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The Plan to Take Over the World

Wednesday, 15 June, 2011

This project, strangely enough, has been around just about as long as Astrid has—meaning that it was conceived around the time that she was (only I didn't know it at the time).

Genesis

It was early November 2009, and a number of different threads suddenly came together and wove themselves into the fabric of an idea in my head. The first was the desire to write comics, which I've had for a very long time. (Previous attempts include “Going home” and “In his image” [which still remains unlettered—which is mostly my fault because I did have someone to help me].) The second was hanging around Twitter, following certain bigwigs in the international comics community such as C.B. Cebulski, Ron Perazza, Stephen Christy, and so on, who would occasionally tweet about making comics. The third was being immersed in the world of Phonogram and The Singles Club, which I bought issue by issue because I loved it so. Immersion brought me into virtual contact with Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (on Twitter and Last FM) and this post on Kieron's blog—in particular, this bit:

… I did all my future-shock stuff in writing 5 page comics for people to draw. I did a load of them, because 5 pages was about as much as I could talk an artist into doing (Or rather, finishing). No matter how rubbish each was—and a lot were pretty rubbish—it was me seeing what worked and what didn't. That sort of experience is vital.

The clichéd lightbulb went on in my head. I remember going to meet Guan at Berkelouw for writing time one (Tuesday?) afternoon and saying to him, “I want to make an anthology of five-page comics all on the theme of depression”. And so The Plan to Take Over the World was born.

(NB: The name is a bit of a joke [a Pinky and the Brain sort of joke], because, obviously, writing comics and creating an anthology has nothing to do with taking over the world; I just wanted an obscure way of referring to what we were doing without anyone else knowing what was going on.)

(Also, why depression? Well, if you've been reading this blog for a while, you know. If you haven't, it's because depression and mental illness is something that Ben and I have been grappling with for a while, which meant I had a very rich pool of experience to draw from.)

Process

I somehow managed to get both Guan and Bec on board with the Plan, which says something about their belief in me and my craziness. (Bec even agreed to do all the layout work for it!) Then I brainstormed ideas, wrote scripts (ten in all), talked to all the people I knew who could draw and persuaded them to come on board too. It was hard work—firstly, trying to nail the form and convey what I wanted to my artists, and secondly, continually working with my artists to bring the project to completion through roughs, pencils, inks, colours and lettering. I got a taste for what it must be like to be a comics editor. (I once had the opportunity to converse for a bit on Twitter with Charlie Beckerman, who until recently, used to edit for Marvel—about how comics editors would oversee projects from script to print, and my admiration for them increased tenfold after that.) I realised that my time working at Matthias Media had given me the perfect skillset for this sort of work because, while working on The Briefing, I not only learned how to edit, I also learned how to manage, communicate with and follow up other creative people. I also learned stacks about collaboration (and all the way through it, I remembered the things that Toby T had talked about when he came to speak at Word by Word that time). Two of my original artists had to pull out of the project, but others graciously stepped in and lent me their talents. At times, I wondered if the whole thing would even come together. At times I wondered if I really was crazy to attempt this—especially in the midst of being pregnant and preparing for the biggest change in my life since getting married. But in October of 2010 when Astrid was around two months old, we finally finished it all.

Pitching

Then a whole different kind of hard work began: pitching it to publishers. I sent submission letters to everyone I could think of who might take it. I knew that publishing it through one of the established houses was a bit of a longshot; the Plan was an anthology and all of us were unknowns who had never been published in comics before. But you never know if you don't try. So for the next eight months, I kept sending it out. Occasionally a rejection letter would come in, which tickled me pink because it's rare for publishers to respond personally to submissions. (FYI, the norm in the industry is only to respond if they want to use your work.) In addition, those rejection letters said some very nice things about our work! But after eight months, our anthology still didn't have a home, which was pretty much what I expected.

So then we moved into the next phase of the Plan.

Self-publishing and crowd funding

I think we are very lucky to live in an age where it's become easier and easier to get your work out there if you're a creative person. Not only is the internet a cheap and extremely easy platform on which to publish stuff, numerous services now exist with the sole purpose of allowing you to make stuff. We decided fairly early on that if we couldn't get an existing publisher to take our book, we'd do it ourselves. The question was how.

Again, my previous experiences in publishing came in handy. I started sourcing printer quotes and talking to graphic designers about paper stocks, covers and finishing. (Francis L's help was invaluable in this area.) I also started thinking through the finances to work out our printing, marketing and launch expenses.

Of course, there was still the problem of how we were going to finance the Plan. Kickstarter, a crowd funding platform in the US, started becoming more and more prominent around this time. (Neil Gaiman helped increase awareness about it by getting behind “The Price”, a short film by a man named Christopher Salmon that is an adaptation of Gaiman's story of the same name.) I thought perhaps that we could finance a print run through something similar. The only problem is that Kickstarter is only available to US citizens. I thought for a while that we could use IndieGoGo, however, I was uncomfortable with the idea that perhaps we wouldn't raise the full amount we needed—in which case, if the demand wasn't there, there wasn't much point in going ahead.

Then Bec pointed me in the direction of Pozible, which is, to my knowledge, the first Australian platform for crowd funding. It works a bit like Kickstarter (i.e. nobody gets charged unless the funding goal is met—or exceeded), but it's not bound by Amazon's payment system. Furthermore, like Kickstarter, you can offer different levels of “rewards” to your donors—which basically means that we can pre-sell our book before we even go to print.

So I crunched the numbers and presented the other Plan members with a budget, applied with Pozible and put together a campaign.

And now I am ready to share the Plan with you.

Kinds of Blue

Kinds of Blue: Cover

The Plan to Take Over the World is actually called Kinds of Blue. You can find it at

You can read the whole thing online. For free.

Go on.

If you like it, please consider supporting our Pozible campaign by visiting

and donating. Any amount will do, but if you'd like to pre-order the book, pledge just AUD 30 and if we meet our funding goal, we will print it and send it to you—anywhere in the world.

Also, if you like it, please spread the word. The campaign ends in 60 days and it would be just a little bit wonderful for me and the team (but mostly for me!) if we could make this happen.

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Writing

Kinds of Blue: Cover art

Twitter

Blinks:

A way of funding writing in the future: pitch and idea and get people to support it.

Place where you can hire play equipment for parties, etc.

How to recalibrate the home button on your iPhone.

Unsolicited manuscripts accepted by Pan Macmillan with certain conditions.

Thought Balloon is a group blog in which the writers tackle a new theme every week? month? with one-page scripts. This URL is for their Phonogram ones.

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