AMA about writing comic scripts, finding artists, letterers, colourists, and publishers.

Eric Gahagan
Jul 18, 2018

Hey guys and gals I'm Eric Gahagan. I am a comic and fiction writer. I have some work coming out in October from Alterna Comics. I'd like to answer all questions regarding getting started with writing comics. Look forward to hearing your questions!

Eric

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www.ericgahagan.com

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Seeing the potential of the comic industry, if you were in a position to make the decision to help comic writers, what is the first thing you would do?
Jul 20, 6:03PM EDT0

This was a great question. A couple things popped in my mind when thinking how to answer this. One thing I woukd say first is to read widely. Especially Image Comics Titles. These books opened my eyes to what was possible as far as story telling in the comics medium. One really specific thing I can point to to help writers would be the back matter included at the end of the book Ex Machina by Brian K. Vaughan. The first volume includes Vaghan's pitch and outline plan to setting up the series. The second volume includes a full issue script.  Follow the format of Brian's process here and a lot of beginner's questions can be answered in just a few pages.

Last edited @ Jul 21, 8:07AM EDT.
Jul 21, 8:07AM EDT0
Do you think enough is being done to draw attention to the comic book industry?
Jul 20, 9:18AM EDT0

No I truly feel so much more could be done. Many comics are only available in direct market specialty shops. There seems to be very little marketing even by the larger companies to bring attention to these stories. Mobile social media reaches so many people and I have only recently started seeing ads from DC and Marvel in attempts to get the word out there. I think efforts to get comics in more stores as well as increased advertising would be huge. With Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter comic companies could be doing a movie trailer like video for major story lines. I hope to see that soon.

Last edited @ Jul 21, 7:58AM EDT.
Jul 21, 7:57AM EDT0
Besides being creative and having a great imagination, what else does a potential comic book writer need to make it?
Jul 19, 7:08PM EDT0

It sounds silly but communication and manners. As the writer you need to lead the project and communication with the artist, letterer and colorist are key. As far as manners go when you first start submitting work to publishers you are going to get rejections. How you handle that and react to publishers either good or bad will determine if you can make it.

Jul 20, 1:14PM EDT0
What advice would you give an upcoming comic writer who just enjoys what he is doing but has no idea how to use his talent to earn a living?
Jul 19, 6:08PM EDT0

Just make comics. Start with short five page stories. Join Facebook groups aimed at connecting creators and hire an artist to draw your short story. Anthologies are a good place to start looking to submit to to publish when you feel your work is ready. Try a kickstarter and self publish your book and build an audience of readers.

Jul 20, 1:11PM EDT0
What is the difference between writing a comic book and writing a comic book script?
Jul 19, 3:33AM EDT0

No difference really. As the writer I outline the plot and story structure, and then script the issue with panel drscriptions. Go to www.ericgahagan.com to find a sample script 

Jul 20, 1:08PM EDT0
How do you go about lettering comic books? How do you choose the right letter for your project?
Jul 19, 1:57AM EDT0

I work with a very talented letterer who I met in a comic creators group on Facebook. I looked at her past work and hired her right away.

Jul 20, 1:06PM EDT0
How complex is the process of writing and publishing a comic book when you are an independent author?
Jul 18, 6:25PM EDT0

When you are a writer publishing as an independent you are essentially the producer or the director. You are the one with the vision for the project and you essentially make the decisions on hiring the rest of the creators, promoting the book, and creating a budget. That allong with having to actually write the damn thing and make sure it's awesome.

Jul 18, 10:25PM EDT0
How long does it take on average to make a comic?
Jul 18, 6:07AM EDT1

A lot of this depends on budget and how dependable your artist is at hitting deadlines. I suggest making that you find out ahead of time if your artist can deliver quality work in a timely manner and that your aren't going to have to bug them constanly wondering where your pages are. When I first got started stories took a while due to budget goes, art is expensive and personally I have to get pages doen a little slower than I would like based on what I have budgeted. For a ball park figure, I can write at least one 22 to 30 page script in a week. That script will then take an artist about a month to comlete working at the rate of a page a day.

Jul 18, 8:31AM EDT0
What does promoting a comic book entail? What are the best marketing strategies for unknown writers?
Jul 18, 5:26AM EDT1

Social Media is huge of course with any promotion or marketing. Also publishers will look at comic creators social media accounts to make sure they see you working to get your comic work out there and also that your accounts aren't don't have a bunch of negative troll type activity on them. I personally feel building an E-mail list is very important. If you can get a group of people on your list that you know are interested in your work, and then get them to know like and trust you by sharing your work with them it can be a great thing. Hint,,,hint,,,subscribe to my email list at my website above lol.

