WonderCon 2011, the third day: Will I ever find the Foglios?

Will I find the elusive Phil and Kaja Foglio before WonderCon ends?

Ever since before WonderCon, I had been hoping to talk with Kaja and Phil Foglio.  They are the creative team that produces the long-running graphic novel series Girl Genius.

When I told a friend about my new project, she suggested I find them at WonderCon and talk with them.  Later, the same friend loaned me her copy of the first omnibus edition of  Girl Genius to read.

And then on Friday at WonderCon, another friend I ran into, who really likes Steampunk, also told me to talk with them.  Well, that proved more difficult than I at first imagined.

The Exhibit hall was huge.  Did I mention HUGE?  And nowhere in the map were the Foglios listed.  Same for Girl Genius.  I looked and looked over that brochure each day.  At night, I searched online and discovered their umbrella name for all their projects is Airship Entertainment.  So I looked for that.  No good.  It wasn’t listed either.

So on Sunday, finding them was one of my top priorities.

As I came into the hall, I was distracted by dinosaurs.  No.  Really.  On the cover of a book.  It’s very easy to distract me with dinosaurs.  Big hint: if you want me to see your movie or read your comic, put a dinosaur in it.  I mean, of course dinosaurs are not always appropriate.  I really can’t see wedging one into Sense and Sensibility, for example, but they’re always fun.

Anyway…

I have questions, and James Walker II at Flesk Publications has answers!

I had stumbled upon the booth of Flesk Publications, and the enormously helpful James Walker II.  While I was lingering over some dinosaur book, he asked if I had any questions.  I told him a million, but I didn’t know if he’d have the answers.  He ventured to try.  I asked him where was a booth for Phil and Kaja Foglio, and he knew – it was just two aisles over, along the same open walkway.

Next I asked him about printers, for self-publishing.  I think he said they use Paramount Printing, in Hong Kong.  He also mentioned Brand Studio Press, and James thought perhaps they had a sliding scale.  I’ve looked over their site, and they mostly seem to publish art books and sketch books by various well-known artists.  In their catalog I didn’t see any graphic novels at all.  The descriptions of the printing and binding of the books sound wonderful:  primarily hardcover, with sewn pages: my favorite kind.

James Walker II told me that Diamond Comic Distributors was a big distributor for comics and graphic novels, and suggested that I could comb their catalog to find big name publishers.  I could look at what they’re already publishing and try to find a good match.  James briefly mentioned that Marvel and DC don’t take on newbies, and I quickly assured him that I had no intention of trying to get them to publish my story.  As little as I know about this whole comic-graphic novel universe, I know that they primarily publish superhero comic stuff, and my story isn’t remotely like that.  Although I believe my story will make a great graphic novel, just of a different sort.

James also told me about SCB Distributors, located in Southern California.  He said their catalog would be better for locating boutique publishers.

In addition, James Walker II advised me to check out The Anthology Project, which has published 2 volumes so far, with up to 21 different artists and their various stories in each one.  He mentioned there was a blog about their publishing, run by Joy Ang.  Their blog does have some really cool animations of the process of some of the artists, showing the art in various stages.  I think it may be worth checking out to see all the different styles and stories.  I think James was thinking I might try to be included in a future volume, or I might learn from their adventure in bringing it to print.

James said that Flesk Publications wasn’t accepting any new projects to publish for about the next 4-5 years.  I guess they must have so many good ones in the queue they don’t have room for more.

When I asked if there were any publishers in the hall that he could recommend, James Walker II pointed to the banner for Archaia.  They looked too big for me, and I told James as much.  He assured me they were a small publisher, even though they had a big presence here at WonderCon.  He really thought I should give them a try, so that became my new goal, after finding Phil and Kaja Foglio.

I thanked James tremendously for all his terrific help, and followed his directions toward their booth.

At last – Kaja Foglio!

When I reached the Girl Genius outpost, Kaja was in the middle of describing her wedding dress to a friend.  Seeing me, she graciously offered to interrupt this to talk with me.  Instead, I encouraged her to continue, as I love costuming, and this sounded beautiful: it was an art nouveau confection, inspired by Mucha, complete with an “Ozma hat,” as Kaja described it, meaning a big flower on each side of her head, as featured in several Mucha paintings.  In the case of Ozma, they look like poppies.  And there was beaded draping on each side of her head in this headdress.  It sounds fantastic.  I wish I could have seen it.  I mentioned a friend of mine had a recreation made for herself of a Mucha gown – to dress as the green fairy.

