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Shut Up and Listen! - I Wanna Know!!!! [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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I Wanna Know!!!! [Dec. 25th, 2006|11:09 pm]
Here is an email I got over the weekend:

"Dear Mr. Vado.

I am interested in publishing comics and graphics novels, but I really have no idea how to go about doing it. I was wondering if you could tell me how I could go about getting started, maybe outline some of the pitfalls and problems so I could avoid them and maybe give me some marketing tips and ideas as well as examples of good ad copy. Also, I was hoping you would give me the names of the buyers at Hot Topic because I really think my graphic novel ideas would be a perfect fit for them. Lastly, I was wondering if you could give me Jhonen Vasquez and Roman Dirge's email address and phone numbers because both of them would be excellent fits for my comic line."

You know what the sad part about this email is? it's that this isn't an isolated incident, I get emails like this all the time. People are always asking me how to star their own comic book companies or their own businesses, but they ask me in a way that is a little insulting, as if running a business is something that could be summed up in a couple of paragraphs or a single email, implying that there is some easy, connect-the-dots secret to publishing. Obviously there isn't.

But that's not why I am posting to my Livejournal on Christmas Day. The email above got me to thinking that there are legitimate questions people might have about the business of publishing comics, not because everyone is interested in starting a company but because people like that kind of behind-the-scenes kind of stuff.

So, I am making a limited time offer, post your questions (any questions actually, not just business type stuff) as replies to this post and I will do my best to give you answers. I won't answer all of them (really, I am not interested in telling people how to be my competitor and to push me off the shelves and anything resembling a trade secret is going to stay that way) and I may not get to them all right away, but the questions I do respond to will have thoughtful replies posted as new entries to my Livejournal.

Dan Vado

[User Picture]From: sobekneferu
2006-12-26 07:38 am (UTC)
Okay, here's a question:

Though I imagine you probably only look at submissions after they've made it through at least 10 other people already, nevertheless, what sort of things stand out the most to you when considering taking on some newly submitted project?
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[User Picture]From: izzytart
2006-12-26 04:33 pm (UTC)
My question is How's your holiday season been? :) (Hi!)
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From: danvado
2006-12-27 05:15 pm (UTC)


I Will answer this one here, I am having a very nice holiday although I am having to work a lot and I do have a cold. I am also going to be singing Iggy Pop's search and destroy on New Year' Eve, and I sprained my throat rehearsing.

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[User Picture]From: izzytart
2006-12-28 02:21 am (UTC)


You'll be awesome and ready to go by Sunday night! I'll knock wood, cross digits, etc.
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From: gilgrim
2006-12-26 07:06 pm (UTC)
Mon Capitan, do people really ask you in this way on a regular basis? I mean, I figured there would be the regular allottment of folks who have no clue about publishing and have a want to know more, but to ask for HT buyer's names, JV and RD's contact information, since both those things are fairly influential to SLG's position in the industry... is, I think, insulting and more - do people really ask for this type of information all the time?
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From: danvado
2006-12-28 04:51 pm (UTC)

Yes they do

Oh yes they do. Hence the post.
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[User Picture]From: gothwitch
2006-12-26 08:12 pm (UTC)
Ok here's a question: is there any particular art style or writing style that is considered over another? I'm influenced by alot of various things and you can see that in my work, so I always get told I should go another direction with either my writing or my artwork. *shrugs* just figured I'd ask.
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[User Picture]From: mlf_poet
2006-12-27 01:00 am (UTC)

How to enter the industry as a "support" person

Mr. Vado--

Are there any recognizable career pathways into editing work in the comics industry? I know, for instance, that Laura De Guzman worked as the editor of an on-line zine before coming to work for SLG. Considering that most small comics publishers cannot offer internships, how do "newbies" get started in the supportive end of the biz?

Thanks for your reply!
M LaFrance
UW Grad Student (and _Nightmares and Fairytales_ Junkie)
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From: noktomo
2006-12-27 11:49 am (UTC)
Dear Mr. Vado

What happens in the steps between accepting a comic idea and it ending up on shelves?

SLGs stopping by the NYcon this year correct?

and do you still have your beating stick with the little Spooky doll head on it for controlling crowds at convention signings?
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From: danvado
2006-12-27 05:16 pm (UTC)
I'll take the easy ones here.

Yes, we will be at NYCC this year and yes I still have my Spooky Scepter, although I don't use it all the time after being tempted to beat someone with it in Toronto.
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[User Picture]From: emoboyrocks
2006-12-27 02:04 pm (UTC)
I will throw in some questions -

1 SLG has gone through some big changes in the past year and looks to be making bigger ones in the coming year - is this old hat by now, or do you feel the comic market is really changing? Do you forsee SLG being around for a long time, still?

