Pitch your comic to dozens of publishers at the same time with OctalComics.com ! AMA about developing & pitching comics with editor, Mike Schneider

Mike Schneider
Jan 10, 2018

Hello, my name is Mike. I’m editor of Octal, www.OctalComics.com . I taught workshops, curated gallery shows, and produced animation before settling into comic editing. I’ve primarily been a comic editor for the past 6 years, coordinating anthologies and freelancing for indie creators and publishers. ✸✷✶★✮✭✬✩✫★✶✷✸✹✵✹✸✷✶★✫✩✬✭✮★✮✭✬✩✫★✶✷✸✹✵✹✸✷✶★✫✩✬✭✮★✶✷✸ I come from a fine arts background and as an anti-artist, I tend to look for creative solutions to traditionally non-creative aspects of production. For Octal, I compared the submission guidelines from over a hundred comic publishers to identify the overlap where the least material would satisfy the most publishers at the same time. These composite guidelines were further refined through a series of interviews with submission editors and creators. I then worked with a panel of those submission editors to produce a set of templates which arrange that material into a succinct, editor-friendly presentation. (The templates and a manual breaking them down with tips and guidelines are posted on the website.) ✸✷✶★✮✭✬✩✫★✶✷✸✹✵✹✸✷✶★✫✩✬✭✮★✮✭✬✩✫★✶✷✸✹✵✹✸✷✶★✫✩✬✭✮★✶✷✸ The resulting packets are curated into volumes and sent out to our ever-growing mailing list of publishers/ submission editors. To date, over 3 dozen publishers are subscribed, more than half the features proposals have gone on to further talks with one or more publishers, and more than a quarter have already locked down series contracts. ✸✷✶★✮✭✬✩✫★✶✷✸✹✵✹✸✷✶★✫✩✬✭✮★✮✭✬✩✫★✶✷✸✹✵✹✸✷✶★✫✩✬✭✮★✶✷✸ Octal is open to international creators and can be used to pitch original comics, reprints of previously publisher/ currently selfpublished comics, print editions of webcomics, or translations of foreign language comics. Terms are non-exclusive, there are no entry fees, and Octal stakes no claim in the resulting comics.  ✸✷✶★✮✭✬✩✫★✶✷✸✹✵✹✸✷✶★✫✩✬✭✮★✮✭✬✩✫★✶✷✸✹✵✹✸✷✶★✫✩✬✭✮★✶✷✸ I also run a free semester workshop where creators can develop their pitch packets on coordinated schedule with instructional resources, editorial feedback, and group critiques throughout production. The next Semester will begin at the end of January. To enroll join ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/Octal2018/ ) by January 19th and post to introduce yourself.

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Jan 10, 10:02PM EST0

What are some of Octal's greatest success stories so far? Do you recomend artists/creators use only Octal, or a combination venues like Kickstarter to launch a comich or novel?

Jan 10, 5:15PM EST0

To date, 5 series have launched from Octal into series contracts with different publishers. It's hard to gauge which of them are the ‘greatest’ success story as most are still in production and pre-wide release.

Generally, I’d recommend creators develop their pitch packet and pitch their comic through Octal even if they plan on ( or are already ) self-publishing. Most publishers have no qualms about considering pitches for previously published and currently self-publisher comics and you’re under no obligation to accept any offer which isn’t right for you and your book so pitching is essentially self-publishing OBO.

If you have a specific publisher/ publishers in mind and they might not be on Octal’s mailing list yet, shoot them an email introducing it to them and offer them a free subscription. While the terms are non-exclusive so you can pitch directly, growing the mailing list has the same result only you also benefit from publishers others might approach and Octal grows to be a more efficient and effective pitching platform.

If you decide to run a kickstarter or other funding campaign, you’ll be able to cannibalize your packet. A lot of the same material and information goes into an effective funding campaign because funding campaigns are essentially pitching directly to an audience.

Once your book is in the can, if you haven’t gotten a better offer then self-publish… but I’d still keep your pitch packet circulating because it never hurts to remain open to a better option and pitching is all about fielding offers so you make the most informed decision possible.

