What’s ComixTribe’s Submissions Policy

| February 27, 2012 | 13 Comments

2012 is off to a strong start for the publishing side of ComixTribe.  As was reported on a prominent comics news site last Friday, we’ve doubled the network of retailers carrying our books in the last month, and have shipped more than 2,000 books to retailers thus far this year.  SCAM and THE RED TEN are getting solid reviews, the books are moving off of the racks, and we’re building an engaged fanbase.  Online sales are up, and new retailers are contacting us every week about stocking our books.  While we’ve still a LONG, LONG way to go, there’s been a fair amount of interest in what we’re doing, from both the comics media, and other independent creators.  And one of the question that has started to come up more frequently is: How do creators submit their work for ComixTribe’s publication consideration? What is ComixTribe’s submissions policy, anyway?

The short answer is, at present, we don’t have one.  

State of the ComixTribe

Yes, 2012 is off to a great start for our imprint.  However, we are still very much a bootstrapped organization being held together by a ton of sweat equity from passionate comic creators.  Editor-in-Chief Steven Forbes, in addition to being our most consistent and prolific column contributor, has his editorial hand in nearly every book we publish.  Yannick Morin, in addition to his help every week with The Proving Grounds, has stepped up as our Digital Comics Manager, getting his hands dirty keeping our books coming out on all available platforms and keeping up to speed on new ones.  Lisa-Marie Wilson joining the team as PR Manager has been a big reason our books are getting increased visibility and included in the conversation.  Furthermore, creators like Joe Mulvey and John Lees have gone above and beyond in the effort to spread the word about our books.  And finally, traffic on the site continues to grow, and every day new faces show up and interact here.

So, yes, we are a strong and growing entity.  That said, our bandwidth is still incredibly limited.  There’s only so many books we can publish, and we are still very much in an experimentation mode.  We’re still finding out what sell, what works, and what processes need to be in place to get books out there.  We’re still making plenty of mistakes, and figuring things out as we go along.  For this reason, we are not actively looking for books to publish.

What We’re All About

That said, our mission statement is and always will be creators helping creators make better comics.  We want to help you make the best work possible, and we want to help you make it successful.  In most cases, that’s not going to be through publishing your work, but more through the advice and opportunities we offer creators.

That said, we do still have our eyes open.  With the success of SCAM and THE RED TEN, and with our growing relationship with retailers, we’re starting to get a sense of what works in the market.  If we come across a property that we think we can help, and that will be a mutually beneficial relationship between ComixTribe and the creator, we may pursue it.

Chances are, however, is that we’re going to find out about the property because:

  1. The creator(s) behind it are already interacting with us here at ComixTribe, through the site or social media.
  2. The creator is determined to make the property successful regardless of publisher, and is doing the right things to make it so.

Joe Mulvey’s SCAM is a great example.  Joe was a guy who was doing all the right things.  In addition to being a talented storyteller and developing a strong high concept, Joe was building his own platform.  Highly energetic and engaging on Twitter, and doing a great article series on his blog, Joe was clearly someone passionate about comics and his project.  After several months of informal chatting, and a few Skype discussions, I felt confident that SCAM was a book that myself and ComixTribe could help make stronger.  When Image passed (or more accurately never got back to Joe about) on SCAM, we were thrilled to bring it into the ComixTribe fold.

But doing so was no easy decision.

I knew bringing SCAM to ComixTribe was going to but some burden on myself.  Now, SCAM is Joe’s baby, and he has years and years of development into the series.  It pales in comparison to anything I’ve done for it.  But still, publishing a book is a commitment.  I’ve probably got at least 80 hours of my own time invested into the book, everything from editing to proofing, page prep to promotion, I’ve got plenty invested in SCAM.  Likewise, I’ll have to invest plenty in ANY book ComixTribe publishes.

Which is why I have to BELIEVE in the book.

I believe in SCAM.  I believe in THE RED TEN.  I believe in THE STANDARD, and EPIC, and TEARS of the DRAGON.  And I believe in a few other titles we have yet to sign, but are working on.

Comics is a “what have you done for me lately” business.  You’re only as good as your last book.  Retailers that are working with us have warned us not to go too fast.  Not to push too hard.  Because our model only works when books sell.  Our model only works if retailers think they can make money on our books.  Our model only works if the fact that a store carries ComixTribe books is a destination draw and a value add.

And that only happens if the books are quality products and have broad appeal to core customer demographics of the shops we work with.

