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Thread: Making a comic book series vs graphic novel

  1. #1

    Making a comic book series vs graphic novel

    I began posting about the making and self-publishing of my comic book series Satanic Hell awhile back. Its the story of a metal band that gets trapped in a Texas under the rule of religious zealots. The original idea was to do a seven issue digital comic series and release an issue every several months. The first two issues were released on time and received well, building interest in the series. The publication of the third issue lagged and eventually the time line could not be maintained due to personal events and the increasing time for completion of the art, the colors, and the letters. The momentum was lost. I underestimated the importance of time related to production. As a result of this, I had to make changes. While the first three issues were released, I decided to stop releasing individual issues and release the entire series as one compiled graphic novel. I continued posting occasional updates to let the current fans know the series was still moving forward.

    I think the completed graphic novel is the best way for self publishers to produce comics. First, you are presenting a completed novel and therefore fans and potential readers are not left wondering if the story will ever get finished. When you start out making comics, its easy not to fully contemplate the time and energy it will take from all contributors and the challenges of publishing on a regular basis. Its easy for people to lose interest in or even forget about the comic during this time. I've seen several other comics started with fanfare and never reach conclusion, even ones funded from Kickstarter. Another reason I believe the completed graphic novel is the best way to go for indie starters is the larger market beyond comic book readers for graphic novels. Its just a larger pool of potential readers.

    The other thing I would have done differently starting out is have the graphic novel be only 3-4 chapters instead of the seven that I'm working on now. A shorter book will come out faster and the chances of it coming out are greater. Passion and even sufficient funds do not guarantee the comic will ever be completed- costs can go up, funds can run out, and contributing artists can decide to leave the series for all sorts of reasons. These challenges are there for whatever the length of your graphic novel, but shorter improves the chances of reaching the finish line.

    The good news is Satanic Hell will be finished. Issue 7, the last issue, is currently in production.

    Here's the thread about the initial experience I had finding an artist.
    A satirical epic about the metal band Satanic Hell, trapped in a theocratic Texas.
    Out now on Comixology & PDF. Twitter: Grigoris. Blogging about making comics at ZenoTelos.com

  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW Max Vaehling's Avatar
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    Good points. It's why I usually recommend to newbies to not start with one big story but work their way up through shorts (print anthologies are more likely to take new stories the shorter they are, and you can get great feedback there) and smaller books before committing to a longer story.

    The trick about publishing a GN in installments is to make each one work as a single book. Most people get that wrong or don't bother, leaving their potential audience with no way of determining if that story's conclusion is even worth waiting for. (I can't say if a writer is any good if I haven't seen her wrap up a story.)

    In Europe, home of the album format, there's a trend toward releasing ongoing stories in continuous A4 albums. Albums are supposed to be collections, originally (the name kinda givers it away), not fragments, and it's particularly annoying because the traditional album schedule is about yearly. Also, they're expensive.

    The GN format has the disadvantage of you not having much to show for until it's done. A lot of people have dropped from everybody's radar while working on their big piece, then resurfaced to find that not everybody has been waiting up for them to deliver.

  3. #3
    That is a good point, Max. I think that even if it takes years, still probably better to go graphic novel because you can build your audience with a finished product in front of you. During the wait time, you can still try slowly build by releasing bits of art and story so interested parties can follow progress. Social media makes that easy. Satanic Hell took 3 years to make, twice as long as I planned. Going for the short story - like a 30-50 page one off - is better. It could be part of a larger story if it takes off or if you have the passion to continue it.

    I'm surprised the album format is even viable, especially as digital media becomes more popular. Perhaps there is more patience, money, and nostalgia for books among European fans.
    A satirical epic about the metal band Satanic Hell, trapped in a theocratic Texas.
    Out now on Comixology & PDF. Twitter: Grigoris. Blogging about making comics at ZenoTelos.com

  4. #4
    Banned for Spamming
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    GN is definitely more interesting, financially speaking.
    Publishing a mini series only makes sense if you need the cash from the sales of the previous issues to make the next one. (or if you're planning to make it into an ongoing series)

  5. #5
    On target Lissibith's Avatar
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    Honestly, as a reader, I prefer digital comics written in issues instead of as one big book to also be released that way, so I don't have to plunk down for the whole thing if it's not to my taste.

    However, yeah, if the team isn't certain they're going to be able to keep to their schedule, it's probably best just to wait until it's done. I know several people who do webcomics, and one of the big things a lot of them share is a slavish devotion to their schedule, because they don't want the negative baggage of long delays attached to their names. And I can't blame them.
    "As a rule of thumb, if you find yourself defending your inalienable right to make someone else feel like garbage, you're on the wrong side of the argument." - Rich Burlew

  6. #6
    Moody Floridian Bunny Latina Bunny's Avatar
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    You have some food points there. I'm ome of those people who tend to buy graphic novels over individual issues. I would rather pay for a finished product, even if it's pricey, over a series of issues that may never be finished (or takes forever to finish, lol). I also don't go to the comic stores as much anymore, so I tend to buy from my local bookstores, which tend to have graphic novels, not individual issues.

    I'll also read webcomics, but that requires the creators keeping up with updates. I have read webcomics where the creators never got to finish them, or went on long hiatus. One webcomic had a somewhat disappointing ending, so you never know with webcomics.

  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW Max Vaehling's Avatar
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    To me, it depends on the installments. Be it one page or 22, the chapter must read as a "satisfying chunk" in itself, or I will be more and more reluctant to come back for the next helping each time. I've seen enough webcomics that just dragged on without anything solid happening, or comic books where each issue was just a few fight scenes and a cliffhanger.

    There's nothing wrong with releasing chapters in advance, especially online. Personally, I owuldn't go with printed booklets if it's an ongoing story. They pay too little compared to completed books, and sell to the same people. But there's nothing wrong with a prerelease in ebook form if it's cheap enough to make readers not regret spending another chunk of money on the print book.

    Right now, I'm half-working (well, planning) on a book that's supposed to be about 100 pages but I'm trying to write it so the first chapter (about 32 pages) can work as a standalone.

    @Grigoris: It's a traditional format which is now just 'one of the formats', so it'll be interesting to see how it develops next to the others. Its strength is in presenting epic, European-style artsy comics with a lot of world building as well as presenting pages from A4 magazines. You get a lot of reading material from the latter because the European tradition is different - more panels per page, more equally emphasized. But, yes, there's a lot of nostalgia in sticking to it. But I can see a niche for it or two.

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