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Curious about graphic novels...

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by Policar, Jul 26, 2012.

  1. macrumors 6502a

    I'm writing a novella with the hope of (what else?) getting some people to read it. The subject matter is visual and episodic--four distinct sections with a screenplay story structure--so a few friends have suggested attempting to publish it as a graphic novel instead, in four books. I'd actually prefer this since I think the format would resonate better with the target audience and there's a lot of weird graphic violence that would be more visceral if rendered visually.

    But I can't draw.

    I'm not hoping to make any money from this (at best, this is for publicity) but I also don't know how expensive it is to publish a graphic novel, either as an ebook or in print. Or how expensive it is to hire an artist (or if there are aspiring artists out there who'd work for the cost of materials as a means of self-promotion--assuming of course they dig the material). And is the format really specific? Like X number of panels and Y number of pages per book or can you get creative? I've only read two graphic novels so I have no idea. I really liked one of them, though.

    Does anyone have any experience with this? How much does it cost? What would a decent artist charge? Anyone here published anything? Thanks! My alternate plan is just publishing through the Kindle store as a prose novella, but where is the audience for that?
  2. macrumors member

    How about you make a kickstarter page to fund your project: http://www.kickstarter.com/

    Mock up a sample script to put on there and see if there's enough popularity to get the funds for a graphic artist and publishing.
  3. macrumors 6502a

    I don't think I could drum up interest on kickstarter--I have a small professional network and work in a field in which most people are tremendously under-paid. Plus I'd rather save that favor for another project I have.

    What's the format for graphic novel script pages, though?
  4. macrumors 6502a

    In the age of the internet no self-respecting artist will work for materials cost for self-promotion... back in the day when there were large up-front printing cost this was more common, but there is very little value to do so these days.. even for students who are just starting out.

    Its hard to generalize costs because these things fluctuate from location to location. As a general baseline I would expect a talented but not well known illustrator to charge between $5,000 - $7,000 on a childrens-book sized illustration project. Few illustrators work hourly, but you should expect between 30 - 50/hr for an illustrator.

    Many illustrators use the Graphic Artists Guild's Guide to Pricing and Ethical Guidelines to define their fees, so thats a great resource for you to really learn about pricing and quoting illustration work.

    Getting the book into ebook format is not super expensive.. you can do this in Adobe indesign or Apple's iBooks without significant training. From there you can put it up on amazon and the ibook store. The real cost is in marketing. These days the only reason authors want to connect up with big publishers is their ability to market. Distribution channels are more open to the self-published author than ever before.
  5. Policar, Jul 26, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2012

    macrumors 6502a

    Thanks! $5,000 I could afford, but this would be about half the length of Watchmen, so more than a children's book for sure. The real reason I want to do this is that it's much easier to pitch a published work as a film than it is to pitch an original property. This is why Barry Sonnenfeld is writing Dinosaurs vs. Aliens. For more than $5,000 I would just publish a novella (although a graphic novel would be a much better format for this story) and spend the rest on marketing.

    Do students really get jobs just like that, though? In my field (film) many grads from the biggest schools still get $100 day rates for the first few years and do tons of free work; average salaries are about $8-$10 dollars/hour for the first four or five years out. Do beginning illustrators actually make that much or would they just like to?

    Thanks for the software recommendation. I'll look into it!
  6. macrumors 6502a

    Film is a bit of a different animal. There are limited avenues to production and distribution. There are also high equipment costs, or equipment folks would not otherwise have access to. So people are willing to sacrifice in exchange for access to good projects in the hope that someday they will "make it" (while watching others succeed because they have family connections, ha ha ha).

    The internet has mostly removed such limitations for designers and illustrators. An illustrator starting out has very few needs that would be filled by working for free. Getting good work in front of lots of people is pretty easy today. Having something "in print" is not valued in the ways it used to be. And, sadly, design and illustration free projects rarely turn into "good projects"... for a wide variety of reasons.

