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View Full Version : Editors are like several boxes of chocolates


Lee Nordling
08-16-2016, 10:18 AM
Prompted by Steve, I wrote the following as a beginning to a discussion about edtors.

***

Hey, Steve.

I'll be happy to offer some thoughts about editing, those that go beyond my "Editors Are Like A Box of Chocolates" chapter in CCP.

I'll start broad, then we can go into details.

First, there are two types of books that an editor gets: something brought from the outside by a creator and/or team; something that the publisher has the rights to (whether they own it or have licensed it) and need to bring creators to work on it.

Now, there's also the question of whether the book is for a property (new or existing) owned by the creator or one the publisher already owns or controls.

This is a major fork in the road for what an editor does.

Let's start with a property the publisher owns or controls: they're the dog and the creator is the tail. There are nuances to this, like what a name-creator brings to the interpretation of the property, but they are STILL serving at the pleasure (and displeasure) of the publisher. We can discuss this process later and in detail if you want to, but let's set it aside for now.

Now let's discuss what happens when a creator owns a property and brings it to a publisher. There are two extremes for how an editor will behave here: the editor identifies and shepherds the original vision that was agreed to; the editor forces the creators to do what she/he wants them to do.

I was on a comics editor panel at Comic-Con (in San Diego) a number of years ago. Each of us had decades in the business, and we all agreed that the former was the "right" way to approach a book brought to us by a creator.

To be clear, this doesn't mean just doing what the creator wants; it means identifying the project we agreed to publish, then holding the creator to that standard. See how "personal opinion" gets shoved aside by "what was agreed to." Now, there can be personal opinion about whether something works or not in accomplishing "what was agreed to," and an editor with an even temperament and a high enough level of craft can point out where something does and doesn't work. If they can't...well, that's perhaps part of an expanded discussion.

Regarding editors who take on projects that were brought in by creators, and then get the creators to produce a book that fulfills (for whatever reason) the editor's vision, there are many reasons this happens, but the biggest reasons are either "the editor behaving like a creator (for numerous additional reasons, which we can discuss later)," or a perceived need to adapt the original vision into something that accomplishes an agreed-upon-goal by the creator and editor.

The first of these two is some version of ego: the editors making changes because they can. Maybe they're frustrated creators who want their fingerprints on books, or are so inexperienced they don't know how to identify what is and isn't working but still know what they want to see changed and know how they want it changed, rather than offering the problem for the creators to find fixes on their own. Or maybe they're like the corrupt editor I worked with but won't name who was handed a line of creator-originated books and simply decided he knew what was best and steamrolled over all of them because he could. (Luckily this guy is no longer an editor and is working for a non-profit organization that's helping people, so perhaps his Karma is improving.)

Now to the editor who has a different or modified vision for a project that’s brought to her/him. There’s a fine but distinctive line between this editor and the previous editor, and the distinction is defined by the involvement of the creator in agreeing to the different or modified vision. If the creator doesn’t want to have the vision changed, they are free to take their project elsewhere. If they do agree to the different or modified vision, then they are bound to producing that version.

What gets interesting here are the reasons an editor might need to change the original vision, and the reason is that she/he likely has to reconcile competing agendas: what the creator offered; what the editor needs (for aesthetic and/or commercial reasons).

Now, the editor’s “NEED” can be real or perceived, and the distinction between the two is a huge gray area.

At Platinum Studios, I worked with a LOT of new talent, people with interesting ideas who often didn’t have the level of requisite craft to produce the book they created. (ADVERTISEMENT: Read “Comics Creator Prep” for how to achieve that level of craft.)

Sometimes I was the guy who determined whether creators were accomplishing what they set out to do, and sometimes I was the guy who said, “That’s a really interesting idea, but I think this aspect of your proposal is a much more interesting story.”

BTW, “Calvin & Hobbes” started as a family strip, and an editor said (in essence), “I’d like to see the strip centered around the kid and his stuffed tiger.” That direction worked out pretty well.

And I’ve been on the receiving end of this, too. I proposed a new comics property, and the editor said, “I really am more interested in the innocent bad guy in your story than the anti-hero who defends him; can you build a series around him?” He ended up liking what I produced, but the publisher passed, and that’s okay, because I like what I produced for him.

Now, very little of what I’ve written here is about process; it’s about circumstances.

I can tell you that my process shifts ACCORDING to circumstances, and any GOOD editor needs to know the differences in approach and direction based on the circumstances for every project she/he works on.

And when the editor doesn’t know or understand the difference in circumstances, they usually are a BAD editor.

To continue this, if anybody wants to propose specific circumstances from above or elsewhere, I’ll be happy to detail a constructive process for editing.

Hope this gets the conversation going.

Steven Forbes
08-16-2016, 01:36 PM
What if the editor is a jerk, full of snark, but helps to get my story to a place where I'm happy with it? Do I just concentrate on the message and not the messenger, or can I punch them in the face?

Morganza
08-16-2016, 07:09 PM
What if the editor is a jerk, full of snark, but helps to get my story to a place where I'm happy with it? Do I just concentrate on the message and not the messenger, or can I punch them in the face?

Who would want to work with an editor like that? Especially if they are being paid to edit.

paul brian deberry
08-16-2016, 10:36 PM
I've hired editors and worked under them. I will never hire another editor. Waste of money.

I am of the simple opinion that an editor's job is to make the creator's life as shitty as possible. If they ain't doing this then a/ they suck at their job and b/ not doing their job.

Lee Nordling
08-17-2016, 01:09 AM
So, we have a couple different ways this discussion can go: discussing situations to get to the heart of the situation; or we can share "editors suck" stories. (I've got a million of the latter, but usually with a point to them that will help others avoid what I've gotten myself into.)

Re. Steven's question: Steven, I don't know enough about the relationship to answer the question...because I don't know which type of editor this person is. That said, nobody wants to work with a jerk or their snark...but one person's snark is another person's humor. But snark is generally degrading, and I still don't know enough to know why you and that editor haven't had a conversation about it. See? We come back to not knowing enough to give good advice.

Re. Morganza's thoughts, if the editor is paying your bills and feeding your kids and helping advance your career (like waaay too many editors with whom I'm familiar at major publishers), then there needs to be a well-thought approach to burning that bridge.

That said, most editors aren't like that.

That said, I've put some writers through some tough notes and responses to work that's been submitted to me, usually stuff that I expressly asked NOT to see, but I suspect they see their side of things, not mine, so maybe I fit that bad-guy-editor role to some people.

Again, without circumstances, we're just complaining.

Re. Paul's thoughts, well...I've known editors who actually make things better for creators, but I appreciate the broad-strokes snarky-ness (hmmm, there's that word again) of the sentiment.

Anyway, happy to see the discussion underway.

What, if anything, does anybody want to take FROM the discussion?

I'd hope it would be enough info to understand what an editor is doing or attempting to do in a situation, with enough background to know what is an isn't appropriate.

But it's your thread, so you tell me.

Steve Colle
08-17-2016, 03:20 AM
Lee, I appreciate how you started the thread with the topic of in-house editing (even though you didn't call it that) and how publishing houses who work with company-owned, licensed, and/or creator-owned properties have different ways of approaching the editing side of things. I think this helps not only those who are or want to be editors, but also creators who seek to be published and who - hopefully after reading your initial post - will get a better idea of what they can expect from a publisher and their potential editor.

I have worked with a number of small press publishers over the years - either as Editor-in-Chief, Senior Editor, or Consulting Editor - and can attest that each editor will have their own style, communication skills, connection with the creators, understanding of the medium, willingness to set aside their own creative agenda, desires, and opinions, etc. I also know how stress of being the middleman between publisher and creator can lead to hard feelings from all parties involved.

I personally prefer working as a freelance editor (through my business of EDITOR'S EYE VIEW Freelance Services... and yes, a shameless plug) as it allows me to focus more on the creative aspects of comic book production and less on the administrative responsibilities associated with an in-house position. My goal is and has always been to be invisible in the final product and to make the creator(s)'s work the best it can possibly be. Editing, in my opinion, is supposed to be a hidden art form, where the reader will never know what the editor did to make the book better (though Lord knows they can tell when an editor did something wrong!).

I truly believe that comic editors need to know and understand the medium from all creative angles in order to effectively assess what works and what doesn't. An editor of fiction in prose form, for example, often doesn't understand the relationship of word and picture - how the nuances of camera angle, gutter distance, visual pacing and hooks, font size and style, balloon and tail placement, colour to represent mood or to separate foreground from background, etc. - all work together to tell a story. The same applies to those in motion pictures who rely on a constant flow of images and information to fill in all of the blanks. Does an editor need to be capable of drawing a comic page? No, but understanding how the elements work together for clarity and appeal is a must in my opinion.

Editors should exist to serve the interests of two (and sometimes three) distinctive parties: the creator(s) and the audience, with the publisher added to the mix when appropriate. Too much to one side can lead to a book that serves the creator(s)'s vision and expresses their talent (or lack thereof), while the other concentrates on the interests of the audience to the point of the creator(s) losing their vision. When the publisher is added, their vision and expectations add to the balancing act that is the role of "editor". I find when an editor has trouble balancing the interests of all parties and favours one over the other, they lose their effectiveness as being the voice for all.

This is nowhere near all of the information I'd like to share, but hopefully it will continue a longer discussion.

(I'd also like to kick this back to Lee's original thread promoting his book, COMICS CREATOR PREP, at http://digitalwebbing.com/forums/showthread.php?t=177262. I've ordered mine and will be posting a review of this highly anticipated resource.)

Lee Nordling
08-17-2016, 02:41 PM
Thanks, Steve.

Re. hiring an editor, I have some additional thoughts to yours, personal guidelines if you will, designed to maximize cooperation and minimize conflict.

A freelance editor should be a consultant, first and last.

It's the freelance editor's job to point out stuff that is and isn't working to the client-creator.

Then it's the client-creator's choice to implement whatever direction he/she chooses.

And it's the freelance editor's choice to determine whether his/her name will be associated with the project (if that is an option).

An editor shouldn't have to have her/his name associated with something she/he doesn't believe is working.

Presuming this relationship, a creator won't have to feel her/his work is being taken away from her/him.

And it NOW becomes an editor's job to PERSUADE why her/his concerns should be addressed, knowing full well the choice is up to the creator.

Now to the goal in this set up, the editor should have ONE primary goal: to support the vision for the project as set down by the creator. The challenge here is for the creator to impart to the editor that vision, or for the editor to determine that vision, based on the work, then get the creator to agree that this is what the project is about. (ADVERTISEMENT: see "Comics Creator Prep" for how to do that.)

Either way, this agreement helps the collaborative process moving forward, because discussions now become about achieving the agreed-upon goal, rather than what the editor "likes" or "doesn't like."

It becomes about the WORK, not about egos, and if the creator understands the editor is really trying to help, rather than to direct, he/she/the creator might be more responsive to the notes offered...because it's now his/her/the creator's decision to decide whether to accept the notes.

And the editor doesn't need to be offended by any notes NOT taken, because she/he won't necessarily have her/his name on the published book.

Steve Colle
08-17-2016, 11:11 PM
Well stated, Lee.

For me, it's the collaboration with the final goal being the betterment of the final product that appeals to me most. Something I'd like to add to this is the role of the editor as the voice of the market, if they are doing their job right. This isn't to control the direction of the project or to dictate what will sell and what won't, but rather to make the content reach the largest readership. For example, dialogue needs to suit the level of your intended audience, so the editor may suggest changes that will say the same thing while better reaching the target readership. Ultimately it isn't a matter of who wins, but that the project wins and that the relationship between creator/client and editor remains comfortable and trusting.

Another thing I find important as a freelance editor is to realize what your strengths are within the industry and what you cannot effectively provide your client. I have referred my clients to other editors or resources on many occasions because I knew I couldn't, in good conscience, provide adequate guidance in particular areas. However, I also know that I provide services outside of editing a comic that differ from what my "distinguished competition" covers in their editing packages, such as pre-submission editing, research and proposals of publishers who would best suit their particular goals and professional interests, consultation of the strength of their book and story title, assistance with logo and cover design, and much more. If, as an editor, you oversell yourself and can't deliver the goods, that can lead to distrust and a bad name. On the other hand, be confident in the skills and services you know you can provide.

Looking forward to more on this topic.

Scribbly
08-18-2016, 11:37 PM
I always thought of comic's editors as the manager and coach for the comics project. Writer and artistic team as the players.

Steve Colle
08-19-2016, 02:36 AM
In Buddy Scalera's CREATING COMICS FROM START TO FINISH, Mike Marts (the EIC and co-founder of Aftershock Comics and former DC/Marvel veteran) talks about editors wearing many hats: Talent Scout, Storyteller, Art Director, Project Manager, Proofreader, and Psychiatrist. Worth reading along with everything else in the book.

I spoke with a couple of Marvel and DC editors in the past and though their names don't come to mind, one clear detail about what they both said still rings true: When an editor hires a creator, it's with the understanding they know what they are doing. This allows the editor to focus on multiple projects and responsibilities without having to handhold the creator at every turn. They (hope) to be confident with their choices. But some publishing houses don't have that level of professional-level talent, dedication, etc. and have to work with those who "aren't there yet". This especially happens for freelance editors. Teacher can be added to that list, as quite often the creator(s) may not have the knowledge or experience and therefore require more guidance. And speaking of guidance, Counsellor also fits the bill. So does Sounding Board and, yes, even Cheerleader. As you can see, there is a lot more to editing than just "editing". :happy:

Lee Nordling
08-19-2016, 09:24 AM
Steve brings up an interesting aspect of the role of editor at Marvel and DC.

(BTW, Steve, in case you didn't get my responses to your DW message, please write me at lee.nordling@gmail.com.)

Now, this is still a generalization, because in-house editors at Marvel and DC still have their unique approaches, but editors at these houses have so much on their tables that they can't get down and dirty with every panel on every page, and pressing deadlines make them feel more like traffic managers than editors, so they hire people they BELIEVE--not hope--will deliver what they need.

And when you have the budget to offer somebody a living income (presuming that's the case) you can hire people with "proven" track records for delivering what's expected and on time.

For people who aspire to working at these companies, this shows a pretty tall ladder that has to be climbed to reach the desirable rung.

Lee Nordling
08-20-2016, 12:48 AM
So, with little further input, let's poke the bear.

First: creators, describe the type of project in which you think you'll have an editor, who owns it, and who you hope will publish it.

Question: now, what do you want an editor to do, what responsibility do you want them to take for what you do, and how reasonable are your expectations?

If each of you reading this (a similar situation to the ones I set up in "Comics Creator Prep" with my faux-students-who-are-based-on-real-creators-with-whom-I-worked) will now frame the situation and describe your expectations, then perhaps we (me and other editors here) can give you some constructive feedback about the potential for your expectations.

Bet you've NEVER had an offer like this to discover the difference between what is and isn't real.

Is this a challenge?

You bet it is, but it's one in which only YOU will win, no matter how it goes...unless nobody takes up the challenge, in which case nobody wins.

ayalpinkus
08-21-2016, 03:25 AM
*Stands up slowly, raises his finger. Mr. Nordling sees him, nods at him. Scrapes his throat.*

Okay, I'll bite :-)

First off, I've been an editor for a university magazine, so I think I understand the necessity of editors. They help in making sure the publication is of the highest quality, they curate content, making sure a publication fits with the line of other publications, and fits with their brand and collection of publications. The editor represents the publisher. On top of that they sometimes also take on project management roles, chasing authors, cover designers, book designers, journalists, printers, making sure product ships, et cetera.

I think "What do editors do?" would be a topic all by itself actually.

Now, there are probably good and bad editors, and some come with quirks, because, hey, you know, they are human beings too. But you can't do without them. If I owned a publishing house, I'd of course have good editors working for me arranging publications on my behalf.

So. What would I expect from an editor.... I see two situations:

1) one where I hire an editor to help me clean up my work, and
2) one where an editor agrees to publish my work (and so I work for him/her).

For 1), (and I have hired editors in the past to help me with my writing), I'd take the lead, and the editor would review and critique my work. I pay them for their critiques, thank them for it, and figure out how to process their feedback. I'm Dutch, not a native English speaker, and I've only been making comics for a few years, so I benefit a lot from someone who's been at it for decades and knows about writing, dialogue, pacing, but also visual storytelling. I know when to listen :-)

For 2), I haven't gone that route yet, but I'd imagine I send in a pitch package, the editor sends me a kind pre-printed card saying "Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately, at this time ...." :-) But say I do get through. That editor would do a lot I think: gently chase me and others (book designers, cover designers, ...) to make sure agreed deadlines are met, maintains communication between parties, arranges the finances, payments, gives feedback on all the writing and the art, resolves conflicts in the team, makes sure the book fits with the output customers have come to expect from that publisher. arranges for printing, interviews with journalists, ...

For 2), I'd be very interested in knowing how to design a pitch. Lee, I read your chapters on the subject of course, and they are gold! Marv's epiphany: "This is the story about a ___ who ___, only for ___ to discover ___." is brilliant, and not just for a pitch. It can also help me figure out if there's a problem with my story. I tried it on several short stories I'm developing, and I finally figured out what was wrong with some.

With the pitch, I imagine you can send too little, or too much, too early, or too late, or somewhere in the middle. Too early, I would think, would be sending just a logline and synopsis, making the editor do all the hard work of figuring out if it would fit with their line of products. And he can't see if the writer and artist actually know what they're doing.

