The following is an interview with Mike Schneider, one of the creative minds behind the Octal, an inventive, new publishing tool that collects and curates comic book pitch packets into catalog form. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Schneider about the impetus for Octal, how creators and publishers may get involved in the creative process, why Octal is so vital to the comic book industry, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanboy Comics Editor-in-Chief: I recently learned about your comic pitch catalog, Octal, and was so excited to find such an inventive and supportive endeavor for comic book creators. For those that may be unfamiliar, how would you describe Octal?
Mike Schneider: A comic pitch packet is the grouping of materials which a creator shows to publishers when pitching a comic book or series. Each publisher has their own unique submission guidelines. I composited guidelines from a large number of comic publishers to identify the grouping of materials which would satisfy most simultaneously. I then created a set of templates to organize those materials into a clear and concise presentation and invited fellow creators to use those templates to structure their own comic proposals.
Octal is a curated catalog of these comic pitch packets. Since each packet is built around an 8-page pilot story, Octal reads like a comic anthology where every short comes packaged with some bonus features: a mock cover, info about the creators, some production art, and a one-sheet proposal for the book/ series. Beyond the entertainment value of the stories, making these packets available to the public brings some much needed transparency to the comic pitching process while providing publishers with first looks at potential books and series. So the publication also serves publishers and retails by providing them with high quality comic book pitches in a polished format.
BD: How do you provide access to those in the industry?
MS: Octal is provided free to all publishers and their staff. To subscribe, they need only email email@example.com with their name, their publisher’s name, and their position at the publisher.
Octal is also available to creators and the general public via DriveThru Comics and Comixology. Beyond sales helping to offset the costs of production, readers making their voices heard for the titles they’d like to see more from goes a long way toward proving an audience and getting a comic to launch.
Currently, submission editors from over two dozen comic publishers have subscribed to receive Octal and review its featured packets. Half of the creators have had people reach out to discuss their proposals further. One of the packets is currently in contract negotiations. Another packet, Sane6, has already locked down a series contract and its first issue is scheduled to drop this summer.
BD: What was the inspiration for this collection?
MS: In fine arts there are publications known as ‘artist catalogs’. They are essentially curated directories of sample works, links, bios, artist statements, and/ or show proposals which are sent to a mailing list of galleries, museums, and art centers. Similar publications already exist in nearly every visual art field. It seemed natural to adapt this model to a publishing art field like comics.
BD: Is there a recommended process for creators to submit to Octal for publication, and may all creators participate?
MS: If you go to OctalComics.com you will find the templates and an instruction manual, which covers terms and procedure and breaks down all of the packet components with tips and guidelines. We also have a production group setup on Facebook for anyone who would like to chat with their fellow creators and swap feedback on in-progress components. While not required, I also strongly recommend picking up a copy of Volume 1. Not only is it an entertaining read, it can be invaluable to have completed examples and that volume happens to set the standard that your submissions will be held against. When you have something ready to submit, send it via wetransfer.com to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Beyond proposals for original books and series, the Octal packet can also be used to pitch print editions of web comics, collections of serialized comics, collections of comic strips, trade editions of self published comics, English translations of foreign language comics, reprints and continuations of existing series, adaptations of books, television, and movies, etc. There are no limitations in terms of style, genre, tone, or age-range. We do however, reserve the right to black bar cursing and/ or nudity for platforms where it would limit distribution. While sexism, racism, and other hate speech will be tolerated in small doses from characters, it will not be tolerated from creators. (Example: If your comic is set in Nazi Germany, some of the characters might be a bit antisemitic and that’s fine. If, however, your comic is just a soapbox for spewing your own hate, that will be dismissed with extreme prejudice. ) Pornographic comics will not be included in the main catalog, however, if there is enough interest and there are enough submissions, I will consider making a separate catalog for a separate mailing list.
