount of time just to keep up with the technology. The challenge is in breaking free of the service work routine. It's like a bad habit that pays bills with some creative outlet, but doesn't offer much independent opportunity to create your own vision.

I have a site up on my project with a blog and forum, and have a story flushed out, just haven't found the time to execute. So my plan is to integrate it as an actual project that I work on, but I'm my own client. State of mind...

I have been following the process involved in getting a graphic novel developed and published for years, even had an agent interested in my concept, but I didn't follow through. I tend to get sidetracked by ideas of going the animation route, and this is possible ... just different. It's about sticking to a plan and not deviating.

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Post by briantaylor » Thu May 21, 2009 4:06 pm

Hey! Just thought I'd give you all a quick update on my progress. I've been writing and drawing like a mad man these last couple months, trying to get this graphic novel off the ground...

http://brianharoldtaylor.blogspot.com/

Check it out! I'll be updating regularly too, so keep checking back!
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Post by PerryDS » Fri May 22, 2009 1:57 pm

That's fab Brian. The Illustration is excellent. Go Go Go.

I have a load of 3D models to plow through before I can move on my book in any big way. Will be about 2 months. In the mean time, I have begun converting all my notes into Final Draft. Handy script writing app that I acquired when I attended a Robert McKee story writing workshop about a year ago.

Also, I have been going back and forth on traditional approach in Illustrating the book or using an application to build it. I downloaded the Manga Studio EX4 demo and was impressed. The entire book can be done on a Cintiq and one app. So I purchase it and it should streamline the process. Will see once I officially get rolling.

I already have a site up ...

www.ellyfrankenstein.com

But I get more spam than anything else.

I still have to work on the character style some more, not yet committed.

I'm thinking that once I get a good chunk of the story done and about six pages inked ... I may fire them off to some agents. I have had interest on my story in the past form an agent in New York, I just didn't follow through at that time. When your busy with service based work, hard to justify the jump ... but for me now, it's commit or be committed.

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