Jan 10, 8:36PM EST0

Comic books have been around for decades, and we’ve seen a lot of changes in style and storytelling as time goes on. What do you see in the future of graphic storytelling?

Jan 10, 10:52AM EST0

I believe we'll see an e-reader specifically designed for comics and periodicals which will do for digitial publishing what the Roku and Apple TV did for streaming video.

If I was making a checklist of what that might look like it would be:

- Gutterless Dual Screen

- Full Color Display

- Pen and Touch Interface

- Flexible, Anti-Glare, and Water-Resistant

- Available in Standard Comic+ Magazine Sizes

- Able to be Used as a Digital Notepad/ Sketchpad/ Presentation Board

- A Well-Curated Channel Store Linking Multiple Services to 1 Account

- Affordable Price Point

In addition to that, I believe you bring in more readers by services going Transmedia. For example, DC is currently launching a streaming platform with a live action Titans and a Young Justice Season 3. Imagine that's a transmedia platform which also comes with access to their back catalog of comics.

Some people might give the comics a shot because they're already paying for access to them. Others won't but their subscriptions would still be helping to subsidize the comics so the shows they like continue to have new source material to draw from.

There are a lot of companies trying to become the 'Netflix of Comics' but I see the future as Netflix absorbing or replacing them.... and there's a real benefit to that because if it goes transmedia, they could make suggestions reading suggestions based on viewing habits.

'If you liked Devilman Crybaby, check out Mind Games ( film by series director ), Devilman: Birth, Demon Bird, and Amon ( prior OVAs, each adapting parts of the Devilman story ), Devilman Lady ( an alt version with a female protagonist ), The Soultaker ( an unrelated anime series with similar themes and tropes ), Devilman ( 2004, less than stellar live-action adaptation ), Faust: Love of the Damned ( Brian Yuzna's demonic superhero movie ).... but also Read: Go Nagai's Devilman (the original manga which the series is based on ), Go Nagai's Violence Jack ( the sequel to Devilman teased in the post credits ),  Takato Rui's Devilman Grimoire ( another creator's adaptation of the story for modern audiences in manga form ), Jack Kirby's The Demon: Etrigan ( DC's demon bound to a human host transforming anti-hero )....'

As more tv and movies are based on comics or share themes and tropes with comics, the ability to make reading suggestions based on viewing habits will help people find comics and graphic novels that they might like but might not know exist and the fact that you could suggest comics based on just about any show and movie will go a long way to dispelling the misconceptions some still have about the artform.

Last edited @ Jan 10, 3:00PM EST.
Jan 10, 2:52PM EST0
Show all 3 replies

Is your family supportive of your line of work?

Jan 9, 8:56AM EST0

Reasonably, to the extent in which they understand it.

Jan 9, 11:10AM EST0

What’s your daily routine like? Do you believe in work-life balance?

Jan 9, 3:59AM EST0

I don't have a daily routine. As far as work-life balance, the less time you spend worrying about making time for everything, the more time you'll have for everything.

Jan 9, 6:22AM EST0

I work 24/7 but always have time for a meal ;)

Jan 11, 9:21AM EST0

What comic genre do you usually get? Which is more saleable?

Jan 9, 3:49AM EST0

A lot of publishers are pushing for diversity. Diversity done right isn't about the color of the character's skin, etc. but choosing characters who have different upbringings, life experiences, and frames of reference and allowing that paradigm to inform their decisions and lead them down a different path.

As far as the types of stories, when in doubt, genre-bend. Genre-bent titles cross-pollinate readers and can check multiple boxes in a publishers catalog. The less expected the combo, the more it points you toward a clear point of distinction.

It's important to remember that 'publishers' vary as greatly as 'artists' and 'writers'. Like pairing art and story, it's about finding the publisher which best compliments the work and your own efforts. There is no one size fits all solution but our mailing list casts a wide net so we can accomidate a wide array of work.

Last edited @ Jan 9, 6:13AM EST.
Jan 9, 5:58AM EST0

Nice answer mate. Never thought of diversity that way before.

Jan 11, 2:21AM EST1

What do you think makes an outstanding comic book series?