Too late would be if the book was entirely finished. The editor can't help with reviewing and critiques, and will be less invested in the project, and will have to pass if too much is wrong with the book.

Somewhere in the middle is, I suspect, the sweet spot: the editor gets to envision what the end product could look like, but in such a way that he can still steer things artistically. I'd imagine a pitch package where the writer and artist had studied the line of products of that publisher (thusly not only figuring out their own "wants" and "needs", but also trying to figure out the editor's/publisher's "wants" and "needs"), and then went and wrote and thumb-nailed the whole story, and made a one-off print-on-demand print of the book, an ashcan from the thumbnails, specifically designed to please that editor (you only get one chance, better make it count), to send that to the editor, and also some concept art, sample pages showing what the pages would end up looking like and showing that the writer and artist can pull it off, accompanied by a cover letter explaining a) what they want from the publisher and b) how it would benefit the publisher, and a logline and synopsis.

This pitch package would be designed to help the editor envision the end product, and would do all the heavy-lifting work of explaining to that editor why publishing that specific book would benefit him and the publisher he works for, while still keeping it rough enough that the editor feels (s)he can still suggest sweeping changes.

I'd imagine. I'm nowhere near that point yet, my art and writing isn't even close to being good enough for publication yet, but I do think about these things.

(If your name is "Neil Gamain" or "Ed Brubaker", then I imagine your pitch package looks sliiiiiightly different ;-) But that's another story: if you're a known name, a brand writer or artist, who brings a big fan base to the table, that makes it easier for a publisher to decide because there is less financial risk because of practically guaranteed sales, but maybe an editor will have less say, artistically, or maybe not.)

Am I seeing it completely wrong?

*Slowly seats himself again as Mr. Nordling avoids eye contact and shakes his head in disbelief.*

ayalpinkus
08-21-2016, 04:07 AM
*Slowly gets up again, mumbling, "one more thing."*

Okay, so here's a practical example of what I'd expect from editors I'd work with right now, the way I'd hope it would work, right now, given my work isn't good enough yet:

1) I am writing short stories. My English isn't that good, and my storytelling isn't that good, so I'd want to hire someone to help me edit my writing. It would be a work-for-hire contract, 10 cents per word, say.

2) Next, I'd thumbnail, and then do a breakdown and layout of the art pages, and I'd hope I could hire a pro artist to pour over my work and give me feedback on visual storytelling, guiding the eye through the page, design, and give suggestions when it comes to anatomy, perspective, character design, framing, staging, lighting and such. I'd pay that artist by the hour I'd imagine, 30$-50$ or so? Also work-for-hire.

I'd see these two "editors" as teachers, mentors rather, really, I'd be hiring to point out my mistakes. Often, you're blind to your own mistakes and it takes very long to finally see. An extra pair of expert eyes can spot and point out those mistakes for you immediately, and you can start working on fixing them. By hiring teachers/mentors, you are buying time with money as these teachers/mentors act as a catalyst for growth, speeding up your learning process immensely. Surprising that a service like that doesn't exist yet, really... I'd pay for those services...

Would that be unrealistic?

*Ducks for cover as Mr. Nordling is now throwing chalk sticks at him, insisting he sit down.*

ayalpinkus
08-21-2016, 05:04 AM
*He rises again one more time, slowly. Mr. Nordling is getting impatient now and has turned his back and is on the phone.*

Of course, in the hypothetical situation that I started a publishing company, and were the sole editor, and it grew and became somewhat successful, I'd be looking to scale up my company by "cloning myself", I'd want to hire editors who understood and believed in the products the company put out. I'd see them as similar to "product managers" in consumer electronics companies, constantly putting out potential hit products that are on brand.

*Security guards have come now and are carrying him out the classroom as Mr. Nordling readies himself to resume class session.*

ayalpinkus
08-21-2016, 05:37 AM
(I forgot to say, Lee, thank you so much for this opportunity to pick your brain! There are indeed some questions I have. Much appreciated!)

Marta
08-21-2016, 03:46 PM
Another editor's perspective here. In addition to having distinct categories of editors, namely those working for publishers vs. for creators, there are different types of editing. Freelance editors may, for example, be hired for project management, helping to shape a story in development, refining dialogue so it reads more naturally, fixing typos in lettered stories, or even helping to put together a pitch or crowdfunding campaign. Often different editors have stronger skills in a subset of these tasks, so it can make sense to use more than one. For example, many excellent project and developmental editors may not be native speakers (of English or whatever language the comic is written in). They might be artists foremost. Many excellent copyeditors may have difficulty refining scripts written by someone whose first language isn't English.

Renae De Liz
08-21-2016, 09:30 PM
In my own experience I've found GOOD and bad experiences with editors. The good is when the Editor is a Helpful Guide for the artistic team, helping create the best product, while respecting creative space. Only putting a foot down when absolutely necessary. They can help find redundancies in script wording, or a forgotten drawn limb in panels, or a missed rendered BG element. They offer up ideas when needed, and help put through payment vouchers and keep track of paperwork. Lots of little stuff that gets in the way of the creative process. As mentioned earlier, they are also extremely useful for helping newcomers. With Womanthology there were 170 women, many newcomers, and it couldn't have been done iwithout the 5 editors we had.

The BAD is when editors act as Ruler and the artistic teams are their Subjects. They try to control every element, and cater the artistic direction to their own particular tastes, not necessarily the taste of the targeted readers or to create something unique to the strengths of the artist. You can't say anything back to these militant types, as it will mean unnecessary arguments, or even firing. With these types, being an Editor is an ego trip, and they don't care about producing the best product, and getting the best out of their team. Luckily, I've only worked with like one person like this.

Another BAD are the editors that do NOTHING and get paid for it, and get credited in the book. Don't answer emails, don't send on files to the publisher. They only respond when you go above their head to a higher up so they can continue to look on top of things. Bummer.

So for me, a great editor is the one who can go for the right goals, and has the balanced sensibilities to understand when to allow freedom and when to reign things in. They wish to help and guide the artistic team to the best outcome, not rule them.

Steve Colle
08-22-2016, 01:46 AM
I'd see these two "editors" as teachers, mentors rather, really, I'd be hiring to point out my mistakes. Often, you're blind to your own mistakes and it takes very long to finally see. An extra pair of expert eyes can spot and point out those mistakes for you immediately, and you can start working on fixing them. By hiring teachers/mentors, you are buying time with money as these teachers/mentors act as a catalyst for growth, speeding up your learning process immensely. Surprising that a service like that doesn't exist yet, really... I'd pay for those services...

Interesting that you mention this, as I've been doing exactly that for over 20 years in a freelance capacity through one-on-one and group instruction, both informal and through post-secondary continuing education programs in our city's art college and one of our universities. Send me a PM if you're interested in learning more.

Steve Colle
08-22-2016, 01:57 AM
Another editor's perspective here. In addition to having distinct categories of editors, namely those working for publishers vs. for creators, there are different types of editing. Freelance editors may, for example, be hired for project management, helping to shape a story in development, refining dialogue so it reads more naturally, fixing typos in lettered stories, or even helping to put together a pitch or crowdfunding campaign. Often different editors have stronger skills in a subset of these tasks, so it can make sense to use more than one. For example, many excellent project and developmental editors may not be native speakers (of English or whatever language the comic is written in). They might be artists foremost. Many excellent copyeditors may have difficulty refining scripts written by someone whose first language isn't English.

Thanks for posting this. As I stated in an earlier post, I do refer my clients to other editors for tasks that are outside of my areas of knowledge and experience. For example, one of my clients has prepared the first 24 pages of a graphic novel and had written his query letter to send the material to a literary agent. However, because that isn't an area that I have a lot of experience in, I found an editor who is a former agent online and referred him to her. He has since received this letter back in a lot better state than what I could have helped him with. I'd also be interested in having the contact names and backgrounds of editors from here on DW in the event I come across a similar situation in the future. Send me a PM if interested.

Steve Colle
08-22-2016, 02:17 AM
Another BAD are the editors that do NOTHING and get paid for it, and get credited in the book. Don't answer emails, don't send on files to the publisher. They only respond when you go above their head to a higher up so they can continue to look on top of things. Bummer.

I completely agree with this and have heard some horror stories over the years.

Oddly enough, I have also been in the opposite position where I was the editor trying to get ahold of the creators (a married couple) who had so much interest in an alternate agenda (attending comic conventions to build their own) that my calls and emails went unanswered as it came to the last issue in their mini-series, which was already two years late. By the time they finally hustled to reach a convention deadline, they left me out of the loop, but still had my name listed in the credits. The work I had put into helping tie up all the loose ends of story elements and ensuring all visuals, including lettering, were of the same standard as previous issues was all thrown out the window, and I openly swore when I saw my name attached to it.

I wish I had had the option of not having my name in the last issue, but it apparently wasn't my choice. Luckily it doesn't happen often.

And as an aside, Renae, my sincerest congratulations goes out to you. You have proven to be a talent deserving of the recognition you get, and both you and Ray make an awesome team on the printed and digital page. All the best for continued success!

Lee Nordling
08-22-2016, 10:35 AM
I saunter into the classroom, see a huddled figure up front, and know there’s a hand that will soon push skyward. "Hey, A.Z.!” I say, “Thanks for taking up the challenge, and doing so in a manner that mirrors my book. But for those whose eyes are now rolling, I’ll dispense with the affectation.”

There’s a lot to respond to, which, hopefully, will spin off into separate threads.

Let’s tackle the broad-strokes thought first: yes, editors should be a topic all by itself, and for now this is that topic.

A quick examination shows that there are only a couple books on editing on Amazon, so this is perhaps a great topic for a book (that somebody else should write; hey, Steve Colle, are you doing anything else right now?).

But as I’ve already noted, the situation dictates the goals, so approaches and the requisite tools to editing, whether they’re for comics or prose, are different.

My own tools, for example, make me a really good comics editor—no, really, folks, I’ve been doing this for nearly forty years—but I am not at all comfortable editing prose. What’s the difference? Well, I know I can help somebody realize THEIR vision for a comic, but I’m not sure that I can do anything with prose except make it more of what I would do, instead of what the writer should do.

In comics I can see what somebody is TRYING to do, identify that, get them to agree to their goal, show them why what they created did not achieve their goal, and offer a suggestion or two about how they accomplish what they want to.

I can’t do this in prose, so for this reason, I don’t and won't edit prose. And I’m really conscious of editors who decide how something could be better without explaining what was “wrong” with what they’re changing. (Yes, I’m an editor’s worse nightmare, because I expect an editor to do something more than put their fingerprints all over my work.)

That’s MY starting place, folks, so to be clear, I’m not shilling for the editor’s “right” to impose themselves on your process; I’m shilling for you to know, in any given situation what an editor SHOULD do, even if they’re not doing it, so you can figure out how and where to make your own decisions about how, where, and when to continue working with editors.

There will be a lot of moving parts to this discussion, thus the need for Steve to write that book.

Back to A.Z.!

He delineated the following:

1) one where I hire an editor to help me clean up my work, and
2) one where an editor agrees to publish my work (and so I work for him/her).

Nice and simple, right?

Imagine each of these two is a tree, ancient trees with lots of branches.

Each branch is a possible process on which you could find yourself sitting, yes, even the twigs. The twigs are the tricky part, because they involve the personal idiosyncrasies of editors…like the truly talented editor I know who doesn’t like the color blue. (Yep, you read that right…but these are the things for which you need to keep your antennae tuned.)

A.Z. has a nice, simple approach to the first possibility, hiring an editor to help him. I’m sure Steve and others can share tales for what goes well and wrong for the range of potential involvement in this kind of relationship.

A.Z., you’ve blocked out well the different components for a pitch and/or presentation.

I don’t think you’re seeing it wrong; but there are a lot of moving parts to consider, and they complicate things.

To simplify, the components are or could be: the query letter (which states who you are, what you’ve done, what you’ve created, and asks for permission to send a presentation); the hook; the enticing paragraph; the story summary; the outline; the script; the sample art, which could include a cover and some number of interior pages; the completed book (in b&w or color).

What’s best to show first, second, third?

Well, if your name is Neil Gaiman then a submission printed on toilet paper would get fair consideration from anybody, but he’s too much of a professional to compromise the pitch of an article like that. He could, however, write a book and sell it afterwards without too much trouble, though that’s probably not how he works, either. What he CAN do and what he DOES do are two different things.

What if your name is Lee Nordling?

Well, some folks in the industry know your name (okay, MY name), and some publishers will give me their attention, based on my background, and some won’t read what I send them, or respond after reading it, which to me is the same thing, and some won’t respond to my queries, making me wonder if they got them. And it’s the same for pitches; sometimes you read back quickly from high-ranking editors you’ve never met, and sometimes your old pal with whom you’ve shared a few meals never gets back to you at all.

Looking for an editor and publisher is like trying to find an advocate, somebody who believes enough in what you’re doing and what you’ve done to want to be involved in “what’s next.”

“What’s next” is your presentation, and finding the best fit for it, especially without a deep resume, is a real challenge. Sussing this out requires looking at what somebody is publishing and trying to figure out how your prospective project fits. It requires you imaging yourself in THEIR seat and asking, “What could make me interested in this project?”

And as A.Z. notes, the further along a project is, the less likely an editor is going to be to ask you to go back to the beginning and start over with a new tack.

Now, I have projects that are only pitches, and they allow for an editor to get involved in the development, and I have projects that are going to be the way I want them to be or they’ll never be published. It’s important that you determine how far you want to extend the collaborative process.

For example, I’m working with the artist now on the second book in a three-book series (book one comes out this spring). I imagined the series would be drawn more like my book, “The Bramble,” more illustrative than comic-booky, but when proposed, my editor had a clear vision for a book that LOOKED more like a humorous comic book than a kid’s illustrated book, and I had to make a tough choice about whether I could embrace his expressed vision for how the book needed to look in order to fit into his line. Obviously I went for the collaborative vision, or I wouldn’t now be writing the third book in the series and overseeing the art in the second.

And that’s another thing about me producing this book. I’m working as the frontline editor with the artist; everything goes through me first, then I show my editor what the artist and I have done…and it gets approved or I get notes back for what is or isn’t working for him. Maybe we negotiate the direction or I pass on the direction to the artist (or take it myself at the script stage). This is an invented relationship. I have no doubt the editor would have preferred to be at the hub of all materials turned in, but I have a history of working as a book packager, and I’m very clear that that’s how I want to produce some of my books: me working with the artist to turn in stuff to the editor. Some editors won’t like that process.

For those of you who prefer to work this way, you need to present yourselves as a package to the editor/publisher.

In short, know what you need before you send your first query.

A.Z., I think you’ve blocked out your sweet spot pretty well; there’s enough for the editor to envision the completed book. A general tip: the less you show (that sells the book), the more the editor will get involved; the more you show (that sells the book), the less the editor will impose his/her interpretation.

It’s a sliding scale I deal with everyday, and there’s no right or wrong; there’s only what works for you, as well as what gets your project set up where you want it set up.

***

Now to A.Z.’s idea of how a freelance editor works. If it’s by the word, I’d be shocked—because that’s a new one to me, though I’m sure a lot of editors reading this right now are thinking, “Boy, do I wish I COULD be paid ten cents for every word I write to creators.”

A.Z., editors work differently, usually for a project fee with clearly defined parameters.

Proofreaders usually work at an hourly rate, but you probably don’t need somebody with such a narrow focus.

A lot of creators will say you don’t need a freelance editor, and they might be right for themselves. Let’s face it, most books won’t make back what you’d need to pay an editor to get it into shape for publishing, so it feels like a lose-lose situation.

This is where creators groups like DW come in really handy, because the advice is free. I think the trick, though, is setting the table for the discussion well enough so you get advice about the stuff you’re really interested in advice about. To be more clear: if you put up three completed comic book pages, somebody might advise you about the drawing and/or layout and/or lettering, which is fine. But if you want to know what they think about your STORY, you need to specify your concern up front.

Re. getting feedback on your art, I think you should consider a flat fee, with clearly defined parameters, that is unless you’re hiring an art instructor/teacher, in which case a continuing fee is okay. The hourly rate scares me (on your behalf), but I look forward to others here (hi, Steves C and F) chiming in.

However you do it, I admire your goal of seeking instruction; this will help you a lot. And if you’ve not been satisfied with advice you’ve gotten online, then I’d recommend hiring somebody for a flat fee to get an assessment/evaluation and some targeted goals.

Re. starting your own publishing company, I’m very much a fan of that idea, but then I’d expand the people you’d speak to, get consultants to assist with a realistic assessment. If the budget's not there for that, and for most of us it isn’t, then, per my book, CCP, reach for that next available rung on the ladder, and recognize there are more rungs to go.

Lee Nordling
08-22-2016, 10:36 AM
Following A.Z., Marta and Renae offered thoughts.

Marta offers a fair perspective, but I want to address one of Renae’s considerations, because it so closely mirrors thoughts from too many creators who are working for a publisher like Marvel or DC, where the editor IS the Ruler, and the creators need to recognize the relationship well enough to get what they want. Now, perhaps the Ruler is benevolent, has a strong sense of craft, and understands that the writer and artist should not simply be an appendage to or extension of their own desires, or perhaps the Ruler doesn’t know how to describe or direct what he/she wants and punishes for the creators not to be able to read his/her mind. Or, more probably, it’s somewhere in-between.