’May all creators participate?’ The simple answer is yes but naturally, there are a few caveats. Packets must be produced by the team you’re proposing for the book or series, so, you must be able to assemble a team and set terms among yourselves. While I can advise, offer recommendations, and even make referrals, under the right circumstances, you’re potentially making a long-term commitment to one another and I can’t do that for you. In terms of comics featuring preexisting IP and/ or underlying media, you must have written consent to use that material. I’m sorry but without Marvel’s permission that Spider-man spec script is just fan-fiction. The packet must be in English. If you aren’t fluent, consider working with someone who is. Finally, this is a curated catalog and the utility is directly tied to maintaining the quality standard. While I can not guarantee inclusion, rejected packets will be critiqued and creators are welcome to revise and resubmit. No prior experience is required but your submissions will still be held to a professional standard.
BD: How would you describe the creative process involved with maintaining such an impressive product?
MS: While the better part of a year was spent on research and development, now that Octal is up and running, maintenance is quite manageable. This is thanks in no small part to modular production. Each packet is the same length. Everything is preformatted by the templates. Each volume features the same number of packets. The front cover is a tile mosaic ( one tile from each packet. ) The standard has been established and I have a panel in place to weigh in on any packet that’s right at the line. Batch processes have been setup to automatically format the volumes for Comixology and other ePub platforms. Within 72 hours of the 8th packet being locked in, the volume is finalized, up for sale on DriveThru, submitted to Comixology, and sent to the mailing list of publishers and their staff.
The heavy lifting is making people aware of Octal, offering feedback on work in progress, and evaluating/ critiquing submissions. By mid-late June, I should have a better grasp on if sales are covering the cost of production and promotion. If they exceed the break even point, I can add staff and resources. If sales fall short, I may need to setup a Paetron or look to outside funding in order to avoid entry fees. As of now, I’m cautiously optimistic.
BD: Are there any exciting updates or plans in the works for Octal that you would like to share with our readers?
MS: Volume 2 is well underway and it features our first reprint proposal. In this case, the proposal is for an Omnibus edition of FantaCo’s Night of the Living Dead. This series includes Prelude, the official comic adaptation of the 1968 cult classic, Aftermath, and Clive Barker and Steve Niles’s Night of the Living Dead: London. All of these books have been out of print for over 20 years and would come loaded with previously unpublished supplemental material. As a fan of the series, I look forward to helping it get back into circulation.
We’re currently working on an ad-sponsored, free edition of Octal, which will be released through Issuu. Based on reader stats provided by editors, who have previously posted indie comic anthologies to Issuu, we can conservatively expect over 3000 readers within the first 3 months with a soft push on social media alone. Because of the nature of Octal, our core audience slants heavy toward creators and would-be creators so the ads which are likely to get the most traction are creator products and services: illustrators, inkers, colorists, letterers, translators, copy editors, books about comic production, art supplies/ software, etc. We’re pricing ad space at $200 for an inside cover, $100 for a page, $55 for a half page, $30 for a quarter page, and $20 for an eighth page. We also have barter alternatives listed in the production group. Space is limited so if anyone’s interested, drop a line to neofluxproductions (at) gmail (dot) com.
As far as what’s coming down the pipe, we’re toying with the idea of producing a few Exploded ( disarticulated ) Comics. Essentially an ‘exploded comic’ would be an annotated volume containing outlines, notes, scripts, thumbnails, design work, pencils, inks, flats, colored pages, lettered pages, critiques, revisions, and excerpts from all the conversations which happen over the course of that comic’s production. While there’s only a small niche that enjoys watching the sausage get made, if planned and executed correctly, the cost of electronically publishing a volume made predominately of production art could be done with a modest enough budget that even that fringe demo would be enough to support it.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about your work with Octal?
MS: If it’s not clear already, I’m a big fan of transparency in production. If something isn’t cover on OctalComics.com or in the links provided at the bottom of the page, drop me a line at neofluxproductions (at) gmail (dot) com.