Monday, September 25, 2017

47 Furious Tails, My new samurai comic book

Cover and promotional poster by: Alexia Veldhuisen

You can learn more about Alexia:  HERE

Thank you for coming with me on this journey. I'm going to provide a glimpse behind the curtain (so to speak) of the story for issue one.  No real spoilers or screen shots yet.  Just a bit of the tale as it begins to unfold.

Early 18th century Japan:

In the summer months as preparations were being made for his journey to Edo, Asano met with trusted retainers. His instructions and expectations made clear, he began his selection of those samurai who would accompany him.

Within Asano's holdings of Ako, his samurai oversaw the protection of the domain.  A daring group of bandits attack along the border of Ako trusting speed and the outlying area to protect them.  They instead encounter the elder samurai Yahei and the young samurai Chikara.  

Outnumbered and bound to service, the two samurai act with the certitude of their convictions.

From the Hagakure:

In the words of the ancients,
one should make his decision within the space of seven breaths
It is a matter of being determined and having the spirit
to break through to the other side

Moving swiftly, these two samurai kick off the action in this first issue
In this way we are beginning the saga of the Ako Incident with the everyday lives of those samurai before their greatest story begins.  You'll be privy to a glimpse into what their lives may have been like.  Learn of their lives and the depth of their commitment.  Page through the comic as we bring stories of the samurai back to the world.
Please do support the KickStarter and share the link and spread word.  Help us to bring the story of these brave samurai back to the word in a fresh telling.  Backer rewards include digital and print copies as well as original art available for for certain backer levels.

Thank you for joining me on this adventure.
I hope to see you next time.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Creating a new comic book series: The business end of things

Promotional version of the Cover by Alexia Veldhuisen

Today's entry concerns the creation of a new comic book series.  Things I've learned so far and things you may wish to consider as you create your own comic book series.

Be advised, this is based on my experience to date with the creation process behind 47 Furious Tails, which is still in progress.  It is likely that I will update this data in the future to reflect more information I've gleamed from this process.  Feel free to offer your own observations.

This process will not address the writing or art involved, this is about the business end of things.

Thus do we begin:

1)  Do the Math!
The mathematics of the business are fairly direct.  You have your operation costs such as paying your artist (if, like me, you don't do the art yourself), editing and layout costs may apply, legal costs (contracts, copyright, trademark registration, ISBN costs, etc), printing (unless you are all digital), shipping costs, and promotional costs.    All of these costs need to be met and (hopefully) exceeded in order for your business to be at all successful.

Do your math in advance.  Get quotes on your printing, shop around, and be mindful of the differences between off set and digital printing types.  Price check your shipping supplies as shipping costs pile up very quickly.  Check the shipping costs by weight, size, destinations, and those other factors that affect that calculation.  ISBN costs get cheaper per number when you buy them in blocks.  For a comic line you are starting I would recommend getting a block of 10 to start, which will cost you as much as $300, but will give you the ISBN you need for 10 issues/covers.

2) Crowdfunding
Crowdfunding your title is an exciting endeavor.  My first crowdfunding effort was for a role-playing game adventure module.  Getting a comic book funded is an entirely different thing altogether.  Why?  The math is different.

With comic books you have the same two basic formats as other books:  print and digital.  Unlike other books, your margins on comic books are very VERY small.  This requires a larger number of backers, and some higher end rewards would help as well.  This is where comic artists who do their own writing have a distinct advantage.  They can do the art themselves, have a lower goal for their crowdfunding campaign, and more easily find their funding.  If you are not doing the art yourself, then you can expect to pay substantially for a 28 page interior plus cover and interior covers.   So you MUST set your crowdfunding goal high enough to cover those art and other costs you are not wanting to pay out of pocket.  

The difference here is one of scale.  You have to produce more comics to have a lower cost per copy and so must receive enough backing to fund such printing and associated fulfillment costs.   As a good example thing of things like this:  your shipping costs for a single comic book are usually going to be higher your profit margin.  Using KickStarter as my model (its the only crowdfunding platform I've used so far) this means building backer rewards at levels that either include shipping in the calculation or building in a shipping amount by country into each award.  

3)  Release timing
If you are crowdfunding your comic book it is going to slow down your releases.  You will find that your crowdfunding fulfillment can take a substantial amount of time (particularly if you have a large number of backers).  Account for that in your calculations for fulfillment.  Will you need help filling rewards?  Where will you work?  Are you using a service to execute the fulfillment and if so what is their turn around time?  Each link in this distribution chain slows the overall process of taking your comic book and putting it into a reader's hands.

Fulfillment of backer rewards (again I'm speaking from a KickStarter perspective) is critically important.  You must attend to the timeliness, quality of the packaging, delivery schedule, and wharehousing/storage of your copies.  Don't take this step lightly.  Plan it out in advance and know where things are going and how your operation is going to run.