To be clear, Renae is describing the GOOD and BAD experiences, not necessarily the GOOD or BAD editors, but here’s where things go south in a relationship: when the creator (a writer and/or artist) thinks, “I was hired to create, so why doesn’t the editor let me create?” and the editor thinks, “Why can’t this creator follow my initial direction, instead of just doing what he/she wants?” You have NO idea how much this happens, and understanding your place in the relationship is the best starting place, because if the editor has the final word, then it’s up to the creator to make a convincing (and persuasive, not argumentative) case for going in a direction, based on the editor’s input…whereas an editor who’s in charge of a project brought to a publisher by a creator walks a much trickier line: to enforce the vision of the project agreed to when the project was initiated at the publisher, meaning it is REALLY important that the direction be agreed to before continuing. Otherwise, the creator’s going to be doing what she/he wants, while the editor COULD be forcing the creator back to working on what the editor and publisher thought they bought.

Renae wrote the GOOD situation is where the editor is a “helpful Guide for the artistic team, helping create the best product, while respecting creative space.”

Who gets to decide the nature of how a team is guided, and what determines the best version of a product, and where the boundaries of the creative space are staked out?

This determination cuts to the heart of sorting out the nature of a working relationship between a creator and an editor.

If the book is internally owned by Marvel and DC, the editor controls the reins, sets the creative goals (or is the one to agree to goals proposed by creators), and defines the boundaries.

If the book is brought to a publisher by a creator, the editor still guides the process (or agrees to what the creator proposes, then sets it in stone or sandstone), the creative goals and boundaries are agreed to by the creator (hopefully before the contract is signed) and it is open to negotiation and compromise about who gets to determine whether the goals were or weren’t met, and whether the boundaries have or haven’t been crossed.

Communication is key; assumption is to be avoided.

In short, yay for clarity!

Lee Nordling
08-22-2016, 10:39 AM
Re. what Steve C wrote to Renae: Yep.

Bulletboy-Redux
08-22-2016, 12:18 PM
This place is crawling with Steves. We may have the highest Steve concentration of any internet forum.

Steve Colle
08-22-2016, 02:39 PM
Wow.

Thanks, Lee, for singling me out about writing a book about editing comics. Getting a vote of confidence like that from someone of your notoriety and success in the industry is humbling.

Oddly enough, I'm in the process of preparing a proposal to teach a continuing education course for aspiring and new comic editors working as self-publishers, for small press, and those wanting to work freelance. The course title: The Art of Editing Comics. I had also spoken with Steve Forbes (hey, Steve!) and Tyler James at Comixtribe about doing a column about editing for comics. Unfortunately, maintaining a blog schedule is hard for me to do (Steve Forbes knows what that's like from working with me).

Who knows: maybe that idea is in the cards! Know any editors - in-house and freelance - who would be willing to share their thoughts and experiences with me for that kind of project? ;)

Now, back to business:

I - like you, Lee - can't edit prose. My "problem", if you will, is that I have always preferred a visual medium like television/film or a combination of word and picture in graphic narrative. Maybe that's the reason I love how both media use similar techniques and terms (with clear differences, of course). I guess a minor in film studies in college served me well. That's in working within the world of fiction.

Interestingly, first person narrative in prose fiction would be a lot more comfortable for me to edit as it's spoken from an involved perspective, not told by the omniscient narrator.

I also edit outside of comics for how-to and technical resource material, though my passion is and always will be comics.

However, there is one form of graphic narrative that I can't and won't edit: manga. Just the idea of reading a comic any way other than left to right completely stymies me. Though I can appreciate the art styles (my kids have shown me more than my fair share), I can't grasp the published form. If it isn't in a North American format, I won't touch it, as an editor or even as a reader.

On to something new:

I recently had the opportunity to attend an informal gathering of editors here in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I was excited because I had never had the chance to meet others who had chosen to likewise make the work of others better. The idea was to get to know each other and share our editing experiences in our particular fields.

While sharing my work as a comic book editor, I came to realize just how isolated our medium is from the others - almost segregated, to be honest. While they fully related to one another in their editing of prose fiction, historical non-fiction, corporate reports, term papers, etc., none of them could understand the workings of comic book editing - even a woman with a fine arts degree. They couldn't grasp how word and picture worked together to tell a story. I felt so uncomfortable as the organizer of the get-together kept pulling the conversation away from what I was talking about, even though there was some genuine interest from a couple of editors in attendance. I will never be going back.

Editors truly are a select breed, with comic editors being even more specialized. This opens up a question that I had asked the editors in attendance at the get-together and which no one had ever even considered:

What is your motivation to being an editor? More so, what is your motivation to being a comic book editor? (I actually think this is a valid question to ask those editors who come across as "bad editors".)

My personal motivation is that I love the medium, I love to see people succeed, and I like to be behind the scenes working my magic through the "invisible artform" that is editing so that creators and their stories are seen at their best potential. That's also my motivation for working mostly freelance.

What are your thoughts?

ayalpinkus
08-24-2016, 04:34 AM
Lee, thank you so, so much for your in-depth reply! There's a lot I in there I hadn't considered yet!

gmartyt
08-26-2016, 03:02 AM
Would it be unheard of to ask an editor for a sample of their work? Not a finished comic, mind you, but more of a script/layout along with the editor's suggested revisions. Something to help get a feel for their methods rather than their results.

Lee Nordling
08-26-2016, 09:14 AM
GMartyT, that's a REALLY interesting idea.

While it would brass cojones to ask that from an editor who's employed at a publisher, an editor to whom you want to make a submission...

...but I think that's a GREAT idea for soliciting work from an editor you're looking to hire for a book you're working on.

Now, there might be some privacy-related issues regarding the work of others being being shown to somebody else (editors out there just wiped the flop sweat from their brows and thought, "Good save, Lee! I can use that to get out of this."), but I think there is a spectacular fair-is-fair underpinning to requiring an editor to show the quality of their work, at least the stuff that's show-able.

It'll probably work better with script notes red-lined in an MS Word docx than a layout with a corresponding email containing notes. But, then again, it can't hurt to try.

Steve Colle
08-26-2016, 09:21 AM
Would it be unheard of to ask an editor for a sample of their work? Not a finished comic, mind you, but more of a script/layout along with the editor's suggested revisions. Something to help get a feel for their methods rather than their results.

This isn't uncommon at all. As a matter of fact, there are two ways freelance editors typically show their ability and approach: 1) through samples of previous editing work and 2) through trial edits.

With samples, you - as the potential client - can see how an editor has approached another creator's work. Not only does it help highlight the editor's skills, but also shows how s/he has communicated with the creator.

On the other hand, many freelance editors - such as myself - will offer a trial edit of one or two pages free of charge so you can evaluate not only what they can do for you, but also to see if you feel comfortable with how they interact with you.

Editing is more than "simple" changes to a work with the goal of making it better: it is about building a relationship.

I'd like to add that it's worth shopping around. I compare choosing an editor - or any collaborator for that matter - to shopping for a pair of jeans. Criteria such as fit, style, comfort, price, etc. all need to be considered. Two pieces of advice I think are important to mention are the following:

1) Look for flaws. If an editor has missed obvious errors in work they have done either via samples or a trial edit, then they may not have the skills to do the job you need them to do. Likewise, like the jeans, if they seem restricting or inflexible or uncomfortable when you try them on, chances are you'll have those same problems after you've paid for them. And unlike jeans, you probably won't get your money back.

2) Price equals quality is not absolute. This is a tough one and the reason why shopping around is important. Don't assume the editor charging the highest fees is going to be your best fit. Likewise, don't assume that lower fees means they lack the skills or that they won't do all they can for you. A lot comes from motivation.

Finally, I want to use DAREDEVIL's law firm of Nelson & Murdock (the Netflix version) as a prime example of this: Just because they lack years of experience (or a list of titles they have edited) doesn't mean they aren't damned good at what they do. New editors are looking for the opportunities to prove themselves. Just like you.

Hopefully this has given some food for thought.

Steve Colle
08-26-2016, 10:28 AM
GMartyT, that's a REALLY interesting idea.

While it would brass cojones to ask that from an editor who's employed at a publisher, an editor to whom you want to make a submission...

...but I think that's a GREAT idea for soliciting work from an editor you're looking to hire for a book you're working on.

Now, there might be some privacy-related issues regarding the work of others being being shown to somebody else (editors out there just wiped the flop sweat from their brows and thought, "Good save, Lee! I can use that to get out of this."), but I think there is a spectacular fair-is-fair underpinning to requiring an editor to show the quality of their work, at least the stuff that's show-able.

It'll probably work better with script notes red-lined in an MS Word docx than a layout with a corresponding email containing notes. But, then again, it can't hurt to try.

There's an assumption factor (sometimes unvalidated) that if an editor is working for a publisher, they were hired based on their ability to do the job and do it well. However - and I can attest to this myself - small press publishers (through which I have worked and how I started out) don't always have these same assurances. A short personal story:

Back in 1992, I was working in a comic specialty shop when this guy in his late 20's came in and was talking to the owner about his start-up comic publishing company. The owner turned his face to me, pointed his finger at me, and told the guy, "You need to talk to Steve here." The owner had experienced my natural talent for editing and my knack for identifying up and comers from what I saw on the shelves and artist portfolios I had seen. This guy decided he wanted to "hire me" (meaning "work for free") as Submissions "Director" - directing all submissions to him. However, what started out as a cool dream-come-true resulted in my being the only one in the office (yes, he rented office space before even having money to publish or pay the staff), creating the submission guidelines based off what I learned from those of other publishers, scheduled and occupied - by myself - table space at conventions in town, designed the logo and wrote the promotional material for the company, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. "Being used" was the best way I could describe it. However, the best thing that came out of that was my finding some really talented creators and finding out I knew a helluva lot more than I thought I did about the creative and administrative aspects of the comic industry. This "publisher", on the other hand, wanted me to not only report to his best friend as his EIC (who didn't know anything beyond comics as pretty pictures), but also to set aside any thoughts of these other creators doing projects in favour of his friends getting first consideration, all of whom had no concept of, nor talent towards, graphic narration. Seeing how my hands were tied, all of the creators came to me as a group and told me that they wanted me to leave this dead weight and start my own company with all of them following me. One of those creators was Yanick Paquette, who went on to sign exclusive contracts with Marvel and DC.

The moral of this story: Though I knew what I was doing and moved to another small press company, the one I left had no idea. You'll find this in the publishing industry every once in a while.

Changing direction, I prefer to offer the trial edits as they are more specific to the work of that particular creator and his/her needs. Though I can definitely provide samples of previous editing - all with permission by their respective creators and only as a segment of the whole - not all editors can or would want to do likewise. Just be aware of that. I'm also in a different situation where some of my edits appear online on Comixtribe's website (www.comixtribe.com) as I was co-editing many of the scripts in The Proving Grounds with our illustrious moderator (take a bow, Mr. Forbes) and had assessed and commented on sequential pages in Breaking the Comic Page. Head over and take a look if you'd like.

Steven Forbes
08-26-2016, 11:35 AM
(Hears his name really quickly, runs in, panting, bows, and runs back out.)

"I'll be back this weekend," he shouts over his shoulder.

"And I don't do trial edits," can be heard faintly as he continues on his way.

Steve Colle
08-26-2016, 12:20 PM
"And I don't do trial edits," can be heard faintly as he continues on his way.

Says the man who has 281 TPGs under his belt... ;)

Steven Forbes
08-27-2016, 06:17 PM
Okay. Lots of stuff here. Forgive me if I go back a ways before moving forward. (Or perhaps moving back is moving forward. I dunno. It's Saturday, and I should be editing.)

Editors: I feel they're necessary. Not always affordable, but at the very least, a second set of eyes to look over what's been created is necessary to help suss out what does and doesn't work. The real problem, though, is finding a competent editor who's able to help you realize your goals. We wear a LOT of hats, but at the end of the day, the only thing that's really being offered (in the freelance world, at least), is an informed opinion of what that editor thinks does and does not work. And when it comes to newer editors, sometimes the opinion isn't that well informed. (Not casting aspersions, just stating truth.)

I've been hired and fired from projects because when I point out what's wrong with the story, the creator doesn't want to believe me. What I most often hear is “Alan Moore did it successfully in Watchmen,” followed distantly by “Bendis does it like this.” Then I have to sit down and patiently tell these creators that Moore/Bendis knows how to write comics and had made a name for themselves so they can run/fly while the creator is still learning how to crawl. (And as a small aside, whenever someone tries to play that card on me, I look at it as hubris and try to get through the rest of the editing process as soon as I can, and won't work with that creator again.)

Prose: I'm not comfortable with it. I'll edit it, but only under extreme duress (ie: pleading). I'm able to see the rhythm and flow of prose and get into a space where I understand what the writer is trying to accomplish, and I do my best to have the writer adjust the story to something within their grasp (or just beyond, allowing the writer to grow), but I find it challenging to express why changes need to be made or why things need to be cut/added. I'm much, much stronger with comics.

Like Steve C, I won't edit manga. I don't understand it, and I can't get past the art, so it holds absolutely no interest for me. I'm also not much for anime, so there's that. It's cost me a job or three, but that's okay. I would much rather edit something I can understand and appreciate and enjoy rather than take someone's money and try to muddle my way through something that I know I won't enjoy.

Steve C also asked a great question: what's your motivation for being a comic book editor?

For myself, I really enjoy sharing what I know and helping others raise their level of craft. I'm not on a power trip, because as a freelance editor, I have no power at all. The client is the one who hired me and can fire me. I can't make changes that aren't for the good of the story—not if I want to keep my job. I just want to help creators be the best they can be.

Editorial Samples: I'm in a unique position among most freelance editors. Because of The Proving Grounds, I absolutely refuse to do any kind of free samples for a prospective client. I will point them to TPG and tell them to read as much as they wish, but because they'd be a paying client, I wouldn't be an asshole, and I would provide references upon request. Most of my editing work has come to me because of TPG, and some creators were shocked when they didn't get the raking over the coals that they expected. (I know I look like a monster online, and would probably have a lot more clients if I had a milder tongue in TPG, but that's okay. As long as I can understand and live with other's perception of me, I'm good.)

I'm also in a unique position because of the Bolts & Nuts articles that I wrote, which focused on the craft of creating comics (basically, going from idea to shelf, and a boatload of points inbetween). Because those articles filled in a lot of gaps found in most books on comic craft, I was able to carve out a small niche for myself. The B&N articles have gotten me a few jobs, and even though I haven't written one in a couple of years, I still get the occasional email thanking me for writing them.

Pricing: I will never charge by the word or by the hour. By the word and it becomes way too much (especially if the writer is wordy), and by the hour could be too little. I charge by the page, and the scale slides by whether or not I'm doing just scripting work or project management. My prices may be a tad high, but I don't sell myself cheaply, and because most of the time I'm teaching my client how to write for comics anyway, it generally works itself out.

What Bothers Me Most: I generally know that, when I'm hired, the client isn't going to have the book created. They ran out of money, they didn't do their homework about anything, they thought Image was going to pick up the tab… I have dozens of scripts that I've edited that haven't gone anywhere at all. Why does this bother me? You can only build a reputation if you have published work. Most of the people who hire me don't have a plan in place.

Do I ask about their publishing plans? No. Why? Because then they'll probably want to give up. Learning how to tell a story in comics is one thing, but then they have to make decisions about color or b/w; logo design; paper weights; backmatter; what to put on the inside front cover, inside back cover, and back cover; whether or not to go full bleed; pricing; how many copies to print; shipping; getting into Diamond; getting into comic shops; conventions and more (that's just off the top of my head). They want to talk about merchandise and Hollywood, and I'd be forced to tell them that they'd have trouble selling ten copies of their book. Just because it's built does not mean they will come.

Question I Hate: Is this salable? Anything can sell. Anything can be entertaining. People thought Ted was hilarious enough that a sequel was made; I thought it a complete waste of time and effort. The only thing you have to do is find the audience for it. The problem with comics is the stigma (which is fading) that not only are comics for kids (or man-children), but that they also are an inconsequential form of entertainment. The audience for comics is limited, and the small pool is getting ever more crowded. Is your work salable? Sure, if you can find your audience. The better question to ask, of course, is “is there a large enough audience for my work for me to at least break even?” This question is almost never asked.

Okay, I'm done for the nonce. Back to editing. I'm around. And for those of you who haven't, go buy Lee's book!

https://www.amazon.com/Comics-Creato...TF8&qid=&sr=Co

-Steven

maverick
08-30-2016, 05:23 PM
I was asked to be an editor on a project once in exchange for a free copy of the comic, but then it was never mailed to me. Maybe I did a shitty job.

Michael Ford
08-30-2016, 06:57 PM
Most of my editing work has come to me because of TPG, and some creators were shocked when they didn't get the raking over the coals that they expected.

I can definitely attest to this.

But Steven is right how essential it is to know what works and does not work. I remember that the greatest compliment I ever got from him was after I submitted a comedy script to him. When Steven replied, he told me that comedy was my Achilles' heel and he was absolutely right. I had a tough time writing the script and I felt that I didn't do it as well as I did on other genres. But there weren't any huge problems with the script itself, it simply wasn't as good as my other scripts, and Steven spotted that easily. I got a huge confidence boost from that.

Newt
08-31-2016, 04:02 PM
I've really been enjoying this thread, and I plan to order Lee's book soon!

