Episode 171: The Economics of Serialization Outside of Print

Last time I discussed the business part of print publishing. Let’s double dip and explore how other media work for this.

Film Industry

Remember how books are big and take a long time to make? Well making movies is like that but with far more layers of complexity and lots of other people who will be employed throughout the filming and editing process. The initial capital to start such an endeavor is hard to fathom. The only relatively easy part is that today’s movie audiences are far more receptive towards movie franchises with sequels, prequels, and reboots. What used to be limited to horror movie monsters like Jaws and Freddy or the most sci fi of stories, having multiple parts to a feature film is far more normal. Consider the overall success that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had since its initial conception with Iron Man even as we hand wave away The Hulk films done a few years earlier. The main Marvel film set still has multiple phases and the other super hero movies are doing well enough, Not to mention that the bad movies might get rebooted once more if there characters have the potential to bring in fans later on (looking at you past and future Fantastic 4 movies). Still, you need big numbers on first and subsequent installments before it all goes down the drain and stories that still have material won’t get made.

Television

Same thing as movies but you get to make multiple episodes at least beforehand. Even if you film episodes a bad enough critique/rating number can kill a series on the spot. The most infamous example is Viva Laughlin a musicalesque show where Hugh Jackman was a casino owner in Laughlin, Nevada. After the reviews of one episode the network executives killed the show from future airings. Which is a big issue with most forms of serialization, those that allow you to start can end it even before it really starts. There are ways around contracts and publishing houses and executives are more adept at making them if they have experienced legal teams on payroll.

Comics

To understand the mechanics of comics is to follow the rules of an industry. Make 28-32 pages of material and be ready to deliver it at weekly or monthly intervals. From there, one needs to keep in mind pacing. Every installment needs to work on its own while pushing a bigger story forward. Television has a similar system to comics while books are closer to movies in that regard. Comics creation, just like writing, are limited to your creative talents and artistic ability. Even with green screen there is only so much you can do that can fit in a budget. If you are working within the big two of Marvel or DC then you need to follow their past and future structure for the characters assigned to you. Original characters or stories that don’t go with the main continuity allow writers/artists to have more leeway but you are more employee than author when it comes to them. Working for smaller publishing houses or on your own allows you to avoid the pitfalls of previous years of continuity but finding your audience and keeping them hooked has its own challenges.

Next time, my bread and butter of webcomics will be discussed.

Until next time.

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