Comic books are an easy read. Most comic book fans would think that the process of producing comic books would be easy, too. However, the process of creating a comic book is an art form, with numerous parts to understand, and multiple steps the writers must know to complete one comic.
Successful comic book writer and producer Dirk Manning shared with attendees his expertise, secrets, and the ups and downs in the process of bring comic books to the marketplace. Time management was first on his list. Create, he suggested, a time management log, that represents the time to be spent on work, recreation, family, friends, and even sleeping. He also told the audience to keep two questions in mind, “What do I want?” and “What am I willing to do to get it?” These questions will help determine the amount of time needed to accomplish your goals.
If you are having a tough time trying to fit in a hobby with your current schedule, Mr. Manning suggests that you create an hourly time sheet showing the openings in your schedule. Whenever you find a gap, take that time to work on your hobby instead. In addition, he discussed the general rules related to comics, which include: the average number of pages a comic book has (22), the average number of panels per page (5), the average number of pictures within a comic book (100), and the number of words one panel has (25).
Teamwork is also crucial, as it is unlikely that one person will be doing all the work of the 4 to 6 people needed to complete a comic book. Having a small team makes the process of creating and completing comic books a lot easier. Mr. Manning suggests having the following people within the team: writer, illustrator, inker, and letterer. It is optional to have a colorist and an editor; however, editors can find mistakes in writing (i.e., typos), allowing you to have a more polished comic book for publication. In addition to this team, Mr. Manning also stated that finding an experienced artist is key to how your story will be represented. How much should you pay an artist for your comic book? It all depends on what the artist is being asked to do, as prices can range from $50 to $315 per page. Ideally, an artist should be able to complete one page per day. Also, having the ability to share files via the Internet will allow the team to quickly complete tasks, especially if artists are out and frequently away from home. Hiring a lawyer to create a contractual agreement for the team is always a good idea, since it allows the team to know up front what is to be expected.
Marketing costs are a big issue. Mr. Manning also discussed price differences for full color comics (over $2 per comic-print-on-demand) versus black and white (over $1 per comic-print-on-demand), as well as the dedication it takes to build an audience. Attending a comic convention, renting a table and a spot on the artists alley floor, will cost between $350 to $400 for three to four days, which does not include cost of food, travel/transportation, and hotel. Surprisingly, for a person just to break even at a comic convention, one would have to sell every comic book he or she had available on them.
Once again, at the end of the presentation, Mr. Manning asked the audience very same two questions that he asked before, “What do I want?” and, “What am I willing to do to get it?” These questions can be helpful in setting parameters for any endeavor, but by doing your research, knowing what you want, and what you can and will do to achieve it, you can open up your chances for success in a competitive world of creating comic books.
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