As with everyone else in this quest, Kaja Foglio was amazingly helpful.  She’s very enthusiastic about self-publishing.  They put out a new page of Girl Genius three times a week on their website, and then they also have printed book versions for sale.

She said they give away everything for free in their webcomic, which horrifies some other writers, but she’s very happy with it.  They have plenty of hard-copy sales (and ancillary artifacts for sale as well).  Kaja said that people say things all the time  like:  “I read it online all through college, and now that I can afford it, I want to buy the books.”  I saw several sales at their booth while I was talking with her.  At one point, Phil put some books in front of her to sign, and Kaja said: “I’m only Italian by marriage; I can’t sign these now; I’m talking.”  (And using her hands quite a bit for that.)

They use Courier Corporation for printing, this is the company that owns Dover Publications.  (I am completely mad for Dover.  I love them, love them, love them, but perhaps I ought to rave more about them on another day.)  Kaja said she really likes working with Courier, because they have good communication, and they notice mistakes.  They really seem to care about the quality and appearance of the books.  It sounded very impressive to me.

Kaja Foglio advised caution in size of print runs.  She said a printer will want to run more copies, because the per-unit cost is lower, of course, so they’ll offer you a better unit price for 1,000 copies than for 600, but she said, if you don’t sell those extra books, they’re tying up money you could use for other things and taking up space in your basement.  Good advice, to be sure.

As far as distribution goes, Kaja said Diamond Comics Distributors is the only game in town for comics.

In terms of the quickest way to get the story out there, Kaja Foglio proposed distributing on the web, as they do.  She said Alexa was a website that ranks websites, so I could find out which ones are popular, and which ones might be best to host my own site.   She mentioned Shutterfly is a good site that is geared toward photography, where you can “create your own free photo and video sharing website with a personalized web address. ”  Kaja said it should be easy to find a place where I can do a starter website, perhaps at Google.  Usually the basic one is free, and they you pay for upgrades.

With the idea of generating additional revenue streams, as it were, Kaja said if I had popular characters, I could use Cafe Press to sell customized coffee mugs and tee shirts and the like.

For marketing, Kaja Foglio recommended Facebook, because she said you can get lots of “likes,” which can show that your work has broad appeal.  She said you can use Facebook to direct people to your website, and to mirror blog posts, so that you can get double duty out of any posts and traffic.

I thanked Kaja so much for all her help and suggestions.  When I asked if it was okay to blog about our conversation, she said of course, and said that links are always appreciated.  So that is what spurred me to learn how to create links here at WordPress.

Kaja likes the freedom of self-publishing, she said no one is going to tell you to use certain characters more, so they can sell more toys.  Kaja was really gung ho about self-publishing, but she admitted that’s because that’s what she does.   And it really works for them.

ARCHAIA wants stories, and at least they’re easy to find.

After talking with Kaja, I strode directly to the Archaia booth.  They were really easy to find, because they were in the same general area, and they had a big logo banner hanging above their booth.

At this point, it was less than half an hour before the end of WonderCon, so I didn’t have much time left.   I looked around the Archaia  booth, scoping out various books.  I had a couple in my hands, when Josh Trujillo approached me to ask if I wanted help.  I explained to him that I want to adapt one of my screenplays into a graphic novel and that I’m potentially looking for a publisher and that someone had suggested Archaia might be interested.

Josh seemed very  enthusiastic about new stories.

He said they are looking for:

Crime.  All-ages Fiction.  Historical Fiction.  Horror.  High-Concept Science Fiction.  He said most of all they’re looking for good stories, and they’re not that attached to particular genres.

In fact, he said they had been talking, and their dream project right now would be a good, all-ages fantasy – a pure fantasy that is the classic, medieval, sword and sorcery style that could appeal to both children and adults.

Josh Trujillo said the submission guidelines were on their website, and that they accept open submissions.  He said to send a .pdf file of 5-10 completed pages, showing the tone and storytelling of my piece.  Of course I was very excited by his enthusiasm and the prospect that they would look at my submission.

Archaia was running a special: buy 2 books and get 3 free.  I thought that was an amazing deal, and I asked Josh’s help in selecting five books that would give me a good idea of Archaia’s range: what they do, and what they might be looking for.