    The prices i posted are for a working illustrator a few years out of school... so a student may be cheaper, but I would hope not that much cheaper. If a student can do the work just as well, why should they not get paid a fair price for it?
  7. macrumors 6502a

    Jim Campbell

    There are some very good artists on deviantArt, which has forums for people looking for collaborators, as does Digital Webbing. Rates vary wildly, since an artist working in, say, the Philippines, is likely to have a lower cost of living and can settle for a lower page rate than one based in the USA or Europe.

    You'd at least need to compete with the page rates offered by smaller US independents if you wanted to get halfway competent art. Ball park figures would be something like:

    Pencils: $60/page
    Inks: $40/page (many smaller publishers skip this stage and just darken the pencils off in Photoshop, which saves money but doesn't look as good)
    Colours: $40-60/page
    Lettering: $10-$15/page

    That comes in at about $150-$175 per page. You may find an artist who can do pencils and inks, or pencils, inks and colours, but this is likely to mean that they will produce pages at a much slower rate.

    Be aware that many artists (and some writers) think they can do the lettering themselves. Obviously, I'm biased, but nothing will make a nicely-drawn page look like an amateurish piece of cr*p than a bad lettering job, so get a professional letterer!


  8. Policar, Jul 27, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2012

    macrumors 6502a

    Interesting....thanks. A few questions, if you don't mind:

    Can you use thought bubbles or anything like "he thought" in a graphic novel, or even include passages of expository text, or is it supposed to be more like a movie--just images and dialogue?

    Is Watchmen (my favorite graphic novel of the two I've read) unusually verbose?

    Do people still divide graphic novels into volumes or books? I notice that every episode of Watchmen is 28 pages. Is that the standard length?

    The following is a bit hypothetical, but let's say my story is a ninety page screen play or about 100 pages of florid prose divided neatly into four parts. Is there a 1:1 correlation in terms of adapting a screenplay into a graphic novel page-wise? My guess is "yes" and that I'm aiming for four 28-page volumes, so about $15,000 to produce.

    What does a page of script for a graphic novel look like--what the author sends the artists?

  9. macrumors 6502a

    Jim Campbell

    Right. Seriously: if you don't know this stuff then there is no way you should be thinking about ploughing this kind of money into a graphic novel, or any kind of comic project.

    Honestly, I work in this industry and the chances are that you'll lose your shirt if you go down this route. If it's not good enough to be a prose work or a screenplay, then it's not good enough to be a comic; if it IS good enough, then you'll make more money and get a better rights deal in just about ANY other medium.

    I'm sorry if that sounds harsh, but it's better you hear it now.


  10. macrumors 6502a

    Thanks for the honesty, I'll probably just go with a novella and spend the money on marketing. Where should I look if I want to learn more about comics and graphic novels, though, just for the sake of curiosity?

    I was originally working on a screenplay and have relatively little interest in publishing a novella or graphic novel simply for the sake of publishing it--but I was told by a few producers and directors (who haven't read the screenplay, to be fair) that no one will green light anything unless it's based on a book or a comic--and that it's common practice to publish a graphic novel if you want to get your project off the ground as a genre film--you just pretend the film is the adaptation, not the original article. 30 Days of Night was originally a screenplay; Dinosaurs vs. Aliens is being written as a graphic novel to improve its chances of adaptation; and I can think of other examples, too... For whatever reason audiences (and thus financiers) believe in the quality of an adapted property over an original one (unless the director himself--Nolan, Cameron, Malick, no one on the low end, obviously is a salable property). I don't want to make money, this is just for marketing.

    I also have a few industry connections (Jeph Loeb and Steve Niles) and I have fewer in the prose publishing industry.
  11. macrumors 65816

    Take a look at the "Project Ajax" app on iPad to see what is possible. It is an amazing work.

    Obviously, this cost quite a bit more than the above-quoted figures to work, and I'm sure needed custom programming. But you might want to poke around and see if you can find out how it was produced.

    For those who are unfamiliar, Project Ajax tells the story of the 1953 Iranian coup as an interactive graphic novel.

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