Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hurry Up and Wait

No matter how much an astronaut sacrifices, no matter how hard she's worked to get her shot, there has to be a moment -- probably right after a million and a half pounds' worth of propellant lights up under her -- when she wonders if she's made an error. Having put every last ounce of myself into the promotion of Nonplayer over the last few weeks, I suddenly have a similar feeling of unease going into the debut weekend.

Promoting something does some pretty strange things to your head. For one, there's the endless bragging. I've been looking at my comic for long enough that it's hard to see past my own mistakes, but that doesn't square very well with the job of being a salesman. Sadly, I don't think people will rush to pick up the book when I tell them to "check out Nonplayer -- on one panel, a character's eyes don't quite point in the same direction!" So I'm trying to be a good cheerleader for the book. I recognize the necessity of it, but it does go against a lifetime of programming that says "stop talking about yourself, douchebag."

The tone of my relationship with the public has also changed. When that relationship was conducted solely through this blog, I was able to interact with commenters as individuals -- to look at their work, to get a sense of who they were as people. There was a refreshing lack of anonymity. We were sharing and caring! And since very little was said about Nonplayer outside the walls of this comfy little garden, I was able to parse every comment and benefit from it, regardless of whether it was critical or supportive.

Well, now there are more people talking about the book outside these walls than there are here in the garden. It's tempting to wander the web to read what people are saying -- few things are more intoxicating than hearing a stranger say something nice about you. But it doesn't take long before the whole thing starts to make you a little queasy. When that anticipation gets whipped up past a certain point, you start to wonder if there's any way the work itself will live up to readers' expectations.

Regrettably, I've even bought into some of this hype -- when I finally opened the first shipment of books, my first thought was that they looked awful small. Apparently my sense of the book had become so inflated that some part of my brain had expected the book to be physically larger than a normal comic. Weird, right? I'll be selling copies of the first issue at WonderCon this weekend, so we'll see if others have this reaction.

Out there beyond the wall lurk negative comments too, about which the less said the better.

Of course, there's one very big elephant in the room: each issue of Nonplayer will take a few months -- maybe even many months -- to create. Nobody wishes more than I do that it would come out faster -- after all, I'm trying to make a living off of this thing, and more than one retailer has explained to me that every day that passes between issues is money lost. My stomach makes a foreboding gurgling noise just thinking about it.

I certainly get why both I and retailers have cause for concern -- in both our cases, it's a matter of making financial ends meet. It was that financial imperative that prevented me from doing all six issues before releasing. I'd never have gotten anywhere near the finish line on my own dime.

I also remember what it was like to be a kid waiting for a late comic. I had a vision of the artist spending his days jet-skiing and partying while I waited patiently for him to get back to work. Sometimes I still fall prey to that kind of thinking, which is why I get antsy when I spend even a couple of hours away from my desk.

But that's probably not very good for the quality of the book, in the long run. Nonplayer #1 was made in a commercial vacuum -- no deadlines, no editors, no readers to impress. And though the commercial context has changed, I'm doing my best to preserve that sense of calm while working on the second issue. I need to be able to take chances, to make mistakes, and to start some things over when they don't work. This started out as a learning process, and I want to keep on learning. I want the second issue to be better than the first.

I'm very sorry for making folks wait between issues. I really do hate to inconvenience anybody -- I'm pretty sure I hate it enough that it qualifies as a neurosis. And the thought that I'm grabbing the attention of so many readers, only to disappoint them en masse, is putting a bit of a damper on all the recent good news about the comic's reception. I feel like I'm jumping up onto a big stage, only to have my pants ripped away at the last moment. Ta-dah!

All that said, if you'd one day like to hold a nice fat Nonplayer trade paperback full of noodly, self-indulgent artwork, then you may want to say this when you meet me:

"I can wait. Pace yourself."

41 comments:

  1. I know what you mean, coming from videogames, being part of a team and then suddenly put yourself out there as in individual is a big change. All you can do is keep doing your best and rely on the people that can help keep you grounded and focused on the next step.

    I've followed this blog for a few months, way before your publisher was announced, because I saw it as a way of secondhand learning and because the work itself was very impressive, so its really awesome to see this becoming relevant thanks to not only hard work, but being completely transparent with your audience. In a way, it's showing a brand new way to get into the business and thats inspiring by itself.

    Not much of a point to this comment but thank you for sticking with this, congratulations and I'm looking forward to seeing what's next.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Maybe it's just me but I tend to associate waiting months between issues with really good books that I end up treasuring and returning to again and again. The comics that come out quickly I tend to forget just as quickly.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Nate, waiting is not a problem. Pointless filler is the problem. When authors start to pad, I check out. I'm not a comics reader--I can count on (almost) one hand the ones I've read. But of those, the great ones all had a forward-moving story and epic artwork. In other words, self-indulgence in the art, economy in the story. That doesn't mean there weren't variations of pace, of course--there were long quiet moments too--but they never felt like stalling.

