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Indie Insights: Open Submissions

Written by Ken Eppstein, Outhouse Contributor on Monday, May 02 2011 and posted in Columns

Nix Comics publisher Ken Eppstein is back to discuss the challenges of having an open submission policy!

eppsteinKen Eppstein is the editor, writer and publisher of the independent comic Nix Comics Quarterly, a small press anthology. 

With Issue #2 of Nix in the books and more or less on the streets, I turned my attentions this week to thinking about issue #3.  Ideally, it'd be nice to be ahead of the game thinking about issues #3, #4 and #5 all at the same time, but I'm still new at this, so it's the bunny slope for me.   The first step for me is to get a line up of artists and stories together, which includes throwing out a solicitation for stories that highlights my open submission policy.  Which also means bracing myself for what starts showing up in my inbox.

Ready for some juicy tidbits about the crazy inappropriate stuff people have sent me as submissions for Nix?  

Forget about it.  You clearly have mistaken me for some malicious high school prat who eggs on the nerds only subsequently and painfully expose them in front of a crowd.  I'm more of a casting baseless and general aspersions at a large group of people type guy.... er... I mean I'm more about learning from my experience and modifying my technique going forward.

1) "Open Submission" reads "Open Motif"

I've have this theory that many modern comic book fans are thematically tone deaf.  It was a nagging thing in the back of my brain which wasn't really a fully formed thesis until I saw the Watchmen movie.  If ever there was a flick that missed the point of the source material on multiple levels, it was that Watchmen movie.  For instance? Well, So many people praised Jackie Earl Haley's Rorschach portrayal, when in my mind it totally missed the mark on basic levels.  In the original series, Moore went out of his way to mention that Rorschach spoke in a monotone, which fits well into the character's nihilistic point of view.  Haley, apparently a student of the Christian Bale School of Ham, channelled a highly emotive McGruff the Crime Dog for his voice. (GRRRRR... You too can help take a bite out of the liberal elements infecting society with crime, pornography and communism.)

Anyways, this thesis of mine has not been dismissed by the responses I've received to my solicitation for submissions for issue #3.  The breadth of story genres that have been submitted to me has ranged from gore-ific sword and sandal fantasy epics to Raymond Carver-esque autobiographical slice of life pieces.  All of what I've received so far has been crafted with love and care, but very little of it has fit into the "Rock-N-Roll Horror" theme that I've established with issues #1 and #2.  

My initial assumption in most of these cases was that the person submitting didn't take the time to read the free B&W version of Nix that I provided in my solicitation.  While discussing their submissions via email, though, I found the opposite to be true.  In most cases they read my book, liked it, and felt that their piece would fit in some way.

Huh.  Lesson one: Be painstakingly explicit about what I'm looking for.  Next solicitation will include as many "don'ts" as "dos."

2) "4-8 Pages" reads "8 Pages"

I thought I was pretty clever offering story rates instead of page rates.  I figured that by offering the same amount of money for a four page story as an eight page story, I was providing incentive for the short punchy stories that I prefer.   Essentially, I know the $300 I'm offering for a completed feature story isn't great shakes in the world of publishing, especially if we're talking about a writer/artist team. The prospect of divvying three hundred bucks up amongst multiple creators is hardly an exciting one.  I would expect that anyone submitting a story would want to economize space and get what amounts to a better page rate...  at four pages you're getting $75 per page, while at eight pages you're only getting $37.50 per page for twice as much work.

My expectations were wrong.  The majority of feature pitches I've received so far have been for exactly eight pages.  I suspect that if I had listed feature length stories as four to ten pages in length that I would have a bunch of ten page story pitches in my inbox right now.  Don't get me wrong: It's good that these young creators are as caught up in the math as I am.  It speaks to a desire to create art for art's sake.... But geez guys, the shorter the stories, the more of you I can slip in to an issue!

Ok.  Lesson two: Reduce the envelope for what I consider a Feature.

3) "Repost" or "Retweet" reads as "   "

I was really hoping that I'd get a little viral action with my solicitation.  I think everybody knows a couple of artists or writers.  My hope was that twitter and facebook cross-posting would take off a little.  Kickstarter got huge because people love the idea of providing help and patronage to artists, after all.  They pretty rely on word of mouth through social networking to drive traffic to their site.  I don't see me as offering to pay artists for small pieces of work as a lot different.

Hasn't really happened.  One or two folks have followed up with retweets or facebook posts, but its pretty much stopped there.  That's a bit of a headscratcher to me.  What has Kickstarter got that I don't got, besides maybe a collection of snazzy white belts and an appreciation for Arcade Fire, Bright Eyes and My Morning Jacket that I'll never share?   (Chomp.  I shouldn't, but the hand that feeds me tastes soooooo good.)

The answer, of course, is that Kickstarter has a product nobody else has and worked hard to get the ear of some folks in the mainstream press. They earned it.

Lesson Three: Be patient, the more hard work you put in and the more people will notice.

I hope that all of the great people who submit work to me take that last one to heart, regardless of whether I accept their piece or not.

If you're interested in submitting your own work to Ken for the next issue of Nix Comics Quarterly, click here for a list of terms and guidelines.  The deadline for Issue #3 is May 15th. If you're interested in reading Nix Comics Quarterly #1, click here for a black and white copy. If you'd like a copy of any issue of Nix Comics Quarterly, copies can be found at any of the stores listed here or contact Ken at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

Written or Contributed by: Ken Eppstein, Outhouse Contributor

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