The goal is to have something to send to publishers, to see if they'd be intested in publishing something like this in its finished form.
This is the current design for the cover for the mockup prototype. The book will be 76 pages, 58 of which will be roughly sketched comics pages.
I want to print a few copies of this book to send to publishers who I think may be interested in this project. The size of the mockup book will be A4, and it will be accompanied with a brief cover letter explaining what I want (which is to find a publisher or editor interested in this book, or books similar to this one) and why I think it's something they would want to publish.
This turns out to be an interesting exercise as I have to research each publisher, listening to and reading interviews with publishers and editors, and studying their current catalog in order to find out what they are doing. I then try to figure out why they could possibly be interested in my book proposal. Then I write that in the cover letter, hoping to sell them on the idea of publishing this book, or one similar to it.
I understand rejection is the name of the game when it comes to pitching book ideas to publishers, so I am not holding my breath.
I initially planned out a book with five stories, but I ended up reducing it to three. I think three stories is enough to give the publisher an idea of what reading a finished version of a book like this would be like.
I came to the realisation a few years back that art creation is all about making prototypes, iteratively changing the design.
Here's a series of cover designs I tried. In the first one I had just lazily slapped a drawing I had onto the cover. The top was too empty, so I changed it to design two. The page still felt empty, and the negative spaces not well thought through. So I tried the third design with a lot more text filling the cover through use of a large font. The text on the right of this third design says this is a prototype. The problem is that it says so multiple times, yelling at the reader: this is a Proposal! A Prototype! A Sample! A Pitch! A Demo! A Test! It's rather pedantic about the fact that this is a prototype, which isn't very good.
And I found a better title. All three plays accidentally happen to be about dating in some way.
I went back and tried to come up with a new design; page four. A rectangular shape at the top formed by the word "DATES", and a somewhat circular shape in the middle to lower half. For the circular part, I just used some arbitrary art to see what the abstract composition would look like. I liked the simplicity of this design. The black background however didn't convey the right feeling, so I started digging through some of my books. Eventually I found a cover by Tardi which I liked and I modeled my cover after that a bit: yellow background, white text on black bars, and some art.
The font used on the cover is the same as the one used inside, and the art is in the same style, so that ties the cover to the inside pages. My name is in italic, making it slightly different from the subtitle.
And then I started to design the illustration.
Here are some of the intermediate sketches for the drawing on the cover. There were several more, but these were the important ones.
The first one was wrong because it was way too wide relative to its height. The second one fixed that, but it still didn't feel like the classic logo of theater: two masks, one happy, one sad. In the third one I fixed that by turning them into masks.
A bit about the process. I saw Youtube videos of Glen Keane drawing, and it blew my mind. He'd make a sketch. Then he'd lay a new sheet of paper over it and improve the drawing by drawing over the previous one. He would do that over and over, until he reached a result he was happy with. I now try to work like that too. When a sketch starts to be overworked in areas, I place a new sheet of paper over the sketch and I draw it again, trying to improve on the previous version.
Here's the example panel I used on the back cover, first sketched, and then illustrated in a final form.
For each panel on each page, I will draw sketch after sketch of each panel until I am happy with the result. Then comes the inking and coloring. Coloring! Choosing a suitable color palette is another design problem in itself. And so is choosing the line quality of the line art.
I am sending the book to editors this early in its design stage because the pages do already give you a feel for what reading the book would be like, and an editor might want to be involved in the early stages of the creation of the book.
I finished the thumbnails for "Warrior's Lament". It wasn't easy puzzling together the photo reference for it, but I think I like how the pacing came out. At any length, I'm putting it away for a while so I can return to it with a fresh pair of eyes. And an editor indicated he may have time to give me feedback on it also, so I'll wait for that.
So on I go, working on the theater play comics.
So why do a work log? I got this idea from the Comics Experience forums where comics writers keep a work log. It is very interesting, to me at least, to read someone else's process, and there's a lot going on in the process that forget about eventually.
But, as my 3-year-old daughter would ask, "why?" Several reasons. It is a place for me to document the decisions I made, to explain to my future self why I made a dumb decision. It is for those few people out there (hi mom, dad!) who may be interested in the process, and it feels nice to finish something once in a while. It keeps you going. The project I am now working on is the biggest one so far, so a regular schedule where I release a journal entry in which I write down how things are going will, hopefully, help me keep momentum.
So, for the first installment: what am I working on?
I'm finally ... going to be pitching a book to publishers!