Agent roundtable with Pamela Harty, Kate McKean, and Laurie McLean. My major revelation was that some agents have a focus on selling a novel, while others may also work with you on your proposal, editing on the novel, and even marketing. The impression I got was that small agencies with multiple people share a lot of information with each other. You’re more likely to get an “I give editorial comments” agent if the agent also writes.

Don’t even look at a book that’s out for submissions. In tech-editor speak, once you send your book out, you don’t have configuration management control. Move on to the next thing, and don’t write the second book in a trilogy if the first hasn’t sold yet.

Read and Critique “X”. Bring the first page of your story — in standard manuscript format — and read it in front of an editor or agent. This equates to fourteen lines of text, about a minute. The theory is that if you don’t hook somebody in the first page, you’re not going to get them to read further. Kate McKean’s comment: “Hm…the storytelling voice schtick might get old after a while. Make sure you’re dramatizing. There is actual dialogue after this first page, right?” She also asked whether there would be body-snatching. “Lots,” I said. “Cooooooool,” she said.

Graphic Novels, Part 1 with Walter and Louise Simonson. Speaking from my South Dakota heritage, let me say the Simonsons were good folks.

Walter works like this:

  1. Write a one-page summary of the plot.
  2. Wait for the editors to approve plot.
  3. Draw out an appropriate number of boxes to brainstorm pages — 22 pages for a regular comic or 48-96 pages for a graphic novel. The idea is to pace the story so you’ll know when you’re halfway through your page count.
  4. Draw out quick sketches to compose each page on a piece of typewriter paper.
  5. Copy the layout sketches at 1.5 size (this is standard).
  6. Work out forms — structure drawings — skipping the lettering.
  7. Write the actual script (as late as possible, to keep flexibility between words/pictures)
  8. Make the final drawings, including balloons. (He noted most people do computer lettering/balloons, but he thinks it takes away from some of the drama and gives a little control over text to the editor/company that he doesn’t like.)

Because she doesn’t do the art, Louise turns over a full script after submitting the idea for editorial approval. Each paragraph indicates a single panel.

It is possible to pitch as just a writer; if the company wants to work with you, they’ll find you an artist (caveat: it’s much easier to sell a completed work). The market has been changing so rapidly, with various non-comic companies starting to sell graphic novels, that a lot of companies are enthusiastic, but confused about how to handle the business. Smaller publishers are amenable to pitches but don’t pay well. Hollywood loves graphic novels right now. Neither knew much about whether you’d need an agent to sell a graphic novel as a movie; they said the comic publisher often acted as the agent. Companies use various arrangements for rights; Walter owns his images but the companies own the printing rights. Royalty arrangements vary. Sometimes, if a comic is out of print for five years or more, all rights revert to the author.

Keynote speaker was Carol Berg.