I have the first issue of my new comic – Ellipsis – launching this Friday at Gosh! Comics and I hope those of you in London will be able to come and celebrate its release with me. There will be free booze, some original artwork on the walls, the new comic for sale (which I can sign and sketch in), a wide-eyed slightly overwhelmed me, and people chatting awkwardly in corners of a comic shop trying not to spill wine on any of the books. It’ll be great is what I’m saying.
And you can watch the Danny Boyle opening Olympics ceremony on iPlayer later that evening anyway. Amiright?
It’s being released through Solipsistic Pop Books (which is my attempt at branching out the Solipsistic Pop anthology into publishing other comics – my own and many others – which essentially means this is self-published but just humour me) and can be pre-ordered here. All pre-orders receive a limited edition print incentive and you can pay a little extra to get a sketch in your copy.
There’s also an option to subscribe to Ellipsis. I have decided to talk a lot (a LOT!) more about this below so for now I will sign off and say I hope to see you all at Gosh on Friday! Continue reading if talk about sustainability models for comic production is your thing.
*waves goodbye to everyone*
THE SUBSCRIPTION MODEL
I’d been worried about two things with Ellipsis.
One, that any fans or those interested in my work would be looking at a minmum investment of £30 (6 issues at £5 each) with a possibility of buying a collected version of the book for £10 at some stage. Add to that, any postage and packing costs if they lived outside of a city which contained one of the few local comic shops that I’m able to stock on a regular basis and it was looking like a relatively large investment on a project for any casual fan. I didn’t like the idea of that. Of somehow financially punishing anyone who was kind enough to support what I do.
The second concern was that I went fulltime freelance as an illustrator and comic artist in February 2011 and while I was able to script the entire 150 page story of Ellipsis in my early months of being freelance, paying jobs had to take precedent and establishing myself in an industry that is notoriously precarious in less financially unstable times than these had to be my priority.
Then Solipsistic Pop 4 took over my life. Then finding a way to pay for Solipsistic Pop 4 took over. Overall, Ellipsis issue one took me around two months to draw but it was only February this year that I was finally able to devote that time to it. A fifteen month turnaround time per 22 pages is not acceptable (although I’ve drawn several other comics in that timeframe). So I had to find a way of making Ellipsis work financially for me so that I could justify spending my time on it without having to take on too many other commissions to support me. Essentially, I was looking at finding a business model that replicated the publisher advance.
Quick sidebar: I’m aware that it sounds like I’m complaining about how hard it is to make a living drawing comics. I’m not. I want to draw for a living. That’s my aim. I’m managing to do that – just about – and I know how lucky I am to be able to say that. It’s hard work to make this financially sustainable and it should be. It should be hard. And it’s worth it. This is just an overly detailed look at my thought process on possible new ways of making comic production an economic viability.
So I was looking at Becky Cloonan’s model for her self-published comic The Mire. You could pre-order her comic at a standard rate or order a premium version which would include a sketch. A nice system and one that made sense. As did Matt Sheret’s model for Paper Science which offered up a subscription for a years worth of the newspaper anthology. I liked the idea of subscriptions and when Matt wrote a blog about his positive experience with this model, it coincided with a history podcast I’d been listening to about the John James Audubon book The Birds of America. Audubon, as with so many 18th and 19th Century book publishers, had to rely on subscribers paying regular sums to help fund the book which took 12 years to completely finish (due to the detailed nature of the engravings that had to reproduce his paintings). The subscribers would receive the book in chunks during that time.
It was heartening to know there was precedent. That, in the early days of publishing these sort of models existed. It feels like now is a similarly “new frontier” time for publishing with a large question mark hanging over the current models and many more systems springing up for those who want to self-publish. Hence this whole subscription thing cropping up in this Guardian article here. So, I decided, why not create a subscription model for Ellipsis?
If you click here, you’ll see it’s now possible to pay £40 and subscribe. In return, a subscriber receives all six issues when they come out, the collected book, limited edition print incentives with each copy (also available to those who pre-order individual issues) and a sketch in every copy. Original artwork and other goodies will be offered up over time and a subscriber doesn’t have to worry about postage and packing.
