Ken Eppstein returns to talk about deadlines and small press publishing in the latest edition of Indie Insights!
Ken Eppstein is the editor, writer and publisher of the independent comic Nix Comics Quarterly, a small press anthology.
Holy Snot! Its been nearly a month since I posted my last Indie Insights! I'm still pretty new here, but rumour has it that if you miss too many deadlines, the editor and chief comes to your house and kidnaps your pets, holding them hostage until you come up with the goods. The horror! Would he even know where to scratch Agnes on her belly? The one that gets her to let loose with that almost gutteral super-sassified sounding "mrppph" noise? Why, Oh Why did I watch "Cool Hand Luke" for the millionth time instead of writing a column!?
Oh wait... That can't be true. I have no deadlines with The Outhouse. I send them articles as I have time to write 'em and they post them when they get to it. Its a pretty great casual relationship and I wouldn't have it any other way... But deadlines are on my mind because I have one coming up for my Nix Comics artists. July 31st is the day I'm supposed to have all of the finished art for issue #3 in my hand.
The obvious difference is that this is a deadline that I've imposed as opposed to one I'm subject to. If I were to tell you that I'm not sweating a little, it would be a lie. I've put a lot of pressure on myself by sticking the word quarterly in the title of my book. To me, calling Nix a quarterly is a tacit promise of timeliness that I am making to my readers. I promise that every three months I'll have a new comic book for you. It's not a solemn oath, and I don't think that my honor will be forever stained if I miss by a month or two here and there, but none-the-less its a promise that I take very seriously. If I mess it up and miss by a month or more, I'll feel bad. Swallowing bad medicine bad.
Of course, this is my own personal hang up. My artists don't necessarily buy into this somewhat phantom Nix Comics Quarterly ethos, and I've proceded from the perspective that it would be unreasonable of me to expect them to. Instead, Its up to me as an editor to schedule a deadline that I'm comfortable with and then to promise, beg and connive like a junkie with my artists to get to meet that deadline.
As I've discussed before in this column, I really thought being a paying publication would speed things along. I never start assigning my stories or soliciting submissions until I'm sure I have enough money to pay for the work. The main reason for this is my firm belief that illustration is the premium skill in writer/artist relationship, but I also wanted to incentivize my projects by building a reputation as "that guy who pays as soon as the job is done." (I understand that's a rarity. Shame on you who hold out.) Solid plan, huh? After all, the sooner an artist gets done with one project, they sooner they can get going on another. Time is money, after all.
Well, that plan is a few issues short of a full run. Artists work at their own speed, independent of the seeming necessities of professional work. Some are perfectionists who simply can't proceed until everything is just so. Some have priorities based on their interest in the project as opposed to monetary needs. Even others just have problems meeting deadlines because their brainwave orders from Alpha Centauri get scrambled by the proximity to certain cell phone towers. Every flake... er... snowflake is different after all.
No hate mail please. The fact of the matter is that all of my artists work hard, always exceed my expectations of quality,half of them actually get me stuff well ahead of deadline and nobody has actually blown this issues drop dead date yet. I write essays because I like to complain. That makes for a bad combination with the fact that I really have very little to complain about.
Knowing that I have nothing to really worry about, unfortunately does nothing to stop my mind from racing close to deadline. The right thinking part of my brain isn't talking to the that emotional side that's scared of that gut twisting pain involved in breaking my promise to my readers. Basically, what we have here is failure to communicate.
(Yeah... All that to come back around to "Cool Hand Luke." What a great flick. I think I'll go watch it again...)
For more information about Ken and Nix Comics Quarterly:
Written or Contributed by: Ken Eppstein, Outhouse Contributor