Jul 18, 8:26AM EDT0
Could you mention some of your favorite comic books and why they are your favorites?
Jul 18, 3:13AM EDT0

Right now Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Red Neck by Donny Cates are the two books I look forward to reading the most when they come out. Paper Girls is an awseomsome Sci-Fi time travel story about a group of kids from the 80's. Red Neck is a really cool modern vampire story.

Jul 18, 8:22AM EDT0
What are the differences between a comic book and a graphic novel?
Jul 18, 12:54AM EDT0

I would say the only difference is how you choose to have the book released and published when you plan and outline it. A typical single issue comic is about 22-30 pages long that ends with a cliffhanger or some other indication that the story is serialized and will continue in the next issue. With graphic novels or trade paperbacks the reader is getting the whole story of one arc with a beginning, middle and end.

Jul 18, 8:20AM EDT0
What platforms do you recommend to self-publish your comic book if you can’t get a traditional publisher to do it?
Jul 17, 9:55PM EDT0

I would reccomend using crowdfunding like kickstarter to build an audience and to finance actual physical printed copies of the book through a service like Kablam printing. You can also sell digital copies through the comixology submit program or publish it on a website like deviant art as a webcomic.

Jul 17, 11:03PM EDT0
How can you protect your rights as a comic book creator? What steps should you take?
Jul 17, 9:38PM EDT0

When submitting pitches to publishers each company has their own submission agreement that you must sign that states that they will not take any of your ideas should the pitch be declined. As far as copyrights ect. I feel those steps are not necessary.

Jul 17, 9:54PM EDT0
Do you have a particular preference when it comes to drawing your book? Which do you prefer, traditional or digital and why?
Jul 17, 9:16PM EDT0

I prefer original art in pencil as I feel like it offers more detail. Digital colors are the norm right now although I have seen some cool water colors on books like Descender.

Jul 17, 9:52PM EDT0
When did you decide you wanted to become a comic book writer?
Jul 17, 7:02PM EDT0

Oh man you're dating me here Dennis HaHa. I have read comics my whole life. I started writing them about 3 years ago at 36 years of age. Don't ever let anyone tell you that you're too old to start doing something you love.

Last edited @ Jul 17, 9:49PM EDT.
Jul 17, 7:50PM EDT0
What are the unique factors a comic book writer needs to keep in mind before writing a comic book?
Jul 17, 6:32PM EDT0

I think realizing that there are times where you really need to write less and let the art tell the story is really important and can be hard for writers new to the medium of comics. I also think that pacing either in a single issue or in a serialized story is a super big deal. You need to keep readers wondering what's next at the end of each panel, page or issue. The cliffhanger at the end that makes you go "Man I can't believe they left me hangin like that, I gotta get the next issue next month.

Last edited @ Jul 17, 7:47PM EDT.
Jul 17, 7:47PM EDT0

Who inspired you to work in the comic industry? Did any standout titles direct you into your decision?

Jul 17, 5:52PM EDT0

Brian K. Vaughan, Jeff Lemiere, Stephen King and John Grisham all influence my writing heavily. I realized I loved writing comics when I learned of the wide range of stories companies like image would allow you to tell. While I love super hero comics I feel thay are limited by the long history of the characters and the need for the content to be more all ages appropriate.

Jul 17, 7:39PM EDT0
How do you choose the artist to bring your comic book script to life? What should you look for? What should you be aware of?
Jul 17, 5:13PM EDT0

So as far as finding artists to work with I have used Facebook groups setup to connect comic creators. I want to see an artists interior sequential work and maybe talk to a couple references to be sure the artists delivers work on time. I always pay artists a page rate as they spend a great deal of time on each page. A good discussion about page rates, budget, and so forth are important first steps for establishing a good working relationship. I personally do not think that it is fair to ask artists to put in all the hours of work with promises of exposure or backend pay.

Jul 17, 6:48PM EDT0
What are the advantages and disadvantages of publishing versus self-publishing your comic book?
Jul 17, 4:44PM EDT0

With self publishing it forces new creators to learn each step of the comic production process as well as how to market your work and build an audience. You MUST self publish to gain experience. When your self published work starts to make waves that's when the publishers will start taking notice of you. The advantages of being published in my opinion are confirmed credibility that your work is good enough to be widely distributed.

Jul 17, 4:55PM EDT0
What’s more important: the story or the art in a comic?
Jul 17, 11:31AM EDT0

Honestly they are both equally important. If just one side of the storytelling is bad it can ruin the whole project. I write full scripts with panel descriptions and camera angle suggestions for the art, but always communicate to the artist that if they feel they can tell the story better in a different way to feel free to go for it. I think an equal collaboration in that way results in a story that gets more of an emotional response from the reader.

Last edited @ Jul 17, 7:40PM EDT.
Jul 17, 2:28PM EDT0
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