Hey everyone welcome how to write a comic book, the series for anyone interested in how to write comics. In part 1, we spoke about how you need to know your ‘why’ before you even begin. In part 2 we talked about the plan, in part 3 we went through the script itself and understand story flow, specifically focusing on panel flow.
In this part we are going to explore the team and budget.
How to Write a Comic:The Budget and the Team
Now we get into the production side of the business, up until now, you’ve most likely been having fun, enjoying the art of the story, visualising how the finished product will look and imagining all the plaudits that you will win at the end of the process.
Well now comes the business side of things as you put together a budget and try to figure out where you’re going to get the money from to fund this adventure of yours.
First of all, do you need a team?
It may be the case that you are an artist, inker, colourist and letterer all in one – and if you are that’s great, but you could still benefit from having a someone to assist you as not only will that make the process go faster but you’d also have someone to feedback and critique the work.
Now, none of us like to have our work critiqued, but whether you like it or not, your work will be critiqued and it’s much better that it’s critiqued at the start when you are able to easily change it than it is critiqued at the end online in public.
It’s much harder to change it then and you’d have spend so much time and effort to get it to that place – so always better to do it at the start.
How to write a comic book: So how much is it going to cost you?
So first of all figure out how many pages the comic is going to be. Then you’ll need to figure out a page rate with the artist, page rates differ on a number of factors including
- What type of artist you are working with, an penciller is going to be more expensive than a letterer
- The geography of the artists – this is a general global phenomena, artists in the west will be more expensive than artists in the east, this is not limited to comics but is one of the fall-outs that we have from industrialisation
- The experience the artist is bringing – goes without saying a professional who has done many books will be a lot more expensive than someone starting out. Though the experienced artist will most likely be better, will she/he put in as many hours as the inexperienced artist who is hungry to make a name for themselves?
My own opinion is to give me people who are hungry for success and want to prove themselves, they will go the extra mile for you and you will be helping them develop giving them an opportunity to have a finished book published, which will put them on their way to becoming a professional.
Before you go into full scale production I would suggest to test the waters
First start off with a small number of pages, say 10, to put a team together and start working together.
10 pages is a small enough commitment to be able to work together at a reasonable price (between $800 to $1200) and get something finished in a reasonable time period (between 2 to 3 months).
I would also recommend publishing your first edition, putting it out there in the real world and seeing how well it flies. This will give you that all important ‘data’ that will help you make an informed decision on how many pages you need to get done next.
Of course the issue is how much time you spend analysing the data versus how much time you spend making the next issue?
As we are artists our instinct is to make the art not analyse, not to plan, not to strategise – but here is the important thing, strategising actually informs your plan, which in turn will allow you to focus on your art – don’t rush these stages.
These stages will help you achieve the success that you’re looking for, it may come in slightly smaller steps, but it will come.
Now you have your team you need to find ways to work together
The team that I pulled together for #DigitopiaTheGraphicNovel are from different continents from myself, which in turn means different timezones.
The artist who I’m working with, the fabulously talented Sebastián Píriz is from Buenos Aires in Argentina and the equally excellent colourist and letterer Simon Robins is from Melbourne, Australia – with me in the middle in London UK, the time differences between the team spans 13 hours.
Now how do we communicate and collaborate when we are 13 hours and 10,500 miles apart?
The answer: The Internet, specifically
- Skype – pretty obvious you need to talk (video call) one another
- Trello – This is a way to manage all your tasks via a Kanban board
- Slack – a super powerful Instant Messenger (IM) solution
- Google Docs/DropBox
Trello and Slack play really well together
Looking specifically at these two, Trello is a way to organise all your tasks into list, you can make lists according to whatever you want, the most typically arrangement being
- to do
- in progress
But that is not the only arrangement of lists – for instance when I’m making my YouTube videos, I’d have a list heading like
- keyword research and descriptions
- to do
- on YouTube
- blog post written
- shared on social media
Whatever your flow of activities are, you set up your lists accordingly, then it’s just a matter of moving your cards from one stage in your pipeline to the next.
The cards themselves have functionality beyond just a title and a description, the three I use most are
- adding a team member to the ticket – so we all know (and agree) who is responsible for getting this through the pipe
- adding a due date so you can see when an item is due and track its progress
- adding a checklist – this is especially powerful when there are many items within the task that require the task to be repeated several times
- for example in Digitopia: The Graphic Novel, one of the tasks for the main artists is to do a first pass of the inking of the first ten pages, we split that into three parts, when each part is done it’s just a matter of checking the boxes.When the whole task is done the card gets moved into the done column – the checkbox feature is a really powerful way to manage the elements within a single task
Slack is a super powerful IM tool, which goes way beyond just typing messages to each other, again I’ll zip through my favourite features in Slack
- The ability to create channels – channels are super useful for creating specific conversations around specific topics
- In Slack you can also put your work in progress art to see how things are developing
- Also web links come straight into Slack with a preview of the link
The final element of the operation is to have somewhere to store all the files to make sure the team are working on the right file and to keep everything in sync.
There’s so many options of how to do this, the two that I use the most are Google Docs and DropBox.
Whichever solution you use, the key to making it work is to structure the architecture in a way that fits your production pipeline – ‘structure’, ‘architecture’, ‘pipeline’???
Sorry these are just fancy words for saying folder layout.
This is the folder layout I use to structure Digitopia: The Graphic Novel.
And that is how we are running our project for Digitopia: The Graphic Novel.
Linking Up Trello and Slack in one step
Back in Trello you can also supercharge your cards with Power-Ups, which essentially let you add in more functionality.
The Slack power up is the one that links Trello and Slack together
Now by adding a Trello Bot into the Slack conversation you can share your Trello cards directly within Slack or just paste the link into Slack and your Trello card will appear in your conversation.
If you’re interested in getting any of these apps, then you can just search for them, if you’re interested in Trello in particular you can follow this link
and sign up then I get some sort of bonus for these – not much of a bonus (I get a free month of Trello Gold), it’s up to you how you want to try out the apps – all the apps are free, if you want to upgrade then there’s some charge. I’ve found the free versions to be good enough to manage a team and project of the size we’re doing.
Okay, if you want to learn more about the project we are doing and keep up to date, then just leave your name and email address below and I’ll be able to keep you up to date via email.
Okay, great, good luck with your project, do leave me a comment in the comments section below on what you found useful, what other tools and workflows do you use and whether there’s anything else you’d like me to blog about.
Also have a look around while you’re here 🙂