Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Graphic Novels and Self Publishing for Illustrators

As part of Lincoln Artists' Network's series of workshops fully funded by Onlincolnshire, the ultimate workshop at The Collection aims to share my knowledge and expertise in my current 

LAN / Onlincolnshire workshops
Helen Dearnley LAN Director

Graphic novels and self-publishing

Introductory session – invite artists to briefly speak about their work, and what particular fields they aim to self publish where necessary, and any particular genres according to their target market.

The popularity of self-publishing for illustrators compared to traditional routes.

If you search for self-publishing illustrators online, the results return plenty of resources for authors seeking illustrators to work with for their books and projects.
As such, if you're a children's book illustrator, or a fiction story illustrator, this could be a route to consider; however, within the context of graphic novels, the illustrator is also the author, so consideration must be given to how authors are going about publishing their material.

Traditional publishing requirements for manuscript, or artwork in this case, to be submitted to a publisher, or multiple publishers, in the hope of being selected and published in house, can often be frustrating and disempowering to leave your work to the whim of others, and can also be limiting to the kind of subject matter required by publishers, especially where gender stereotyping is pushed in children's literature, however, as an original content creator, self-publishing gives ownership back to creators to produce innovative and challenging work that moves away from traditional narratives and to explore different themes and individual stories.

The decision to self-publish this current graphic novel Cloudbusting is due in part to Myriad.
Back in 2012-13, Myriad invited illustrators to submit work at no cost to illustrators, via email as a pdf file, with the aim of publishing selected work.
However, in 2014, this changed to the First Graphic Novel Competition (FGNC) 
As there was enough work for Cloudbusting created to enter, the first pages were formatted and submitted for FGNC, however, Cloudbusting wasn't selected, although it can still be resubmitted for the next competition in 2016, as it's unlikely to be finished before then.

Despite this, there are many other options for Cloudbusting, as the availability for self publishing provides numerous resources, some of which are included below:


Illustrating in ink on paper and digital editing using a graphics tablet. And software – ie Photoshop

Cloudbusting is hand illustrated in ink on paper in the studio as individual pages. 
Images are sourced from direct research of locations in Lincoln, including appropriate weather conditions according to the narrative. 
For instance, as the metaphorical blackbird flies across the city at night, photos of the city were sourced both at night, and from the perspective of uphill, then illustrated in white on black paper to follow on from the darker scenes at the end of the first sequence of images, based on the original Cloudbusting video, where government officials effectively destroy the research.
Images were sourced of Brayford Pool in the winter of 2010, when the Brayford was frozen over, then illustrated in black ink on white paper, to reflect a period of grief.
Source images of the city on rainy days have also been carefully selected to follow the narrative of the city during the 2012 floods.

All completed illustrated images are scanned in and edited where necessary using a graphics tablet, however, as the graphic tablet currently isn't working, this enables continuation of the work without complete reliance on expensive technology, although it's slower without a working graphics tablet. Funding from the Kickstarter campaign would help towards upgrading outdated technology, or support from Onlincolnshire via the current KTP will enable the work to progress more rapidly.

Images are edited in Photoshop, mainly to increase the contrast of the images, edit out any unwanted errors, and to edit together separate images into one image, although most of the illustration work is done beforehand.

Ordering pages and file sizes – use of external hard drive for storage.

Again, the use of Photoshop for keeping the pages organised in page order for eventual publication. The files are ordered as Cloudbustingpg1 as jpeg files and stored in a graphic novel folder for finished illustrations. 
Currently there are over 100 pages illustrated for Cloudbusting, with recent double page A3 scale illustrations scanned in using an A4 scanner in two halves, then merged back together in Photoshop as two A4 size pages. An A3 scale scanner would be preferable to this method.
The page sizes can then be adapted to suit different formats for publication, but this ensures they're all at the same scale as work is produced.
Reference images and work in progress, such as initial scans and watermarked images for publication here on the blog are stored in a separate folder and are saved directly onto an external hard drive due to lack of space on a very old mac hard drive.

Kickstarter and crowdfunding campaigns successes and failures – how to set up crowdfunding campaigns and gain support for the project.

A Kickstarter campaign launched at the end of 2013 to promote Cloudbusting, and to raise some funds for its development.

It received only 4 backers, despite extensive research and promotion throughout the campaign, and didn't reach its target.
At the time, associated work on empty shops projects for separate fine art practice attempted to promote the Kickstarter campaign offline as well as online, to try to gain backers from participants in Frequency Digital Arts Festival 2013, however, it may have been more successful to have focussed on the online campaign solely, and the budget may have been set too low.

The campaign generated some initial interest, including a commission, and since then, building more interest for the project, working on the graphic novel itself, and sharing updates via this blog.
Unfortunately, due to the fact that blogging seems to involve a lot of work for very little in return, there isn't always time to spend uploading all of the content online before the project is finished - some have advised to published entire projects, but that would be like J.K. Rowling revealing the entire plot to Harry Potter before getting a publishing deal, and I can't imagine why authors and illustrators should do that!

Research is key, which is why a lot of time is taken beforehand to bookmark relevant links, and  Paul Wilson was invited to conduct a session on generating income from blogging for the last workshop, to figure out areas that require improvement, and what I've been missing, along with whether to invest in advertising to promote the project, and affiliate resources.

Currently in the process of applying for an MA in Design (Illustration) at the University of Lincoln, which hopefully will gain the support of peers at postgrad level to launch a new Kickstarter campaign for Cloudbusting. 
Having recently been mistaken for a lecturer, working towards becoming University staff, which is included as (fictional) subject material for Cloudbusting.

Keeping a blog to document progress and generate an audience.

Obviously, not all of Cloudbusting is uploaded online. Some comics illustrators do, especially webcomics, but this is still a work in progress, and it isn't free content for others to make use of; the work is shared to promote the project, raise awareness and generate interest and self-promotion in advance of publication, so if you're interested in Cloudbusting, there are several ways you can support it.
One is to link the project to your own blog, and add some thoughts of your own about what interests you about the project, along with feedback in the comments here, and perhaps useful advice.
You can retweet twitter links - when I upload new content here, it's promoted via twitter and social media, so it can be forwarded to people in your own network that might be interested in this. 
Selected images from Cloudbusting are shared occasionally, as the work involved illustrating this can be very isolating and reclusive, and online promotion is an immediate way to maintain contact with the outside world!
It's far easier to upload images to blogger than elsewhere, including my website, so you can keep more up to date with progress if you're a follower, and it's fairly straightforward to send a link to the synopsis to interested potential clients etc.
If you wish to publish images from the blog about Cloudbusting to support the project, please get in touch to let me know and discuss this, as there are a few issues about sharing copyrighted images and original content - I'm sure there might be those searching online for illustrations of Lincoln that may find my work and think it's OK to source images for their own blog, but as stated before, content here is original copyrighted imagery and isn't subject for use elsewhere without express permission (and possibly at a cost!)

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