I have an idea for a big comics story - probably a few hundred pages. I have characters, I have designs, I have settings, I have tons of research notes (it's rooted in history and mythology), I have themes, I have scenes and vignettes...what I don't have is a story. Not a compelling one, anyways; I know some things that must happen to the characters, but they're not necessarily connected in a logical way. I'm debating with myself whether what I have now is even worth bothering an editor with, or if I should keep working alone until I have at least a semblance of a plot for the editor to work on.

So my question, I suppose, is, "When is it time to bring an editor on board"?

Steven Forbes
08-31-2016, 04:14 PM
For myself, I feel I can help the most when the script is done but before the artist has had a crack at it. What I don't want to do is come on before you know what your story is. I want the writer to at least have some idea as to what the story is and where they want it to go, because it is then their story. Otherwise, it will be them telling my story, and while that can work under certain circumstances, it shouldn't happen when I'm being hired to edit.

That's me, though.

Newt
08-31-2016, 04:16 PM
Now that's quick service!

Thanks for the reply, Steve. It jives with my intuition.

Steve Colle
08-31-2016, 04:34 PM
For myself as an editor, I can't touch it unless it is more than just a concept. It needs to have a clear plot outlined in the least with character development, definitive theme, etc. Unless you have a direction you plan on going in on paper/digital file, I can't touch it.

Unlike Steven, I don't require the script to be involved and have no problems asking the questions or giving my thoughts to encourage more brainstorming on your end to get the ball rolling. I've done this many times in the past and still do it for certain clients with a clear understanding of what parameters exist in my working with that client. Payment structure is also harder to determine as it wouldn't be based on a page rate, but rather a project rate based on a clear understanding of your starting point is and those parameters I was mentioning.

This is, in reality, outside of the purview of an "editor" per se, but it can really help to get the opinions of someone with experience in story development.

If you want to avoid getting an editor involved at this point, you can definitely go the route of a writer's group or look at a writing coach. It's up to you.

Newt
08-31-2016, 04:42 PM
Thanks Steve! That all makes sense.

Steve Colle
08-31-2016, 04:46 PM
I was asked to be an editor on a project once in exchange for a free copy of the comic, but then it was never mailed to me. Maybe I did a shitty job.

It's also possible the creator had no intention of following through. Being paid with a comp copy is nice, but you wouldn't be the first editor or even co-creator who didn't get one. Don't necessarily take it as a failure on your part. You'll know by editing other works whether you are succeeding or not.

Steve Colle
08-31-2016, 06:12 PM
A few things to follow up on with regards to previous directions in conversation:

I don't charge - ever - per word. Prose editors will charge in this manner for things like proofreading, but anything above that form of editing is charged on an hourly or project rate. In comics, an hourly rate isn't always the best way to go either as some editors are faster than others and also may or may not be as complete in their edits. This makes it hard - when asked for a price quote based on expected hours - to give a total because the editor may end up going over that time and effectively lose compensation or speed through it and make more than their hourly rate. I personally hate hourly rates, especially if I've made the mistake of not seeing what I'm getting into in the first place. For creators who need a lot more than just a simple edit, this can seriously bite an editor in the posterior in a major way.

So two things to consider if you are a freelance editor: 1) Don't get into an agreement to edit without first seeing what level the creator is at and 2) don't set a rate until you know point 1. A third point is to have a clear definition of what the job entails. Is it for proofreading? Copyediting? Substantive editing? Developmental editing? Each has its own set of defining responsibilities and expectations under which duties can be isolated even more. For example, I've done copyediting on dialogue, but haven't been able to give my opinion on where the balloons would best be placed.

Most of the time I will charge per project, but again, it depends on the above factors to determine a price. Editing a script page isn't the same as editing a full comic page with art, lettering, colours, etc. This is where the definition of "project" comes into play. To use something Lee had stated at the beginning of this thread, establish what the agreed-upon-goal is between you as the editor and them as the creator(s).

Steven was talking about how many of the projects he edits don't see print for any number of reasons. I'm a little different in that I have three different groups of clients:

The first group are those who have published work, such as a first issue, on the shelf already. If I see potential in that work, then I will actively contact that/those creator(s) and give them my professional thoughts on what was published, along with some isolated areas that I, as an editor, would approach if they considered my working with them. That's how I ended up editing at least 7 of the books I have my name in. That's also how I ended up co-editing The Red Ten for Comixtribe and - subsequently - some other titles and columns.

The second group are those who are trying to develop their project with a clear goal of publication. I work with them to make their project publishable and, at the same time, research publishers who would best suit their needs and direction of their project. This second part is something I really enjoy doing because it gives them an idea of what publishers look for, how to tailor their project to that publisher if that's what they want to do, and gives them those companies (such as Image) who don't establish specific genres, styles, lengths, etc.

Finally, my third group are those creators who know they aren't ready for any form of publication and who just want to learn to get better.

I'd say these groups make up an equal 33.3% each of my client base. Sometimes I have a few clients and sometimes things are slower, but I haven't been lacking for work by any means. This leads me to a major pet peeve of mine:

I have had one instance where a creator asked me to prove how hiring me would guarantee his work would be picked up by a publisher. He was very confrontational about it, like he was already determined that an editor was useless and not necessarily just myself. This was in his initial email, one where he sought me out. Instead of "proving" myself, I simply told him he didn't understand the industry. The exchanges got more aggressive and I finally told him I didn't see myself working with him and I closed the door on that before I even looked at a page of his.

My peeve: The expectation that editors are the magic pill that will lead to fame and fortune. Editors cannot guarantee you get published! This applies for freelance editors and in-house editors.

Freelance editors can only take you to a publishable state or to a place where you, as the creator(s), will allow their involvement. The creator is in control of what happens and what doesn't in this scenario. I compare this to a student having a tutor for a specific subject with the expectation that their involvement will guarantee an A+/100%. Does this sound reasonable? Who has failed to reach that goal if it isn't attained? The student. It's the same with creators. The editor is not the captain of your success: s/he is there simply to guide you in the right direction.

In the case of in-house editors, I ask this question: have you ever heard of a kill fee?

A kill fee, in a nutshell, is a negotiated payment that a publisher gives to the creator(s) in the event of cancellation of a project. There's more to it than just that, such as a promise to publish, cancelling after a scheduled date of release was established, etc. Also, I don't know of any publisher in this medium who pays kill fees, though those who have worked for Marvel or DC may know otherwise.

What it boils down to is this: There is no guarantee of publication, whether an editor is involved or not. Come into a relationship with an editor understanding they will do everything they can within the parameters you establish or that have been established by the publisher. They can't promise you'll make it any more than a tutor can.

dmh_3000
09-01-2016, 05:14 AM
I've always known I'd need to hire an editor to improve my work, but history has soured me with bad experiences on editors I've hired.

One of the first I worked with years ago was great at pointing out technical issues like panel flow, dialogue, etc. but when it came to the actual premise of the book, he couldn't seem to grasp it. It was a superhero book in the Christopher Nolan style, gadgets based in reality, practical suits and realistic reactions and wounds. I was repeatedly asked what the lead heroine's super powers were and was told her practical costume was dumb because female heroes would obviously have cleavage.

The straw that broke the camel's back was another editor who had done some freelance work for some indie books I liked so I asked him to take a look at my script for another idea. The document came back full of strike through lines, red text telling me what was dumb and ended with a four paragraph plot summary for a brand new issue one. Not a suggestion for ideas, an actual plot guide that he expected me to turn into a script. Thank God I didn't pay the guy up front that time.

I know it's just bad luck and most editors are there to make the book better, but it can be hard to fork over money I could use to pay the artist towards someone I've never met who can't shake the idea that I'm hiring a co-writer.

Steve Colle
09-01-2016, 02:37 PM
dmh_3000, it sounds like they weren't very effective editors based on the way you're describing the situations. Freelance editors shouldn't be forcing their ideas on you. At the most, they should be relaying their thoughts in a non-confrontational approach and should definitely be backing up what they are saying with options that have value and view things from different perspectives.

I know how easy it can be to take that step over the line of just editing to becoming a co-creator. I've been there a few times and have had to reel myself back in. One of the hardest was with a project I'm editing for Adam Masterman, a veteran of the DW forums. I found myself getting so passionate about the material that I had to have a talk with Adam and let him know my concerns, along with the option of stepping away. We discussed everything and agreed that there was value to what I was presenting, but strengthened the fact that he had final say. That's the way it should be and that's the way you and every creator who hires a freelance editor should see it. But here's where I want to stress that this relationship between creator and freelance editor is a collaboration. It's easy for an editor to cross over a short wall, but it's also easy for a creator to build that wall up to the point of saying "No" to most of what their editor will suggest. As a general and undirected comment, if a creator is hiring an editor, they not only need to set the boundaries, but also need to be open to receiving those critiques, comments, and directions. Being married to your project's status quo won't allow that positive exchange to happen and possibly take it in a direction of greater potential.

It's also necessary to identify some of the definitions of services that freelance editors can offer. The following link, though defining things for the written form and not for the cross-media of comics, still gives an idea of the wide vs. specific options creators can choose from when hiring an editor:http://www.editors.ca/hire/definitions.html. It's also worth mentioning that I haven't found a single site that defines the options of comic editing services, something that I'm hoping to do when my website is up and running.

To give you an idea of what something like copyediting would be like, I have known Raffaele Ienco (another DW alumni) for a few years and have spoken about editing a couple of his projects. At one point, he was in the process of finalizing issues 4 and 5 of his EPIC KILL series (published through Image) and I offered to read through and edit his text (in word balloons, captions, and as SFX). He ended up going with most of what I suggested. The problem lied in how to credit me, as I really didn't edit the book as we agreed to define it, but he really wanted to show his appreciation for what I'd done. So on the inside cover for issues 4 and 5 of Epic Kill reads "Special thanks to Steve Colle". I'm fine with that.

Now there's a big difference between copyediting and content editing. Here's a link that breaks it down a bit: http://www.word-mart.com/html/copy_editing_versus_content_ed.html. In my work with Raff, I wasn't touching the content, but rather the way the copy read, what needed to exist and what didn't. An example of what didn't was the main character self-talking as she was about to crash through a window vs. letting the images drive the action.

For more substantive editing, I got involved with Adam Masterman's current project through my editing a story he had drawn for Comixtribe's SCAMTHOLOGY. He had already written up an outline for his story and decided on a certain page count as a goal. He had also drawn out a number of pages. I came in and, based on my comments about what I read, we decided that I was going to have a lot more involvement than just editing copy. The story has changed: the direction and themes are different, there's a new introduction to the book that establishes strong relationships between key characters, artwork/page design/sequencing has been modified in some cases, the placement of word balloons, etc. has been talked about and adjusted, and so on. This was a lot more comprehensive (thus another name for substantive editing is comprehensive editing). The thing is, Adam is fine with the direction and thematic changes because we brainstormed, discussed, and agreed upon what would work best for HIS story, with him having final say on everything.

In order for you to enter an arrangement with an editor, you need to make sure you know what it is you want them to do. By clearly identifying where that line is, you can gauge how close they are to it, whether they have crossed it, or even whether you want to allow them more room to move. That will come by building that relationship. Some creators swear by the editors they have worked with, others curse their names, but it's your responsibility as the creator to set those ground rules and, at the same time, be open to what the editor you have hired is offering you.

Lee Nordling
09-02-2016, 10:11 AM
What follows is sort of rambling, but there are a lot of points covered that lead to the same conclusion (in the last paragraph).

Steve and Steven wrote a lot of good things about what an editor can do to help with a book.

And there are some good examples here of editors who did not do good work, or perhaps more accurately, work that creators needed or required.

Let's just accept that and move more constructively towards what creators can do to NOT get involved with a crappy editor, or more positively towards finding the editor you need.

As Steve C. noted, with a different use of language, a creator hiring an editor needs to figure out what he/she needs.

Well, there's the rub; most creators aren't editors and, if they knew what they needed, would probably fix whatever without having to hire an editor. It's only too late that they discover they needed somebody to make sure their story stayed on track and got somebody who decided they should be writing a different story than that.

Well, (and here's where I'm going to piss off a lot of people), whose fault is that?

Is it the editor for having her/his own idea about their job and doing it? From that perspective, no.

Is it the creator who simply wanted help making the best version of her/his book, but didn't know how to explain what help she/he wanted? Mostly, yes, it's her/his fault.

Now, to be clear, I'm only discussing editors creators hire to help, not editors on staff at a publisher that are guiding the process (and I already wrote at length about that).

As the employer it's the CREATOR'S JOB to set the agenda.

A creator setting the agenda can be a micro-manager, and if the creator doesn't have a strong sense of process and understanding of the sequential art toolbox, then the micro-managing creator probably won't get what she/he REALLY needs.

Setting the agenda is work.

A good editor will try to do that with simple questions, like, "What do you need me to do?" and then describing the process in which he/she would like to achieve the agreed-upon goal.

But I don't believe it's solely the editor's job to figure out the goal.

And if the creator can't do it, then an editor is likely to, and (here it comes again) whose fault is that? Certainly not the editor's, who is (whether she/he is doing it well or not) is only trying to help.

Setting the goal is easier than most creators imagine it is.

First, a creator MIGHT just want a proofreader, and that's fine and easy. And if the book is finished, then it's awfully late in the process to get help revising the story...unless the creator is completely open to starting over.

If a creator is unsure of where to start, and all he/she has is a script (for example), then he/she can break down the job into a series of jobs, beginning with stage one: pitch assessment, which determines whether the nutshell version of the story is dramatically compelling; story assessment (not writing); character assessment; quality of writing assessment.

Personally, I think a creator can get much of that free from here, but if you're hiring somebody to help make the best version of your story, finding out what they THINK of what you wrote is a good and important first step.

A good editor will determine YOUR goals and then advise how they think you did and/or did not accomplish those goals. If they don't, then the creator should push for that; in fact, the creator SHOULD have made that part of the job requirement. If the editor agreed to that at the beginning, then the creator will have a true sounding board.

Does that mean the editor will be right? Of course not; but the creator WILL be able to see a thought-through examination of the work, then come to his/her own determination about what does and doesn't need to be fixed.

I could continue this and other examples for hundreds of pages, but the starting place will be the same: when hiring an editor, it's the creator's responsibility to set the agenda...or the editor will do it for him/her.

And some creators won't be very good at this, because there will be a terrible tendency to micro-manage...which is why the creators need to recognize that somebody they hire will do what THEY think their job is...until it's otherwise clarified.

Here's the truth of it: most editors want to help.

To creators: the book is yours, and you can take or ignore any help offered. It's simply your responsibility to define and direct the work.

Steven Forbes
09-02-2016, 09:19 PM
If a creator is unsure of where to start, and all he/she has is a script (for example), then he/she can break down the job into a series of jobs, beginning with stage one: pitch assessment, which determines whether the nutshell version of the story is dramatically compelling; story assessment (not writing); character assessment; quality of writing assessment.

Personally, I think a creator can get much of that free from here, but if you're hiring somebody to help make the best version of your story, finding out what they THINK of what you wrote is a good and important first step.



While I would love to see more interaction in the Writer's Showcase, the nature of this place (unfortunately) doesn't lend itself to getting quality assessments. Lots of people want free stuff, without having to have to work much to get what they think they need. (I have 281 entries of The Proving Grounds to back this up, with about 3/4 of entries not having more than a "thank you" from the submitting writer.)

Learning the craft takes time, and more importantly, interaction.

I would love to institute a rule that says that anyone submitting a script has to make comments on at least three other scripts (talking about certain aspects of the script so it's not just a couple of words of "critique"), but first is that we don't have enough posters who are willing to do that, and second, people don't read the rules.

I will always suggest having a friend who knows how comic stories work and how to make them better look over your work before hiring an editor. Free is always better than incurring an expense.

(Notice that caveat: comic stories. Comic storytelling is much, much different than prose or play/screenplay. Learning to tell a story with words and pictures is a learned skill, because you have to intimate movement with still images. Just because your friend is an English Lit teacher doesn't mean they know how to tell a comic story. They may be able to explain Chaucer, but that doesn't mean they can explain the all aspects of the storytelling mechanics of Watchmen.)

If you don't have a friend that knows how comic stories work, hire an editor. (Also, form a creator's group. In forming one, you will learn a lot about yourself and your interests.)

Lee Nordling
09-02-2016, 10:35 PM
An added thought as an addendum to my previous post, and not intended to ignore Steven's, which has more practical DW insight than I offered....

I want to discuss a prejudice, an understandable prejudice, but prejudice none the less.

If I write, "Let's talk about writers," then we mostly discuss our favorites; I certainly do.

If I write, "Let's talk about artists," it's the same discussion: our favorites.

If I write, "Let's talk about editors," most creators talk about the bad ones or how they got screwed or how the editor didn't help.

Our starting place is how editors didn't do their job or weren't worth what we paid them.

Here's the constant about all three of these groups: most writers aren't very good, most artists aren't very good, and most editors aren't very good.

But we celebrate the great ones from the former two categories and castigate the latter.

In truth, to address the outcry I hear from around the world, most of us don't see the editor's contribution, for better and for worse.

But I think--just THINK, because this is supposition, i.e. "guessing"--most creators don't like to be told what to do...and (whether the tone is kindly or strict) that's what editors do.

They're the people telling us our stuff doesn't work, and yep, I work across both sides of the desk and feel similarly at times.

Bringing this thought full circle to my last thought, if we're hiring an editor, then it's our job to find the best way through the process for getting the editor to help us.

If Steve or Steven (or anybody else) wants to tell me what I could've done better, I'm okay with that...because if I end up agreeing and take the advice offered, I win.