Here are the five he chose for me: Mouse Guard Fall 1152, by David Petersen.  Josh Trujillo said it’s one of their most popular (and I love it).  I had already picked up Artesia, and Josh said that was a really good one to get, because it is by Mark Smylie, who founded Archaia to print his own work and that of others.  Next Josh picked up The Killer, volumes one and two, by Matz and Luc Jacamon, translated from French.  Josh said there was an incredible character arc between the two books, so that the guy at the end of Volume two is completely different from his character in the first volume, but that the change is believable and beautifully arced.  I took both of those books, but Josh suggested I put back Volume two and go for more variety to start with.  I agreed, and Josh perused the books, seeking other good choices for me.

Josh Trujillo  showed me Some New Kind of Slaughter, by mpMann and A. David Lewis; several versions of great flood stories from diverse cultures.  It was especially interesting because I like mythology, and because it was in a different format than most of the other graphic novels.  This one was wide and short, like a film frame.  But on the whole, Josh recommended instead Inanna’s Tears, written by Rob Vollmar, illustrated by mpMann, because it showed their historical fiction, and  mpMann was on the other side of the booth, signing, and Josh said I could get him to sign it for me.  For my last book, Josh chose Moon Lake, an anthology created by Dan Fogler.

Of course, I thanked Josh for his help, and then I checked out.  For $50. I walked away with 5 beautiful hardcover graphic novels: almost a steal.

I went around the booth and found mpMann, who signed my copy of Inanna’s Tears and made a little drawing of a pyramid and a man’s head with a Sumerian-style hat.  I asked him if the 5 for 2 book deal was an end-of-the show special, so they wouldn’t have to pack and transport back so many books, but he told me they had been running that deal for the entire show.  I was impressed, and he said it helps expose people to more of their titles and encourages people to try new stories.  I was really grateful, since it let me go home with a good beginning selection of Archaia’s stories.

Archaia’s books are gorgeous.  Solid hardcovers with lush colors on thick shiny pages.  I will be unbelievably fortunate if  they say yes to my proposal and publish my story.  According to various bits I’ve read about them now on the web, they might go for it.  In their own words from their submissions page:

“One of Archaia’s core missions is to constantly seek out new and exciting creator-owned projects in the adventure, fantasy, horror, pulp noir and science fiction genres that test the boundaries of the comic book medium.”

I just hope they like my proposal when they see it.  I would be beyond thrilled to publish with them.

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WonderCon 2011: the second day, part 3: Chris Garcia recommends Publishers for Graphic Novels

We catch up to our heroine in the cavernous exhibit hall at WonderCon, striding from one informative conversation to another.

Eric Shanower’s table in Artist Alley

After talking with Stephanie Lantry and Carrie Smith, who create and publish To the Power Against, I finally made it over to Eric Shanower‘s table. But he wasn’t there. He was over at the Marvel booth, for a scheduled signing.  I looked over his books, which were beautiful.   This was my first glimpse of any of his work.  There were many issues of the Age of Bronze series, as well as three collected volumes: A Thousand Ships in soft cover,  Sacrifice and Betrayal (part one), both available in hard cover and soft cover.  These are published by Image Comics and are also available at  Hungry Tiger Press.

There were some Oz books.  Eric Shanower is writing adaptations of L. Frank Baum‘s Oz books, and Skottie Young is illustrating them for Marvel.  The first one was there, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  I was more attracted to Eric’s original Oz stories in  Adventures in Oz, which he both wrote and illustrated,  but there were only two copies left,  so I bought one, with the plan to bring it back to be autographed later.

Chris Garcia recommends smaller presses for Graphic Novels (and gives other advice).

My next goal was to find  Chris Garcia, whom my costuming friend had mentioned.  Chris was volunteering at the Science Fiction Outreach booth, into which I had wandered first thing on arriving Friday, after picking up my badge.  Their booth was right near the entrance from badge pickup.  What caught my attention was that they were giving away books.  For real.

I stopped in to talk with a lovely woman there who explained their mission.  When I explained to her my mission in attending WonderCon, she helpfully told me that John Scalzi had serialized his first novel, Old Man’s War  on his website (which is intermittently hilarious, the website, I mean, especially the opening blurb on the canonical bacon page).  That got the attention of Tor Books, who then published the novel.  She allowed as how this was a traditional novel and not a graphic novel, but it was a good example of how to get something out there, and possibly published by another company as well.  She also mentioned that Ryan Sohmer and Lar deSouza had turned their webcomic Least I Could Do into several collected edition books.  I think they were at WonderCon, but I didn’t ever track them down.  I was so busy with everything else.