Jan 8, 8:36AM EST0

I believe everything has an audience if it has focus.

On the logistical end, we might consider if it has a large enough audience to sustain ongoing production and if reaching that audience is cost-prohibitive but if we’re talking about the work not the logistics then that becomes a lot easier.

A good comic is one where all the decisions are well-maintained and compliment one another and push forward in the same direction.

A great comic is a good comic where the decisions and how they compliment each other are smart and/ or interesting and the execution is impeccable.

An outstanding comic is a great comic which helps you create new connections and makes you look at some of the comics and media you had already consumed in a new and interesting way.

Last edited @ Jan 8, 12:42PM EST.
Jan 8, 12:40PM EST0

What are the mistakes that are done by creators that you consider a deal-breaker?

Jan 7, 10:04PM EST0

Creators put a lot of themselves into their work and so it can be difficult distance yourself from it and not take things personally. Your friends and family love your work because they love you. A lot of creator groups are nothing but supportive either as a matter of policy or because it's not worth the time, energy, or potential hurt feelings to be critical. As a result, a lot of creators have had so much smoke blown up their ass that they pop like a balloon at the first point of criticism. 

Shutting down, ignoring criticism and throwing good work after bad, talking shit about people, deflecting all blame to your teammates, becoming defensive, or derailing conversations to interject your life story will not make your work better. That will only make people reconsider working with you.

Last edited @ Jan 7, 11:19PM EST.
Jan 7, 11:17PM EST0

What made you decide to be a comic editor rather than a creator?

Jan 7, 9:48PM EST0

Problem solving is my favorite part of the creative act. Being an anti-artist, the editing process scratches my creative itch as much as any traditionally creative role would.

That said, I still sketch regularly, draft a couple short scripts per week, and pretty much always have a few long and short term projects in production.

Last edited @ Jan 7, 11:48PM EST.
Jan 7, 11:46PM EST0

What basic advice can you give to comic book artists before pitching in their work?

Jan 7, 9:07AM EST0

If you're trying to sell your services to writers, be sure you have pages of sequential art in your portfolio. One of the most important things to look at when evaluating the potential of a comic artist is how well they maintain decisions from one panel to the next and no amount of pin-ups and montages will demonstrate those fundimental skills.

Once you're signed on to a comic, lock down your character models first then compare every panel back to that reference material. Naturally, you can still exaggerate things for dramatic effect but the better your models are maintained in the quiet moments, the more impact you'll get out of those exaggerations.

Last edited @ Jan 7, 11:28AM EST.
Jan 7, 11:26AM EST1
Show all 3 replies

What makes you stand out from your competitors?

Jan 7, 8:21AM EST0

Coming from an art background, I approach editing comics a bit differently than someone who started out writing.

I start by looking for redundancy. If a line of dialogue or caption doesn't add anything to the scene that we aren't getting from the visuals, my first suggestion is we drop it entirely. If the comic is still in the development/ script stage, I offer ways to use body language or scene staging to help render even more text redundant and suggest panels which could be added, moved, or removed to smooth out the visual storytelling.

Sometimes, I sketch out diagrams to highlight why something isn't working or how ways in which it could work/ work better. It's helpful to have those tools in my toolbox esp if the writer is less experienced in writing comics.

If brought in early enough in production, I'm just as comfortable correcting anatomy and perspective as a missing comma. Even later in production, spotting floating facial features and nudging them into place is a fast and cheap way to elevate the quality of the artwork.

Sometimes, I'm just identifing where there's a problem and offering up what I believe would be the fastest/ simpliest way to address it. Sometimes, I'll bust out the Wacom and either demonstrate the technique for the artist or help them make the art revisions. It all depends on the comic but again, it's good to have those tools in my toolbox.

Finally, I establish early on that I view targeted criticism as a pratical compliment. The more competent and engaging the work is, the more nitpicky the feedback becomes. There's always room for improvement in art and it's not my place to decide when good is good enough. On the other end, if the work is shit and I get the sense that it's best the writer and artist are capable of, then I will not take their money. Some creators come to appricate that they get to draw the line and no time is wasted blowing smoke.