2 Who is this Laura De Guzman, and is she available? She sure sounds like hot stuff.
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From: danvado
2006-12-27 05:18 pm (UTC)
I'll answer #2 here. Laura de Guzman is so hot she is untouchable by mortals such as you and I. The ultimate in fantasy women, Laura is too good for even me and I just made her up in my own head.

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[User Picture]From: mlf_poet
2006-12-27 09:37 pm (UTC)

My Bad

I was actually referring to _Jennifer_ de Guzman and incorrectly typed "Laura." Another aspect of the biz, I'm certain--commentators who aren't paying attention. . .
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[User Picture]From: jdeguzman
2006-12-27 07:27 pm (UTC)
Laura is my good twin (being left-handed, I can only surmise that I am the evil, or "sinister," twin), kept in my parents' cellar since infancy. The golden rays of her goodness are like unto a beacon of divinity. I anticipate her ascending to heaven in the new year, finally freeing me from burden of being her unequal copy. The bitch.
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[User Picture]From: emoboyrocks
2006-12-27 07:37 pm (UTC)
Hey! No one speaks foul of Laura De Guzman! She is perfection. Nobody e-zined like Laura De Guzman...
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[User Picture]From: crowhen
2006-12-28 12:05 am (UTC)
I get emails like that sometimes. I don't even feel qualified to answer some of them. ("How do you get published?" You tell me. I self-publish. It takes as much time as creating a submission packet, but you can sell the results whereas the majority of submission packets wind up in landfills.)

My one glowing question, which if answered will allow me to finally go back to the plane of existence whence I came:

How do you manage distributors? Case in point, I once had an order with a large chain bookstore I had approached. However, they would only work with a particular list of traditional book distributors, most of whom didn't want to touch anything remotely sequential. And Diamond was no help at all, unfortunately, even though the chain would work with them. (I was too small for them, I think. It was mumbled to me on the other end of a phone, so I will never really be sure what they said to me...) This was several years ago, so the more traditional distributors may have changed their positions on carrying graphic novels.

So if you are very small but have a strong readership, how do you get your books into bookstores? How do you court distributors? Send them flowers and chocolate? Are there any particular distributors you can recommend?

Very few books about comicking cover distribution to major outlets thoroughly, and my readers typically don't shop at comic stores. They shop at Barnes and Noble (and Hot Topic who uses buyers, but I'm asking about distributors). This one perplexes me to no end. If you can answer it, thank you.
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From: b_towle
2006-12-28 08:44 pm (UTC)
Christopher, I'm guessing that you may be referring to my proposal/rant on my blog here, originally in response to Jennifer "Laura" de Guzman's original column. Here're a couple of thoughts on your concerns:

On item (a) above, I can see your thinking, but generally agree with your eventual conclusion, namely that a new creator would be unlikely to be dissuaded by a fairly minor contractual perk--particularly when that quirk really just represents the prospect of being published again.

On item (b) above, you ask, "Why pay for a creator from this small publisher when they can go next door to another and cherry pick for free?" My answer would be first that, yeah, this is definitely something that's gonna happen in the short term if only one or two publishers begin using contracts with options, BUT the larger point I'm trying to address is that if a creator is in a position to be considered a valuable enough asset to be potentially "cherry picked" by a large publisher, that value is likely due in some part to the efforts of the initial indy publisher--and that publisher should be able in some way to be compensated for that investment. I guess my question back would be, as an indy publisher wouldn't I start to think, "Why would I have a company contract that allows for my new talent to be cherry picked without any compensation to me, when my neighbor next door's contract will get him/her a few bucks if he/she develops an unknown creator into a valuable and desirable asset at his own expense?"

So, to Dan, my question: Rather than how to curb cherry picking, do you see a way to make cherry picking work for the indy publisher? It already seems to work in favor of unknown creators who get published and then can become known/desirable quantities. And it seems to work for larger publishers who can then cherry pick at will from a sort of free "farm team" system. How about making it work for the indy publisher?
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From: danvado
2006-12-28 04:51 pm (UTC)

Re: Advertising questions


I am going to answer both your questions in one post later. They both tie together.

And let me tell you, after reading your first question I lost a night of sleep because it gets right to the core of the "what would you do different if you could" kind of thinking that plauges me these days. It was a doozy and actually got me kind of emotional.

So, thanks a lot pal.

Just so everyone knows, I am still working on answering the first question about submissions, but these were all pretty good so thanks.