Since I had been to the Science Fiction Outreach booth,  I knew right where to look for Chris Garcia, and found him easily.  He was quite happy to help me, and was a font of information.

Chris felt that the best small press in the world is Slave Labor Graphics, and said they publish about 20 books a year.  I looked at their website, and they seem eager to welcome newcomers to the field, which could bode well for my project.  Of course I need to check them out more.  They do accept unsolicited projects, and I looked over their submission guidelines.  Chris did say that Slave Labor Graphics mostly publishes in black and white, and I think color would be better for my book, but it’s certainly still a good recommendation, and I’ll be thrilled if any publisher takes it on.

In the realm of smaller publishers, Chris also mentioned Fantagraphic Books.  They seem to be looking for very individualistic visions, steering clear of anything the major publishers would take.  I found their submission guidelines on their FAQ page in the About Us category.

Chris also mentioned Top Cow.   This is an amusing moment in the adventure, because I thought he said “Pop Cow,” (it was loud in the exhibit hall) and I just spent 20 minutes searching online for them, to investigate and link to, before I stumbled upon Top Cow, and its parent group, Image Comics.  Here are submission guidelines for Image Comics.

I read the Top Cow submission guidelines.  At the moment, they’re not hiring writers or looking for original story material.  They  are hiring artists of various sorts, but this is clearly not a possible publisher for my project.  They advise writers to self-publish, saying, “If your work is good a larger publisher will eventually notice you,” and “Publishers are always on the lookout for promising young professional writers.”  Over the weekend at WonderCon, I heard similar advice from various people.

Chris also mentioned two bigger publishers, and he advised that if I wanted to contact them, I should have my manager call.  One was  Vertigo,  which is a division of DC Comics.  I checked them out.  They also are not seeking new writers or original stories, but they are looking for new artists, through their Talent Search at Comic Conventions.  Here are the DC Comics Talent Search Guidelines.   Here is some further info about Vertigo, from DC Comics, and from About.com.  Since Vertigo is not looking for original stories, it seems it is not an option for me, either (even if I have my manager call, as Chris suggested), although my story is in line with the kind of thing they do.

The other, bigger publisher Chris mentioned was Tokyo Pop.   Since Tokyo Pop is primarily focused on manga, and previously-created franchises (like Star Trek and Sponge Bob Square Pants), and they don’t seem to be taking any submissions at this time, they also wouldn’t be an option for my project.

Other Advice – from Chris Garcia

In the realm of studying graphic novels, Chris Garcia also had a few recommendations.   He mentioned that Gail Carriger had written a manga called Soulless, but I must have misunderstood, because this book turns out to be a novel in her  Parasol Protectorate Series, which Gail describes as, “comedies of manners set in Victorian London: full of vampires, dirigibles, and tea. They are Jane Austen doing urban fantasy meets PG Wodehouse doing steampunk.”   Her website is delicious, full of Victoriana and Steampunk, and personality.  (Re: mistaking “novel” for “manga:” Did I mention it was loud in the exhibition hall – especially where I was talking with Chris?)  Anyway, I’m very glad to find her website, because it’s fun, and it may have useful publishing information.

Later update on Gail Carriger‘s manga: There is going to be one!   It’s a manga version of her novel Soulless, illustrated by Rem.   It’s going to launch officially at the upcoming Comic-Con in San Diego, July 21-14, 2011, serialized in Yen Plus, a monthly online  anthology, and as a full book next spring, published by Yen Press.  (I guess I didn’t mishear Chris after all.)

Chris also mentioned Scott McCloud‘s book, Understanding Comics, which everyone mentions (and I ordered right away, when I started this project).  But Chris Garcia was the first one to suggest another McCloud title about the business of comics, by which I think he meant Reinventing Comics, which contains a section on the business of comics and creator’s rights.  I discovered Scott McCloud has another book, Making Comics, that also seems like an excellent resource for anyone learning to create comics and graphic novels.

Chris Garcia told me that I should have only 2 characters talk at a time in a panel, although as I have continued reading graphic novels, I have seen exceptions to this, of course.

He also said I could find examples of comic book scripts in the back of one of the Sandman trade paper back collected editions.

