Welcome to SBC’s The Panel, a chance for you to put your burning questions – comics-related or otherwise – to a group of comics professionals.

The Panel lives or dies by your contributions; please email them to panel@silverbulletcomicbooks.com and we’ll add them to the list…

This week’s question comes from Alan Larken and is as follows:-

“Is it worth trying to submit your work to a comic company (those that accept submissions) given the recent movements at Diamond impacting upon titles that don’t sell enough copies?”

Kev F Sutherland :

Comics have never sold enough copies, what difference does that make?

Comics have always been notoriously hard to get into, so the vagaries of the market are the least of your worries. In the 20 years I’ve been in and out of comics I’ve seen comics that sold a million copies that were desperate for contributors, and comics that you couldn’t give away who would refuse to even look at artists’ portfolios. And I’ve seen the reverse situation.

I was in Viz when there were only 5 other contributors on board, and I worked for Marvel just before that voluntary liquidation when they slashed their titled by two thirds dumping me and a lot of other dead wood; I got into 2000AD writing Captain Klep when they were selling 200,000 copies a week, and the last time I sent something to them and failed to get accepted their sales were about a tenth of that; it took me a solid year of sending stuff every week to get into my first regular comic, Oink, which sold pretty poorly and lasted about 2 years, and I got accepted by The Beano on my first submission, they sell about what 2000AD did 25 years ago, and they’ve been around since the dawn of time.

So what I’m saying is: why are you wasting your time reading this? Get submitting work now! After all, there’s a gap in the market thanks to those guys who aren’t submitting cos of some nonsense about Diamond.

Writer and artist on most genres of comic from (currently) The Bash St Kids in The Beano, thru Tarquin Hoylet He Has To Go To The Toilet in Viz, to Star Trek and Dr Strange for Marvel, plus Dr Who, Red Dwarf, Gladiators, Goosebumps and heaps more.

James E. Lyle (a.k.a. Doodle):

I think this is a very interesting question. I think the question that the Distributors need to ask themselves is, “with so MUCH talent trying to produce alternative material, are we not shooting ourselves in the foot by ignoring it?” Go to any comics show, you’ll see a bunch of folks trying to sell their own idea in the face of huge competition! Why take on Goliath? Because in the very act of taking on the behemoth you are making a statement that you will not back down. We need to face facts; the world changes. The world of comics is changing even now. Does this mean that ALL Indy titles are going to be great? Of course not! Are all “mainstream” titles great? Again, of course not! But the fact is there’s a lot of talent out there trying to say something. Good for them! If Diamond doesn’t want to carry them, that’s Diamond’s choice, and potentially Diamond’s loss.

However, getting back the original question, it is always a good idea to see if you can find someone else to help carry the load. Submitting to a larger company in hopes that your work will reach a larger audience is always an option. Don’t rule it out. I’ve got indy projects right now, and I’ve got projects in various states of development with larger editorial/publishing groups. Go ahead and submit. A submission is not an exclusive. Take your best offer and run with it. Even if the best offer involves self-publishing.

James E. Lyle is a cartoonist and illustrator, including co-creating titles Escape to the Stars, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. and DoorMan, plus work on Fright Night, Cynicalman Sells Out, and the accurately-spelt Wiindows. More recently Lyle worked on Turok, the “missing” Paul Gulacy T.h.u.n.d.e.r. Agents, and DRASTIK #1.

Bart Thompson:

In one word: Yes. If you’re planning to work for another company this probably means you’re doing work for hire, though you could be talking about submitting projects. Either way if you’re not self publishing you don’t need to concern yourself with Diamond’s benchmark. At this point you’re not selling to Diamond, you’re selling yourself as creative talent to a publisher. Your main goal right now is to be the best you are at your craft and get work. It’s the publisher’s job to worry about the Diamond benchmarks. Now once you get the job, to keep it and the book you’re working on going you’ll need to find creative ways to promote yourself and your title in addition to the work your publisher is doing to raise awareness. But if you’re in the submission stage that’s all in the future- right now you have to focus on your submission itself and being picked up at all, which is a tough task all on its own.

Bart Thompson is the founder of Approbation Comics and creator of “Vampires Unlimited”, “the Metamutoids”, “ChiSai”, and “Chaos Campus: Sorority Girls vs. Zombies”.

Gary Spencer Millidge:

No, give up now and find yourself a more lucrative and rewarding career like road sweeping or working at MacDonalds. Not unless you really, really want to work in the business. In which case, whatever I say will not deter you. I don’t have much experience of submitting work blindly to publishers, but I would imagine most never gets seen or given proper attention anyway.

