Tuesday, 31 March 2009

How I'd like to run a comic imprint

The big problem is the high set-up costs, because you need to keep the artist in food and clothing while he she does lots and lots and lots of drawing. (You really ought to pay a writer too, I say, but in UK comics - as in UK kids' television - the emphasis is always on the visuals because pictures are all that the executives can be bothered to look at.)

So I'd get a bunch of artists and writers and give them enough of an advance to see them through to completion of a 60-100 page graphic novel. Each graphic novel would go up online in instalments. People could preorder the book at a discount. When the book was complete, the online version would get taken down (most of it anyway).

How to keep the set-up costs down? Well, most of the online pages could be black & white, or only monochrome-coloured. Maybe they wouldn't even be full inks. That way, I could leave the decision whether to go to finished art till there was some idea of how big a fanbase each strip had built up.

And I'd pay smallish advances, maybe £100 a page, but balance that by giving the creators a bigger share of the back end. (As a creator myself, I know that's how most of us prefer it; against all statistical evidence, we always believe the next work will be the huge breakout hit.) Maybe I'd include a profit-sharing pool too, the way guys like George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola used to do points exchanges on their early movies to spread the risk.

That way, for around £100,000 I could get a slate of maybe a dozen different IPs to a first level of completion - ie not yet coloured, but complete in story and art and ready for a yes/no decision on publication. Of those, maybe six would then go through the next gate and appear in book form. If average sales of the books reach about 10,000 copies, the venture can break even.

And every so often the venture would throw up an IP like Spider-man or Judge Dredd. And, for all the talk of long tails, that's still what would make the investors very very happy.


  1. Interesting. It's not necessarily a new take (apart from the paying creators' bit!) when it comes to using the web as a 'test bed' for new comics IP, but the framework you're suggesting is a good one. Assuming anyone out there has about £100,000 they want to throw at it!

    I like the idea of putting up a web version that isn't necessarily the 'final' version that will see print. Some good ideas here.

  2. I have a friend who actually does have £100,000 (in fact $150,000) that he wants to put into a venture like this.

    The snag is, he requires a UK or US publisher to match his strategic investment with a commitment to publish an agreed number of the graphic novels. Publishers these days, of course, don't want to spend any money at all, hence the proposal has gone nowhere... so far.

  3. Since we just LINKED in to eachother Dave, im joining on the chat here too... and hi to my friend John also.
    Sean in Japan