Monday, July 24, 2023

A Week in Writing #466 - Report From the Front - SDCC 2023

Hope everyone is staying safe, and, of course, writing.

As promised last week, this week's blog is about San Diego Comic-Con 2023 and the panels I attended.

There are many reasons to go to SDCC and everyone has their own. Part of my reason for going is the Con itself and the atmosphere. This is a world I would deeply love to be more a part of. While Comic-Con is brutal with long days and short nights, it is over far too early for me. When Sunday comes, it is hard not to feel sad.

I enjoy panels like Cartoon Voices, which is pure entertainment and fun. I would recommend it to anyone who goes to the Con. Even if you don't know all the players, you should have a good time. I also attended the Mega64 20th Anniversary panel, which was interrupted by, what turned out to be, a false fire alarm.

And it was cool to meet some other creators as well. I made a point to find Russell Nohelty and ended up buying several of his books, though mostly the non-fiction ones. I also made a point of going to the White Ash Comics booth and meeting the creators, Charlie Stickley and Conor Farrell behind The Game, a comic I supported on Kickstarter. It took me until Sunday to say "Hi" to Don Nguyen in Artist's Alley.

One of my favorite times at this year's Comic-Con was about an hour we spent in the Professional Lounge talking with John Barber of Pan-Universal Galactic Worldwide on Thursday about what he was up to. It's times like that that make me feel like I belong in the community.

The other reason I go to Comic-Con is to attend panels that I hope will help with Powers Squared as well as our podcast.

The first one I attended was How to Get Press Coverage, run by Rik Offenberger from First Comics News. Now, believe it or not, I have gotten news coverage from this panel in the past, I may still again. The panelists included Ed Catto (Pop Culture Squad), Tim Chizmar (Fangoria), Michael Kingston (Headlock Comics), Alexander Raymond (Monstar Public Relations), Rob Salkowitz (Forbes), Francis Sky (First Comics News), J.C. Vaughn (Gemstone Publishing) and Josh Waldrop (Ultima Digital Media).

I'm not here to tell you how to write a good press release, but that's essential for most coverage. Their advice is to make it be about something that's going to happen soon, like in a month, and to include the What's it about; When is it coming out; and Where can it be bought. You should also include artwork if not a link to the book for them to review.

One of the suggestions is to make an event for yourself, like at a local library or comic book store.

There are news sites that are looking for stories about comic books and you should be nimble enough to take advantage when opportunity knocks, as when a news story takes place that either has something to do with your book or is referenced in it.

They also suggested talking to people that you support on Kickstarter.

Have an Electronic Press Kit (EPK) ready to go. Not that they suggested it but I think it might be good to have one that is general about your book and have ones that are about particular issues. You can send out links to a Dropbox to the EPK.

Ask others how they promote their work. They suggested that if you do, you'll find out what others do and don't.

One thing they mentioned is that it's okay to follow up on press releases. One of the panelists used the statistic that sales are usually made after seven attempts but most sales people give up after three.

The next panel I attended was The Pitching Hour, featuring Alison Haislip (Attack of the Show); Megan Bradner (Marvel TV); Kevin Avery (The Great North); Nyambi Nyambe (The Good Fight); Dan Fernandez (DC Comics); Eric Reid (WME); and Mark Bernardin (Picard).

If you've been reading this blog, you know that we're interested in trying to turn Powers Squared into an animated series, so this seemed like one of interest.

The panel apart from Reid from WME wasn't made up of people who buy pitches but rather people who have pitched.

A pitch should include things like: Why do you want to write this story?, a short summary of the story; Where the characters are going to be in a year or two.

They recommended that you: Find people who will believe in you; Don't follow trends; Stick to your vision; Never listen to Execs who turn you down.

They said that executives want to say "Yes" but it is easier for them to say "no" because it's less work for them. Yes, requires work from them.

Think about your story like an independent film.

They said you should have a document to leave behind; a pdf that you send to the person(s) you pitched to. It should include what your story is about. (Star Wars was used as an example here. It's about a boy who wants to leave the farm, doesn't know who he is but finds his destiny.)

The document should be about 15-20 pages and will become the show's Bible. Should include: Why me to tell the story? Why this is when the story should be told?, Where the Story came from; the characters; story including the Pilot and even seasons 1, 2 and 3.

Be seamless. The pitch should sound like you. Have confidence. Not everyone is good at both the pitch and the leave behind document.

You need a rep to get a pitch and need a script to get a rep. One recommendation was that the WGA has fellowships when you have a script. [On Hold during the strike].

I know financing is important to everyone, including myself, so I attended Kickstarting Comics in 2023 and Beyondhosted by Orina Leckert (Kickstarter’s head of publishing). The panel included Tom Akel (Rocketship Entertainment CEO & Publisher); Robert Napton (Legendary SVP of publishing); Dinesh Shamdashani (Bad Idea CEO); and Der-shing Helmer (Vault Comics managing editor).

One of the things they stressed was a Prelaunch Page for your Kickstarter.

One concept they discussed was that more deluxe product/pricing can allow you to make more money from fewer backers.

As far as a Kickstarter video goes, Orina pointed out that you'll lose viewers after a minute, so keep the videos short (less than a minute), but a video is not required.

Promotional tactics for your Kickstarter include Ad Spends (Facebook and social media); public relations, which should be free; and to look at what your contemporaries have done.

Variant covers should mean more promotion.

