A lot about making comic books comes down to trial and error. So long as the finished page (at least somewhat) resembles a series of sequential illustrations accentuated by textual elements, there’s no prescribed method for taking a project from concept to script or from description to panel. The celebration of individual styles is both a blessing and a burden to aspiring creators.
While such leniency drives artistic experimentation, the lack of a standardized approach can also be overwhelming. This holds particularly true when sending out a story for publication consideration, when a multitude of procedures and stipulations determine if a proposal sinks or swims. Suddenly there are right and wrong answers — to questions you might’ve not even thought to ask.
Octal is an anthology created to address these concerns. Volume 2 released on September 15th, featuring independent comics from a variety styles and genres. The latest volume even includes contributions from two Black Ship staffers: Seekers, by William Henry Dvorak in collaboration with Krzysztof Budziejewski and Christy Bontrager, and disunity, created by yours truly in collaboration with Blotch Comics.
Since the book hits a little too close to home to be reviewed here without bias, I’d like to instead highlight why indie creators should consider submitting their idea to Octal before shopping it around independently. Not only is it a publication credit in and of itself, it is an excellent means of refining a series proposal.
PUBLISHERS ARE PICKY
Pitching ain’t easy. Taming a compelling concept, grooming it into a cohesive comic book, and then packaging it all together as an easily digestible pitch is no small feat. The process is supposed to let the best ideas rise to the top, though each publisher insists you swim a different stroke trying to get there. Sending out your comic book for publication consideration is a time-consuming endeavor.
Juggling all the different submission requirements is the biggest challenge. Five complete pages and a cover mockup for one, six pages of sequential illustrations and eight pages of script for another, a one-page issue synopsis versus a five-page series summary, unique submission agreement forms, every publisher swears by their own set of standards.
Before you know it folders are scattered across your desktop like a minefield, each primed with a variation of the same pitch. If one of those landmines proves it isn’t a dud, well, damn! We should all be so lucky. But that’s beating the odds — most rejections won’t come with any indication of where the submission fell short. (It would be logistically impossible to provide personalized feedback in most cases.)
This leaves aspiring creators in a position where they must learn from mistakes they might not know they’re making. That each pitch packet conforms to a different set of rules only further convolutes the process. With such a disparity between what publishers know they want and what we think they’re after, every opportunity to refine your pitch should be pursued.
OCTAL IS PRECISE
Octal was designed to pierce through the paneled curtain, past the editorial expectations and bureaucratic shenanigans, providing much needed transparency to how comic books are pitched. It is an anthology of illustrated “pilots” that all conform to a standardized format as installments in a curated catalog of potential comic-book series.
The anthology benefits fans, creators, and publishers of indie comics alike. Every volume of Octal includes 8 short stories, each told over 8 pages, collected with supplemental material to form a “pitch packet” showcasing the premise and general direction of the proposed comic. Volume 1 debuted in November of last year; this month Volume 2 released; Volume 3 is now open for submissions.
Copies of Octal are distributed to a list of publishers who’ve subscribed to the anthology in hopes of finding new ideas. Two titles from the first volume have signed deals so far, and stories in the second volume garnered attention from publishers within the first week of its release. While such successful results depend largely upon the merits of the narratives themselves, all creators who contribute to the anthology receive editorial guidance throughout the submission process.
Mike Schneider, the anthology’s creator and editor, accepts queries from all styles and genres of comics. What’s most important is whether or not a book is consistent in both its plot and presentation. Submission guidelines for Octal were carefully devised to satisfy the expectations of most comic imprints, which is where the anthology truly shines. Contributors can take their story to multiple publishers with a single pitch.
GET YOUR PITCH NOTICED
Everything you need to know about submitting to Octal is available on its website. Most notably, be sure to download the packet templates. These documents ensure submissions all adhere to the guidelines that make the anthology presentable to so many publishers.
The production group on Facebook is also an excellent resource. Mike describes it as “a virtual bullpen where creators can get in-progress feedback, engage in group critiques, and are offered tips to help make their own productions run smoother.” Between its readily accessible reference material and the enthusiasm of its community, Octal helps creators weather the turbulent storm that surrounds pitching.
Note that self-published work can be retroactively formatted for the anthology. My submission, disunity, was originally released independently via comiXology Submit. We had two issues already completed. Nothing featured in disunity #1 or #2 stood out as a fitting 8-page sequence (for the “pilot” Octal requires). So, with Mike’s guidance, Ron and I pulled panels from our first two issues to create a redux that introduces our premise using remixed content.
Beyond proposals for Original Mini-Series, Ongoing Series, and Graphic Novels, Octal is open to the following:
- Print Editions of Web Comics
- English Translations of Foreign Comics
- Adaptations and Reboots of Existing IP ( w/ Written Consent )
- Relaunches and Spin-Offs of Current/ Prior Series ( by Original Creators or w/ Written Consent )
- Comic Strip + Serialized Comic Collections
- Colorized Editions of Black and White Comics
- Trades Editions of Self-Published Comics
- Reprints of Creator-Owned Comics ( if Prior Contracts have Lapsed )
- Defunct Publishers Pitching Reprints of Back Catalog Titles
- Anthology Shorts Being Expanded to Book/ Series ( if Creators Retained that Right )