Apparently it does happen, and it can’t do any harm (unless you
*overdo* it in a creepy, stalkery, kind of way). Much better to try to build relationships with the editors by attending portfolio reviews at conventions, self-publishing your work and following up any leads you may be lucky enough to make. Keep producing new samples, and improving your work. Don’t be discouraged by rejection.

If you are truly talented, truly committed to the comics medium, are able to work to tight deadlines and are easy to get on with, then you stand a good chance. If not, forget it. But as I say, if you’re *really* determined, you won’t take any notice of me anyway.

Gary has been self-publishing his award-winning Strangehaven comic book series for ten years and his third trade paperback collection Strangehaven: Conspiracies will be published later this summer http://www.millidge.com

Donna Barr:

Depends where this company publishes. Find a mainstream (a real mainstream) publisher — not the superhero niche.

Donna Barr has books and original art at www.stinz.com, webcomics at www.moderntales.com, www.girlamatic.com, and has POD at www.booksurge.com Nothing she won’t try, at least once…including writing a column for SBC at this link!

Jesse Leon McCann:

Absolutely it’s still worth it! You have a better chance of making the order numbers you need if you hook up with an established publisher. Just make sure any publisher you sign on with has a good track record and game plan. You don’t want to go down with someone else’s ship. On the other hand, your other options–self-publishing and web comics–are hard rows to hoe if you want to make a living doing comics, but still doable. Starting out is a crapshoot in any case, so make a decision and go for it while you’re young!

Jesse Leon McCann is a New York Times Best-selling Author. He’s currently writing KRYPTO, THE SUPERDOG for DC Comics, as well as LOONEY TOONS and CARTOON NETWORK BLOCK PARTY; editing the fifth SIMPSONS TV Episode Guide, and writing BART SIMPSON stories for Bongo Comics.

Vito Delsante:

I guess that all depends on the company. If the company is open to submissions, and you want to work for that company (or any company…you just want to work!) then sure, it’s worth it. I don’t necessarily agree with the new Diamond policy…it stinks of Darwinism…but if it means better comics due to competition, then it can’t be all that bad. At the end of the day, though, you have to worry about doing the best you can.

Vito Delsante’s creator owned mini-series, “The Mercury Chronicles”, with artist Jim Muniz, is now in development with Image Comics and will hit stands late this year. “Batman Adventures Vol 2: Shadows and Masks” (DC Comics) is out now! His work can also be seen in Reflux Comics #3 and in X-Men Unlimited #5.

Egg Embry Writes:

I think the question leads us down the wrong train of thought – just because a poor book comes from a good company does NOT mean it will sell more. Every company puts out books that fail and they have a universal concern – they didn’t cultivate a target audience. If you have a good book, an excellent book and a good game plan for it then you don’t need a company. If you have a good book but no game plan then look for a publisher. But no matter what, if the book is good through-and-through as well as well promoted (something most creators and many companies ignore) then it should rise above.

Egg Embry is a fine fellow who writes and edits comic books, including editing Dead Men Tell No Tales from Arcana Studio.

Thanks to this week’s panellists – a good range of answers and some sound advice. This question our reader was one that has been on my mind for a while, and something I was looking forward to seeing answered.

As a writer myself I often wonder if it is actually worth trying to submit my ideas to the bigger companies or am I just dreaming the dream?

This past weekend I attended this event http://www.ukwebcomixthing.co.uk, where Portent Comics sold very well – we made our table money back and then some and the feedback so far has been promising. The problem I have is what to do next, I want to push my comics further – but how do I do that? People seem to be enjoying what we are doing, but how do I get to a bigger audience. I guess the way I am looking at is submission of the better ideas to the bigger publishers with money. So that is what I am doing.

If I fail with that I will continue to publish my own titles anyway and pour as money into it as I can afford. I guess it’s not really about how many people read your title, its more if they enjoy it and if I enjoy doing it.

Thanks to everyone who did buy my comics and also a big hello to THE PANEL readers who stopped by and said hi, you can Jamie Warr’s report on the event here http://portentcomics.proboards27.com/index.cgi?board=general&action=display&thread=1142358823

The Panel will be back in two weeks with a new question – BUT in the meantime we need your questions!!!


The views and opinions expressed on the panel are solely those of the panellist who has written them. They do not reflect the views or opinions of silver bullet comic books or myself. Freedom of speech is great, isn’t it?
– James

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