I chopped out seventy pages from the beginning of "Comics Creator Prep" because Marv told me it wouldn't be received as I intended it to be. I INTENDED it to be a short bio of my career's journey in how I learned my craft. Marv (correctly) wrote that people buying the book wanted to work on their careers, not review mine.

Amusingly, his introduction covered EXACTLY what I hoped my seventy pages would have: it gave a reason why learning the craft was so important, and how there wasn't a structure anymore in the industry for learning it, and how my book gives creators that learning curve. No, this isn't (just) another self-promotion; it's how I took a GOOD look at the difference between what I intended and what I did.

Editors help with that.

But they're just like dogs: if you don't show them where to go, they'll go wherever they want to.

Don't blame the dog for that; blame the owner.

Now another Good Editor story: anybody who knows or has checked out my "Three-Story Books" series, beginning with "BirdCatDog," a 2015 Eisner nominee, knows that it reads unlike any comic ever written. (In short: most pages are on a nine-panel grid; if you read across the top panels only, you get the bird's story; if you read across the middle-tier panels, you get the cat's story; if you read across the bottom tier, you get the dog's story; if you read each page from top to bottom, like a regular comic, then you get the whole story, with each character interacting in different tiers.)

I pitched this to my editor Andrew Karre over the phone. We'd worked together before, and he knew I could deliver what I said I could deliver.

The artist, Meri, had done an art sample, which turned out to be the cover art.

Andrew said he thought it would be an interesting series concept, and asked if I could send him a few more pitches, just short paragraphs for what each of the other books could be about.

That was Friday, and he had the pitches for more on Monday.

He pitched the books, and everybody loved the series concept; we'd sold it.

Here's the thing: I never had to create a single page of script or art to prove I could do it. I don't expect to ever have an editor like Andrew again, somebody who got what I pitched and knew I could deliver it...and he just kept me honest and shepherded the project.

We need more Good Editor stories to battle the prejudice.

Morganza
09-03-2016, 12:22 AM
I am curious, how can you tell a good Editor from a bad one, just by reviewing a comic? If the writing or art is good, is that because of the Editor.

From the viewpoint of a novice, how would I gauge the contribution of an Editor on any given comic, what should I look for?

Lee Nordling
09-03-2016, 01:04 AM
Hi, Morganza.

To the point, you can't review a comic and ascertain an editor's contribution.

You can't read "The Dark Knight Returns" and know that Dick Giordano had Frank Miller produce five drafts of the script.

You can't read "The Dark Knight Strikes Back" and have any sense of how many drafts were produced and what was helped or hurt.

JUST as you can't look at a finished comic and know what the writer really did or didn't intend, or what the artist initially created for visual storytelling that got into the final version of the book.

You can't watch the film "American Beauty" and know that the final act of the Oscar-winning screenplay was supposed to be a courtroom drama with the two teens accused of murdering the Kevin Spacey character.

What we do to figure out who did what is we explore as much as possible...and that is not decisive work.

If you want to hire an editor, you interview and explore to determine whether or not they can help you.

If you sell something to a publisher, you pursue every avenue (without getting caught) to find out what the editor is like to work with. (See my chapter on editors in CCP for more; the ad's over.)

In fact, the only way you can tell (or suss out) anybody's contribution to a collaborative work is to look at their BODY of work to find some consistency.

For example, a Terry Gilliam film is pretty obviously his, but how can you tell that the director of "Bringing Up Baby," "The Big Sleep," "The Thing From Another World," and "Rio Bravo" are Howard Hawks? For those paying attention, it usually involves recognizing the patter between men and women, as personified by his "His Girl Friday."

(Films are better examples to make that point than comics, so please forgive the segue.)

I was once surprised by a writer-letterer pal said when finishing some presentations for books I edited. He said they all FELT like Lee Nordling comics. By that he meant a certain kind of clear storytelling and progression, even though some came from creators and others were generated in-house. I can't explain his connection, but he made it.

From the standpoint of a novice, you should be looking at everything everybody does and assessing each comic based on each contribution.

That's how you learn who's really a good editor and who's simply got a great Rolodex.

Steve Colle
09-03-2016, 03:03 AM
To add to Lee's comments, I also look at the career of an editor.

For example, my greatest inspiration to becoming an editor is Karen Berger - bar none. She is a powerhouse who stepped outside of the box both in the content she aspired to have DC publish and also by going overseas to seek creative talent outside of the North American market. She brought about the British invasion of creators by giving an audience to the voices of writers such as Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Peter Milligan, and Neil Gaiman, along with artists including David Lloyd, Dave McKean, and many more.

(Speaking of Mr. Gaiman, did you know SANDMAN was not his first work for DC? Before giving the okay for him to introduce Morpheus - a new version of a character using the Sandman moniker - to the North American marketplace, Karen Berger gave him the choice of a few established DC characters to try his hand at first. The result: The three-issue prestige format BLACK ORCHID mini-series, with fellow Englishman Dave McKean doing covers and interiors. The first issue of BLACK ORCHID was released in Dec. 1988, one month before SANDMAN #1 was published, giving a clear indication that Gaiman passed the test.)

Karen Berger was the editor who brought V FOR VENDETTA to DC, where the originally incomplete storyline from WARRIOR (an anthology published by Quality Communications) finally saw its completion. She also followed Len Wein as editor on Alan Moore's SWAMP THING to great success.

What amazed me is that this editor, who majored in English literature and art history and who initially worked as assistant editor to Paul Levitz, would eventually be editing the book that Levitz became so acclaimed for: Legion of Super-Heroes, specifically with The Great Darkness Saga from 1982. Leaving super-heroics for darker fare was her choice, one which would garner such renowned titles as SWAMP THING, HELLBLAZER, and SANDMAN before taking the next major step of building the imprint that became VERTIGO in 1993.

(Another "did you know?": The VERTIGO logo was designed by Richard Bruning and his business partner at Brainstorm Unlimited, Inc. Bruning, by the way, is Karen Berger's husband.)

This woman, who in 1979 started as an assistant editor, ended her career with DC Entertainment as Executive Editor and Senior Vice President of DC Entertainment's Vertigo imprint, with three Eisners for Best Editor in 1992, 1994, and 1995 and numerous others. She has since returned to comic editing with the upcoming SURGEON X published by Image Comics.

My point in recounting my praise and - dare I say - idolization of Karen Berger as an innovator is that those "good" editors will have a history of being good editors. You can probably name a few yourselves.

And speaking of history, you can ask a freelance editor for references. Samples are good, but references (as for any job interview) back up the word of the editor in talking about their work and accomplishments.

On a personal level, I believe those whom I have worked with would give positive reviews of my work and I'd be happy to provide references. Just saying... ;)

Scribbly
09-03-2016, 08:05 AM
As far I know, the biggest example of "in house" comic's Editor of all times was STAN LEE.
Working for Marvel as writer and editor, giving brief plots ideas to artists and editing texts and dialogue (When not the artwork) over what the artist ( ex. JACK KIRBY) wrote as indications for text and dialogue on the margins of the pages.
That was called the Marvel style for writing comics: 1)Plot, 2)Artwork, 3)Editing dialogue and text over artwork.

Lee Nordling
09-03-2016, 08:59 AM
One correction to what Scribbly wrote: 3) WRITING text (dialogue & narration) over artwork.

Per numerous sources, Stan's usual "plot" was a page or two, roughly describing stuff that should happen, "roughly" being the key adverb, and then artists made up everything else to advance a narrative, so show who should be arguing or chatting or whatever, and then Stan would figure out what to put in the panels.

It's a highly collaborative process, and if the artist isn't a VERY good storyteller, conceptually and visually, then the book would be a mess.

It's likely that Stan's editing on these books was broad on story and art (to make the deadlines). I don't know who oversaw the letterers and colorists.

Re. whether Stan was the "biggest" example of an in-house editor, I can't say, but he's certainly the most famous.

But if you talk to writer-editors (my age) who learned their craft in NYC, Julie Schwartz is a name that comes up even more than Stan's, if the discussion is about editors.

Scribbly
09-03-2016, 02:08 PM
One correction to what Scribbly wrote: 3) WRITING text (dialogue & narration) over artwork.

Per numerous sources, Stan's usual "plot" was a page or two, roughly describing stuff that should happen, "roughly" being the key adverb, and then artists made up everything else to advance a narrative, so show who should be arguing or chatting or whatever, and then Stan would figure out what to put in the panels.

It's a highly collaborative process, and if the artist isn't a VERY good storyteller, conceptually and visually, then the book would be a mess.

It's likely that Stan's editing on these books was broad on story and art (to make the deadlines). I don't know who oversaw the letterers and colorists.

Re. whether Stan was the "biggest" example of an in-house editor, I can't say, but he's certainly the most famous.

But if you talk to writer-editors (my age) who learned their craft in NYC, Julie Schwartz is a name that comes up even more than Stan's, if the discussion is about editors.

Thanks for the Editing Lee!
As you see, I consider editing as "correcting" and also guiding.
What I see on Stan Lee is "providing the plot" and then "writing and "editing" over artwork in many possible ways.
Modifying the meaning of what Kirby suggested (by writing on margins and sometimes on balloons) as dialogue for the characters all the time. Sometimes using, but mostly, twisting, ignoring or directly changing the full meaning of words and mood of what Kirby proposed. Which, as is recorded, was quite upsetting for Kirby but greatly acclaimed by the general audience. I call it EDITING. And of course, WRITING.
Having Stan Lee as the "Biggest" Editor, I would have Jules "Julie" Schwartz as the "Super" Editor for in house comics. IMHO.
These two Editors would ask the artists to modify, change and redo artwork when they felt it was needed. Which is another important prerogative of Editors as well.

PS, For whoever doesn't know yet, Stan Lee created this "Marvel method" of making comics rather than merely writing them because, due awkward circumstances, he was left as the only writer and editor available in the company.
With the aggravating that the comic's Distributor was asking him for a minimum of 20 titles ready and on print every month to keep the distribution going. Stan Lee's survival instincts made him to create this innovative method for producing comics. But he was able to do this after mastering his comics writing skills by 20 years of previously writing full scripts comics. Every day. The Biggest.

Later on, the Marvel method under Stan Lee didn't stop only on the writing, but it went over the artwork as well.
With the same concept, by having only one "master artist" sketching pages for several inkers.
Working 5 to 6 sketched pages per day instead of producing only one full detailed page per day. Sending these sketched pages to the inker for doing the finishing and inking. Multiplying this way by five times the capabilities of comics production working with only one great artist. Genius. Isn't ?

Lee Nordling
09-03-2016, 08:19 PM
It WAS genius.

I also like Marv's (Wolfman) Method (explained further in CCP), which involves writing plot for each page and then adding dialogue at the bottom of the script. It's how he wrote his book, "A Man Called A-X".

The artist can then layout the page however he/she wants, allowing space for the dialogue to fit.

This process takes advantage of the plot method approach to storytelling by letting the artist produce dynamic layouts...but RETAINS the writer's thoughts for narration and dialogue.

It's the best of both worlds.

But in both of these the artist had better be a REALLY good storyteller...or it'll be a mess.

Most artists don't have these chops, so these are risky processes to adopt without exactly the right people in place to make them work.

Steven Forbes
09-03-2016, 08:30 PM
It WAS genius.

I also like Marv's (Wolfman) Method (explained further in CCP), which involves writing plot for each page and then adding dialogue at the bottom of the script. It's how he wrote his book, "A Man Called A-X".

The artist can then layout the page however he/she wants, allowing space for the dialogue to fit.

This process takes advantage of the plot method approach to storytelling by letting the artist produce dynamic layouts...but RETAINS the writer's thoughts for narration and dialogue.

It's the best of both worlds.

But in both of these the artist had better be a REALLY good storyteller...or it'll be a mess.

Most artists don't have these chops, so these are risky processes to adopt without exactly the right people in place to make them work.

How would one edit something like this? (To bring it back to the topic.)

SamRoads
09-03-2016, 11:15 PM
I'm a little late to this editor party, but I've brought cheesy dips and some slightly-flat ginger beer, so not to worry. I also bring two positive stories about editors.

In my day job I'm a magazine editor/publisher, so I know how crucial an editor is. When I started making comics I knew I'd need an editor and, because its the best resource for comics-heads online, wended my way to ComixTribe.

After a hundred Bolts and Nuts and even more TPGs, I felt like I knew enough about comics to be worth hiring an editor. I spoke to a number of editors without feeling that 'oh yeah' moment, then eventually connected with Yannick Morin, who'd written a few articles and edited some TPGs.

Like (most) of the other editors I'd talked to, he knew the craft of comics, but he was the person with whom I felt a strong storytelling connection. I'm not entirely sure whether I can describe why, possibly a shared use of language, or shared background in other stories.

He edited my first graphic novel and half of the second, until, alas! he decided that comics editing wasn't what he wanted to do. (Definitely not my fault. Right?)

I still miss him and his input, and hope he changes his mind one day and returns to comics.

A second shout out to the very present Steven Forbes. The sheer bloody-minded hard work of this chap astounds me. All those Proving Grounds. All that for-free brilliant advice for people who often didn't want to bother to try and improve.

I attempted to say 'thanks' to Steven on the comments of every single TPG, just to make sure he knew that this particular comics student was always watching and learning. Thanks Steven! I wouldn't be wherever I am now without you. (Let's assume this is a compliment. :) )

And one more thing... Karen Berger edited tonnes of my favourite books, but Pat Mills got me started, and made 2000AD that anarchic force for goodness which still dominates the UK comics scene.

Lee Nordling
09-04-2016, 12:38 AM
To Steven's question, my answer: with deftness, and a clear understanding of intent.

Marv & Shawn McManus did this as a creator-owned title for Bravura/Malibu, then (after Malibu was bought by Marvel) for DC. So if there were editors assigned to the project, their contributions would've been nominal.

That said, if I was editing a book like this, I'd be cautious, making sure that each step had the potential to work.

First, I'd make sure that each prospective page of the plot layout paced out well for the overall issue or book.

Then I'd make sure each page COULD work as a page; this requires knowing what can and can't be done. If I had any questions, I'd powwow with the writer to see what he/she imagined; we'd discuss it. If the script needed to be more clear, I'd ask for that.

Then I'd show the script to artist and get sketches/layouts.

Because this is SUCH a collaborative process, I'd share the layouts with the writer to get input.

Presuming the dialogue and/or narration for that page could fit in the layout out, I'd make a determination about whether the layout worked OR I'd convey what the writer and I agreed did or didn't work, and make constructive suggestions for the latter.

Again, presuming the artist made a fair interpretation of the script, I'd expect the writer and myself to allow a LOT of room for script interpretation, because, frankly, if we didn't, then the script should've been written full script method, not Marv Method.

Context is everything, next to the end result, which is more than everything.

BTW, I just made up this process, the same way I approach every new relationship.

There's a famous editor who used to call a famous artist every morning to find out how many pages he drew the previous day. That's because the editor KNEW that if the artist wasn't called then pages likely wouldn't have been drawn.

When the editor was leaving the publisher, the editor told the next editor how to work with the artist. The New Editor said she didn't need to do that, because the artist was a professional. The Original Editor said, "You don't understand. You need to do this or the work won't get done and the book will be so late you won't be able to catch up."

So the New Editor ignored the advice...and was STUNNED to discover, when the deadline neared, that the artist had done very little on the book.

Moral to the story: comics are a collaborative process, and it takes a very talented and/or powerful person to avoid adjusting to his/her collaborators.

In short: we make it up as we go, but hopefully with great awareness and a full bag of sequential art craft.

Shorter still: it's about understanding and dealing with all the moving parts.

Steve Colle
09-04-2016, 04:20 AM
I've done this type of editing a few times, both with a creator who was doing all of the work themselves and with writer/artist teams. I find this to be even more stage-editing than going from a full script to pencils, etc. because it forces the story to be developed in three vs. two stages, IMO. It works in the sense that the plot is laid out according to scene breaks and less according to page and panel divisions.

To give an idea of how I first learned of this method, JM DeMatteis was nice enough to send me a published plot format for a Moon Knight story he had written when I was just starting out and interested more in writing than editing. His plot consisted of Scene 1 being x number of pages with clear (but not stifling) direction, similar to an outline but more detailed with intermittent dialogue samples, with the same for Scene 2 and so on. When there was a shared or split page, he would indicate it in the description. I liked this way of doing it in that it would allow an editor to look at the total page count, see how pages were distributed, what information would be covered in those pages, and still allow for an indication to the artist of what sort of actions and facial expressions would be in the scene based on the (potential, but not final) dialogue that would be in that scene. However, something else that (I believe) DeMatteis did was after the plotted pages, he included pages of the copy only (dialogue, captions, and SFX) in the order it would appear in the scenes. This was like the copy that would appear in a full script, but without the individual panel descriptions separating them. I say I "believe" it was him, but this might have been some other writer whose work I had seen in the last 30 years since meeting JM, but I do remember seeing dialogue and then comparing it to the actual comic that had been printed.

For myself editing this style at this stage, I was able to make suggestions to the writer of where page counts could be adjusted to maximize key aspects and figure out if what was written would best serve the story when drawn out. Oddly enough, it also felt like I wasn't micro-managing the story before it went to the artist like editing a script does. All well and good, but I also knew the artist was talented enough to take this information and run with it. This does NOT work as well for an artist who lacks that kind of vision and ability.

