Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Super Real Notes - Schedules

Super Real Notes are a production diary for my book, and an in depth look at self publishing.

As I've mentioned, the last week and a half has been crunch time.
First, I was behind deadline to get issue 2 to the printers, because, well, I was behind on the artwork/production.
Second, I had the deadline to get files/solicit copy to the distributor to keep issue three solicited on my schedule I'm hoping to settle into.

So let's go into detail on the two deadlines a bit. Exercise some demons for me, and share some tidbits for you kiddies in TSL blogland.

1) Issue 2 files to the printer

As I discussed at length in the last notes section, Super Real is currently being printed by Regent Publishing Services, who have offices in New York, but print out of China. Being that they're overseas, their leadtime is a bit longer than a domestic printer, about 7 weeks.

Now, with a 7 week leadtime, and a release month of February for issue two, my drop dead date to have files to them and still have a hope for shipping on time had already past by the time I was freed up from my seasonal job. I had held out hope that I could put everything together by Monday the 9th, to still stand a chance, with some luck in cutting down the leadtime, of shipping the books by February. As it turns out, it took me a week beyond that, and I just finished sending the files Monday evening. (The rub here being, I could've rushed and gotten it out sooner, but this is my baby, so I like to massage the hell out of it, and make it the best it can be dang it!)

Also, in talking with the printer this last week regarding leadtime, it appears we have Chinese New Years at some point during the schedule, and things will get slowed down if anything, unfortunately. Though, I haven't received confirmation on what dates we're talking about, or how long they're shut down for the holiday.

The bottom line? It looks like issue two may ship up to a few weeks late, but it's still a little early to tell. You never know, things could go fast/smoothly, but in my experience, things tend to go the other direction. We'll see.

I'm just glad to have issue two completed.
It was a bit of a struggle, both creatively, and time wise.
It's hard work balancing self publishing with odd jobs to keep money coming.
I'm not knocking it though, I'm living my dream, and my wife's a saint to put up with the investment in time on my part (and ultimately hers), to say nothing of the financial impact.
Again, let me stress, I love it. You just really, or at least I do, get so caught up in the endless demands, business and creative, from doing 100% of everything, that it takes a toll. It's not all roses, yet... (I'm still learning folks), but there's nothing I'd rather be doing.
That mainly speaks to the business part of the issue two struggle, as I said creatively, this book was tough too.

Mostly, it's the nature of story, and where we're at with issue two. We're still setting things up, and I want to get to the part, just like the readers, where we play with all these cool toys. That's issue three. And yay, it's here.
As much as the artist side would love to skip some of this stuff, the storyteller won't, or can't allow it. The story is really born from all of this detail at the beginning, all the fun dialogue and characters stuff.
So it feels good to get it done!

2) Deadline and schedule for issue three and the series

The second, and smaller of my recently completed deadlines was having issue three set up with the distributor. You see, to be listed in Diamond's Previews catalog, product solicitation copy (the blurb in the catalog that describes the issue etc. along with, and this is the key here, the cover art) must be set up on the second Thursday of the month, four months before your product ships.

Yes, 4 months in advance.
You see, as you likely know, the Previews catalog comes out two months before the products listed are due to ship, so in order to get things rolling and set up, publishers are working many months ahead. Which is all fine and good, til that's actually YOU that's required to have things done, a season in advance, continuously. The biggest hurdle rising from this cycle is aquiring variant cover art, that far in advance (and I know the variants are another topic to cover here, as I'd love to talk about them, and why they're important to me).

Now, for new publishers, and/or new titles, Diamond also likes to see advance complete mock-ups for the first two to three issues prior to solicitation approval. You know, to try and ensure there aren't any more late comics than already plague the industry. Which means as a creator, you must have your first couple issues in the can before publishing, in theory at least.

So, here I am, trying to put together the files (and last few pages) for issue two and get that off to the printer, before I move on to the cover/s for issue three, which are due on Thursday the 12th. Well, as it became clear I wouldn't be finished with issue two in time to do this, I had to stop working on it and put together the cover for issue three, I think I started that on Tuesday PM, 36 hours to turn it out.

Well, I made the deadline, but shhh, don't tell, I haven't started work on the actual book yet. Everything's written, or I should say plotted, but there's no script yet. However, I know exactly how the book starts, and can put the script together easily as I go. But yeah, technically it should be done now, even though it doesn't come out til may, or have to go to the printers til March.
Crazy hunh?

Well anyway, the reason I stressed and labored to meet that deadline, was so issue three could be scheduled 3 months after issue 2, the same as from issue 1 to 2. I'd initially hoped to shoot for a bimonthly schedule, in 3 issue arcs, with a quarter off between, but that's now changed to tri-monthly (with hopefully no breaks) as I actually get in there and do the work.

Now you may think three months sounds like a lot of time between issues, or a long time to get them done, but trust me, when you don't work on it full time, and you do everything; the pencils, the colors, the letters, the production art, the advertising, the networking, the promotion, and all the business, shit adds up. I think 3 months is good. I like 3 months. And I look forward to the challenge of 3 months, and hopefully with a little luck, I'll be able to continue striving for that schedule for some time to come, or even be afforded the luxury of a shorter schedule. Cause I love what I do, and I love this story. I can't wait to bring it to life. I really can't.

So, back to issue three... I've got a block of time, finances providing, about a month left, where I'll have virtually slim to no daytime distractions. I plan on banging out issue three, with a smile on my face and a spring in my step! Issue three is really the issue where we start revealing a lot of what the book has to offer, and hopefully knocking some collective socks off.

In the meantime, I have to stay vigilant with promotion, and advertising, to spread the word about the buzz on issue one, and the exciting changes to come with issue three...

So please,


xoshua said...

while i know we don't really agree on variants or 'singles' vs 'OGNs'... you and your lovely wife are comic book family to me.

on to the goods... i like these posts/entries. a quarterly schedule can be good, as long as you are (generally) always on time. hell, if you could get to the point of doing an issue in entirety in 2 months, you could build up a nice lead time.

hmm, i don' think i have anything else exciting to say...


Jason Martin said...

"while I know we don't really agree on variants or 'singles' vs 'OGNs'..."

Well, with the quickly changing landscape of small press, OGN's are fast becoming the only real option. Perhaps if I'd been at that decision point later, I'd have chosen differently.
I really want the singles-first approach to work though.

As for the quarterly schedule, it's not preferred, but more a necessity. As I said, and you mention, the goal will be to improve that.

Thanks for the words!

xoshua said...

"As for the quarterly schedule, it's not preferred, but more a necessity."

definitly understandable. i was just thinking in terms of catching up, production time, and possibly even real life, doing quarterly until you get a nice chunk ahead isn't horrible. there's people that can't do a B&W book in that time, with about the same number of pages.

so, uh... yeah. consistency.or something.