The idea being that if 100 people subscribe, that early investment should be enough to see me through three months of having to take no extra work on. That would be enough to produce one and a half issues. Or a I could take limited work on and produce two issues over four or five months. Essentially, it acts as the publisher advance I was looking for. If it gets the right numbers.
There’s this chapter in Stewart Lee’s book How I Escaped My Certain Fate where he talks about (and I’m paraphrasing) only needing about 5,000 loyal fans who are willing to pay £10 to see your show each year. And if you keep doing a new show and touring it to those fans, that’s £50,000 per anum and that’s a workable living.
I remember reading that and realising that while it sounded good, that doesn’t speak to me right now. We’re talking about a comedian who has definitely had their share of bad luck with TV commissioners and religious zealots – but who has also had four series of a comedy show broadcast during the nineties. That’s a loyal fanbase built through the existing system. I don’t have 5,000 people willing to subscribe. I’m not sure I have 100. We’ll see. It’s highly possible that this subscription model will only work for artists who are already big names but want to produce work independently having reached a large audience through the more traditional publishing routes.
But if you like the look of Ellipsis and you have enough spare money (and not a lot of us do in this economic climate) to subscribe to it, you’ll be helping me make it come out on a regular basis. And making me smile inside. Which is not an easy thing.
For those of you out there who are interested in seeing if this works, I’ll blog about how the subscription model does in about six months time when I have a clearer idea of whether it is a success or a failure. I’m reminding myself that it’s just an idea. And one that doesn’t present a huge risk right now as I intend on finishing Ellipsis and honouring the subscription commitment whether I receive one or one thousand orders.
I’m really proud of the comic and the comics I’m producing at the moment (more on the other stuff I’ve been doing later this week!). I hope you continue to read them however I end up distributing them and I appreciate everyone who has helped me keep doing them this far.
Ellipsis Issue One is going off to the printers in the next week or so (just a few final tweaks).
Pre-orders with limited edition prints for early birds will go online shortly afterwards. A digital version will be available around the same time.
Not sure what Ellipsis is? Here’s the pitch with a small preview:
From Ancient Greek (elleipsis) to leave out, fall short
- A mark or series of marks used to indicate an intentional omission, unfinished thought or a trailing off into silence. The ellipsis can also inspire a feeling of melancholy or longing.
- A sudden leap from one topic to another.
- A comic composed of six standalone but interconnected short stories by Tom Humberstone
Issue 1/6 Pregnant Pause. A young woman contemplates the transient and incongruous nature of airports as she begins a new chapter of her life.
Did I mention the free alcohol?
I’ve been working hard on my new comic – Ellipsis – and have just finished the pencils for issue one. It’s 22 pages long and will be self-published through Solipsistic Pop Books as a printed and digital comic towards the end of July. Really enjoying drawing this at the moment, and now I’m focusing on the inks it’s even more fun.
I’ll open up pre-orders sometime in June for the printed book with a little more information about the comic and a schedule for the following five issues.
I’ve written a little about Ellipsis here before, but the brief synopsis is:
Ellipsis is a comic composed of six standalone short stories that interconnect and work towards telling a larger story.
Each issue of the comic will tell a self-contained chapter of the larger narrative.
Here’s a little sneak peek at some loosely pencilled panels:
Also. Having put it off for quite a while, I’ve finally joined Tumblr. Find me here.
I’ll be using it to collect inspiration I come across on the internet but will also throw more of my work, sketchbook material and process bits up there. There might be a bit of overlap in content between this blog and my Tumblr, but for those of you who use Tumblr more than blog subscriptions and RSS feeds, it may be easier to keep up to date with what I’m to…
Hello there. Gosh it’s been hot hasn’t it? I hope you’ve all been enjoying the weather and the extra days off. Rather inevitably as a freelancer, I’ve been too busy to take much time off although I had a brief break from working and went to Whitstable for a couple of days last week – it was lovely – but I didn’t do much work in my sketchbook so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
I’m also moving into my swanky new studio. Once I’m all moved in I’ll post some pictures up here. It’s all extremely exciting and I can’t wait to get stuck into the screenprinting and letterpress facilities they have on-site. There will be open days and workshops going on throughout the summer which I’ll be sure to flag up here as and when they come up.
