Production Blog for the new anthology from Jason Rodriguez, coedited with James W. Powell
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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Jason: The First Pitch

I wanted to publish a book - that's really where this whole thing started. The Speakeasy/ELK'S RUN thing got me juiced-up and made me realize that there are better ways to do business - smarter ways for comic publishers to carve out a comfortable little niche and produce intelligent books that cater to an audience that isn't necessarily visiting comic shops every Wednesday.

I expressed my interest in publishing to Joshua Fialkov, who'll always be supportive of whatever I want to do but at the same time he told me I may be slightly retarded. But never-the-less I started putting together a business plan, quite possibly the worst business plan ever created because I didn't have a book yet. It was called "Business Plan v1.doc" and it was about five pages long and made no sense.

The first book I came up with was a 144-page hardcover WESTERN TALES OF TERROR anthology. Yes, the WESTERN TALES OF TERROR. I loved editing that book, people loved buying and reading that book and creators loved working on it. The whole idea just made sense. I pitched it to Josh, he was skeptical but told me to write him up a business plan. I created "Western Tales of Terror Business Plan v1.doc" and never sent it out to him.

Why? Because I realized I'd have to be nuts to put my own money into a book that I wouldn't own.

I instead created a business plan entitled "The Hive Oversized Anthology v1.doc", named after my column on Pop Culture Shock, The Hive, which was going to be the launching point for the book. Within the business plan I listed five ideas for the theme of the anthology, which I'll share with you below, stripped straight out of the document:

Pros: The marriage of two genres that work well together. The space portion will need to be retro 50s sci-fi in order to stay away from hardcore science fiction; the crime portion can run a broader spectrum from police procedurals to Oceans 11 style bank robberies.
Cons: Capturing new market appeal for a book that will essentially be viewed as Sci-Fi by many people.

Historical Fiction
Pros: By keeping the common thread loose it allows for inclusion of everything from romance stories to over-the-top action/adventure, broadening our potential audience and taking advantage of a genre that is relatively hot in the mainstream but not tapped much in comics.
Cons: Getting thirty Hitler stories - plus, the editorial team is going to have a lot of work to do in order to make the book tight.

Moose in the Closet
Pros: It has a built in audience, there are a variety of stories that can be told, and it would likely have strong out-of-market appeal. It would also be the first time a blog will be adapted to a comic book, which can generate some internet buzz.
Cons: This cuts out the submission process and makes it so we're looking for artists and nothing else. That would certainly cut down on the comic-community buzz.

Autobiographical with Central Theme
Pros: Everyone doing a story about their dad. It would open it up for good, real life dramas, comedies, and if edited properly can really engage the reader. It would have the same feel as the Moose but would once again open up the submission process and allow for more variety. If done right it could have huge out-of-market potential in an Oprah's book club type of way and we'll get the big push out in time for father's day.
1) The risk of being a boring, talking heads type of book.
2) Weak direct market potential.
3) Potential to have a lot of angst-filled stories that enforce an indie comic stereotype

Single starting point
Pros: The book has a common thread that we can market, and gives the team the option to do whatever genre they want. They start with the same first panel. Car broken down on the side of a road or a woman sits in a bathtub, crying. From there they take the story wherever they want. It could be a fun selling point and get some underground juice, sort of like the Aristocrats in comic form.
Cons: Would be a difficult pitch, it's the kind of idea that needs work to sell.

Most people I sent the plan to were down with the "dad" idea and I decided to go with it - until I stumbled across the postcards. During the ride from the antique store to the hotel I was planning this new anthology - it was the kind of idea I just couldn't get out of my head. We get back to the hotel and prepare to go out for some dinner - while Robin's in the shower I type up an email and send it out to Josh Fialkov, Saul Colt, Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Jay Busbee and Matt Dembicki - the first five guys to hear the POSCTARDS pitch.

The email said:

I'm supposed to be vacationing but I had an idea that I needed to get out there and get some feedback on so I figured I'd share it with a couple of you who know what I'm trying to put together.

Here's the thing, Robin dragged me out to some antique shop and I usually hate going to these. She was flipping through some old postcards and showed me one that was written on and sent, I was kind of intrigued so I pushed her out of the way and found another one that was written on.The first one I turned to had a picture of a lieutenant looking into the barrel of a rifle and saying "Swell Work, Sergeant". The postcard was sent July 20th, 1942 and the text says:

"Dear Mother,
I arrived in camp safely and everything is going fine. Lehr get shipped out tomorrow I guess I will go soon too. Well good by. I will write you after. Your son Earl."

I dug through almost a thousand postcards and pulled out 26 of them that have story telling potential, all of them from 1960 or earlier, most of them from the early 1900s. Check this one out, March 16th, 1909:

"Dear Friend,
I received your card this morning and will say that I am not afraid of the quarantine. If you can come when you said on Sat. eve. all right.

So, the thought is, we scan these in - front and back - maybe block out the names, not sure of the legalities there - but either way we make it look nice, we set the foundation. And the people involved do 8-16 pages based on the postcard. Either what happened before it was written, after it was written or the story of the person who received it - whatever they're inspired to do. This way we can have war stories, romance - some of them are crazy cryptic and talk about some mysterious event - you can really open it up for the team to do whatever they want but it has an interesting premise with a sellable hook - it's the kind of idea that generates a buzz and has massive crossover appeal.


Four of the five people who got the email loved the idea and that was all I needed to go ahead with it. Since then I've gone to many different antique shops and pitched the book to a variety of people but these five guys got the pitch first and as unstructured as it was, they loved it (well, four of them did). Once I tightened the pitch up I was able to sell almost anyone I talked to on the idea, which is why I now find myself with people that I've invited still waiting to see if there's a spot for them.


Caleb Monroe said...

Ha! I'd love to see "Business Plan v1.doc". I also have to clear idea how to write a business plan. It'd be funny because it was true.

11:14 AM  

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