SHAUN MANNING

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Looking back on 2018, ahead to 2019

blogShaun ManningComment

As cheesy as it may sound, it really does help to set goals.

I'm not going to lay out a big program full of acronyms or anything; I hate that, too. I recognized, though, that I had a couple rough years in terms of creative output leading up to 2018, and so I set some goals for what I'd like to produce over the course of that year. I'd like to share those goals and how things went, maybe this will help others think about what you'd like to accomplish in 2019, whether in the comics field or in other endeavors.

2018 Goals - Review 

1. Exhibit at 4 cons, including San Diego and/or New York: Check. I exhibited at C2E2, Ann Arbor Comic Art Festival, SDCC, Get Geek'd (Lansing), and the new Michigan Comic Con in Detroit. I was approved for Dragon Con, a show I love, but unfortunately had to back out due to a family wedding that weekend. I am confirmed in 2019 for Michigan State University Comics Forum, Emerald City, C2E2, and SDCC. 

2. Publish at least one creator-owned comic: Getting Macbeth: The Red King out into the world proved a pretty monumental effort, consuming a good portion of my creative working time. And now that it's achieved its Final Form, I'm super proud of it. Building off of this work (but not a direct follow-up to Macb), over the course of 2018 I completed a script for another historical fiction project. More on that soon (I hope!).

3. Publish at least two company-owned (i.e. Marvel/DC) or licensed (media properties like Star Wars) comics: Well, that was ambitious! No, I didn't do this, unless one is extraordinarily generous in the definition. Star Wars Adventures #6 came out in January and was collected in Star Wars Adventures vol. 3 in June. That's not nothing! But honestly, I may not have even been counting SWA once when I wrote this goal, since I was hired for and completed the work in late 2017. There's no doubt SWA opened some doors for me, but it didn't roll into a steady flow of work like I'd hoped. I'm working on how to better pitch existing properties in 2019.

4. Contribute to at least one new website: Not in the way I'd meant, but I had a big enough win I'm gonna count it. The intent of this goal was to establish freelance relationships with a pop culture website in addition to CBR, where I had previously been a staff writer and am now a contributor. I didn't do that. But I did do a freelance project for a Fortune 500 company that draws specifically on my nerd skills. Actually, this might fit better as a qualified success under goal #3, but for a few different reasons it "feels" like it goes here.

In short, I didn't accomplish everything I set out to do, but I'm very pleased with the progress I've made.

So where do we go from here?

2019 Goals

1. Secure a publisher for History Thing #2. That script I just completed needs an artist and a publisher. It will almost certainly not be published in 2019 (depending how this progresses, it could debut in Fall 2020), but I want to get this moving.

2. Publish at least two issues of creator-owned comics. I have a pretty good idea what those two issues will be, depending on how that rolls out there may be a potential for more.

3. Sell at least one piece of fiction in a medium other than comics. I love comics, but it's time to get back to prose, playwrighting, and radio drama, as well!

4. Create at least one work-for-hire comic. Wording here to account for timing, that the comic may not be published in 2019 but I'll check this off if the work is done during the year. I'm pushing hard to do more than one, but since I have less control over this than some of the others I'm starting with a modest goal.

I think these goals are achievable, but of course anything could happen. Late 2018/early 2019 has already thrown me for a bit of a loop with the unexpected opportunity to buy our first house, which is now in process (fingers crossed!) and which takes up considerable time and effort that could otherwise be used writing, researching, and pitching. And I work full time, which puts a considerable dent in my writing time. ;-) 

Having a set of goals helps prioritize the limited time I have for creative work. And even though I fell short in some areas for 2018, I'm confident that I accomplished more than I would have without them. If I can tick off all four goals over the course of 2019, I'll be extraordinarily proud -- and will have some new stories to share with you all.

So what are you working on? Let me know on Twitter @FasterthanShaun!

