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Comic Book Project Management Tips

| April 25, 2011 | 0 Comments

The indy comic creator wears a ton of hats.  Scanning over my April “to-do” list, it’s shocking (and a little troubling) how few of the items on the list actually involve writing or drawing comics.  Just today, for example, I’ve answered two emails regarding commission requests, sent an email to Tommy Patterson about a possible new ComixTribe feature, Skyped briefly with John Lees about getting a preview of his new book The Standard into the Free Comic Book Day digital release I’m putting together, and reformatted a finished book for digital distribution.  Tonight, I’ll knock out a few remaining commissions I need to complete for this weekend’s Boston Comic Con.

In my day-to-day as a creator, I’m a writer and an artist, but lately it seems like what I’ve been doing the most of is project management.  Now, when I’ve worked on solo projects, project management is pretty simple.  But lately, I’ve been working on projects that involve many moving parts.  Take the EPIC team, for example.  I’m the writer of course, and am co-creating the book with Matt Zolman, who is penciling.  But we also have Vic Moya on board as inker, Eric White is doing flats, and Arsia Rozegar has taken over for Ty Tyner as color artist.  Plus, we have CT’s own Steve Forbes keeping an eye on the proceeding in his role as editor.  Right now, we’re pushing hard to complete the first issue in the next couple of months.  I’ve moved into the project management role for EPIC, as I’m ahead on scripts, and want to keep things moving as smoothly as possible, so my collaborators can focus on the art.  I figured I’d share here some tips and tools that are helping me keep this project on track.

Set a Ship Date

Deadlines are powerful and a ship date is important.  They help focus the team, and give a target to shoot for. Just as it pays to be specific with your goals, it’s important to be specific with a project completion date.  Saying a book will be completed “some time later this year” is a whole lot less powerful than saying the book will be done on a exact date (ex. July 15, 2011.)

Let the countdown begin

Okay, so  you’ve set a date.  Now put it somewhere you and everyone else will see.  Write it big!  Put it somewhere you can’t miss it! One tool I’m using to keep that ship date ever present and to keep aware of just how much time we have left is CountDownr a free site that lets you create countdowns to specific dates and embed them on a website.  I’ve embedded a countdownr on the EPIC website, so the team and I always have a place to check to see how much time we have left.

Skype it Up

Email is great, but nothing beats a good live check in with the team.  Matt and I have Skype check in calls every couple of weeks.  Half of the time it’s just BSing about one thing or another, but we’re also sure to talk EPIC issues too. Nowadays it’s certainly possible to conduct all business via email.  However, I’d still recommend checking in with your collaborators via Skype or phone now and again.

Track Progress and Keep the Communication Lines Open

With all the moving parts required to keep the EPIC train rolling, I’ve taken to sending bi-weekly progress update emails.  The main parts in the email are:

  • EPIC NEWS
  • Updated % Completion
  • Progress in the past two weeks
  • Goals for the next two weeks

Here’s an example of an EPIC progress email I send to the team every other week:

EPIC Update – 84 Days and Counting

What’s up, Team EPIC!  Hope this email finds you all extremely well.  First, some news and updates:

My comic convention season kicked off last weekend in Albany, NY.  (I was born and raised in Albany, and was an invited guest to this local hometown show.)   The show rocked, and in terms of profit it was my most profitable one-day ever! (No table fee helped with that math, of course.) It was also a chance to introduce EPIC to the Albany market.  Once again, it was a big hit.  I’d say about 85% of the people who picked up a book and flipped through bought one.  Now, that still only amounted to about 15 sales, but again, builds confidence for what’s going to happen at bigger shows like Boston and NYCC.

Big week for Arsia!  The THOR Omnibus by Walt Simonson is now available.  Arsia was one of the colorist artists picked by Steve Oliff to color the book, and this is definitely a major highlight of his career thus far.  I know I’m planning on snagging this book, as I’ve never read this legendary run.

Now…the progress report:

Goal

32 Page EPIC #1 complete by July 15, 2011

Completed Work

Layouts: 1-15 (47% complete)
Pencils: Pages 1-13  (40% complete)
Inks:  Pages 1-11 (34% complete)
Flats: Pages 1-10 (31% complete)
Colors: Page 1-9. (28% complete)
Letters: Pages 1, 4, 6-11 (25% complete)

Activity in the past two weeks!

Pencils: Matt finished page 13.

Inks:  No activity.

Flats: Eric finished flats on page 10. (payment made for first 25%)

Colors: Ty finished 2-3 spread.  Arsia finished pages 4-9.  (Please upload!)

Letters:  No activity.

Goals for Next Two Weeks
:

Layouts:  Layouts page 16

Pencils
:  Matt continues on pencils.

Inks:  Vic, there are a few pages available in the Drop box for you to work on.  (Great work on Runners, BTW!)

Flats: Page 11 ready for flatting.  More as pages come in.

Colors: Page 10 ready to roll.  More as flats come in.  (Payment due for Arsia this week.)

Letters:  Want to complete the rest of the pages, and get current.

Every time I go to a convention, I get re-energized about this project.  The sky really is the limit here, guys.  Thanks for putting in the hard work to make it a reality.

Best,

Tyler

 

DropBox

Another invaluable tool has been DropBox.  Basically, DropBox is cloud storage.  When files need to go from Matt to Vic to Eric to Arsia and then back to me to pull together, cloud storage is necessary.  DropBox’s free account is something like 2GB, which is a great deal and can hold a lot.  I’ve chosen to spring for a paid account, because I use the service so much.  Definitely a cleaner, more efficient method than trying to send everything through email or other large file transfer services.  If you’re collaborating on a project, check it out.  (I’ve also used Box.net, and have had good success with that product as well.)

 

So there you have it, some tips from me regarding project management.  What say you?  Have any advice to help us keep our comic trains running on time?  Your comments are always appreciated.

***

Tyler James is a comics creator, game designer, and educator residing in Newburyport, MA.  He is the writer and co-creator of EPIC, a superteen action comedy, and Tears of the Dragon, a swords and sorcery fantasy.  His past work includes OVER, a romantic comedy graphic novel, and Super Seed, the story of the world’s first super powered fertility clinic. His work has been published by DC and Arcana comics.

Tyler is the publisher and co-creator of ComixTribe, a new website empowering creators to help each other make better comics.

Contact Tyler via email (tylerjamescomics@gmail.com), visit his website TylerJamesComics.com, follow him on Twitter, or check him out on Facebook

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About the Author ()

Tyler James is a comics creator, game designer, educator, and publisher residing in Newburyport, MA. He is the writer and co-creator of THE RED TEN, a superhero murder mystery, EPIC, a superteen action comedy, and TEARS of the DRAGON, a swords and sorcery fantasy. Tyler is the publisher and co-creator of ComixTribe, which is both a new imprint of quality creator owned titles, and an online community where creators help creators make better comics. Follow him on Twitter @tylerjamescomics, or send him an email at tyler.james@comixtribe.com.

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