Last edited @ Jan 7, 11:09AM EST.
Jan 7, 10:39AM EST0

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a comic book editor?

Jan 7, 2:48AM EST0

'What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a comic book editor?'Advantages and disadvantages only exist in comparison to something else.

Comparing it to editing prose, there's less copy to edit but you need to read everything in the context of the visuals.

For example, if the script says the character is mad but doesn't specify the intensity then a common problem is the art being more or less intense than the dialogue. One or both need to be revised and since it's faster, cheaper, and easier to revise copy, it's usually the dialogue.

Last edited @ Jan 7, 5:28AM EST.
Jan 7, 3:15AM EST0

How did you come up with the name Octal Comics?

Jan 7, 12:58AM EST0

An Octal (noun) is a base-8 system.

Some publishers instruct creators to include sample pages of sequential art ( usually 5-8 pages. ) Other publishers require a complete story.

One might assume those publishers are only interested in ready-to-publish comics but with the internet, why assume when you can ask?I started emailing submission editors from publishers whose submission guidelines required complete comics. While it's true that some publishers were only interested in read-to-publish books, just as many simply wanted to see the creators arc a narrative from some sort of setup to some sort of resolution. I follows up with those editors to ask if a short pilot comic would satisfy their requirements and what the minimum number of pages would be. After talking it over with their teams, a couple of them independently responded 8-12 pages.

The more sets of submission guidelines I composited and more editors I spoke with, the more it solidified that in order to appeal to the most publishers at the same time, these packet would need to be built around 8-page pilot comics.

So, the series was named 'Octal' due to the 8-page pilot comics at the center of every pitch packet.

By sheer coincidence, in addition to the art pages, the packet needed to cover 8 additional points: log line, initial run, production timeline, audience, protagonist, setting, creator bios, and series synopsis. I found that amusing so doubled down which is why there are 8 packets in every volume, octogons incorporated in the book design, etc. but the series was already named by that point.

Last edited @ Jan 7, 2:30AM EST.
Jan 7, 2:09AM EST0

How many of your own comic books have been published and where can I find them?

Jan 6, 8:53AM EST0

I tend to work short form so my own comics are scattered across anthologies and periodicals. I pulled together a handful of samples here: http://octalcomics.com/MSchneider.pdf and have been contributing scripts to http://www.TheComicJam.com for the last few months on a semi-regular basis.

Jan 6, 12:49PM EST0

Do you work alone or do you have a team to assist you?

Jan 5, 10:23PM EST0

It's a bit of both.

Many creators and editors helped with the research and development. The first volume was produced by a closed group of creators I had previously worked with. Once the kinks were worked out, it was open to the public.

Creators are always encouraged to ask questions and a large part of that manual is the answers to their questions collected and organized. In the semester groups, we do check-ins and post-mortems and each semester evolves based on experience and feedback from the prior groups. So, creators play a huge part in the process's evolution.

There are other editors who hang in the production group. I tag them in if I need a 2nd opinion, there's a surge of interest, etc. There are also bilingual creators who have been happy to step in when I need help with a translation. Naturally, this is all recipricated when they need assistance on one of their projects.

In the semester groups, I ask for volunteers to help me with tagging people in updates. There's also a real focus on group critiques. By establishing a space where people are comfortable posting WIPs and critiquing each other's work, by the later steps they're actually getting the majority of their feedback from one another.

Thanks to everything being templated, a lot of the formatting and assembly can be automated with batch processes so those steps are just eye checking the results before setting them to upload.  Featured creators have also been fairly proactive about promoting the resulting volumes, telling others about their experiences, etc.

So, I usually don't have a dedicated team but I'm also never really working alone and have as much support as I need if and when I need it.

Last edited @ Jan 5, 11:37PM EST.
Jan 5, 11:09PM EST0

What are the most common challenges encountered during your workshops?

Jan 5, 2:44PM EST0

Early on, the most common challenge is reading.  The information is presented but every time, without fail, a number of creators make false assumptions and spend the rest of the first month trying to catch up.

