Like a nomad, I was all over the map last week. I was still feeling discouraged about finding a publisher and a syndicate for my work, but I was also heartened by this whole thing as well.
I know that getting published takes years, and although I have making comics for almost fifteen years, I have to remind myself that I have been pitching to publishers for only a few months. I tell myself there’s a long road ahead. Which in it of itself is daunting, but that’s what it takes.
Early in the week I read that the children’s book ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’ by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers was rejected by every publisher in the field for over six years before it found a home and sold over a million and a half copies. This cheered me up for a bit, and then the negative part of me took over and I wondered if a book like that, a book that I’ve read to Sophie and really liked, took that long to find a publisher, what chance do I have?
Last week I also heard from a syndicated newspaper cartoonist that I really admire, someone I met at a convention a few years ago at a convention that I’ve stayed in touch with. I asked him if he’d take a look at my newspaper pitch for The Retros and he got back to me the other day. He said some very nice things and also (gently) reiterated the reality that syndicates don’t really want what you would call a continuity strip, a strip that tells a bigger story over the course of a few weeks. Most papers want a gag-a-day strip where the characters say something funny in three panels and that’s it for the day. The kind words really made my day and the confirmation of the reality of what the syndicates want wasn’t that discouraging because I knew that even before I put ink to paper. He suggested maybe scaling back the number of characters on the team and slowly introducing them over time.
He also suggested I reach out to another syndicated cartoonist for some guidance. The cartoonist he recommended was someone that I’ve liked for a while now, and in fact, his strip is the closest thing to what The Retros newspaper strip is…a funny adventure strip that tells a bigger story over the course of a few weeks. When I discovered this strip, I was excited that a strip similar to what I waned to create found a home. I reached out to the cartoonist and we had a great chat over Facebook about the world of syndicates and getting a newspaper spot. We got to chatting about current strips we liked and we discussed ‘Wallace the Brace‘ by Will Henry. It’s a wonderful strip that feels like a combination of ‘Peanuts’ and ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ with a touch of ‘Cul de Sac’ thrown in. I’ve read this strip online on gocomics, the online platform for Andrews McMeel, one of the newspaper syndicates I’ve submitted my strip to. The cartoonist mentioned that this amazingly charming strip isn’t in papers and of course my thought was that if THAT strip isn’t in the papers, what chance do I have?
So that was a reality check that my week ended on.
Most of Saturday I was feeling a little lost and spent a lot of time thinking and wondering what my next step was. Should I retool the strip and take a stab at maybe starting off with Alie recruiting the Retros one by one? Should I create a completely different strip? Should I retool the Retros graphic novel and redraw it? Throughout the weekend I was swinging back and forth wildly with feeling encouraged and excited to feeling exhausted and hopeless. It was a tiring day.
So where I am now? I’ve submitted the strip as it exists now to two more syndicates, up to a total of three, with one more to pitch it to. Although it’s likely pointless I still need to try. Besides, I knew it was a long shot before I even created it. I found six more publishers to send the graphic novel to which was cool as I thought I had exhausted the potential publishers out there. I also decided to take a stab and trying to find an agent for the graphic novel because, hey, it can’t hurt to try. I also started to think about how The Retros could work as a newspaper strip if I did indeed rework it with it featuring Alie and over time forming the team.
The strip reworking is becoming more appealing to me as it would give me a chance to draw a story that I really didn’t plan on doing in the webcomic, with the exception of flashbacks here and there. At the very least, I could do twenty strips (the minimum a syndicate wants to see) of the beginning of how the team came together. And hey, if it got syndicated I could tell the entire story over time.
I also plan on starting my children’s picture book in January and I am still sketching out character designs. The book will likely take the whole year to develop, flesh out and paint. But that’s okay.
I’ve got this weird sense of urgency that is telling me to work, pitch, draw, email, paint, and submit at a breakneck speed. I need to rein this in. I cannot rush through a project either creatively and I need to give a project a chance to find a publisher. I am not feeling this urgency due to age. I’m not dying, not that I know of, anyway. I mean, Jack Kirby was 44 when the first issue of ‘The Fantastic Four’ was published. Not that I am even on the same talent planet as Kirby but it is encouraging to remind myself that a cartoonist’s most creative point of their life isn’t always in one’s twenties. No, this urgency is coming from me feeling that I am really doing my best work right now and I feel that I’ve never been more prepared artistically to make this happen. What I need to do is slow down, create and paint and draw and write and not take on too many creative projects. I think a balance of creating/writing/drawing one project and pitching one or two completed projects is the plan. One project to keep me at my drawing table, the other(s) to keep me going back to the post office.
So, what do I do next? I think between now and the end of the year I will work on submitting The Retros graphic novel to any new publishers I discover and research and pitch the project to agents, as well as that lone remaining newspaper syndicate. I will also take a stab at reworking the strip project with Alie as the solo character for now as she recruits the others. Twenty strips isn’t a lot of pages to tell a story where an alien superhero travels back in time to build a team of crimefighters, so we’ll see how it goes.
And of course, I’ll still work on the Retros webcomic. That’s where all this started, after all.
The new newspaper strip project will take a few months to create, likely taking me to the end of the year which works out fine with my plan to start the real work on my picture book.
That’s the plan, anyway. On one hand it looks like the puzzle pieces of what the heck should I do next are falling into place…only until the cat jumps up onto the table and swats the pieces onto the floor.
I will also be participating in Inktober for the second year in a row. Last year I did daily drawings of characters from ‘The Hobbit’ and this year I’ll be doing daily drawings of characters from Jack Kirby’s 4th World epic. I’m excited to get started. I’ll be posting the pictures on my Twitter account.