When I asked about his recommendations of graphic novels to study, he said the best was Stuck Rubber Baby, by Howard Cruse.   It has won an Eisner award and bunch of others.  It got three stars in my notes as Chris talked about it, so I know he really enthused about it.

Another fellow was standing nearby, and now I don’t recall whether he or Chris Garcia also recommended Barnum!: In Secret Service to the USA, by Howard Chaykin and David Tischman, art by Niko Henrichon, and Kill Your Boyfriend, by Grant Morrison, art by Philip Bond and D’Israeli.

Of course, I thanked Chris so much for his time and suggestions, and headed back toward Eric Shanower‘s table in Artist Alley.

WonderCon 2011: the first day, there’s more!

I found some more notes from my first day at WonderCon.

In the small press area of the exhibit hall, I talked with a couple of very helpful folks at one of the tables.  Unfortunately, this was before I started writing down the companies of everyone I talked with and asking their permission to mention them in the blog, so alas, I cannot identify them.  But anyway, I told them of my quest, and they gave me some interesting information.  They mentioned an article in SF Gate about Amanda Hocking, who self-published online and marketed through ebooksellers.  Her work got to be so popular that she was courted by three publishers and made a deal with St. Martin’s Press.

These helpful folks also mentioned an artist website: Deviantart.com, where artists display and sell their art.  They thought that if I needed to find an artist partner for my graphic novel, that might be a good place to look.

When I had been upstairs for the first session I attended,  by Douglas Neff, I had noticed a very long line for Portfolio review.  I asked about it, and someone waiting told me that various companies had a rep inside the room, who would look over artist portfolios and give suggestions.  I thought that was very friendly and helpful.  I also thought, if I needed to find an artist to partner with, that long line might be a great place to start.  I checked the schedule, and the review was continuing on the next day, so I knew I could come back if necessary.

When I started out at WonderCon searching for information, I didn’t even know how the business worked at all.  I didn’t know if publishers accept stories and then pair up the writer with an artist in their stable, as it were, or if artists and writers paired up before bringing a project to a publisher.  I also didn’t know there was so much self-publishing going on.  Even as the first day wore on, I sort of gathered that mostly artists and writers pair up independently, either to self-publish or to submit proposals to publishers.

That night when I got home, I called a dear friend of mine, Andrea Potts, who is also an amazing artist.  She didn’t have much time, so I asked if she was interested in the project, and she said yes.  And then she asked me to tell her about the story a little, just to be sure she would be into it.  I pitched it to her briefly (Hollywood teaches you nothing if not to be brief with pitching).

Side note – for some great advice about pitching, see Ken Rotcop‘s Perfect Pitch, and his DVD, Let’s Sell Your ScriptKen Rotcop is wonderful, fiercely supportive of writers, and truly interested in helping us get careers going.  He worked in the industry for decades; he’s been the creative head of four studios; and he is an award-winning writer himself.  He founded the original pitching event, Pitchmart, which is celebrating its 50th session on April 30th, 2011.  I have attended many times and gotten very positive responses from producers.  That is where I met my manager.

Andrea liked my story, so I didn’t need to return to the portfolio review on Saturday, and I planned on spending all my time in the exhibit hall, gleaning information and resources.

WonderCon 2011: the second day, part 2

We join our heroine in the midst of her second day at WonderCon 2011, in her quest for knowledge about the artform of graphic novels and how to get one published.

I had just been talking with the students working on the High Tech High Graphic Novel Project.

Near to their table was one for Conjoined Comics, the team that puts out To the Power Against, which they describe as “Buffy for Stephen Hawking.”  The writer, Carrie Smith, was out, but the artist, Stephanie Lantry was there, and she gave me a lot of information.

She said they self-publish, and they use a printer called Ka-Blam.com, which has no minimum for print runs.  She said she zips and uploads files to her site and sends a link to Ka-Blam for the printing.  She told me email is not usually big enough or fast enough for this sort of file.  She also mentioned You Send It, and that there are other places to send large files, that perhaps Drop Box was a possibility, since I don’t have a site of  my own up and running (yet).  She told me Ka-Blam would have their technical specs on their website.   Stephanie mentioned Tiff files and other graphic programs – there might be others that Ka-Blam or other printers could accept.  In terms of cost for publishing, she mentioned Kickstarter as a possible way to get funding.