Unfortunately, that really does narrow the scope of what we can effectively publish at present.  Right now, we’ve stumbled on an approach that’s working, so for the foreseeable future, everything we look to publish will follow the approach of SCAM.  (No, we won’t only be publishing super-hero conman stories.)  But what we will be publishing will be books that:

  • Are extremely easy to pitch…If we can’t hook you in a Tweet, it won’t be published.
  • Has strong appeal to the core demographic of the comic market.
  • Has very strong art and story-telling.
  • Has the potential to be a trans-media hit. (Spin-offs, toys, secondary products, etc.)
  • Are in the Teen/Teen+ realm, rather than Mature/Adult titles.
  • Has a creative team that will be be very active in promoting the book.
These, I believe are some of the key characteristics that have made SCAM and THE RED TEN the success that they are so far. Without having the above characteristics, I believe it’s simply going to be too difficult to get any traction in the direct market.
Now, that’s not to say that ComixTribe won’t publish material that doesn’t fit the above criteria in other capacities.  Steven and I both have stories we’re developing that would be a tough direct market sell, but still think are stories worth telling.  In these cases, I firmly believe the webcomic or Kickstarter-direct to supporters models are valid and compelling approaches to publishing.
And honestly, I’m a strategy nut.  I LOVE the challenge of figuring out the best way to tell and sell the story you need to tell to the people who should be reading it. One thing I’ve discovered from the many, many comic conventions I’ve attended is there IS a reader for every kind of book out there.  The world of comics is much more than what can thrive in the LCS, and that’s a great thing.
So, that’s where we are.

To sum it up:

  1. ComixTribe is not actively seeking books to publish at present.
  2. We will take a look, however, and want to help.
  3. The more you’re an engaged participant in the stuff we have going at ComixTribe, the more likely we are to consider your work.
Word of warning: If you DO send a pitch my way, I’m going to have plenty of questions for you.  Be prepared to answer:
  • What’s the one sentence hook that’s going to capture people’s attention?
  • What’s the Tweet about your book that’s going to get RT’d and resonate?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • What creator’s readers are you gonna steal with this book?
  • What’s the theme or core idea you’re exploring?
  • What’s remarkable about this book?
  • Why are people going to talk about it?
  • Why are retailers going to bet on it?
These are all questions I ask of my own projects and have been making sure the books we publish have clear, concise answers to. The direct market is an incredible tough nut to crack. To crack it, you’ve got to have all of the above figured out, and be able to get the rest of the world to believe it too.
Oh, and great art. No way around it.  You need that, too.

***

Tyler James is a comics creator, game designer, and educator residing in Newburyport, MA. He is the writer and co-creator of superhero murder mystery maxi-series THE RED TEN 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 ([email protected]), visit his website TylerJamesComics.com, follow him on Twitter, or check him out on Facebook

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Category: Comix Counsel

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 [email protected]

Comments (13)

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  1. Nice.

    And it goes right into tomorrow’s B&N’s, where I’ll be talking about Quality.

  2. Josh Henaman says:

    Tyler,

    As one of the new readers who discovered you guys through the prominent comics news site you mentioned, I’ll definitely be printing out your “eight questions to ask yourself.” Simply put, it’s not sufficient to rely on the “because it’s cool”, we have to be prepared with the “WHY it’s cool.” And as I’m gathering from Steven’s Bolts & Nuts, it’s all about the homework. I also have a few questions for you guys as well, but I’ll keep them in reserve as I catch up on all the previous posts (absorbing Steven’s B&N #49 as we speak.) Thanks for the great insight.

  3. “That said, our mission statement is and always will be creators helping creators make better comics. We want to help you make the best work possible, and we want to help you make it successful.”

    Reading this but here makes me wonder something. Have I ever thanked all of you? Or have I kept my ‘thanks’ silent?

    I have to say thanks to you guys, because I know, that if I ever have anything printed, EVER, it will largely be because of you all. You guys have already made so many of us better creators. You’re all wonderful teachers. And I appreciate ever lesson you give.

    Thank you.

    • Tyler James says:

      You’re very welcome, Conner! Thanks for being a part of what we’re doing over here, and I look forward to seeing how you put the lessons learned into practice with your work.

  4. Steve Colle says:

    Tyler, your and Steve’s business structure of helping those you couldn’t publish yourselves is strikingly similar to the direction I went in personally back in 1994 when my company closed its doors when the market crashed. My goal has always been to help other creators make the best possible product, thus my business name of CREATIVE SYNERGY. Working together. Collaboration, whether both in the foreground or one (as editor) being behind the scenes, has always been my goal and purpose. Kudos to both of you for starting this venture.

    • Tyler James says:

      Steve, thanks for checking out ComixTribe, and for the kind words.

      Steven and I, and you it sounds like, at our core have the heart of a teacher, so while we’re always going to be creating and pursuing our own comic projects, sharing what we learn along the way will be a given.

      Hope you’ll continue to be active on the site and share your perspective.

  5. Steve Colle says:

    Oh, you can be pretty certain of that. Once you get me started, you’ll never shut me up. Steven knows that about me.

    • Careful! If you talk too much around here, you end up managing the digital comics. ;)

      • Liam Hayes says:

        The first rule of ComixTribe is…

          • Liam Hayes says:

            That’s rule 9. Right between ‘Thou shalt not play hopscotch in the corridors’ and ‘Thou shalt never enter a room marked “leeching in progress”‘.

            Rule 1 is ‘Thou shalt never take Steven’s Scotch’. Perpetrators are taken to the back rooms and never heard from again. I know. I’ve been there. I’ve seen what he does with that teaspoon.

            (Sometimes I wonder if I go to far with these comments, and I do hope Steven doesn’t mind. I’m sure if he did, it’d come back to haunt me in TPG.)

  6. There isn’t any rules about pants is there? I really don’t want to have to put on pants…

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