In the projects I have edited that were in this format, the artist would give us (the writer and I) thumbnails of how he/she saw the pages/scenes looking for pacing, space for intended copy in the panels, etc. This also allowed the writer to give their thoughts on if there was accuracy to what s/he envisioned, to make changes together, and to decide whether or not his/her copy needed to be adjusted. And here's the thing: The copy didn't change because it had to, but rather because the artist had done something that encouraged a change in the writer's approach to the panel, such as having a character in a certain pose that reflected a different verbal reaction than what was initially planned. And of course, I was there as a third perspective, one who also considered the reader into the equation.

I loved this way of working as it was a true collaboration with a lot of give and take, with my really taking on the role of mediator, tie-breaker, and devil's advocate. I've really only had one instance where what the artist showed us didn't look the same in the final pencils, which forced the writer to again revisit the dialogue, for which there was a bit of an exchange of non-pleasantries that required my intervention as said mediator/counsellor/referee (these were best friends, so it really needed to be handled with kid gloves).

That's been my experience, but is that how it is for other creators and editors using this method? Is this how Stan Lee and the artists/storytellers he worked with (Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, etc.) collaborated? I don't know.

Lee Nordling
09-05-2016, 10:06 AM
So...we've been discussing two types of editors: the first are the ones you're stuck with or who embrace your work, i.e. the editors on staff who work for publishers; and then there are the ones you hire to help you.

The former may or may not help you, and the latter may or may not help you.

The former you can't do anything about (unless you've got enough pull to get your own way and/or get rid of the editor); the latter you can choose to disregard (but you probably still have to pay them for their contribution).

The former is your contact with your publisher, the one who's held responsible for getting the book done; The latter is responsible to you for the work that was agreed on.

You're stuck with the former (for better and/or worse), but why do you need the latter?

Most editors will agree creators producing their own work on spec need some kind of editor, and most creators either: 1) disagree that they need an editor (for any number of reasons, including those expressed in this thread), or; 2) don't think they can afford one.

Some of those in Group 1 are probably correct. They can probably get by well enough to create something that serves as a great first completed draft or book to get a publisher interested or to self-publish (and I see MOST of you creators out there now nodding your heads, because you think you're in this group).

But most of you are not in this group.

How do you know if you're in this group or not?

Well, THAT'S a great question (and not just because I asked it).

THAT'S the important question. Translated, the question is: how do you know your work is good enough on its own for your intended purpose?

I come back to a character-motivation paradigm from Robert McKee that gets to the heart of the matter: nobody does more than they think they need to do to get what they want.

This, by the way, to you writers, is the BEST tool available for understanding and creating character motivation, because it is true in every instance for every human being in the world, as well as every character in every story ever written.

An example, if a character needs to cross a street, a normal person walks across a street. If you need your character to climb a tree and crawl across a limb to drop down on the other side of the street, then you'd better electrify the street.

Or you can make the character crazy by making him/her feel that he/she'd sink into the blacktop, so crossing the street via tree makes sense.

People are this way at work. A lot people just go about doing their jobs well enough so they won't get fired. A lot of people do their best because of work ethic and/or duty. Some go too far in trying to do their job, because they think that's what they need to do to get ahead. You get the idea, right?

Nobody does more than they think they need to do to get what they want.

And no creator does more work (or pays more money) to get something done that will accomplish their goals.

And that's the problem: most creators don't understand fully WHAT they need to do to get what they want.

Charting a career (or hobby) path is hard; there are stop signs and walls on and across the road that seem insurmountable.

And resources are usually thin, so it's understandable why creators won't want to spend hundreds of dollars on something that probably won't MAKE hundreds of dollars; it's a real quandary, one that will stifle too many careers.

And, of course, there are no guarantees that spending hundreds of dollars on an editor, tens of thousands on an education, or even $25 on a how-to-create-comics book will get you through those stop signs or over those walls.

I remember the frustration of being in my early thirties and still not having got where I wanted to, and feeling like I was going nowhere. I leaped at every opportunity, the ones I found and the ones I was offered, and I was lucky, because Mark Evanier gave me my first big break (to produce the Masters of the Universe mini-comics that packed out with the toys), and I'd been a designer/art director long enough to get a job at the Los Angeles Times Syndicate as their art director when the position opened up. It helped also that I'd met David Seidman, their comics editor, the previous summer at Comic-Con in San Diego, so he gave me the heads up about the open position. It also helped that I knew Don Dougherty, a comic strip writer for The Walt Disney Creative Services/Publications department, from CAPS, and when he told a group of us that he was leaving to go over to animation, I found my way in towards filling that position. The same was true for my gigs at DC Comics and Nickelodeon Magazine; I found my way in through people that I met and/or knew, but also because I had GOOD work behind me that showed I could do the jobs.

What's the point of that short bio?

That you never know when an opportunity, the one you want or need, will present itself, but when it does you ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO BE PREPARED TO SHOW THE BEST WORK POSSIBLE, MORE THAN JUST WHAT YOU THINK YOU NEED TO DO TO GET WHAT YOU WANT.

A lot more.

You can't just show okay work or good work; you need to show GREAT work.

If your work's not great (and you know if it is or isn't, or at least should), then you will need some more work and probably some help getting there.

That help may be us on this thread or an editor you hire or assistance offered by fellow creators, but you probably need it.

So what's my point?

Every single one of you reading to this point has an opportunity to get answers to questions you don't usually EVER get to ask...to get some of that help or guidance.

So ask your questions.

And if you're not asking the questions, then ask yourself why not.

My answer: because you think you're already doing what you THINK you need to do to get what you want...and I know how that's likely to turn out, because that's the way it usually turns out.

The pep talk's over.

Steve Colle
09-05-2016, 12:21 PM
I think the pep talk was well worth it, Lee. Thanks for posting that.

Something that you wrote and the way you wrote it really hit the nail on the head as it pertains to cost validation for editing services and other sources that may not guarantee a financial return:

And resources are usually thin, so it's understandable why creators won't want to spend hundreds of dollars on something that probably won't MAKE hundreds of dollars; it's a real quandary, one that will stifle too many careers.

And, of course, there are no guarantees that spending hundreds of dollars on an editor, tens of thousands on an education, or even $25 on a how-to-create-comics book will get you through those stop signs or over those walls.

I find there's another mentality that creators tend to have as it applies to the inner debate of hiring an editor: If it isn't seen, does it have value? How does a creator validate spending x dollars on something that isn't a visible part of the process and product, something that isn't the story and dialogue or any aspect of the artwork (including colours and lettering)? After all, the art is what will sell the book, right? The story will bring them back for more, right?

Right... and wrong.

Yes, the art may sell a first issue based solely on look, but what if the art isn't doing its job? What if there are issues with visual storytelling, where choices made affect clarity, timing, and lead to questions that stop the reader dead in his/her tracks? What if the colours are too bold, too disjointed, too washed out, etc.? What if the lettering and balloon shapes/placement stand out like a sore thumb, blocking important components of the artwork or in a font style or size that isolates it in a negative way or, the opposite, is so much more professional than the rest of the visuals?

And what about the story? Is the copy doing its job, as dialogue or narrative? This is the first thing I notice when I start to read and the first thing that will kick me out if it's bad, no matter how the pages look. Does the story pull me in? Does it flow? Are the characters well developed? Are their motivations and actions believable, relatable, etc. or are they melodramatic, exaggerated, cliche, etc. without deliberate intent?

These are all things that are seen in all their wonder and glory, but what if any - or all - of these aren't wondrous or glorious? What if the pieces aren't working together, but instead working against each other? What if the components, in part or as a whole, are lacking in appeal. And the biggest question: What if what's seen isn't worth seeing?

Here's something to consider: It's fine to make the mistakes and figure out how to correct them after the fact, like publishing a first issue and finding out it wasn't well received for (insert reasons here) or even to submit work to a publisher based on its own merits, but this proverb really does ring true: First impressions are the most lasting.

I want to give you an example of a well established creator whose work stymied me in how bad it was once I read his first issue: Bryan Hitch and his REAL HEROES, published through Image Comics. Not only were there clear editing mistakes like missing words, lack of punctuation or, dare I mention, an incomplete ellipsis on the very first page, the book was (in all honesty) terribly written by Hitch and incorporated splash pages/double page splashes so numerous they seemed almost the norm and not the exception. Here's what a reviewer with Comic Book Resources wrote about the first issue: http://www.cbr.com/real-heroes-1/. I was so glad the writer of this review made a comment about his writing in this way: "Much of the problem comes from a lack of editing." He didn't have an editor... and it showed in a big way. As an aside, it was set as a 6 issue mini-series and ended at #4.

(I actually used the first issue as a sample in the class I was teaching on graphic narration for writers and artists. It was a great example of what not to do, as all of my students came back with very negative comments from a reader and creator perspective.)

My point is that a good editor can be as much of a deciding factor in a quality work as any other member of your creative team and can make your submissions to publishers, independently or as a team, have more value by pointing out those problem areas before you send it in. As such, they (or we, in this case) have as much value as the other creators in your team because we help make what is seen worth seeing.

JamesVenhaus
09-06-2016, 11:51 AM
This has been a fascinating thread. Thanks to everyone who has posted so far. Everyone seems to be in agreement that there are basically two types of editors: (Quoted from a previous entry to this thread)

1) one where I hire an editor to help me clean up my work, and
2) one where an editor agrees to publish my work (and so I work for him/her)

I seem to be working with a third type. Or at least, a third type of editor/writer relationship. I have an agreement with IDW to publish my creator-owned comic. The agreement is more like a licensing agreement than a work for hire agreement. Essentially, I create the content, and they agree to publish it and we split revenue. I am solely responsible for all creative content. I've been assigned an editor at IDW, but his role is more limited to the production side. He will shepherd my project through the production process, but other than pointing out any typos, his input is not like any of the editors I've seen described on this thread.

I'm not complaining, but I've not seen this type of editor mentioned on this thread. In theatre we would have called this person a "production manager" and not an editor. Has anyone worked in this type of situation before?

It occurs to me that if I want the type of editor that has been described here, that I need to hire one just the same way I hired an artist and a letterer.

Steven Forbes
09-06-2016, 12:25 PM
This has been a fascinating thread. Thanks to everyone who has posted so far. Everyone seems to be in agreement that there are basically two types of editors: (Quoted from a previous entry to this thread)

1) one where I hire an editor to help me clean up my work, and
2) one where an editor agrees to publish my work (and so I work for him/her)

I seem to be working with a third type. Or at least, a third type of editor/writer relationship. I have an agreement with IDW to publish my creator-owned comic. The agreement is more like a licensing agreement than a work for hire agreement. Essentially, I create the content, and they agree to publish it and we split revenue. I am solely responsible for all creative content. I've been assigned an editor at IDW, but his role is more limited to the production side. He will shepherd my project through the production process, but other than pointing out any typos, his input is not like any of the editors I've seen described on this thread.

I'm not complaining, but I've not seen this type of editor mentioned on this thread. In theatre we would have called this person a "production manager" and not an editor. Has anyone worked in this type of situation before?

It occurs to me that if I want the type of editor that has been described here, that I need to hire one just the same way I hired an artist and a letterer.

I've been in that situation a few times. I have a client who got his book published through Arcana after I edited it, a friend who wanted me to look over his stuff as it was being published by Action Lab, and another client who has a book coming through Action Lab that I'm editing. Back in the day, I had another client who was going to have his book published through Archaia, but that dried up for whatever reason. This same client came back to me to help with another book that came out through Top Cow, but we didn't see eye to eye, so they went somewhere else.

Steve Colle
09-06-2016, 12:43 PM
It's not uncommon for an in-house editor to be solely (or mostly) a production manager. The company agrees to publish the work with the understanding that it will meet its criteria, which yours is or is very near to. I've heard stories from other creators who have said their editor didn't provide any input, not even proofreading, and yet their name was credited as "editor". I don't understand that, but that's my opinion.

There are many roles editors fulfill and in your case, that's what IDW has provided. Will this editor be credited? Who knows, but he's still doing his job if he's proofreading and production managing. S/he's just not involved in the "nitty gritty" of your work.

Have you ever noticed the editing credits on many of DC or Marvel's titles? I know I've seen credits for editor-in-chief, group (or line) editor, editor (or senior editor), assistant editor, and associate editor all in the same issue. Even taking out the first two, that's three editors specific to that one title, all with very distinct jobs to do in the production of that one issue. And that's not including the in-house proofreader who never gets credited for pre-press editing.

So I would count the editor you're dealing with at IDW as the in-house variety, even if they haven't worked with you in the capacity we have focused on in this thread.

Steve Colle
09-06-2016, 12:55 PM
And just for clarification purposes, it isn't the editor who agrees to publish your work: it's the publisher/publishing house.

There's a lot that goes into deciding which material to publish, much of which has nothing to do with the editor. These include marketing, sales, finance, legal (especially if it's a licensed property), and many others, all working together to figure out if the material A) fits within their company's framework of genre, format, etc., B) if and how they can sell the material to their specific audience, and C) if the financial return covers all expenses and still provides a profit. There are other considerations, but I just wanted to demonstrate that the editor is assigned to you, but isn't the one who makes all the decisions to accept and publish your work. This seems to be something that may have been misconstrued in the wording we've been using. Our apologies.

JamesVenhaus
09-06-2016, 01:36 PM
And I want to clarify that I am thrilled with what my editor is doing, although it is very different that what has been described on this thread. So far, he has answered dozens of "newbie" questions I had for him and he has helped me secure artists for variant covers and such. I'm very happy!

But, I do see the value in having an editor that I would bring on board during the creative phase. I've been a playwright for 20 years, and the role of "editor" really doesn't exist. So, I used to doing it on my own. But, another set of eyes, especially ones that have experience in the biz, would be helpful.

Lee Nordling
09-06-2016, 08:30 PM
James, we did mention that editor in one of my eariler posts: the editor who works for a publisher who embraces your work/vision.

Now, BECAUSE it's a licensed kind of a deal (where you own the book and it's his/her job to help you and perhaps persuade you about what he or she thinks would help), that's the UNDERPINNING of why he or she is embracing your work (in addition to that he or she may like it).

So there really only two types, with dozens of qualifications for each one.

I'm glad the experience is working for you.

Steve Colle
09-08-2016, 02:53 PM
I'd like to ask those editors who read this thread: Do you provide pre-submission editing and, if so, what do you do for your clients?

Pre-submission editing, in a nutshell for those not knowing, allows an editor to provide constructive feedback from a position of experience and/or knowledge of the industry, then subsequently indicate ways in which to improve the clients' chances of their work being accepted as an individual creator or team. This can be as minimal or intensive as is agreed upon by the creator(s) and editor.

While this does concentrate on the work itself, in some cases the editor also explores individual companies to discover what their particular guidelines are to facilitate their clients being aimed in the right directions.

Another important part of this aspect of editing is the honest and professional assessment of the level the clients' work presents and conveying this with directions for improvement. How this helps is to prevent the premature submission of material that doesn't meet the standards of the marketplace, which results in either a form rejection letter/email or no response at all, leaving the creator without guidance for improvement.

Many times during this process, the reference to resources that will assist in the creator's growth - such as print and online materials - are provided.

Brainstorming with the editor is also an important part of the creative process at this stage as it allows the creators to have both a sounding board as well as a source of inspiration for building, modifying, and finalizing approaches to story and art (including lettering and colours).

Part of this is in line with what JamesVenhaus was mentioning as it pertains to a complete work, but extends to include individuals trying to hone their own crafts in preparation for a positive submission experience.

Thoughts?

Marta
09-08-2016, 05:51 PM
I do sometimes provide these services under the umbrella of developmental editing. It's preferable to give feedback at the script stage, because it's progressively more work for the team, especially artists and colorists, to make changes after the artwork has been completed. But it can be helpful for feedback on early pages, or for a pitch package requesting limited numbers of pages, as long as the work hasn't been completed yet, or the team is willing to redo some of it.

Sometimes presubmission editing is intended for a pitch to a particular publisher, but the creator seeking the feedback is not necessarily tied to only that option. So it's partly acting as a reality check.

One of the other things I provide presubmission is a check of the submission packet against the publisher guidelines. A lot of people don't realize they haven't followed those closely enough.

In any case, it's also a good idea to seek opinions from lots of other creators, like separate opinions on the quality of the coloring, lettering, etc. Sometimes a writer saving money by also doing lettering doesn't want to hear from an editor that the lettering quality is poor. That also applies to an artist also doing coloring, who doesn't want to hear that it isn't strong enough.

Steven Forbes
09-08-2016, 09:35 PM
There are times when I do this, myself.

A few caveats:

I don't like looking at proposals simply because "no" is my first mode. I automatically seek things that are obviously wrong, and most creators don't like to hear what's needing to be fixed.

Most creators don't know how to sell what they've created--or don't know how to create what they're trying to sell. (Insert talk about sizzle vs steak here.) Selling is a distinct skill, and trying to make a comic interesting without overselling can be a challenge, and trying to convince them why what they're doing won't work very well for their title is exhausting.

I want my clients to do their own homework first. Tell me a bit about the work, tell me where you'd like to pitch it, and why you think it's a good fit there.

I will not look at manga.

Now, with all that said, when I do project management, I will also generally tell a creator where I think their book could fit--unless they already know where they want to pitch it. For project management, I go over the script, all aspects of production, help them craft their pitch, and point them in the direction of companies that may be open to what they have. Sometimes they get through, sometimes they don't.

