Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Slings and Arrows of Publishing the Outrageous

In the following snippet of International Authors "backchannel" communication, surrealist Terrance Lindall reports on his frustrations as he seeks a publisher for the illustrated version of Horace Jeffery Hodges' Bottomless Bottle of Beer, and offers some interesting observations of the process he followed as he began his career as an illustrator.

Jungle Drums in Publishing

So, after a few skirmishes into the tangled publishing jungle, we have learned a couple of things. One is that it is not easy to find a publisher or agent, even if you have a well-respected illustrator who knows a few people in the industry. Why?

First, there are 7 billion people in the world. Many aspire to be writers or artists. The competition is fierce.
Second, the established publishers do not want to take chances. Copy success, use publishing formulae, use authors and illustrators with a pattern of success with the style they are presenting.  The comments I got from presenting BBB are that “it isn’t a comic book format.” Others said, “it isn’t a graphic novel format.” There you go. They do not know what to do with it! I do not blame them for not wanting to take a chance. Why should they? They will be out of business if they gamble with their business, which is always a marginal enterprise. Even Marvel Comics was bankrupt.

The best way to be a successful writer or illustrator is to go out and meet people in the industry. When I started out, I published my own poster of “The Stone Eater and advertised in Stars and Stripes, and Heavy Metal. One day I walked into the office of James Warren to buy advertising in Creepy and Eerie. They asked what I wanted to advertise and I showed them the poster. They showed James Warren who came out of his office to meet me. The exchange that followed got me a cover commission.

Later I set up a table at a Sci-fi Convention at Columbia University. There was Stu Schiff who had a table with his Whispers and first editions he put out of famous authors like Isaac Asimov and Stephen King.  He came over and we got to know each other and he bought a small painting. Later at the Lunicon Sci-fi publishing convention in NYC I exhibited my “Visionary Foal” and won the Grand Prize for Fantasy Art. There Stu introduced me to David Hartwell and he gave me the commission for Pamela Sargent’s Watch Star.

The jungle drums were tapping out that there’s an interesting new illustrator out there. So everywhere I went they came out to view my portfolio and treated me with the utmost respect.

In other words, one cannot simply sit in your office and send out emails. There is magic in meeting people face to face. There is magnetism in persona contact.

I do not have time to do that for BBB. I have made a bit of effort to see what could be done immediately with BBB, but now it is what I already said was a long slog. I no longer attend conventions, and even if I did, they prefer the “new young talent.”

So, we will just keep going until “something comes along…”

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