    This is just a long-winded way of saying, when you get stuck, please, for the sake of your fans, take the time to work out something you can get behind rather than buying time :-) I found something really enchanting about your art and story and I hope you continue to aim high! :-D

    ReplyDelete
  5. We will wait! Pace yourself. Jet ski as needed. : )

    Have an excellent Wondercon! Feed off the energy as you plunge back into issue 2.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I can wait as well... pace yourself, we'll still be here :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. What Stephen Thompson said.
    +"I can wait. Pace yourself."

    ReplyDelete
  8. pace, baby. pace.

    when I was a kid I remember that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comics came out many months apart. but because they were great, I waited. and maybe it was that time that allowed Eastman and Laird to make them so dope. in short...

    we'll wait for more Non.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hey, Nate-
    My book comes out ever 2 months and I'm very familiar with having people complain about it not coming out often enough. I look at it this way, people will complain about something. It's just a fact. You're just giving them that thing to complain about. Better they complain about lateness than about actual problems in the work. Ultimately, all that matters is the work.

    ReplyDelete
  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hello Nate,
    Just wanted to wish you good luck with the book.
    I wouldn't worry about the speed it comes out, quality will out and last in the end much longer than a slew of stuff that "came out on time".

    ---Peter

    ReplyDelete
  12. I hope you do manage to keep your head clear of the market-driven pressures, or it will become a chore :( But this is the kind of work people will wait for. Look at Europe: there's no such thing as one author publishing more than a volume a year, if that. Every volume we got, we knew it would be 1-2 years before we could have the next one. Established authors can go on hiatus for years and their fans simply wait (there are other books to read in the meanwhile, it doesn't mean chalking that one up as a loss.)
    So best of luck with that, and don't worry too much about how people will react!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm pretty psyched the book is coming out soon.

    I will say that I hate to wait. When Image started up back in the day I was really psyched, but then they started to skip months. One of the many straws that made me quit collecting. I think as long as you meet deadlines and are on time, people will wait between issues. Just don't miss those dates probably.

    I do hope that you'll publish all 6 issues in a LARGE format when you're done. Like a European book. That I would definitely wait for. Your art deserves that for sure.

    And I'll keep pimping your book to all my friends ;) Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Good things come to those who wait.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Pace yourself like George Lucas, Nate. (But please do a better job on the sequels...)

    You know I got your back

    ReplyDelete
  16. I imagine it may be financially difficult at times, but as long as you maintain this level of quality and continue to polish the story to its best, I'm sure the project will do well. I know I will definitely be picking up every issue, and the eventual collection. Probably multiple copies, and definitely regardless of any time constraints.

    GO! DO IT!!!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Take your time dude.
    Don't let anyone but yourself hurry you along.

    ReplyDelete
  18. It was great meeting you yesterday. The comic is fantastic! I love the peppering of modern references in the first few pages, it really kept me guessing.

    I still can't believe it's all just photoshop!

    Here's hoping we see more of that paleontology background of yours pop up in future issues!

    -Austin

    ps. Did you ever end up meeting William Stout?

    ReplyDelete
  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I can certainly wait but I'd say it would be best for you to get them out as fast as you can and still maintain the high quality of your work.

    With that being said an author I read, Pat Rothfuss, came out with his first book in 2009 and it took him until the end of 2011 to finish the second book in the series but it hit #1 on the NY Times Bestseller list!

    ReplyDelete
  21. All the best with tomorrow's launch Nate.

    I'll have to wait to till Friday for mine. Friday is new comic day in UK!

    I can wait. Pace yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Just picked up my copies of the comic. Really great stuff. The owner of my local shop said that buzz about Nonplayer had really picked up in the last week. A few people had been asking him to get the book. I told him to just keep ordering them for me whenever they come out :)

    You must be so proud to have pulled it off. And pulled it off so well. Congratulations.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Dude- got my copy today...

    Awesome.

    Well done! And my shop sold out, too. Roll on the second printing...

    ReplyDelete
  24. Went to buy NONPLAYER today; I haven't bought a Comic Book in 12 years, but felt compelled to support yours. Unfortunately for me, It was already sold out! I guess I'll have to wait 'till the next printing to get my grubby hands on it.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I know the feeling about seeing the flaws and still having to brag about it. It's tough selling people despite your imperfections. Kinda feels like lying, you know?

    I enjoyed my copy of NONPLAYER, felt a little languished at the end wondering where it's going to go in the real world, but I'm looking forward to seeing the other 5. And dang good looking on paper.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hello, just got my copy- last in the shop! great comic and beautiful artwork. it's a real keeper for the collection. Cant wait for the next - hurry up!

    ReplyDelete
  27. I think I bought the last copy in Dallas. I went to four shops looking for a copy. Congratulations on the instant success. The artwork on this book blows me away. I can't wait for poster of the last page.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Got it today. It was worth the wait. Having seen the book in print I can say that you can get rid of some ofthe details since you can see how the book looks printed. Maybe that will save some time.

    I think you really pulled an Art Adams here and made everyone take a hard look at what they are doing artwise.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Michael May - You are awesome.

    Xavier - Keeping focused on the next step is about the best advice I've heard. The key challenge right now is keeping my head in the art and not getting distracted by reviews or twitter or whatever.