4) Subscriptions
If you are an indie comic book writer/artist you dream of one day having subscribers. My opinion is that Patreon can work for this after a fashion.  You need to be mindful that those subscribers have placed their faith and money in your hands.  You are responsible for fulfilling your part of the publisher-subscriber relationship and making certain that you publish and get those copies to the subscriber.  Placing subscriber content (digital copies) on your Patreon account is an easy way to facilitate fulfillment of content.  For subscribers who want print copy you'll need to find a balance between the time it takes to fulfill copies and the costs that apply.  If you have only a thousand or so subscribers then fulfilling physical copies personally can take a few days time out of your week.  If you have 10,000 subscribers or more, well that is a good problem to have, but you may want to use a fulfillment service of some form as fulfilling 10k copies would take a lot of time away that you could use creating your next issue.

5)  Promoting
If you've read this blog before you know that I'm exploring several avenues of promotion to help build awareness for my titles.  Blogging, social media campaigns, and advertising some of the ways you can promote your title.  Convention appearances, podcast and radio interviews, television appearances, and speaking engagements are other avenues you may wish to explore to increase the visibility of your title.  Put the effort into promoting your titles and keep at it.  It won't explode overnight (at least mine haven't) but you will see an increase in your traffic.

6) Sustaining your title
If you comic book is a recurring series then you will be constantly working on creating content, making appearances, building contacts with retailers and collectors/fans, talking with people who know far more about the business than you and I do and (Hopefully) listening to their insights.
You will work.  A LOT.

I've been working on my first comic book for only a few months now.  I can tell you I have learned this much already.  I'll be glad to post more as I learn more about the business.

For those of you who have been producing comic books for any length of time, your comments are most welcome.  Please post those comments below and help those who come after you with the benefit of your own experience.

Thank you all for joining me on my continuing adventure into self-publishing and game design.

I hope to see you next time.

You can support my first comic book title, 47 Furious Tails on KickStarter HERE

Saturday, September 16, 2017

47 Furious Tails KickStarter Day two

Great times for the 47 Furious Tails Issue One KickStarter campaign.

Today, the very welcome "Projects We Love" tag appeared!

Thank you KickStarter!

You can check out the KickStarter campaign HERE

The story of the Ako Incident is a great story to be telling in comic book form.  With anthropomorphic animal characters to depict the participants in this historic series of events, it lends itself well to the medium.

Alexia has done some fantastic work for the book so far.  The cover for issue one is the image used for the title card for the KickStarter campaign.  She will be doing the interior art to the same level of quality and in the same style.  The series begins before Asano journeys to Edo.  The first issue introduces several key players in the events to come.  Don't miss the chance to lend your support and make this comic possible.

While the campaign still has a long way to go to reach its $12000 funding goal, this tag is a welcome addition that I hope will draw more backers to this beautiful book.

You can support the campaign by backing through KickStarter and by sharing links to the campaign on social media outlets.  Thank you.

Thanks again for joining me on my adventure into self-publishing and game development.

I hope you'll join me again next time.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Creating a comic book: The story (so far) of 47 Furious Tails: Art by Alexia Veldhuisen

Cover Art by: Alexia Veldhuisen
Not final cover

You can learn more about Alexia and her art HERE
In this post I will discuss the process that lead to the creation of the comic, the efforts that went into getting the KickStarter campaign together, and the promotional efforts there were undertaken.

1) Creation of Comic Book:
It started with a simple idea.  Develop a comic book retelling of the 47 Ronin story with squirrel themed characters.  The problem was that I am a writer and not a comic book artist.   When I say that I'm being kind.  I draw the most amazing stick figures, if you like weirdly shaped stick figures. So as I was putting ideas for various projects down on paper it occurred to me that I work with remarkable artists every day.  So I put my list of project ideas on a work group page I share with the artists.  People began picking projects they wanted to be a part of.  Zach Viola took up the rpg weapon supplement source book and Alexia Veldhuisen claimed that 47 Furious Tails would be hers.

Development began systemically, at the high level overview point, with the establishment of the timeline.  Time for writing, developing the KickStarter campaign, funding of the KickStarter and payment cycle, art development, printing/shipping, and then backer fulfillment were calculated.  Then, as with all projects, I padded that estimate to account for whatever may go wrong.

Writing began almost immediately.  It started with an outline of the series.  Being that the story is based upon the Ako incident, I knew it was going to be a limited series.  After outlining individual issues I came up with a final issue count of twelve.  I liked the idea of bringing such substance to the retelling that a dozen issues are needed.  While the KickStarter is focused on funding issue number 1, the subsequent issues will see their own KickStarter campaigns (unless funding reaching phenomenal levels that would allow me to forego such).

Following the outline of the series, development of central character biographies was completed. This process was fairly simply except for the background and historical data that was collected and researched.  This is a story with a lot of cultural impact.  It would be disgraceful not to have done the reading, checked the history, and done due diligence.  Literary liberties are taken to fill in the blanks in the chronology, historic and literary accounts.