In the realm of how she works with Carrie, Stephanie showed me a few of her thumbnail sketches, basically small versions of the page layouts.  They were very rough, and about 3×5″ in her little sketchbook.  They showed the panels, their shapes and proportions, and maybe a few stick figures within them.  She said she shows this to Carrie before she gets started on the actual artwork.

I asked her what graphic novels she would recommend to further my understanding of the art, and she suggested Scott Pilgrim, that it was very much influenced by video games and manga.  It’s very kinetic and has lots of energy packed into the pages.

Later in the day, I looped back to talk with Carrie Smith, the writer for To the Power Against, but in the interest of keeping things together, I’ll write about that here.

We talked more about how to do the writing.  She said to think in frames – about 4-6 per page, and to break the story into chunks that could be told in about 23 pages each.  She has written screenplays, too, and said a typical screenplay would probably come out to 6-12 issues.  (I’m finding people use the term issues, to mean a smaller, soft-cover section of an on-going story – what used to be called a comic book.)

Carrie was really strong on self-publishing, because of the freedom.  She said nobody can tell you what you can and cannot do, and that I should tell the stories from my heart that I wanted to tell.  Stephanie also mentioned that there is such a low barrier to entry into the field that you can do whatever you want.   There are no budget limitations to consider:  you can depict other worlds, alternate realities, and special effects without the tremendous costs these would require in film.

In addition, apparently these days publishers frequently want to see what you can do on your own in the realm of self-publishing before they will consider your work.

Both Stephanie and Carrie were very encouraging.  In general, I have found everyone I have encountered in the comics/graphic novel field to be very helpful, generous, and supportive.

When I asked Carrie which graphic novels she would recommend, she put Y: the Last Man, by Brian K. Vaughan,  at the top of her list (I put two stars by it as she spoke, so I know she praised it highly).  She also mentioned these as very cinematic: Runaways (Created by Brian K. Vaughan),  Ex Machina (created by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris) , and The Unwritten (by Mike Carey).

There was more to this day, but it will have to wait for another post.

WonderCon 2011: the second day, part 1

My plan for the second day was to spend it in the exhibition hall getting information.   Watching the Graphic Novel panel on Friday, I was impressed by Eric Shanower, and I knew I wanted to talk with him.  All of the panelists were clearly dedicated to their art.  It was just that he mentioned sometimes helping people who wanted to get into graphic novels, pointing them to websites with comic scripts and other useful information.  I was also impressed by his passion for his stories.  At one point, he said he would get his stories out in whatever format was needed, as the medium transformed.  He’s working on a very long series, the Age of Bronze (http://age-of-bronze.com/), which is the story of the Trojan War.  That’s immense dedication, ’cause that’s not gonna be a short story.  Anyway, he sounded really potentially helpful, so my main goal for the day was to make sure to speak with him, among others.

The Exhibition hall at the Moscone Center is huge.  Bigger than the city block I live on.  Immense.  Truly immense.  There was not enough time to go through it methodically, checking at every booth of artists or small presses, asking my questions everywhere, seeing if anyone could help me.  I needed another strategy, so I would pick a goal or two for each day, and then let myself be lead, here or there, hoping that I would collect the information I needed along the way.  It was a little like pinging through a pinball machine, like one of the little, silver balls.  One person would lead to another would lead to a chance encounter along the way.

Before I could even get into the Exhibition hall, I ran into a costuming friend, and I took the leap to tell her about my screenwriting and the reason for my attendance at WonderCon.  I didn’t have to tell her, but as we were preparing  to part, I felt that I wanted to tell her, and ask for any advice or direction she could give me, and that if I let her go without saying anything, I’d regret it.  So in I plunged.  She’s known me many years, but she didn’t know I was a writer, because I have kept that largely to myself.  (Why I kept it mostly secret is a story for another day.)  I was glad I told her, because she told me about the beau of another costuming friend who might have good information.   She went off, and I went into that grand hall of possibilities, on the quest for information, now with at least 2 goals: talk with Eric Shanower and the guy my friend had mentioned.

I was wandering down an aisle, when I was shyly beckoned over to a table where I discovered some high school students from San Diego had started the High Tech High Graphic Novel Project, to publish their work, and they had 3 issues for sale.  I bought all 3 for $10, which seemed like a great investment, in the kids themselves, in the idea of dreams coming true, and in supporting other aspiring writers.  They seemed eager for feedback, and when I read the issues and have a moment, I hope to give  whatever input I can.  I’m not yet knowledgeable about graphic novels, but I hope I can offer them something useful.