    And on the subject of keeping one's head in one's art: your work is quite beautiful! Keep up the great work, man!

    Stephen - Thanks! I hope others feel the way you do about the release schedule!

    Also, what's going on with your graphic novel? It was looking spectacular the last time I saw it -- is there more secret work being made?

    ReplyDelete
  30. josef - Thanks, man! I think you won't have to worry too much about padding in Nonplayer -- right now I have way too much content to shoehorn into too little space. If anything, I might have to add another issue onto the end of the run to get the whole story told. I appreciate your encouragement, Josef!

    Jason - Thanks! I can wait for your stuff, too! Not that I need to -- you're naturally fast, it seems! Keep up the awesome work, man!

    Nolan - You've really been saying a lot of nice stuff about Nonplayer on Twitter and elsewhere -- I really can't thank you enough for your help, Nolan. I hope you like the second issue!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Ben - I LOVE your concept and character sketches. The figure studies, especially, are quite beautiful. Thanks for waiting!

    Sam Mooney - Sounds good! And I'll keep waiting for your awesome autobiographical comic!

    BenHansford - Thanks, man! I had forgotten about the TMNT comic -- I remember waiting a long time for those, too. Man, were those great books...

    DustinWeaver - Man, I can't believe how much quality you achieve on a two-month schedule. Anybody who complains about your speed needs a good talking-to. You just send them to me, okay?

    ReplyDelete
  32. Peter Doherty - Your artwork just KILLS. Thanks for dropping by and saying hi! I'm so stoked that you liked Nonplayer!

    Joumana - Here's hoping I can get Americans to start thinking like Europeans! Thanks for the perspective, Joumana!

    Ted Terranova - Thanks for your honesty, man! I do think we'll be shooting for a larger format for the TPB -- we all feel like some of the detail gets lost in the standard format, so that's high on the priority list. I'm happy to hear you agree!

    itscarlstime247 - I hope you're right! Thanks!

    Ehud - Ha! Yeah, okay! I have to say, I've been a little hard on old George in the past, but I have a new respect for his ability to keep his eye on the ball despite his fans' considerable expectations. In his position, I think I'd probably physically implode.

    Your book's looking great, Ehud!

    mmmmmike - That's great to hear, man. Thanks for sticking with it!

    ReplyDelete
  33. devilmonkey - Thanks man! I may let my wife hurry me a bit, too.

    Munchanka - It was great meeting you, too, Austin! I am so in love with your blog, you have no idea. You draw dinosaurs real goodly! And yeah, I met Stout that evening and gave him a comic. He was great. Really humble, really mellow -- everything I was hoping he'd be. Plus, he's got rockstar good looks, which I hadn't expected. That's not really fair, is it? To be that talented and good looking?

    BookAddict - I assure you that I am going as fast as I can without physically damaging myself. Thanks!

    Wayne Taylor - Your work is just insanely, insanely great. Wow. Just wow. Thanks for leaving a comment. I hope you liked the first issue!

    Ted Terranova - Hello again! Yay, you liked the comic! That's great to hear, man. I hope the second issue lives up to the first!

    devilmonkey - Sweet! You liked it, too! Thanks, man. The second printing will be out on May 11. I think the ordering deadline is April 18. Cheers!

    Bryndon - Man, that sucks. I really hoped that everybody who wanted a copy would get one. Well, the second printing will be out in about a month, so hopefully that's not too much of a wait. Thanks for your patience, Bryndon!

    ReplyDelete
  34. Eric - Sorry to hear the ending was a little anticlimactic for you -- I'm hoping that as the story starts to fire on all cylinders, you'll agree that the first issue accomplished what it needed to accomplish. Thanks for the kind words about the art, though!

    Sean Hayden - Thanks man. Doing my best!

    Josh - Four shops! Sheez, when I hear stories like that I feel really bad. I'm not sure it's a four-shop book, you know? But I'm glad you liked it! And all systems are go for a poster of the final spread -- I'll make an announcement when that's finalized. Thanks, Josh!

    tormentedartist - We made it, dude! A comic on the stands. Now it's your turn!

    ReplyDelete
  35. Dude. Your Comic was AMAZING! I can't wait to see the next one ... BUT I WILL! :)

    ReplyDelete
  36. Just read issue 1. Great so far. Love the VR elements. "I can wait. Pace yourself."

    ReplyDelete
  37. Simon - Thanks, man. It's on it's way, slowly but surely. I'll be posting some pages-in-progress as I get closer to the release date. I hope you like 'em!

    nametakentwice - Yes, the VR stuff was definitely the most fun bit for me, as well. Happy to hear you enjoyed it!

    ReplyDelete
  38. Nate, you have been a terrific source of inspiration over the last year or so! As someone embarking on a similar endeavor, it's been a real treasure to watch your diligence and hard work pay off. As an artist, I accept that good work is worth waiting for, as a fan, I knew it wasn't going to be run of the mill in any fashion, be it content, or schedule. I'm in it for the long haul ;)

    ReplyDelete
  39. isit- Thanks, man! The Hellboy vs. Thor teaser art on your blog looks mighty promising! Keep up the great work!

    ReplyDelete