The countdown continues to the launch of CROSS, our new comic anthology of political wit, satire and polite British rage. With four days to go, we thought we’d give you a look behind the scenes at who we are, what we do, and why and how it all happens.
OK, this isn’t us. We have less hair and we’re not as well rendered as these two (drawn by the incredible Verity Glass). But I think we share the same sense of mischief. So let’s go from there…
We’ve been publishing comics as Disconnected Press since early 2012. That doesn’t sound long, but in that time, we’ve produced three volumes of our Disconnected anthology, two smaller anthologies (Lost: Boys and How To Kill Bears), a standalone story (Do Aliens Play Basketball?) and two issues of the delightfully silly Sentient Zombie Space Pigs.
Earlier this year, our thoughts turned political. Perhaps the catalyst was the European elections. Remember them? Of course you don’t. Only around 1 in 3 people in the UK showed up to vote.
That got us wondering. Why is it that people are so dissociated, dare I say, disconnected from politics? Is it that people don’t care about education, health, crime, immigration, climate change, pensions, transport, the rising cost of living, house prices, the price of beer (see diagram) or whether they’ll have a job next week?
We’re sure that people do care about these things, but that the disconnect comes with the people and institutions that are in place to deal with them. By exposing those people and institutions, we uncovered a rich seam for satire, and for trying to make the case that by participating – simply by voting – each and every one of us has a voice on the issues that matter to us most.
That’s the serious bit over. Now on to the comics…
In June (ish) of this year, we started contacting writers and artists who we felt had what we wanted for CROSS – the skills, humour and general sense of frustration at the world that would infect the book. The list of contributors evolved over time – some people couldn’t contribute because of other commitments; many recommended others who we might want to involve.
Lesson #1a – Basic. Basic. Basic. Ask people nicely. Be honest about what you’re doing. Be nice if someone says no.
Lesson #1b – Comics is a small world. If you’re rude or unprofessional, word will spread and you’ll find it harder to get people involved with your projects next time round.
Scripts came – some quickly, some after more deliberation. Art followed. There was a glorious period over the summer when our Inbox brought us something exciting every single day. An idea, a script, a sketch, a page.
Lesson #2- set your deadlines, and know what your deadlines really are. Understand the importance of building contingency into your plans – EVERYTHING takes longer than you imagine. EVERYTHING.
The book really seemed to develop a life of its own over the summer months, but it was still very much a collection of fragments rather than a whole. I’d say that we were 90% finished about a month before print deadline (see Lesson #2), and we were able to drip-feed stories to our wonderful letterer Jim Campbell as they came in.
Lesson #3 – do not, I repeat, do not allow writers and artists to run behind deadline and assume you can make it up by squeezing the deadline for the letterer or for the printer (see also Lesson #2).
As more and more artwork came in, our thoughts turned to promotion. We decided to run a Kickstarter to help offset some of the production costs of the book (this is the first Disconnected book in which all contributors have been paid full market rate). We got support from over 80 people (THANK YOU!) but didn’t meet our target. Frustrating, but on we go. We still know how many comics we need to sell to pay off our costs, and we now have a full promotional plan in place for the coming months. And through promoting the Kickstarter, we’ve been able to build the profile of the book with some amazing people….
Lesson #4: making the book is not enough. You have to be ready to promote the book until you’re blue in the face. And then a bit more. And a bit more after that.
There was a beautiful moment a couple of weeks ago. We compiled all of the finished artwork, the cover pages, the internal pages: all 64 pages of CROSS. To help us establish the running order of the book – and the all important page turns – we laid them out on our floor. And we saw – for the first time – the whole book in front of us. It was just a little bit mind-blowing.
Lesson #5: there’s a moment – always a moment – when you look at what you’ve created and think “that’ll do, pig, that’ll do”. Always, always enjoy those moments, luxuriate in them a little. Writers and artists (including us) are incredibly self-critical, and we should all take a bit more time to recognise that sometimes we’re actually quite good at this stuff.
So what now? Well, CROSS has gone to print. We’re setting up all the infrastructure for a better online shop, and letting the world know that we’ll be launching CROSS at ThoughtBubble Comic Con in Leeds this weekend (Table 84 in the Royal Armouries Hall).
Did that sound easy?
To be honest, even though this is the biggest book we’ve ever produced, it has been one of the easiest. The secrets:
- allowing PLENTY of time for everything
- working with people who understand deadlines and are very open communicators
- not being afraid to ask for help and advice along the way, and
- being absolutely passionate about what CROSS is for.
Though I guess there’s still time before we launch….
Thanks for reading. You can pre-order your copy of CROSS for £10 plus P&P by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. (Details of the online shop to follow!)