I was riding a wave of excitement as I went from the character biographies to writing out issue number one.  The very first comic book draft I had ever undertaken.  Surprisingly, it took several hours to write.  More time followed as the book's pacing and panel layout were conceptualized.  A re-write was done to make the comic flow more smoothly.  To make a change to the page layout and to bring certain scenes more space in the book, another series of edits were made.

While writing was being completed, Alexia was drafting concept character art, reviewing research notes, reviewing the outline, character biographies, and story drafts.  Alexia then moved forward with promotional flyer development, began refining the character sketches, and did an initial layout of the cover concept.

Alexia and I approached the development of the book dependent upon the KickStarter funding.  As the art will entail weeks of time dedicated to the illustration, inking, coloring, and lettering of the book; it is necessary to have funding established before Alexia can devote herself to that period of time. See my previous entries regarding how to treat your artists. No one should have to work for free, and I (as a writer, publisher, and human being) think she deserves to be well paid for bringing such beautiful art to this tale. She will be once funding is secured.

I hope you agree.

2) Creating of the KickStarter Campaign
This is my third KickStarter campaign, but the first one I've done for a comic book.  I've been conducting research by looking over other KickStarter campaigns for comic books.  That may seem rather remedial, but it is a critical step in development.  Never assume you know everything, or know the best way to do something.  Always do your research, analyse your findings, and make as objective a determination as you possibly can.  If you want your KickStarter to succeed, you owe it to yourself and to your contributors to discover as much as you can about what has worked and what hasn't.  Even now, with a mere six days to go before I submit my KickStarter campaign for approval, I continue to look at what is on KickStarter and how each campaign is fairing.  Keeping an eye on the community and its response to particular campaigns may seem tedious, but I believe it is a valuable reference when crafting your own campaign.  I recommend that you undertake the same efforts before launching your own campaign.

3)  Promotional efforts for the KickStarter Campaign

first flyer for the project, by Alexia
You may have seen this at conventions
Promoting KickStarter campaigns is a business that is taxing to your time and absolutely essential to your success.  Personally, I don't use promotional services.  I don't use them because I can't afford to, I don't like the idea of those services in general, I have not been able to find any evidence supporting the claim that they are useful, and I like to do things openly and organically.  I don't like to resort to marketing gimmicks and ploys, so I don't.

Promoting this KickStarter has been dependent upon a gradual build up of the social media campaign, as well as networking with friends and relatives, and this blog, to set up for the launch.  Launch party hasn't been implemented, but I'm going to work on that this week.  For future reference, don't do that.  Plan your launch party and get it in place a month or more in advance.

Unlike my first two KickStarter campaigns, I'm having a video prepared for this campaign. KickStarter likes to remind every creator that a good video greatly increases your chances for success.  After reviewing dozens of campaigns and noting what appears to be a correlation (for my fellow math nerds, yes I know that doesn't imply causation) between those campaigns with solid video value and those without, I'm going for the video.

4) After the KickStarter and backer fulfillment:
This is the plan, assuming the project funds fully.  I know, I'm optimistic, it is a huge funding goal.  You have to have a fulfillment plan in place folks.  Don't just say "I'll ship them". Do the math on your costs (postage, envelopes, supplies, time to pack the items, how many trips will you make to the post office, etc).

Pay the artists:
Alexia will be working on the book full time for completion.  She will complete the book within 30 days of the end of the KickStarter campaign itself (so in December).  She will be paid as soon as KickStarter releases the funds from the (hopefully) successful campaign.

Upload files and order print copies:
Digital files will be uploaded, and print copies will be ordered.  The print copies will take two months to be delivered to me (February to early March).

Print copies requiring signing will be signed by myself and Alexia. I will package and prepare for shipping all print copy rewards.  These will begin shipping in March with estimated arrival during late March and early April (for backers outside the United States).

Notice that as I've allowed for a few weeks for fulfillment.  Physical copies will be bagged and boarded then shipped.  I'm making every effort to ship these comics in way to have them arrive safely. They are going out by USPS and should arrive in good condition.  I'll trigger the fulfillment of the digital copies on or before April 2nd.  All physical copies should be either on their way to the backers or in the hands of the backers.  Putting all electronic copies out in pace with physical fulfillment is just polite.

So there you have it.  The summary of the chain of events that are taking me to this new part of the adventure.  As a new medium for publication comic books are an exciting thing for me to be getting involved with.  I hope that as Christmas 2017 rolls around I'll be looking forward to 2018 and the release of this title.

Thank you for joining me on my adventure.  As we continue to explore the world of writing and self-publishing, I hope you enjoy and benefit from my experiences.

I hope to see you for my next release.

Please do share this article with others.  I hope you will check out the KickStarter for 47 Furious Tails on September 14th.  Please do share that information around as well.