Friday, April 25, 2008

Post from Robby Bevard

Here's a post from Gargoyles' colorist, Robby Bevard, at the Comment Room over at Station Eight explaining the schedule and process that comics go through. There's also some info about Gargoyles #9, which (crossing fingers) could be out by June.

Since the matters of printing, shipping, and solicitation schedules have come up again, I'll do my best to adress the questions.

First off, Issue 9 is being finished , and is not yet at the printers, but we are shooting to get it out by June. It's gonna be a good one, and there are steps in motion to get the subsequent issues out in a more timely fashion. I should be coloring every issue from here on out, and its my favorite book to work on of the 3 titles I do every month, so hopefully there will be some nice consistency to it all.

As for how the Diamond distributors system works...

I'm pretty sure I've explained this before but... about 5 months in advance, comic companies put together their solicitation material, including text and cover images, and send it in to Diamond. ( September solicits are due in about a week, to give a feel for the timetable here.)

Diamond then publishes the Previews catalouge, which after assembling, printing and shipping time, comes out about two months later. (The catalouge for items shipping in June just came out.) This catalouge then stays in the retailers for a month, where customers can pick out and order items, and books are ordered.

Retailers use their own judgements and customer requests to figure out their order ammounts. These orders then go back through diamond, and get to the comic book publishers, about two months before shipping date. These order numbers reflect the expected demand for a book, and influence the print run.

So for an example, if orders for a book are 4,788, then the publisher might decide to print 5000 copies, or have a little more leeway, and print 5,500 copies for selling later. Obviously, books generalyl don't go to the printer before numbers are in, in order to avoid underprinting or massive over printing.

Print times vary. Black and white books, be they 24 page pamphlets or 180 page trades, take 2 weeks usually. Approvals and problems in the process can extend this to 3 or 4 weeks. Color books in general, take an extra week, sometimes two.

So on average, a black and white book, (Bad Guys) will take 2 weeks to print) while a color book will take 3. This is average, a printer on a slow week can turn around a book in a week if there is nothing else on their schedule or they prepared a spot well in advance, but this is not the norm.

So, on average, it takes 2 or 3 weeks to print a book. Then, the book ships from the printer, to Diamond, which has torehouses around the country. This takes another week. And then, from Diamond, the books ship to comic stores, which takes another week.

So, from the time a book goes into the printer, to the time it arrives in comic stores, is generally 4 or 5 weeks.

Gargoyles on top of everything else has the Disney X factor, where, even once the book is completely finished, Disney has to approve it. This is true of most licensed books. I honestly do not personally know how long this step takes, and it probably varies. This can take anywhere from 2 days to two months,

So, even after an issue is finished, from the minute it gets to the editor, it could still be a solid 3 months from time of completion until it reaches stores. And thats nopt even considering if a book is printing overseas, in which case there's another 2 months for shipping time. (Gargs is NOT printed overseas, but it is a facctor in other publications. ) And thats all only if the team producing the book is on schedule!

If the writer or artist or the colorist or letterer or whatever runs late, then obviously, that pushes things back even more. In theory, every comic book should be done a full three months in advance, so that it actually finished when it is first solicited, so that it can go straight to the printers once the numbers come in, but that is often not the case.

So, as you can see, soliciting and printing and shipping is a ridiculously complicated process, started about half a year in advance. With novels, bookstores and dvds, the process is even longer, spanning a solid year or more. Pixar is now annoucning movies they'll be releasing in 2011!

Advance solicitation is just a part of the process, and its not always known that far in advance exactly when or how something is going to be finished, or what the final product will be, just that the intention is there to have it done as best as possible. Its a complicated and massive system, and there's actually a lot more to it that that, but I think thats enough of a summary to get the idea.

So yeah, all that said. Gargs number 9 is being completed. The actual book production is a bit behind schedule, but a June release IS being shot for. Just, as you may have noticed, a great many factors that might or might not allow that to happen.
Robby Bevard

If nothing else, at least this gives us a bit of an insight into the reasons for the many delays in the release schedule. Hopefully G#9 will be out by June, and it's great to know that we've got Robby Bevard on board for the long haul!

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