Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Writing Week (Vol. 5) part 230 - Pitching a Graphic Novel?

Well, something moderately interesting happened this week. I got an email from Gretchen, one of the producers working on trying to set up my post-Apocalyptic spec - working diligently, I should add, for going on 3 years now. She and the other producer working with her have been talking back and forth about maybe trying to set my project up as a graphic novel, in hopes that doing so would create source material necessary to get the script sold. The theory is pretty simple (and if I thought about it, could be aggravating, so I won't think on it too much): we are having a hard time selling the material as a spec screenplay, but since Hollywood is enamored of existing material, no matter how well known it is, we might have a better shot at selling it if we make it a graphic novel first.

The comic book industry is a whole different beast compared to the film world. It might be easy to assume that writing and publishing a comic book is a simple task, but thanks to the careers and gained and shared insight of fellow Leaguers King Suckerman and Zombie, both of whom work in that industry, I know that's not the case. The fact of it is, comics are rarely a lucrative business. Many professional writers and artists have to attach themselves to numerous titles each month just to pay the bills. Unless they're A-list in that field, it can be hard to make a decent living making comic books. Many comics fail to make back their publishing and printing costs, and of those that do, it's never a guarantee that the talent involved will see much more than a break even point of their investment. By that, I mean that an independent writer with little to no artistic ability will probably have to hire a writer if he or she is pitching a book, unless there's already a collaborator on board in the form of an artist. And because many writers will get paid a percentage of sales after a certain earning goal is set, the profits really only come in after the artist's fees have also been recouped. (Forgive the brevity of the generalizations, but you probably won't be rolling in dough if you sell on graphic novel.)

Comics are also a timely endeavor. If you have a script, you might have to adapt it to the medium; even if the story is perfect for comics, the format of your script might not be. Though there isn't one industry standard format for comics kind of like there is for screenplays (I know, people write differently, but the page generally looks the same once you take away underlines and bold face, etc.), many professional artists are familiar with certain layouts. If your screenplay doesn't match that, then you'll probably want to go about reformatting it. And after all that is said and done, you still have to give the artist time to draw it all. 

My producers and I are very excited about the potential of the script as a graphic novel, but we also know that we have some serious discussion ahead of us. Do we have the time to adapt the material? Probably, to be honest, since no one's banging at our door for the screenplay at the moment. And it's not like we won't sell the script if someone comes asking for it while the comic is being developed - worst case scenario is that we have a comic in a year and can begin our push again. We have to discuss finding an artist and what that relationship will be. Will he or she come on as a "creator" or will it be a flat fee, commission style? Then, we have to decide where and when to pitch. Some paces are better for creator owned material than others. Some will require more work up front. Some will do more of the legwork and require less of a complete package from us. There's no guarantee that we would get the comic picked up, but we feel that the material is commercial and visual enough that it at least has a solid chance.

Either way, the possibilities are numerous. As I write this, I can't help but catch myself thinking of the "what ifs" - what if I have a comic book I wrote that's published in a year or a bit more? What if before it even hits shelves, Hollywood is hot for it? What if that launches things for me? On the other hand, what if I spend money on an artist an our pitch doesn't get picked up, or the trade hits shelves only to collect cobwebs and disappear? I cant focus on that now. Not that last part. No, my job is to confab with my producer and talk strategy. This could be the winning one.