In the meantime, here’s a little info on my whereabouts over the next month of so:
First up, is the Sci Fi London festival this weekend at the BFI. I’ll be on a panel with Tony Lee, David Hine and Al Davison discussing the progression from self-publishing to more mainstream publishing (please accept my apologies for the flawed taxonomy here but I’m in a rush). I feel a bit of a fraud being there considering I’m still self-publishing right now but I’ll hopefully have something interesting to say on the matter. I’ll also be helping to run an informal Drop In & Draw session afterwards with the We Are Words + Pictures team. Be lovely to see you there if you’re free on Sunday (April 30) morning. Here’s the blurb from the Sci Fi London site…
11am – Small press to mainstream
Al Davison & Tony Lee (IDW Doctor Who comic), Tom Humberstone (Solipsistic Pop) and David Hine (Batman) talk about how working in small press comics has lead to work for mainstream publishers, but also provided a home to publish alternative titles throughout their careers so far.. Chair: Matthew Badham (Tripwire Magazine)
Followed by ‘Drop in and draw’ activities for first time artists wanting encouragement in creating comics, run by Tom Humberstone
Then I’m off to Toronto for TCAF 2011! Extremely excited about returning to one of my favourite comic shows and the city itself. Regular readers may already be aware of how much I’m in love with Toronto. If you’re going, please do stop by and say hello. I’ll be bringing Solipsistic Pop Volumes 1-3 and may be on a panel or two although that’s still to be confirmed.
After the festival (May 7-8) I’m hoping to go camping with some friends and plan to give my horrifically neglected sketchbook some much needed attention – I’ll throw the results up here if they’re not too embarrassing. Also: check out the amazing poster by Jillian Tamaki:
Then on May 24th I’ll be speaking at the Flash Symposium at Birkbeck University about short stories. Should be a fun evening so do come along for that one.
Hayfever is the children’s version of the immortal Hay festival. Packed full of all manner of events and activities, WAW+P will be adding to the mix with a two day Drop In + Draw workshop over the festival’s first weekend on the 28th and 29th May.
Although it’s a very informal, drop in workshop where you’ll be welcome whatever you want to draw, we’ll be focusing on creating comic characters.
Create your own comic book character
Make stories with words + pictures
What would a character that you made up from scratch look like? Would they have a beard or tentacles or tiny pointed feet? Would they be tall or chubby or have piercing blue eyes? Well, the We Are Words + Pictures team are here to help you decide and put your ideas into practice. With established comic artists and illustrators on hand we’ll get you designing your very own comic book character and developing a story for them to feature in.
Tom Humberstone, Edward Ross and Anna Saunders, Ted Brandt and I will all be in attendance over the weekend. We’ll be positioned in the Hayfever Courtyard, right opposite the Giant Wallbook which, I’m told, will tell you everything you need to know about the earth.
Phew. And with that, I shall leave you with a small section of the first page of Ellipsis which is coming along nicely…
Hopefully see some of you over the next month or so!
I’m fulltime freelance now and – inbetween illustration commissions and indulgent whims – working exclusively on my next book, Ellipsis.
Ellipsis is a collection of six short, standalone but interweaving stories. I’ll refrain from revealing much else for now, but I’m really enjoying the writing process and looking forward to showing bits and pieces of it on the blog as it all comes together.
I was hoping to get it ready for TCAF in May (did I mention I’ll be appearing at TCAF this year?) but the stories continue to grow and evolve and the book is looking like it’ll be around 100 pages or so now – so it’s unlikely to be ready before the end of summer. I may take a free preview along with me but it’s unlikely as I feel revealing one story without the context of the others wouldn’t be wise.
For now, here’s a couple of quick character studies/warm up sketches and colour/process tests I did while taking a break from scripting – doubt they’ll appear in the book so thought I could throw them up here: