Funny but True Writing Infographic

From Writer’s Market.

Costuming is my procrastination hobby, so this month is a nightmare for my writing/revising process. Eep! I’m also guilty of wasting time on bad t.v., and, because of the Facebook trap, I won’t even allow a computer in the room when I’m revising.

Click the pic for a larger image.

Publishing a Graphic Novel: The Contract

My graphic novel co-creator, Robert, and I just signed our contract. Having now dealt with this aspect of publishing a graphic novel, I can officially say this was my least favorite part of the process so far.

I try to be informed and fair, but I’m certainly no shark when it comes to business. I’ve heard some scary tales about contracts in the comic world: Alan Moore’s issues with publishers, Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane’s dispute over Spawn, and, more recently, Tony Moore’s suit against Robert Kirkman over payments from original collaborations. Contracts are a sticky topic in general, and certainly in comics.

From the outset, Rob and I agreed that Beatrice is Dead would be a 50/50 collaboration. This, I naively thought, would make our contract simple. But I quickly realized that there are other issues one must consider.

What happens if you, the writer, want to produce a sequel, but the artist doesn’t want to be involved? Or vice versa. Should the original collaborator receive payments for sequels? If so, how much? What if you die? What happens to future royalties and who has rights to produce more comics based on your original work? How will the money be divided if your work gets optioned for a television or movie adaptation?

I felt a little silly discussing what would happen postmortem, but these are serious questions. Life is unpredictable and it’s better to prepare for hiccups and the seemingly-impossible than be left in a mess because you thought it would never happen.

We started the contract drafting process here: This was the best free template I found online. After several drafts, we were both happy with the arrangement. We both felt protected and that’s important.

With a contract, you’re not only safeguarding your work and rights, you’re also protecting a working relationship. Yeah, it’s important to make sure you get what you deserve, but that doesn’t mean being selfish and only looking out for number one. If it’s a collaborative process, the reward should reflect that.

Publishing Nuts & Bolts–Final Recap

Here we are at last. The final Los Angeles Times Festival of Books panel recap. “Publishing: Nuts & Bolts” was also the final panel I attended last Saturday.

You would think that, as an aspiring novelist, I would have glommed onto all things publishing from the start. But only in the last year or so was I compelled by that experience televangelists call seeing the light. I realized that I should probably get on intimate terms with the industry to better equip myself for a successful future wooing.

And so I find myself reading books on agents, following publishers on Twitter, and attending a panel comprised of literary agent Betsy Amster, Liveright (Norton) editor in chief Robert Weil, Bloomsbury publishing director George Gibson, Byliner founder and CEO John Tayman, and Goodreads community manager Patrick Brown.

The panelists got right down to business, discussing the future of the industry and the role of new media in book publishing. Ebooks were brought up in three of four panels I attended that Saturday. Judy Blume said reading is reading is reading, but she doesn’t ever want to see the day where we can’t browse; Libba Bray similarly said anything that allows you to read is a good thing, and that she reads both e- and physical books; Gibson said any publisher that doesn’t embrace new media is leaving something major on the table.

Byliner offers e-stories by notable authors that can be read in a single sitting. Tayman said the company is approaching one million copies sold. Byliner is still in beta.

Although the publishers on the panel embrace new media, they added that the ebook and the pbook must coexist.

Weil brought up the endangered independent bookstore and Brown noted that physical bookstores are a major source of book discovery.

As a literary agent, Amster discussed changes in the publishing industry from a different angle. She said her work hasn’t changed, but that there is an increased emphasis on authors as a marketing force.

When Amy Tan was concerned her audience would wane during the wait for her next book, she used a 15,000-word Byliner story to maintain visibility, Tayman said. The story ended up a bestseller.

Writers have to build an audience even before they’re published. Weil said he gravitates to writers who know how to market themselves.

The competitive nature of the industry really hit me when Gibson mentioned that three million manuscripts are written every year.

And, even more important than a talent for self-marketing, the best way to stand out from the crowd is to be a great writer, of course.

“If I see a great writer,” Gibson said, “I don’t care if you have 2,500 tweeters.”

They provided a few quick key points to keep in mind when writing:

  • Be in control of your material (pacing is a big part of that; avoid throat-clearing)
  • Show, don’t tell
  • Individuate your characters

They also stressed reading to improve as a writer. “The best writers are people who read all the time,” Weil said, adding that the books you love can be powerful research tools for finding your audience and a list of potential publishers and agents.

As for submitting your manuscript, they said it’s important to write a good cover letter that reflects knowledge of the agent or publisher and submit a manuscript that is as polished as possible.

So get to polishing that manuscript, or flying through that stack of books on your desk; sign up for a Twitter account if you don’t have one; keep writing that blog and improving your craft. Gift the world with your story.

I hope these panel recaps provided that little kick of inspiration we writers need every now and then. So much of our work requires isolation, but I like the idea that we’re all part of a great community; that we encourage each other and share insights. That feeling of community was what I took away from the L.A. Times Festival of Books.