But just looking over a pitch package as an entity unto itself? I'll do it, but it isn't my cup of tea. I'd much rather be involved in the entire project, not just looking over the pitch.

(As EiC of ComixTribe, I see a fair number of pitches. Most are not good, some are good but not something that we could sell, and there are very few that we find that are both good and that we can sell. This is why my first mode is very often "no.")

Lee Nordling
09-10-2016, 09:46 AM
I don't edit freelance.

But I unofficially offer advice to writers with whom I've worked.

Or, for when I was accepting submissions from new writers--which I'm no longer doing--I'll ask for a sample of their best work, specifying what I do and don't want to see, then write a DETAILED response of the first and second page. That's usually all it takes to show a writer where they are and aren't accomplishing what they set out to do. Obviously, for this, I'm not concerned about story; I'm establishing their level of craft. Also, I'm determining how well they respond to notes...and they usually go away and never come back, which is a shame, because I like to work with writers who have a hunger to improve.

I also used to review the work of artists, when I was accepting submissions, and would offer the most constructive direction I could about what was and wasn't working.

And I've never shared my previous editing work with writers or artists, mostly because nobody ever asked me, too, and (in the right situation) I'd have been happy to.

I DID, however, make an editorial evaluation to nail down getting my job at Platinum Studios.

The guy in charge of Production had acquired the rights to a European graphic album/novel, and he asked me to read it.

At dinner, with everybody from the studio present, he asked me what I thought of the book.

I told him that it was kind of like a Twilight Zone episode (in a good way), where the story was a loop: a guy sailed to an island, (did whatever he did with and to the people who lived on the resort/community on the island), and left, but he was destined to return and repeat the same story over and over again.

The Production guy said, "Well, that's an interesting interpretation..."

I said, "That's not an interpretation; that's what happened."

"How do you know?" he asked.

"Because," I answered, "when he arrived there was graffiti on the seawall near his boat, and it was the same graffiti he WROTE ON THE WALL at the end of the story, thus creating the time loop."

"How do you know that?" he challenged me.

I said, "When I saw him write the graffiti at the end, I went back to the beginning to see if what he wrote was there, and it was."

"Well," he said, "if that's the case, I must be an idiot for missing it."

When we got back to the office (after dinner), an associate grabbed the book and confirmed what I said.

For getting my job five or so years earlier at DC, it was different. There were a couple casual discussions with Paul Levitz, to whom I ended up reporting, and he asked me to write a paper. The topic: what would I do at DC if I could do anything I wanted to? This wasn't what JOB did I want; it was what would I change/do/make happen if I could exert my will on the company.

Try answering THAT question, with an eye toward getting the job.

A couple years earlier, when Dick Giordano wanted to hire me away from Disney to edit one of the lines of books, I gave him copies of what I'd written during a sit-down at the San Diego Comic Con, and we chatted for quite a while about what we liked about comics and storytelling.

There was no written test, and Dick wanted to hire me. Sadly, his wife died during this period, and Dick retired from his editorial position. We stayed friends, and he was a big help to me a couple years later when Paul hired me to run Creative Services as Group Editor.

To get my freelance editing job of the Rugrats comic strip for Nickelodeon Magazine and Creators Syndicate, a friend, Rob Simpson, brought me in to a meeting to discuss me replacing him. He'd launched the strip and the subscription Rugrats comic, and needed to let go of the strip, because it was falling behind deadline and he needed the help.

I met with the department's publisher and EIC, discussed my credentials, and shared a plan for what we needed to do to get the strip back on track.

That plan involved hiring a LOT of writers to pitch and sell gags to me, and to bring in additional artists to get the strip back on schedule. (BTW, this was pre-Internet delivery, so everything was getting FedExed at every stage, and late strips were being FedExed to newspapers for publication, so this was a financial disaster that I had to put behind us as quickly as possible.)

Re. hiring numerous gag writers, my philosophy was this: we're going to do "Peanuts," but younger. I also said we cannot compete on the newspaper page with only one writer, because a new strip has to be MUCH better than most of what's on the page if it's going to survive. So I made myself the Arbiter of Funny.

The strip ended up running five years, and Andrews & McMeel published two collected editions that I put together.

This is a long way around the initial question, but I thought folks here might be interested in reading the different ways somebody can get through the door.

Steven Forbes
09-10-2016, 05:44 PM
For getting my job five or so years earlier at DC, it was different. There were a couple casual discussions with Paul Levitz, to whom I ended up reporting, and he asked me to write a paper. The topic: what would I do at DC if I could do anything I wanted to? This wasn't what JOB did I want; it was what would I change/do/make happen if I could exert my will on the company.

Try answering THAT question, with an eye toward getting the job.



That is actually something that I would love to have a crack at in the current market. Not to say that my way is the best way, but I have definite strong opinions on what would make me start reading DC books again.

It's actually an extremely good question, one that should make you sit down and take a look at the entire comics landscape, seeing what is and isn't working in your view, and articulate a plan on improving a sector of it.

Whenever we say we don't like something, there's always the unsaid implication that we could do better. However, most people are unable to articulate what they would have done instead, and how what they would have done would have been better for (insert whatever thing you want here).

Answering the question serves a few purposes:

First, it would tell what you saw as being "wrong" with the industry in general and DC in particular. If I were in Levitz' shoes, it would tell me where your head was at, if we saw things differently or the same, or if you saw something that was so obvious I missed it and it needed to be pointed out to me.

Second, it would make you articulate a plan. Plans should have a stated goal, how to implement actions to achieve the goal, and the ramifications of reaching that goal. Again, if I were in Levitz' shoes, it would tell me your knowledge of how things worked (or how you thought things worked), as well as inform me as to your state of mind if the plan was all about you and achieving power or if it was good for the company to grow going forward.

Third, and most importantly, if I were in Levitz' shoes, it would tell me not only if we could work together, but if you would be a good fit for the company as a whole.

It's a great question that tells a lot about an individual.

Lee Nordling
09-10-2016, 10:33 PM
I began my letter to Paul by writing that everything that followed was going to be a lie.

(ulp)

I wrote I didn't have enough information to give a comprehensive answer for what I'd REALLY do...but also that he knew this, and still expected me to give an answer, so that in that context everything that followed was a lie, because it was only based on my perceptions of looking in from the outside.

Anybody care to take tap dancing lessons? (Imagine the smiley face icon here)

ayalpinkus
09-11-2016, 12:44 AM
I began my letter to Paul by writing that everything that followed was going to be a lie.

(ulp)

I wrote I didn't have enough information to give a comprehensive answer for what I'd REALLY do...but also that he knew this, and still expected me to give an answer, so that in that context everything that followed was a lie, because it was only based on my perceptions of looking in from the outside.

Anybody care to take tap dancing lessons? (Imagine the smiley face icon here)

Lee,
That's a really great question to ask a potential managerial hire, and if I were hiring a manager, your answer would be the one I wanted to hear!

In your case it's a bit different because you know DC/Marvel, their products and markets, but in general, a manager should first look around for 100 days or so to get to know the organization, the people working there, the culture, the products, the market, the customers, the competition, the whims of the owners/bosses, the challenges the organization is facing, the resources available, et cetera.

Only then should that manager devise a plan and get support from high up for executing that plan.

If you start making decisions the moment you arrive, you'll make mistakes that can cost the organization dearly.

Is how I think it works. Is how I think a Harvard Business Review article would suggest you tackle this :-)

Putting on my tap dance shoes too now.

Scribbly
09-11-2016, 10:18 AM
About it. From a "jobs search" site that show up at Bleeding cool some time ago:
http://www.bleedingcool.com/2012/12/15/dc-comics-looking-for-a-new-editor-and-two-assistant-editors-for-new-york-offices/

Here’s what it takes to be an Editor…

SUMMARY OF POSITION
DC Comics seeks an Editor for the Editorial (East Coast) department. Position manages a line of editorial product within the DC Comics imprint.

JOB RESPONSIBILITIES
Performs full editorial function for a minimum of 5 monthly titles.
Manages the creative process from conception through publication. Ensures that schedules and budgets are met and product quality is at or above DC’s standards. Seeks ways to keep ongoing series fresh and exciting.

Identifies and develops new editorial products for the DC Universe.
Identifies potential new talent and maintains relationships with current talent.

Ensures that other DC staff members have the materials required to maximize service to the product.
Supervises and develops junior staff members.
Performs other related duties as assigned.

JOB REQUIREMENTS
BA/BS degree in English, Journalism or Art preferred.
3-5 years editorial experience, comic books/graphic novels preferred.

Ability to manage a creative team.
Knowledge of comic book industry strongly preferred.
Knowledge of art (ability to discuss composition, design, etc…) required.
Copyediting and proofreading skills preferred.

Ability to meet deadlines required.
Ability to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing required.
Ability for some light travel strongly preferred.

Must have the ability to communicate effectively and tactfully with managers and other levels of personnel.
Must have the ability to pay close attention to details.
Must have the ability to organize.
Must have the ability to work well under time constraints.
Must have the ability to handle multiple tasks.
Must have the ability to meet deadlines, manage multiple project elements simultaneously.

MAC/PC proficiency required.
Domestic travel up to 5%.


My token.

ayalpinkus
09-12-2016, 01:41 AM
Lots of articles on what managers should do in their first 100 days on the job. Here's one:

http://people-equation.com/new-leadership-role-start-strong-6-key-actions/

And another one:

http://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/first-100-days-as-a-project-management-office-leader/

And another:

http://www.amanet.org/training/articles/A-Leaders-First-100-Days-Be-Aware-of-Scrutiny-Beware-Mutiny.aspx


Assuming we're talking about the editor being a leadership role here, one where the editor needs to have and effectively communicate and then execute a vision for where things need to go.

These articles also mention going after the low-hanging fruit in the first 100 dayd to make yourself seen. Not sure about that: you may not know enough yet to make that call.

Lee Nordling
09-12-2016, 09:31 AM
Going after the low-hanging fruit is important, and implicitly is the stuff that fits in the comfort zone of "what you know" and is likely to "fit with what 'works'" wherever you happen to be doing it.

I was offered some low-hanging fruit at DC when I first started, and I wonder how things might have been different if I'd taken it.

Y'see, I was the outsider from Disney, and was extremely suspect.

A couple friends of mine from the West Coast hooked Paul on a crossover title, and they asked if I could edit it.

I was still getting my feet (and everything up to my neck) wet, and thought it was better edited by somebody in the DCU. (I ran Creative Services.) Also, considering that it involved nearly every superhero in the DCU, I was afraid my involvement might increase tensions with the guy who ran the DCU, instead of improving them.

I probably should have taken the assignment, because it would've allowed me direct interaction with all the editors, instead of being the guy from the different department.

So now we can all learn from my mistakes.

Lee Nordling
09-13-2016, 04:45 PM
I'm curious...is anybody else (besides those posting) getting ANYTHING from these discussions?

Scribbly
09-14-2016, 05:13 AM
Like everything. Some people probably yes and many people probably not.

Steve Colle
09-14-2016, 10:13 AM
I'm curious...is anybody else (besides those posting) getting ANYTHING from these discussions?

To be honest, Lee, I've never seen a thread about editing and editors go as far as we have with this one (79 posts with this one) and never would I have imagined it would get 3469 views (as of this writing). That's incredible! And really, when you consider those who have posted, it has obviously had an impact on how editors are viewed. I know I have received PM's as a result of this discussion.

I find there are readers and then there are those who take the step towards commenting, as happens with every thread in every forum. Lord knows I've looked at my fair share of artwork, colour samples, etc. and haven't had time or perhaps not been inclined to comment. What you've started here in this thread has been worth it, regardless of the voices that haven't been heard. ;)

I'll be back with a continuation of the topics at hand later today, as I see a few directions this can continue in.

Lee Nordling
09-14-2016, 04:28 PM
Thanks, Steve.

I wasn't actually disappointed; I was just curious that so many people had a shot at getting answers to questions they MUST have been pondering, but haven't asked.

I KNOW creators have been burned by editors, and in those situations, as a creator, I always wonder what I could have done differently (so I can do better next time).

So for anybody who wonders how or why your experience went south, feel free to share as much about the process, and maybe somebody here can share insight to improve things for you (and others) the next time.

Because there WILL be a next time, and I always work towards a better outcome.

gmartyt
09-15-2016, 02:22 AM
This discussion has been incredibly helpful. I'd actually like to see this type of discussion for all the other people involved in making comics.

Anyway, in the interest of asking more questions, I was wondering, if I hired an editor to act as a project manager, would it be fine to ask them to help put together the rest of the team?

Steven Forbes
09-15-2016, 12:41 PM
This discussion has been incredibly helpful. I'd actually like to see this type of discussion for all the other people involved in making comics.

Anyway, in the interest of asking more questions, I was wondering, if I hired an editor to act as a project manager, would it be fine to ask them to help put together the rest of the team?

Hey, Greg.

When I sign on as project manager for clients, this is one of the services that I provide.

First, I give them (current) samples of creators I have worked with in the past who have done good work and whom I’d like to work with again…provided, of course, that those creators fit the mood of the story being told. If they don’t, or if the client doesn’t like the samples, I go the extra steps of having helping them craft an ad to be posted here and other places, and I also help them create two separate emails.

The first email is a standard “thank you but no thank you.” This is what the majority of the responders will get. The second email is the “thank you, someone has been chosen, but we’ll keep you on file”. This email only gets sent after someone has been chosen and has accepted the job. This second email, as you can imagine, goes out to a limited amount of people.

For the ad, I help them craft it in such a way as to ask for one thing and one thing only: either links or attachments. If I ask for one but then only get the other, then I know that the creator didn’t read the email or worse, read it, and then decided they didn’t care and sent what specifically wasn’t asked for anyway. Either way, these creators don’t warrant a response because they can’t follow simple rules. And no, I don’t care how good their work looks. (Can both be sent? That depends. If I say no attachments and I get one anyway as a supplement to the links, I might get a little miffed. However, if I asked for attachments and I get that with supplemental links, then I’m likely to be more lenient. Why? Because attachments take up space in my account, and if the ad specifically states no attachments…you can see where this is going.)

Then I go over all of the responses with my client, helping them choose who may be best suited for the story. I do this for pencils and inks (if the artist doesn’t ink themselves), and colors. I have a go-to person for letters and logos. Yes, I give my opinion of the art, especially since newer creators cannot be trusted to have a discerning eye for art. They’re too close to having a dream realized to be dispassionate about who does and doesn’t work and why. I see it as part of my job to save them from themselves.

But that’s what I do for my clients. It’s part of what I really enjoy about editing.

-Steven

Lee Nordling
09-16-2016, 12:39 AM
Hey, Greg.

To directly answer your question: yes.

More appropriately, there should be a discussion about what exactly a prospective editor CAN do to manage the book.

Not everybody's going to have a great "Rolodex" (put in quotes because I doubt anybody uses them anymore, but it's a generic term for contacts/relationships).

Remember, YOU'RE hiring them, so it's more than fair to ask this; as a prospective employer, it's kinda your job (because not everybody is going to laundry list their contributions for you).

Steve Colle
10-31-2016, 04:14 PM
This thread is FAR from done...

Though I've been busy beyond belief lately and haven't had the time to post here, I wanted to give some updates and resources to all of you on the topic of comic editing. First the updates:

I've approached the university I had previously taught a continuing education course at for comic artists and writers about doing a course for editing comics, explaining that aspiring editors, those working in small press and self-publishing in this medium, and editors from outside of our field could learn extensive knowledge that would allow them to do this job based on knowledge and hands on training. My program coordinator tried to fit it within the existing framework, but it goes against the purpose of the course, so I jokingly said "Well, if you moved the Professional Editing Certificate Program out of Business and Management and took writing and even book binding out of Visual Arts, you could have a certificate program that concentrates on publishing while introducing courses on creation and business". I didn't expect an answer back, but two weeks ago I was contacted by this coordinator who said her supervisor is interested in introducing a Graphic Novel Certificate Program that would incorporate these ideas and more and asked me to design it. Talk about opening my mouth and (thankfully) putting my foot in it.

I've also been planning a series of live, on-site open forum discussions with a local comic shop here in Calgary that would allow creators to learn about comic creation, the industry, and the roles of editors in the mix. This is the start of a set of comic writer groups, pro and peer portfolio critiques and assessments for artists and other visual creators, and much more.

I've also gone back to working on a reference book I had started on sequential art techniques years ago, such as the twelve panel frame designs, frames-in-frames and horizon line placement, image size and its affect on empathy, sympathy, and apathy, etc.

Lee gave me the kick in the ass I needed by saying I should write a book on comic editing, which I will eventually, but I have some other unfinished work first. ;)

Speaking of books on editing in this industry, I wanted to share with you two books on the market right now that actually have some great and pretty lengthy content on this topic: Brian Michael Bendis's WORDS FOR PICTURES: The Art and Business of Writing Comics and Graphic Novels and Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente's MAKE COMICS LIKE THE PROS. Both contain direct quotes and interviews from current and former Marvel Comics editors as well as material on key basics of relationships and collaboration between creators and editors (who are also creators, but deserve that distinction). Each contained valuable information that I have personally learned from.

Take the time to look through these and other comic reference books. Though no one source will provide all of the answers, each gives a piece of the puzzle that will benefit your craft and careers in this industry.

