The US Graphix Imprint was launched in February 2005 with the production of the Bone books. It is an amalgamation of many people who got together and decided to create full-colour comic books that could be distributed through the Scholastic catalogues and high street bookstores to reach a wider market. Three years later they have sold over 2.4 million copies, proving there is a market for comics for children of all ages.
Big series titles such as the Babysitting Club and Goosebumps are being revamped into comic books and there are lots more in the pipeline. Comics are a great way to get children reading particularly reluctant reader as they are very visual. David Saylor predicts there is a golden age of comics for kids fast approaching. In fact, Amulet, which is due to be launched in the UK in September 2008, has recently been bought by Warner Brothers.
Booksellers have had the most problem accommodating the graphic novels and finding a niche to put them. But, they are beginning to make space for the graphic novel, which means the book sellers are now recognising they are a growth area. Librarians caught on very quickly and supported the new trend. Teachers in the US were less enthusiastic at first, seeing them as not ‘real books’. But, now schools are using them to teach literacy and writing within the classroom. There is a major change happening in the acceptance of the graphic novel – putting visual art and written art on the same plane.
The books produced by scholastic US are mainly for the 8-12 yr age-range but, there is some teen-stuff which is more edgy, such as The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. At the moment they are publishing approximately 10 books a year.
From a writing point of view, the graphic novel needs to be written as a screen play, as it is telling a story with dialogue. David Saylor likes to see a synopsis showing the beginning, middle and end. The pay varies from $10,000 - $100,000 a book. This is dependent on the fame of the writer and whether or not they have an agent. An agent will negotiate you more money - although the artist does get more than the writer. Producing a graphic novel is a long process and can take over a year. They are hand-drawn at first and coloured in on Photoshop to produce a final digital image. The books are usually 180-240 pages in a 6”x9” paperback format but, they do have a few hardback editions.
David Saylor is looking for kidcentric books that he would have liked to have read when he was nine years old. So far, they have been somewhat driven more towards boys comics but, David feels the comic genre as a whole, has not been marketed to girls as much.
He ended his talk at the Bologna conference, by saying that the bookselling market is very different in the UK than the US and graphic novels are not selling as well in the UK. But, in my opinion this will soon change.
I reckon the UK publishers will soon catch on there is a gap in the market for comic books for the 8-12 yr olds. If you are interested in writing comic books I suggest you do your market research now and look at what is available out there to target your publishers. At the moment, they are re-hashing series fiction so take a look at the series fiction available to. My previous post on Series Fiction may help you identify other areas that could be big for comic books.
For an interesting discussion on comic books, take a look at Candy Gourlay’s Comic Books are not just for Kligon-Speakers.