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[User Picture]From: jcoville
2006-12-28 03:08 am (UTC)
Okay here is one I've always been curious about.

After a comic is penciled, inked, lettered, etc.. an unnamed somebody, typically under a "production/design" labled job title does stuff to the comic to get it ready for the printing press. What these folks do is something of a mystery, probably because it's not as glamorous as writing or drawing, or even lettering the comic.

What are the tasks that need to be done before the book goes to the printer?

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[User Picture]From: jellysanjams
2006-12-28 06:09 am (UTC)
Ok so I plan to send in a submission to slave labor and I have a couple of questions....

1 is there a certain paper you have to use?

2 does the paper have to be a certain size?

3. And if you were looking at someone eye to eye... I mean just staring them in the eye and you can see the twinkle and they just let one rip would you be able to keep a straight face?
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From: danvado
2006-12-28 04:47 pm (UTC)

Need clarification

I get asked about paper a lot and in exactly this manner, so I guess now it's my turn to ask a question here. What do you mean by what kind of paper and wht size? Do you mean for the submission or are you asking me what to draw on?

For the submission you should just send regular letter size paper. If you are talking about what to draw on then that it something of a personal decision based on what you feel comfortable with. The size you draw doesn't really matter as long as the aspect ration is correct (and, if you're n artist and you don't know what the term aspect ratio means I am now assigning you a little bit of homework and telling you to go look it up).

The ratio that works is 1 x 1.5, so for every inch across, the paper should be 1.5 down the side (and that should give you a hint as to what aspect ratio means).

Another way to determine the correct ratio to draw on is to take the piece of drawing paper you plan on drawing on and take a copy of something in the finished size you are looking at (so a comic or a manga sized gn or whatever, this works for everything including a greating card, but does not work with smaller pieces of drawing paper, only if you plan on drawing bigger) and place it in the lower right hand corner of the paper. Using a straight edge map a line starting from the lower right hand corner of the paper (where the corner of the book is now sitting) going up to the left and going through the upper left hand corner of the book until it goes off the sheet of paper. At the point where the line goes off the sheet of paper take that straight edge and draw a straight level line from that point to the other side of the ding paper, squaring it off. That will give you the pefect aspect ratio, however it will not include any bleed area.

I hpe that makes sense.

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[User Picture]From: rantcomics
2006-12-28 04:18 pm (UTC)
I've already asked you twenty, but one just dawned on me... why no SLG messageboard style forum connected to the website? Too tough to moderate?

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From: danvado
2006-12-28 11:29 pm (UTC)

Message board

We had a message board a long time ago, but it was too tough to moderate. People started posting some real weirdness there which hit a low point with "My friend committed suicide because Jhonen wouldn't answer my emails".

That and the little clubby, chummy posts that some of the people working on Zim were posting to show off that they were somebody to the great unwashed.

Anyway, the Livejournal and Myspace accounts are good substitutes.

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[User Picture]From: deadfruitvirus
2006-12-28 05:48 pm (UTC)
Hi Mr. Vado. I still remember what you said at San Diego Comic Con a couple years back. Which was something like "We get these submissions and the artist says they have this great idea, but it looks like they drew it with their left toe." To which you were handing out papers displaying the office crash.

Just one question, since Jennifer answered my others. Does SLG has a preference towards individual issues, or graphic novels, for what would be a serialized story?
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From: (Anonymous)
2006-12-29 10:17 pm (UTC)

So you want to publish comics?

This is detailed information on comic publishing, very effective almost exhaustive very, very helpful:

Neal -
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[User Picture]From: libbyisgod
2006-12-30 03:36 am (UTC)

rejection notices

I was wondering if when handing out rejection notices to project submissions that aren't 'up to snuff', said notices contain useful information regarding why a submission was rejected? or is it more a form letter 'thanks for your interest in SLG, but your comic isn't as cool as you little friends think' type of deal?
that being said; if one were to submit you and be rejected, would is be wise to either re-submit revised material and/or completely different material? conversely, would the better idea be if you had submissions in various archtypes [comedy/superhero/dark] to send them all at once?
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From: (Anonymous)
2006-12-31 01:17 am (UTC)

Disney Comics

Hi Mr. Vado,

I'm pretty fascinated with the Disney deal. I'd like to hear your thoughts on how things have gone so far. Have your goals for the projects been met?

Personally, I've been pretty frustrated with the delays in Gargoyles (and I've noticed Tron and Wonderland as well). Has there been a learning curve with these projects that you normally don't encounter with your non-disney books?

By the way, I flipped through Tron #2 at my local store and I'd say the art was close to stunning. Much improved from the first issue and very impressive how close the style was to the movie.
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