Stretch goals can cost you more money, but are also compelling to backers to help you raise more money so you need to find a balance.

They also pointed to the creator resources that are available on the Kickstarter website.

Having just finished our 200th episode of On the Air with Powers Squared, I thought perhaps there were things to learn at Podcasting 101which took place at the downtown library, slightly more than a hop and skip from the Convention Center. Hosted by Jonathan Eigen (Sagas and Sass), the panel also featured Tara Lynne (Geek Saga Entertainment), as well as two others not on the original description of the panel, Amin Javadi (House Manwoody) and Varun Gupta (Demon Slayer Podcast).

Promising at first, they had a list of topics, most of which are the basics of podcasting and I'll relate them to our own, since I'm unfamiliar with any of the panel's shows.

1) Choosing a topic: What is your podcast about? In the case of OAPS, our primary topic is comic books, Powers Squared, but also other books and creators.

2) Finding Host/Co-Hosts: That seemed easy for us. My son Paul and I co-host the show, though Trevor does appear from time to time. We've had a few shows where the artists behind the comic book have run the show without us. This happened on this past Friday night, when Julia Canon, Rachel Wells and Jen Moreno did their own show with Paul and I in San Diego. Watch it here when it goes up on YouTube on Wednesday.

3) Planning Episodes: Do you script them or do you wing them? For us it depends on the show and if we have a guest or not.

4) Recording Equipment: Self-explanatory. The one thing they recommended was a good headset. Though you will need a mike (they recommended a snowball if you're just starting out.) We have a mike, two lights and a green screen but we're also doing video at the same time.

5) How Often Do You Record: They seem to recommend once a week. OAPS goes live at 6pm every Friday night.

6) Editing Your Podcast: The rule of thumb for every hour of content it takes three hours to edit. Paul does some editing on the audio but the video goes up as is, with some exception.

7) Distributing: They listed Google Podcasts, iTunes, and Spotify, though as they noted other platforms will pick them up as well. OAPS starts on Podbean and then goes out to 10 other platforms, including the ones they named, as well as on our website:

8) Promoting Your Podcast; and 9) Monetizing You Podcast: They were running out of time and decided to put these two last topics together, basically skipping over 8) in favor of 9). Of course, I was most interested in 8), the reason I sat through this panel in the first place. So, I'm coming away with nada on this. We're always looking for how to get the word out.

The last work-related panel I attended was Small Press Publishing 101. Again, this one took place outside the convention center at the Omni Hotel. I was going in part because Gamal Hennessey was going to be on the panel. I backed his original Kickstarter and we've had Gamal on the show. From Gamal's introduction, he only found out he was doing the panel because he searched his name in the online program. He was hoping to talk to the host at the panel to find out what he was supposed to talk about, but as it turns out Gamal was the only one to show.

He is more than capable of talking about this topic. He broke making a comic book down to three major steps:

1) Pre-production: What is Your Story about? Figuring out who the Ideal Reader of your book is and how to reach them. This involves having an idea and finding an audience to read it. This includes the demographics of your reader (sex, gender, race, etc.); Their psychographics, or how they see the world; the genre of the book; Generations or age category of your reader; and format of the book: print or digital.

[Editor's Note: we did what he doesn't recommend doing, and started making a comic book without knowing who the audience would be for it. Don't do it that way.]

Where is the money going to come from, as in who is going to pay to produce the book? Gamal pointed out a lot of that has to do with your relationship to the IP. If you're the owner, then you must figure out if it comes out of your pocket or some form of crowdfunding. If you're doing something freelance, then someone should be paying you.

Who is going to do the parts you cannot do, as in if you're a writer, who is going to do the art and vice-versa? And art is usually more than one person. Gamal listed out: Artist, Inker, colorist, letterer, and production designer.

You also should have an accountant and an attorney, at least according to Gamal.

The final ingredient in your production team is the editor who can change the grand vision of the book to fit with who is going to read your book.

2) Production: The actual putting together the book from writing to art.

3) Distribution: Digital or print or both. You can self-distribute or you can try to get your book into stores using one of three distributors: Diamond, Lunar or Simon & Schuster. If you get say Diamond to distribute your book, they do it on consignment. After publishing the title in the Preview publication, Diamond will then tell you to send them so many books. Ideally, they would go from your printer to the Diamond warehouse. He warned against using a Chinese printer, which is a fairly popular choice, due to the extra time it takes and the added steps involved, including shipping. You might remember a year or so ago when there were ships waiting to be unloaded.

Digital takes less to get going, as you already should have your finished project formatted.

He recommended that you buy his book The Business of Independent Comic Book Publishing in a digital format so it would be easier to search for topics. He also has an online community of comic book creators called Comics Connection, which he also recommended as there have been changes in the industry not covered in his book.

In response to a question asked in the audience about licensing, Gamal broke down the questions that you should be asked:

What is the property?

Where are they going to sell it?

How long are they going to sell it?

How much are they going to charge for it?

You should ask for a 20% minimum guarantee upfront with a quarterly royalty report and an audit provision. If they are under reporting/paying then they should have to pay a penalty and for the auditor.

You also want to know if the license is exclusive or non-exclusive. An exclusive license should be more expensive than an non-exclusive one.

As far as your business, he recommended an LLC or Limited Liability Company. That way if there are any monetary issues, they are attached to your company not you personally. With a partnership, they are attached to the business and to you personally as well.

Well, that about does it for me. Keep writing and I'll see you next week.

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