Aug 08 2010

Answering This Week’s Questions from Google

Here are some queries that brought Google users to Superhero Nation this week.

  • How do I find out if my superhero story has already been told? Keep reading superhero stories, particularly in your medium (novels, comic books/graphic novels, etc).  Authors that have only read one or two series tend to write original work that reads like fan-fiction for those series.
  • Unused superhero names? When you use a name you found on the Internet, there really isn’t any guarantee it hasn’t been used.  If it’s good enough, someone will use it.  The closest thing you have to a guarantee of originality is doing it yourself.  The second-closest is asking a friend to brainstorm ideas without posting them online.
  • How do I sell a comic I wrote?  I assume you’re trying to get professionally published, rather than self-published.  Check out Nine Surprising Facts about Writing Comic Books.  Also, when you submit to a publisher, you’ll probably include  a page-long submission letter introducing your work and why they should publish it.  When it comes time to write that, I’d recommend reading as many of the articles in the Query Letter category as possible.  How to Communicate with Editors is a good place to start.

  • How to write an origin story. Short answer: use it as an opportunity to create a conflict, establish something really important about the character and/or develop the world.   For example, Batman’s parents getting murdered helped establish that Gotham is not Disney World and set Bruce Wayne on a death-struggle with crime.
  • Best face in da nation. Easy!

And by "best face in da nation," I mean "best face in Room 512A of Stanford Hall"

  • Plots for superhero graphic novels. I haven’t written up lists of plots besides this list of superhero plots that I think have played out, but later this week I’ll try to see if I can come up with some response that isn’t too formulaic.
  • Superhero ethics turtles. Umm… what?
  • How long should an adult novel be? Generally 80-100,000 words for the manuscript.  For more details based on genre, see the link.
  • How long are superhero novels supposed to be? Unless you’re writing for kids or young adults, 80-100K is a good ballpark estimate.  See this for more details.
  • Should I mention fan-fic in my query? Unless your fan-fiction is so impressive that the company has offered you a paid position, no.  Similarly, I wouldn’t recommend mentioning self-published books unless you’ve sold thousands of copies.  Getting a book professionally published shows that your writing skills are already at least pretty good.  Fan-fiction and self-publishing offer no such guarantee.
  • What are the chances of publishing a superhero novel? Thinking optimistically: a lot of publishers have worked with superhero novels, so it’ll be relatively easy to find a receptive market for your novel than for something really out there.  (It’ll still be a tougher sell than a more conventional genre work, though).   Thinking pessimistically: novel publishers reject ~99.9% of unsolicited submissions and I have no reason to think the superhero niche is any less cutthroat.  So it’ll be hard, but substantially less hard than (say) a chapterbook about a crack-addled serial killer for grade-school readers.  IF YOU SEND ME ANOTHER CHILDREN’S BOOK ABOUT CRACK-ADDLED SERIAL KILLERS, I WILL BLACKLIST YOU.
  • How much do comic book writers make? If you’re working with a medium or large company, the work pays pretty well when you can get it.
  • What’s the difference between a reptile and a lawyer? Reptiles are cheaper. And have a better football team.
  • How long are comic books? Check the publishers you’re interested in working with, but I think something around 24 pages is pretty common.
  • How to write beat freaks in gangster. I have no idea what this means, but I am nonetheless intrigued.
  • First time authors should not self-publish. I agree almost completely*.  Surviving the slush pile (by getting an unsolicited manuscript published) is harrowing but highly educational.  If you decide to self-publish because you can’t find any publishers, your manuscript probably isn’t yet good enough to take to readers and self-publishing is probably a waste of your money and time.  There are a few good reasons to self-publish, but almost all of them apply to experienced, successful authors that want more freedom to experiment.  The freedom to experiment is only helpful if you know what you’re doing.  *There are some exceptions in nonfiction.  If you’d like to know more, feel free to e-mail me at superheronation-at-gmail-dot-com.
  • Comic book companies that accept unsolicited queries.  I have some comments on most of these companies here.
  • Why do people like to add weaknesses to superheroes? They understand their character is overpowered but aren’t actually willing to fix the problem by limiting the character’s powers.  Generally, I feel that a solution like Kryptonite is an inferior approach that creates as many problems as it solves (unless, perhaps, you’re going for comedic effect and/or an old-school feel?).  Kryptonite-like weaknesses are really outdated.
  • Writing a graphic novel–totally stuck! Check out our Writer’s Block category.  In particular, I like these suggestions for beating writer’s block.
  • How to write a Batman graphic novel. When comics companies need writers for major franchises, they’ll contact the writer rather than the other way around.  Unless you’re a well-known writer on DC’s radar, you will not be asked to do a Batman graphic novel.  DC and Marvel don’t accept unsolicited submissions and their standards are especially high for their most important (read: lucrative) characters.  Across the industry, it is very rare for companies to accept submissions on either licensed franchises or bestselling franchises.  If you want to work on such a series, you’ll need to distinguish yourself with original work first.  Could I recommend doing your own work first?

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