There was more, much more, to this glorious day at WonderCon, but it will have to wait for the next post.  Does our heroine get to meet the illustrious Eric Shanower?  Can she track down the beau of a costuming acquaintance?  And will he have any helpful info?  Follow the continuing saga…

WonderCon 2011: the first day.

In search of information about how to publish a graphic novel,  today I went to the first day of WonderCon 2011 in San Francisco.

I went to a seminar, a panel on graphic novels, and had a few conversations with people, trying to get some hints of where to get information.  I’ve also scoped the situation and decided on some strategies and goals for tomorrow.  I hear there will be four times as many people tomorrow, so it may be more of a challenge.

I went to an excellent seminar on setting and achieving creative goals by Douglas Neff.  His company is Toucan Learning Systems.  Right now I’m looking over the hand-out from his class, and there’s a quote I love: “To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.” — Leonard Bernstein.  Well, that describes my situation. From things I heard around the edges today, getting a graphic novel published in under a year is ridiculously fast.  But that’s what I want to do, to impress an agent to take me on, so I can get the chance at a TV or screenwriting job by next year.

Anyway.  Douglas’s seminar was great.  Of course it was sculpted with his audience in mind.  He used examples and illustrations suited to this crowd:  a Tolkien map of Middle Earth, several comic-book heroes, and a clip from Star Trek III, the Search for Spock.  He used one of my favorite parts, where Kirk asks somebody high up in the Federation for a ship to help save Spock.   The Federation guy says no, so Kirk decides he is therefore going anyway.  This sort of thinking has been a part of my makeup all along.  I’m going to do what I’m going to do, and I’m not going to let things stop me.

From the description, I actually thought Douglas’s presentation would be more about the process of getting published, but I was really happy with what he did, and I found it very useful.

I also attended a panel on the graphic novel.   There were 5 graphic novel author/illustrators there: Seth, Andy Ristaino, Miriam Libicki, Eric Shanower, and Hope Larson.   I learned some of what I want to know around the edges of their talk.  Typically for them, a graphic novel takes 2-5 years to produce.  One of their least favorite things is when someone approaches them who is a writer, and “just needs someone to draw out their story for them.”  I imagine this is the same irritation I feel, when someone discovers I’m a screenwriter, and they tell me, “I have a great idea for a film, all I need is someone to write it out for me.”  As if the writing were nothing and the idea everything, as if I don’t already have several stories of my own to tell, and not enough time to write them in.

Tomorrow,  I want to approach some graphic novelists, and with the greatest humility, acknowledge that I don’t know anything about their art form, share my need to get a graphic novel published to get into screenwriting, and ask their advice on how best and most swiftly to educate myself, and how to get the story out there.

I am extremely lucky in that I have a very close friend who’s an artist, and who is thrilled to do this project with me.  (I asked her about it tonight.)  I have heard around the edges today that that is how it’s done.  I didn’t know if publishers had stables of artists they like to work with, and I would need to go with one of them.  What I heard today is that writer and artist usually team up to present a finished product for potential publication (or self-publication – and I’ve heard a little about that today, too).

I found a couple of guys who are publishing their own novels and are now looking for artists to translate them into graphic novels.  we were talking, and I pitched my story to them. One of them loved it, and he wants to keep in touch.  It’s so great, and so gratifying to get that sort of response.

I’m not a big convention fan-girl.  I went to a Star Trek convention once when I was a teenager.  I’ve been to a few Screenwriting Expos in L.A., and I went to Costume Con, when it was nearby here, in San Jose.  I loved Costume Con.  It was my first full-blown convention experience, where I stayed in the hotel (and determined never to leave my room without a costume on).  All the classes were great, along with meeting other costumers, and the sort of slumber-party vibe of the whole thing.  One thing I loved about WonderCon was the buzz of excitement in the air, and all the costumes.  It’s so great to see people wearing their fantasies, bringing to life favorite characters, or their own creative visions.  I only wished that I knew more of the comic world, so that I could recognize the different characters.  Plus, it’s fun to rub shoulders with Storm Troopers or Boba Fett.  Which reminds me of various Star Trek characters that have showed up at Ren Faires, but that is a story for a different day.

Oh, and there’s going to be an Elf Quest movie, and Warner Brothers is doing it, and they said we could help by tweeting and blogging about it, so here’s my blog bit for the upcoming film: it sounds awesome.