The first group critique is 'log lines'. Creators who read the doc explaining what a log line is and how to write one fair much better. Their character, conflict, and goals are all clear and that invites the group to talk about their story, ask questions, and make recommendations. Meanwhile, the creators who couldn't be bothered to read the doc have the rest of the group pointing out 'This is not a log line.' and by the time they come up with a log line, the group's already moved on to the next step.

The schedule requires a little work each week. Not much. A couple hours would keep you on pace. The thing is, it adds up quick. The entire first month totals about half a page of text which is deceptively simple because this half page is the foundation of your entire book/ series.

While budgets are brought up at the top of the semester and creators who are looking for collaborators are instructed to start posting those calls before the semester even begins, inevetable there's always someone shocked that it's hard to find an artist who's willing to drop everything to work on their story for little to no money. That's not to say it's impossible to find someone who will invest their time to buy into a good idea.... it just tends to take a lot longer than finding someone who sees value in money.

Once creators make it through the crucible of foundation work and team building, the productions seem to be pretty smooth sailing ( largely thanks to that strong foundation. )

Last edited @ Jan 5, 4:44PM EST.
Jan 5, 4:43PM EST0

What is your personal favorite comics and why?

Jan 5, 9:09AM EST0

The Awesome Slapstick ( 1992 )https://static.comicvine.com/uploads/original/11111/111114711/3180719-9633391636-slaps.jpg

While increasingly common today, Slapstick was basically a cartoon living in and interacting with a world of more serious characters.

This was before Deadpool went 4th wall, when The Mask was the ultra-violent Big-Head not the Tex Avery character we saw in the movie, and a couple years before cartoons like Freakizoid... he wasn't all powerful like Bat-mite, Mr Mxyzptlk, or Impossible Man. Slapstick was essentially the Roger Rabbit of superheroes and I ate it up.

If I wanted to get analytical, I might say that the juxtaposition of the zany and serious makes them both pop in contrast... but really I've always enjoyed zany characters and this was the first one which I remember being limited enough that there were stories to tell that didn't revolve around him being a pest.

Last edited @ Jan 5, 2:21PM EST.
Jan 5, 2:20PM EST0

What is the common age range for comic book creators? Does it have any effect on the success rate of the comics?

Jan 5, 5:56AM EST0

It's not quite birth to death but it's close. Working with minors can be a headache as there's always that extra step of getting the parent/ guardian to review the work, contracts, etc. There are plenty of adult creators who feel uneasy about having their parents look at some of their work never mind needing them to sign off on it. You also need to be open to critical feedback in order to grow as a creator and yet parents can be rightfully defensive. While there are certainly exceptions, let's pin a min at 18-19.

On the other end, you have pros who by choice or necessity continue to work right up to their death. While some may live longer let's pin the max at around 80-85.

Most people arc from adaptable but inexperienced to experienced but set in their ways with some bumps along the way and every arc has its peaks but age itself is of little consequence when it comes to your comic's chances of success.

Last edited @ Jan 5, 1:53PM EST.
Jan 5, 1:51PM EST0

Can you share your biggest challenge upon starting up Octal Comics?

Jan 5, 5:21AM EST0

There's a lot of wait to rush and rush to wait in production. When a team of creators is in production they may think nothing of taking a few extra weeks or months to finish something but once they've finished their part, every day feels like an eternity.

Getting more creators on a coordinated schedule with the semester workshops seems to be helping that quite a bit... but it took nearly 2 years of trial and error to get to that solution.

Last edited @ Jan 5, 1:24PM EST.
Jan 5, 1:24PM EST0

Do you think this industry is becoming too saturated? What is your advice on how to make a comic stand out?

Jan 5, 4:14AM EST0

No. The rough estimate is that about 2% of people read comics. That 2% gets bombarded with choices because the publishers know how to reach and market to them. There's likely 3-8% who would read comics but dont. Perhaps they were underwhelmed and alienated by the options they were seeing. They're harder to find, reach, and market to but they exist.

As far as how can you make a comic stand out... stand out to who? Comics aren't all going after the same readers. Know your audience and focus on appealing to them.

Last edited @ Jan 5, 5:00AM EST.
Jan 5, 4:58AM EST0
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