Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Graphically yours

I have written a fantasy adventure story (that does not have elves, dragons or vampires). The story is complete at 11 500 words. I am now considering if the story would be better served / more likely to be published by sending it to a publisher that could treat it as a manuscript for a graphic novel or just try to get it published as a short story / fantasy piece. If I can get it published as a short fantasy piece will it support or limit my options to later sell / adapt the story for a graphical format?

Graphic novels, while increasing in popularity, are not handled by Australian trade publishers in any real, meaty way (I'm presuming you're in Australia - if you're not, I can't really help you). That's because the market here is still small. The French and the Japanese are mad for a graphic novel but they've not (yet) formed a significant part of the Australian national culture and thus they don't seem like a winning business proposition. So the main thing I have to say to you is: go yonder. Submit overseas first. Whether you're submitting this for a graphic novel or as a short fantasy story, it's probably better to go overseas as that's where most of the activity is. Of course, there is a robust fantasy community in Australia and you should immerse yourself in that (if you haven't already), and that may lead you to explore some avenues here, but we're still small potatoes, really, when it comes to fantasy or graphic novel publishing. One only has to go to Galaxy bookshop in Sydney to see where all the books are coming from (clue: not the southern hemisphere).

However, I freely admit that I am not an expert on graphic novels or fantasy, for that matter, so if any readers have anything to contribute here, please do so!


Jonathan Walker said...
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Jonathan Walker said...

The main Australian publisher of graphic novels is Erica Wagner at Allen & Unwin, but they have a very small list, which focuses exclusively on projects that are either YA or YA / adult crossover (since Erica is technically part of the YA / children's office).

However, either here or overseas, no-one is going to look at an 11,000 word short story as a POTENTIAL graphic novel script. A GN script is a genre of its own, which is formatted much like a film script. There are several published volumes of sample scripts that show you how they should be written, and what they should include. Even so, some publishers won't consider a script by itself. Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics (the two big independent American GN publishers) will only consider finished pages.

If you want to try pitching a unique (i.e. a one-off) GN to a mainstream literary publisher you a) need a completed script in a format that will make sense to an editor; b) you already need an artist, who has agreed to work with you on the project (N.B. This is quite different to the normal situation in the world of childrens' picture books, where editors organise the artist's contribution: in the world of indie GNs, no-one is interested in solo writers); and c) you need a significant number of finished sample pages.

No publisher will read an unformatted script; nor will they read a script without an artist already attached; nor will they consider a script that doesn't come with lots of sample pages already completed.

Finally, adapating a story that wasn't conceived in visual terms into a script format is a LOT of work. It isn't just a matter of breaking up the original text into caption boxes.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to you both for the additional info. You've highlighted a couple of things I will really need to research before moving forward. I will be shortly looking into Euro/Japan/USA independent Graphic Novel publishers and their submission requirements. At the very least this will give me an idea of the scale of work involved,

I have a very visual imagination, so I guess you could say the story was conceived visually. Since I don't personally have the graphical skill or industry contacts to get it drawn, I guess all I can really do is search artist websites like www.dragonberry dot com or www.deviantart dot com until I find someone with a style that I like and the inclination to join the project.

What about authors' rights / intellectual property rights? If I can sell the story, as a short piece, is there any rights I would specifically need to research / hang on to / get an agent for if I wanted to do this sort of adaption later?

Jerry Bishop said...

Why not look at Creative Commons for how to protect it, then Amazon for you selling it direct as a digital edition through Kindle Store. There is another site I think it is epublishing.org.

I posted my blog on Kindle Blogs:

Jonathan Walker said...

I don't think there are rights issues involved in the case of adapting your own previously published original story. If it's a magazine publication, you wouldn't cede adaptation rights to them, and if it was somehow a stand-alone publication, just mention the concern to whoever draws up the contract.

Getting an artist to work with you for nothing is not an easy task, however. Sometimes people will work on SHORT projects, but that's far more likely to happen if you're already involved in the Australian comics scene, and people in that scene trust and respect you. Under those circumstances, if they like dealing with you as a person, then they might find it interesting to work together. And you might find it interesting for the same reasons: i.e. you're not employing them; rather, you are both benefitting from an exchange of ideas, and that is the primary purpose of the collaboration.

Personally, I think trying to get people to work for free is more hassle than actually paying them (assuming that I'm doing a project on spec without a prior commitment from a publisher, i.e. assuming that it is actually my responsibility to arrange the collaboration). In a literal sense, professional work is work done for money, but also in a broader sense: You can't demand that someone work to professional standards if you're not paying them for it.

But my situation is such that I am reasonably confident of selling the results and recouping the expenses.

Jonathan Walker said...
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Jonathan Walker said...

Another comment of mine seems to have disappeared: In short, there shouldn't be any problem with rights for adapating your own work. However, trying to get someone to work for nothing is not likely to yield any results, and is certainly not likely to yield publishable results. After all, would you want to write up someone else's idea for a script for nothing?