The first talk of day three was a video call with Martin Streenton, publistic for Blank Slate Books. He talked about how he ended up becoming involved with comics publishing, what to take to a publisher and how to pitch to them. (We were also promised some karioke for next year.) Here are the notes:
- Media Studies; “What are you going to do with that!?”
- Set up ‘Avoid the Future’ a blog about French comics with his girlfriend
- ‘One thing led to another…’
- Worked for free for American publishers*
- Became Translation Editor at Blank Slate
- Is a “Utility man”, small companies need to employ people with large skill sets and loose job titles
- “Basically weaselled in.”
*Martin was the only person during the whole of this creative futures week to recommend working for free without the guarantee of a job afterwards. I think in general people are quite wary of this route and there’s been a lot of publicity surrounding unpaid work recently. It worked out well for him though.
So how do Artists Weasel in?
- Name value, existing talent in the ‘mainstream’
- Small Pressers, Twitter, Who’s ‘hot’ right now? Who’s getting the most attention? (Whoever shouts the loudest)
- Pitches at Conventions
- Cold Pitches
- Very competitive because of the small number of publishers
What do Publishers want?
Some are looking for:
- Fully formed work
- Full skills set (writer and artist)
- Marketability (still important even in less mainstream comics publishing)
- A tie-in with popular culture
- Blank Slate ten to focus on new talent (oh! that’s us!)
- Quotes from established people (contact your heroes, they’re mostly nice!)
- Pay attention to the House Stylee.g. No Brow: ‘Craft Appeal’, Self Made Hero: ‘House Standard’ not House Style
- Good Storytelling
- Strong Layout
- Make a full pitch
- As many pages as possible; even just roughs!
- Express your strengths
- Make it clear why you’re making these works
- Get quotes from your peers
- Get reviewed on small press blogs
- Get two contacts for any given company and send your pitch to both
- Leave a printed version of your portfolio with publishers at a convention
- Be focused. Show them a coherent idea and you’ll be more memorable
- Send people physical items
- Display! Display! Display!
- Make your table appealing and attractive, be inspired by pop-up shops and gallery spaces
- Be friendly and professional
- Don’t bring everything you’ve ever done!
- Put your best foot forward and it’ll end up in the door
- Sending things that no one has asked for
- Don’t be afraid go honest negative feedback
- Establish a relationship, via Twitter or conventions
- Send artwork AND a full pitch to the publisher, tailor your work to them**
- Publisher buys the work for an advance, mostly they will buy limited copyright, sometimes they’ll buy a character
- Publishers sell your books to book sellers, but they’re also aiming to make as many direct sales as possible
- Don’t expect a ton of royalties! Everyone else takes their cut too!
- In the Uk, our market is defined by the U.S.A (Diamond Distribution)
- Comics have started to push into bookstores; but bookstores are in danger!
- In France comics are a respected artform, there’s a place for everything
- Japan also obviously has a strong comics market
- Books unlikely to ever completely disappear
- Books are starting to have higher production values, books as art objects
- More profitable for a move to digital, but people are scared, there’s resistance
- Comics and/or indie publishers don’t want to be forced to work with the ‘set-size’ of tablets
- It would be negative for comics to be homogenised into one format