Jul 10, 2020
Hello, beloved patrons! It's a blog post!!
Someone on Twitter wanted to know how much working time they should be asking for as a GN artist, and I thought it might be worth discussing my own process there - it can be really tricky, and I've definitely learned a lot since my first book! I hope that, even if you aren't planning out the next year (or several) of your life, this might come in handy for your own projects.
So, let's go! First, most important step:
1. What does your GN-making process look like, and how long does each part take?
This is something you'll definitely want to figure out, especially if you're used to pulling together comics in your spare time and haven't worked with a set timeline yet. I'd recommend making a few pages and timing yourself to find a baseline - but don't assume that you'll always be the most efficient version of yourself!! Some pages are harder than others; some require more research; sometimes you'll spill a bottle of ink on a page IT'S FINE DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT.
Once you have those answers, write them down. As an example, if I'm working 9-5, my average output will look like this (don't forget, no wrong answers, everyone's different!):
2. How much time are you able to dedicate to page production per week?
There are a few factors to think about here. Do you want to work weekends or holidays? (Please give yourself some time off.) Is the pay enough that you'll be able to work on this project full-time, or will you be supplementing it with other gigs?
3. YOU'RE NOT DONE YET.
This is basically the point at which Younger, More Whipper-Snappery Gale said, okay, great! I have enough information to estimate a timeline now! Joke's on you, kid: there is no such thing as Pure Book Time.
4. Factor in extra time for the following.
You will probably need some time up front for research and design!!
You will get sick.
You will have to wait on notes at several points during the production of the book, depending on how you've broken out your process (probably after thumbnails, pencils, inks, colors). Every publisher is different, so I'd recommend communicating with them up front about how long this should take. Thumbnail feedback will probably take the longest - at least two weeks, if not a month or two.
You will have to revise your pages after you get those notes.
You will need to draw a cover (and revise it). Possibly also spot illustrations.
You will probably go to a convention or do some other form of promotional work, and will not feel up to working the day before you leave or the day after you get back.
Your computer will unexpectedly shut down or something. Life happens!!!
5. Now use this information.
I personally need to visualize things and move them around like little Tetriminos, and have found spreadsheets really useful for this.
So what I do now is, I put together a little Monday-Friday calendar in Google Sheets, and then color in each day based on the information I have.
Context here: I'm only working on one book right now, and typically break my pages up into groups (batches) when I get to penciling and inking (it's a brain trick). I don't plan to work weekends, although historically I can say it'll end up happening closer to deadline time. I also try to buffer my page estimates a little bit, assuming I'll have a few off days or new travel plans will pop up.
Once I've done this, I can get an idea of when I'd feasibly be able to turn in thumbnails, pencils, and inks.
And now, in theory, you have enough to come up with a reasonable estimate when proposing a book timeline!! Of course, nothing's perfect, and stuff will definitely come up, but just breathe deep and communicate as you go.
7. Bonus: as for working on the book...
Once that's all settled, I make one more spreadsheet (I KNOW).
This one's for my last BSC book, so it's all very satisfyingly colored in as DONE. In the "days left" cells, I set them up to show me how much time I have before various deadlines - in Google Sheets, that's =(DATE(year, month, day)-TODAY()). Because this sheet is finished, you can see that I've erased that code and noted the days I actually ended up turning in my pages, with apologies to beloved editor and Scholastic team. Keeping track of how things really go will be useful for the next project.
I also took advantage of the pie chart option on the right hand side, which I think Molly Ostertag blew my mind with a while back. Very green now, but it's helpful to be able to visualize how you're doing when you feel like you've been in the middle of a book for five hundred years.
And there you have it! I hope this helps!! As always, please let me know if you have any questions, or if there's anything you'd like to see me talk about in future.