#AmWriting

blog, Comics, My Fiction, Works in ProgressShaun ManningComment
Map of “Argentina” by Wolf Dietrich Klebeband

Map of “Argentina” by Wolf Dietrich Klebeband

I once again worked the polls earlier this week, which was a bit more intense than the primary — but very rewarding. Now it’s back to the keyboard. I’m now 75% through the first draft of my next Big Historical Comics project, which has a publisher attached — I expect this one to see print in Fall 2020 or Spring 2021. So, it’ll be a ways yet, but I’m super excited for it. Hoping to have a few li’l projects in the meantime…

I... Election Inspector!

blogShaun ManningComment

Yesterday, I served as an election inspector in Michigan's primary. It's a fascinating experience and I'm still processing everything, but I wanted to share a few initial thoughts. 

It's a long day -- you show up at 6am, we finished at 10:45 PM -- but it's never boring. The precinct I worked saw about 20% in-person turnout, and I know there were a lot of absentee ballots. 20% isn't great in absolute terms, but it's not at all bad for a primary and is high for a precinct with a significant number of graduate students who may still be out of town for the summer.

My team was short staffed, as two people who had signed up to work didn't show -- apparently this is a misdemeanor! Other than the precinct chair, the other two of us were doing this for the first time. Yet everything (or nearly everything) went smoothly. We had a great team.

There was one voter whom workers from the other precinct voting in the same room had accidentally sent to an entirely different location. He eventually made his way back, still all smiles, determined to vote. "I'm young, I'm healthy," he said, "I just had to make sure I voted."

If you write in, say, "Batman," you are creating a surprising amount of work for people trying to go home at the end of a 17-hour workday.

I am not the only person who is offended by Michigan's "Application to Vote" paperwork. But I could not say much of anything about this to people who were upset by it because, as it turns out, voting regs constitute "political discussion." I was very careful about this.

If you think you'd be interested in working the polls -- this is a paid position, but it doesn't pay a ton -- let me know if you have any questions, I'm happy to be a resource. They need good people, especially if you are a registered Republican in a heavily Democratic area, or vice versa.

TL;DR thank you Michigan for not voting for Shri

My Latest Rejection: A Response and Appreciation

blogShaun ManningComment

I get frustrated. I do.

I'm always pitching, and most of those pitches are rejected. I've got a ton of stories I'm really excited about, things I think would be awesome comics, novels, short plays, and so on. It bums me out.

But man, it would never even occur to me to publicly lash out out the people that said no. There's self-preservation, for one. And then there's basic human decency.

Look, there's always a reason behind rejection. It may be a story is a poor fit for an agent or publisher, it may be they're already working with something similar. It could be that it just doesn't fit with their schedule. 

It might just not be very good.

They might just not like you.

You might never know the reason for sure. If you know it, you might not agree. That's fine. Folks have different tastes.

Personal attacks are never ok. What does an agent's appearance or age matter in a prospective professional relationship? Or why mention that dance means something different to her? And what could you possibly hope to gain by complaining about standard industry and conference practices (which are very, very reasonable if you take even a second to consider the world through the agent's point of view) when trying make a good impression?

It comes down to power, of course. The writer of the original post has been made to feel weak, so he's going to reclaim his strength. He's older and wiser (and better dressed?) than these puny agents, he's not only gonna deliver the next Booker Prize-winning opus but by damn he's gonna restore some common sense to the whole publishing system. 

He's above it, he wants you to know. He's a published author, he knows how the game is played. Or should be played, and it's not the way these Millennials are doing it.

Which is rubbish, of course.

Nobody owes you a publishing deal. You do not have a right to an agent's representation, or any more of her time than she feels your pitch has earned you. 

Yeah, I get bummed out when things don't go my way, and that happens a lot. A LOT. Sometimes I wonder if I could have pitched it a different way, sometimes I wonder if my timing was off, or if I came off as annoying. Sometimes, yeah, I think the decision makes no goddamn sense. 

But I've been fortunate enough to work with some stellar editors, and to be on very good terms with others whom I haven't yet had the pleasure of working with. I have an agent for certain projects, and have been very happy both with our initial introductions and ongoing communications, as well as, of course, the work they're doing for me. I hope I give these good people reason to enjoy working with me, beyond my masterful control of imagination and language.

The O/P lays out a few "rules" for those who might be faced with so tawdry a task as meeting face to face with an agent or editor at a conference, but he misses out the most important:

Rule #1: Don't be a jackass.