Creative Futures 2012: Day 3 Part 1: Martin Streenton

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:

Starting Point

  • 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
They all want:

  • Good Storytelling
  • Strong Layout
  • Coherence
Pitch Tips
  • 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
At Conventions

  •  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
  • Arrogance
  • Sending things that no one has asked for
  • Don’t be afraid go honest negative feedback
Typical Process 
  1.  Establish a relationship, via Twitter or conventions
  2. Send artwork AND a full pitch to the publisher, tailor your work to them**
  3. Publisher buys the work for an advance, mostly they will buy limited copyright, sometimes they’ll buy a character
  4. Publishers sell your books to book sellers, but they’re also aiming to make as many direct sales as possible
  5. Don’t expect a ton of royalties! Everyone else takes their cut too!
**Blank Slate don’t want science fiction, mainstream, superheroes, epic adventure
International and Markets

  •  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
The Future of Publishing
We know nothing!

  • 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
This entry was published on March 25, 2012 at 5:29 pm. It’s filed under Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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