Scribbly
11-01-2016, 01:13 AM
Here is a TEDs talk by Brian Bendis.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2IlpKCznN8

What we are watching here is what is inside the book. Word by word. Photos and pictures included. Yes, I got the book. I can tell.
More an inspirational than a how to do book. I like better his TED talk.
Van Lente's book is more clever and specific about how to write and make comics.


Also I like to recommend this underrated book: "The Art of Comic Book Writing"
Which is plenty of information and goes straight to the point in deep without waste of time or mind games:
https://www.amazon.com/Art-Comic-Book-Writing-Definitive/dp/0770436978/ref=pd_sim_14_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=EMBX2J68S65PHCKTW6EK

Steven Forbes
11-01-2016, 11:03 AM
I'm also working on a book, not focusing on editing, but on making comics in general. I've found that most books on the subject focus on one aspect (writing or art), but don't take into account all of the moving parts and general effort it takes to take a comic from concept to the shelf. I'm attempting to write a book that will do just that: explain everything in detail, give examples, have homework (that I might turn into a workbook of some kind), and leave the reader feeling like they can do this.

My goal is to have a first draft done by the end of the year.

It's coming along.

-Steven

Steven Forbes
11-01-2016, 11:18 AM
Here's a question for you, Lee:

With all of the options of self-publishing, why did you go with what looks like a traditional publisher for your book? What are they able to get you that you couldn't get on your own through a publisher like Image?

-Steven

Steve Colle
11-01-2016, 12:31 PM
Here's a question for you, Lee:

With all of the options of self-publishing, why did you go with what looks like a traditional publisher for your book? What are they able to get you that you couldn't get on your own through a publisher like Image?

-Steven

I was thinking more along the lines of www.watsonguptill.com or www.impact-books.com, both of which have that history of successful comic reference materials. And so the question is asked from a second party. ;)

Lee Nordling
11-02-2016, 01:41 AM
Great question, Steven & Steve.

Beginning with the second question, I did send a query to an editor at Watson-Guptill, and never read back a response.

But I got a response from a couple other major publishers that gave me a good indication that my book was so targeted in its approach that it wouldn't make sense for a larger publisher, where they need to sell a LOT of books to make it worthwhile.

I'd hoped for a response from WG because their line is tied to one of the university sequential art programs, and it's perfect for the education market. I still hope I can crack that market, but it's going to have to be word of mouth now (and whatever promotional efforts I can muster up).

Re. impact-books.com, they really weren't on my radar, and when I realized I would be approaching a smaller publisher, my old Nat Gertler (About Comics) made a lot of sense to me. He's got a great rep for being an honest yegg, offers a fair deal, and he's a pal...so if I was going to have to do most of the promotion myself, which I knew I would have to, why NOT go to somebody I can trust to do it well and profit from it?

Anyway, that's the story, and I don't regret going to About Comics at all. Nat's done everything he promised to do and more.

I wish word of mouth was better, but that takes time.

Steven, re. your book, I look forward to reading it!

Steve, congrats on moving the university forward, which is not unlike having to herd educated cats (which are worse than uneducated cats).

Steve Colle
01-04-2017, 05:14 AM
I recently discovered my "in a nutshell" statement for my stance as an editor: My job is to navigate the road that is the story before the reader starts their own journey.

I eliminate the speed bumps and roadblocks, find the signs that will lead the reader off course, move stop signs that are poorly positioned, and help finish the construction to create a smoother road.

Not every story is designed to be smooth, like a backroads trek or an off-road adventure, but every story needs to have a path that gets to the destination through its natural and intended terrain.

This is about story, not plot:

Conflicts in plot have purpose. They pull the reader in.

Conflicts the audience encounters in reading a story - such as issues with punctuation, poor dialogue, art that doesn't convey information effectively, lettering and balloon placement that doesn't compliment the story, and colours that overpower art - will kick them out.

As an editor, my role is to help you create that roadway and make it a journey your readers will want to travel time and again.

Steve Colle
01-09-2017, 02:40 AM
As a bit of an aside, I just sent the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo (held April 27-30 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada) a proposal for a program entitled "You Are The Comic Editor: A Role-Playing Workshop", where attendees will be put into the role of submissions editors for an "established" imaginary comic book publisher. They will be given clear instructions on what criteria they are to follow for accepting submissions, including guidelines, genre and format, and other key points to consider. They will then - as a group with my guidance - go through these submissions and decide which ones get rejected and which moves forward to the "Editor's Meeting" with the editor-in-chief, where they have to make a case for considering the creator or project.

This is something I'm also planning on doing through the alliance I have with a Calgary-based comic shop who is looking to become the creative hub for the city. As it is, I've already done an "Editing From Both Sides of the Desk" presentation to a small group about editing for major publishers, small press, and as a freelancer - this to give them an idea of what to expect as creators through their submission and work processes. I'm also planning "professional and peer portfolio review" sessions for artists so they can have an experienced editor present in a group setting where they can learn from one another while getting a concise review. As well, I'll be setting up a comic book writers group to - again - learn from one another in a comfortable environment.

Giving creators an idea of what to expect from the other side of the editor's desk will hopefully lessen some bad habits, expectations, and the placement of blame when their work or their project doesn't get accepted. Here's hoping. ;)

Marta
01-10-2017, 05:02 PM
That's a cool idea, Steve. Hope you'll post a follow-up after you've tested out the program.

Steve Colle
01-10-2017, 06:19 PM
Hi Marta,

I've already done this type of presentation to creators before - as well as having had a "You be the editor" series of public tests (for lack of a better term) at conventions in the past - and this eye opening experience of the knowledge and critical POV editors need to have was great for everyone. For creators, it taught the sense of quality they needed to work towards in their projects. For the public, seeing the amount of work needed in creating a comic, the time it takes, and the considerations towards making it something worthwhile for them to invest in makes it a fun experiment for everyone.

Steve Colle
02-16-2017, 02:49 AM
I had a great conversation today about the creative process and creator relations from an editor's perspective. The question: "Have you ever had to stop an argument between a writer and an artist?"

The answer is "Yes". One of the roles of an editor is to act as mediator or, at times, as 'marriage counsellor' to the creators, most often to the relationship between writer and artist. An example I can relate is from two best friends working on a story together:

He was used to writing in a prose format and had written a script where seven distinct actions took place in one panel description. She was a capable artist who tried to explain to her friend that it couldn't be done. He got mad, she got angrier, and it required my stepping in to meet with them together. I had the two role play the actions, then decide which actions were necessary to the sequence. All seven weren't needed, so we had two choices: separate panels or create a single panel with no borders between actions to create a smoother flow.

Neither the writer nor the artist were seeing the other's vision. By introducing a different perspective and new vision, they found that meeting in the middle could be done, and the friendship was maintained.

Egos can also play a big part in the downfall of creator relations. Editors sometimes need to decide if the relationship is salvageable or if it's better to break it up. One of our writers when I was EIC in 1993 had a very determined attitude that what he wrote was unchangeable by the artist. It was his way or no way. The artist tried to work with him, but the push and shove became too much and I was asked to step in. What resulted was our ending our relationship with the writer, as it appeared no matter who he worked with, he would be stubborn and possessive. Was his story worth the hassle? No.

Editors are managers and management means taking care of their workers while ensuring the quality of the end product. It doesn't always work out, but for those times it does, it can be very worthwhile.

Steve Colle
02-19-2017, 09:33 AM
After talking with a new client today, I wanted to share something that elaborates upon a comment I made some time ago: representing the reader as an editor.

In every aspect of sales in our global economy, it's all about reaching your target market. Whether it's cars or cleaning solution, business is driven by a desire to fulfill a specific need for a specific audience. Publishing - through its many formats, genres, and company objectives - is no different.

In using the creator-to-audience and creator-to-publisher-to-audience models, editors serve to fulfill the needs of the end user: the reader. This is done with either the creator's objectives in mind when working freelance or towards the mandates of the publisher for whom they work. However, in both cases the editor needs to understand who that audience is and act as the filter through which the work gets through to them.

A good editor understands their specific audiences and can therefore work with the creators and publisher to satisfy their readership. Likewise, a good editor also knows what their own likes and dislikes are and therefore can establish what range of project types, genres, and styles they are best suited for. I, for example, cannot edit manga or children's material because my tastes lie outside of those two formats. I also know my strengths don't extend to prose as I prefer a visual medium.

In THE WRITER'S MARKET, published annually by Writer's Digest, it lists publishing houses and what materials they consider for publication. Editors, as well as literary agents, will have preferences of the genres and audiences they feel they have the best connection with. Working outside of those areas will result in an inferior product if they involve themselves because they don't have that connection, which is why they 'specialize' for lack of a better term.

Having that connection to the readership they represent and realizing where their strengths lie makes for a better final product. Finally, for the creators they work freelance for or the management who is responsible for their assignments, it's equally important they realize when a good thing can be made great with the right editor guiding the way.

Steve Colle
02-21-2017, 11:54 PM
To the other editors out there (Steven Forbes, Marta, Lee, etc.), what do/did you do in your various positions as an editor? I know for Steven, you're the editor-in-chief for Comixtribe as well as a freelancer, so what duties do/did you have in those roles?

Lee Nordling
02-22-2017, 01:20 PM
These are comparisons about what I did and what I do.

For Mattel, I was more of an art packager than an editor, because I didn't oversee the creation of the scripts, except for a sample I produced at the back of the book in the recently published complete Masters of the Universe syndicated comic strip collection.

At the Walt Disney Company/Creative Services Publications dept., when I was promoted to Project Supervisor, I developed and review concepts for prospective books, and worked with on-staff writers, editors, and artists to develop presentation art. This was more a development and creative director job than an editor's job.

At DC Comics, I was Group Editor for Creative Services, and this was more of a management job than an editor's job, though it did involve reviewing and approving proposals for new books; all the Group Editors got this same material for thumbs up, thumbs down, and notes. It was never my call for what we did and didn't publish. I was also part of a panel involved in the assessment of books produced by editors, which involved reading a run of the most recent published titles and offering thoughts and a critique.

At Nickelodeon Magazine, I was handed the reins of the Rugrats comic strip, which had just launched a few months earlier and was floundering. This was my first fully fledged editing gig. Rather than stay with one writer, I brought in a number of additional freelancers to pitch gags. I made myself the Arbiter of Funny, set the course for "Peanuts"-but-younger, brought in different artists to produce pencils, which did create from week to week a slightly different look, but the strip was expensively late with each completed week of strips having to be FedEx'd to the newspapers. I brought the strip back on schedule after just a few months, and after the initial and frustrating shakeout, the strip really competed well on the newspaper comics pages. It continued for five years and two subsequent comic strip collections.

At Platinum Studios, I established the Comic Book Dept., helped fashion the submissions material, developed new writer talent, reviewed all the submissions, gave notes, developed internal concepts, assigned writers further development of stories from internally developed concepts, edited stories and scripts, reviewed art sample submissions, assigned scripts to artists, generated contracts for writers and artists (from templates I helped to create), reviewed and gave notes for all layouts (which is a mandatory step in my process), pencils, inks, color, and lettering, worked with designers to produce company and book-specific needs, and took out the garbage. (I was telecommuting, and didn't have a budget for anybody else throwing out the garbage.)

When I left Platinum, I launched my graphic novel packaging company, The Pack, and I did everything I did at Platinum, but with a different editorial skew.

Right now, I develop the writing and art for presentations, and, after they're set up with publishers, I oversee the scripts (when I'm not the writer), and the entire process of producing the art. I also create the book design, and deliver InDesign documents with the completed book.

I interface well with editors at publishers, because I know their needs and keep them in the loop at every stage of a project's progress.

While I frequently take responsibility for what goes wrong, my overarching goal is to prep everybody so well in advance about what we're doing and what can go wrong that nothing is my fault. And I'm really good at saying, "I told you so." (Yeah, I'm THAT guy that you hate for reminding you I warned you what would happen if you didn't stick to the schedule or write or draw what needed to be written or drawn.)

Steve Colle
02-22-2017, 04:06 PM
Before my first 'gig' as an editor, I had been working in a comic specialty shop for five years, from 1988 to 1993. It was with the release of the first Vertigo books in January of '93 where I was invited to write a series of three articles talking about this imprint through a Montreal-based comic book price guide called Kameleon. This was through the store owner suggesting me to the publisher of this magazine.

My first editing role was for a start up publisher in Montreal who likewise had been guided to me by the comic shop owner. He had the desire, but not the knowledge or even the financial status. He did however have an office, one which I occupied between being a husband and new dad for the second time as well as having a full time job.

In this role in what he called Legends Publishing (with no legends to be found and which I encouraged him to change due to 'Legends' being a Dark Horse imprint), I did the following:


Created the submissions guidelines based off my experience with those from DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, and Innovation Comics. In this I also provided a sample script from which pencillers could draw from for their submissions. I wrote descriptions for various terms in the industry, which included lettering terms and how to apply them in a script.
Wrote all promotional material and even designed the company logo with the slogan of "Where Legends Are Made."
Set up and manned the table solo at conventions to view writing and art samples, doing portfolio reviews and giving tips as I looked for creators who fit the level of quality I was looking for. Two who stood out, Yanick Paquette and his best friend Michel Lacombe, were subsequently 'hired' (both have since produced work for Marvel and DC along with other publishers).
Provided expanded comments to all submissions not accepted, even to those who were nowhere near publishable (I didn't want any form letters given).
Instructed and trained creators and new editors in the skills required for publication.


When I left as the result of a mass exodus at the insistence of all the creators and editors I had brought onboard, I started The Other Side Productions as Editor-in-Chief and de facto Publisher until stepping down from the latter capacity. At The Other Side, I did the following:


Created the name, concept, logo, and publishing plan for the company.
Established a four-title base and created teams for production, including writer, artist, and editor, with the letterer doing all four books.
Established and maintained a production schedule to coincide with convention appearances.
Scheduled and lead creative and administrative meetings seeking brainstorming and feedback.
Mediated issues among staff, including those between creators and/or with the editors.
Continued mentoring editors, especially during meetings with their creative teams. This included teaching the new submissions editor her role and necessary skills. I also promoted our letterer to editor as I recognized his skill, subsequently having him take over from another editor who was on a power trip.
For conventions, established the design of our promotional posters, created our slogan for promotional material of "Breaking On Through Fall 1993", and instituted a professional dress code for public appearances (managers and editors in suits or dresses for ladies, with all creators in shirt and dress pants). This last detail drew attention as we stood out from the other publishers and creators on hand. I also decided upon the use of The Doors "Break On Through" to play at our tables during our inaugural con appearance (which Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti, who were sitting next to us, liked until they got tired of the repetition!)


This was all until fall of 1994, when the comic market crashed and many publishers closed their doors.

I'll include more in another post.

Steve Colle
02-22-2017, 11:07 PM
As another point of discussion (while still continuing the "what do you do/have you done as an editor?" question):

What was your background before becoming a comic book editor? What experience did you have that related to the position? What educational background do you have that applies?

The following link talks about the 'should' for a minimum Bachelor's degree as an editor in this industry: http://www.insidejobs.com/careers/comic-book-editor. Do you fit this model? If so, in what discipline?

Steve Colle
02-24-2017, 01:19 AM
Before I tackle additions to what I do/have done as an editor, I want to share my thoughts on background and where I came from.

I don't believe a degree is as necessary as it's made out to be. Yes, most comic editors have a degree in the arts or journalism, but there's a lot to be said about entering through other doorways. Working in a comic shop for five years brings a perspective that can carry over to different areas of the publishing world, such as sales, marketing, public relations, and editorial.

For me personally, my background was a major in psychology and counselling as I wanted to work with troubled youth. Both of these have daily application to the comic industry as we not only deal with the creators and other staff and departments, but also its application to story creation is key. My minor was actually in film studies, which again has a huge application to comics, especially given the techniques used in graphic narration. Then there are years of my working as a supervisor and manager in other industries. Everything I learned and experienced in my life prepared me for the role of editor, especially in this industry as I'm a very visual person in my preferences.

What are your backgrounds?

Marta
02-24-2017, 06:06 PM
To the other editors out there (Steven Forbes, Marta, Lee, etc.), what do/did you do in your various positions as an editor?

Interesting topic, Steve. Editors can come from many backgrounds. Here's my answer:

My role as an editor

Comics make up a portion of what I edit. Working on comics is a passion, as it is for many people, but earning enough to pay the bills means working on other things, too. So most of what I edit is other material. I’ve always read widely and loved art. I also have a sharp eye for details and a background in science. The advantage of that combination is that it’s easy to analyze what is and isn’t working in whatever I’m editing. The common theme is determining how the creator wants to have the work come across and comparing that with how the work is likely actually coming across to the intended readers, then figuring out how to bring the work into better alignment with the vision.

I first edited for relatives and friends, including several professional writers, as well as students whose first language was not English. My first full-time editing job was as a technical editor in a large corporate marketing communications department creating brochures, magazines, and website content, which involved collaborating with writers, marketing managers, graphic artists, web designers, programmers, and production staff and eventually managing the editing team. I now run my own small business and work primarily on a combination of technical documents and fiction in my favorite genres of mystery, speculative fiction, and historical fiction.

Steve Colle
03-10-2017, 05:27 AM
I'd like to open this up to the non-editors - those creators who have considered working with an editor and those who just plain have questions and perceptions of what an editor could/would do for them. Your voices are more important than mine.

What would you look for in an editor?

Looking at your own work, how could an editor help you?

What are your concerns about hiring/working with an editor? What benefits would they bring to your project(s)?

Fire away!