Why aren’t there a lot of graphic novels out there?
1) Graphic novels are relatively more expensive, considering that it takes a much shorter time to get through one compared to reading a novel. So the average reader might not find graphic novels as worthy of their hard-earned money.
2) Because of the above, graphic novels aren’t seen as viable money-making avenues in the eyes of book publishers.
3) Graphic novels take a lot of pain to produce. There’s the concept and design stage, the writing stage, and the art stage. The huge effort involved would not necessarily translate to huge returns. Unless a graphic novelist has made a name for him/herself, or unless the book gets an enormous amount of media attention, making graphic novels would seem like a waste of energy. If anything, it’s really the love for the medium that pulls the graphic novelist through.
With that said, graphic novelists need to produce material worthy of attention.
Marjane Satraapi’s Persepolis was a huge success. It wasn’t about superheroes, had no bells and whistles about it, and even the art style would have difficulty appealing to mass market sensibilities. But it was an important book, about a girl’s growing up in Iran, and sold hundreds of thousands of copies.
It would help the graphic novelist to think beyond superheroics, a subject already expertly covered by the Big Three (or Two), and venture into stories that run through deeper, if not urgent, veins. Or, at least, stories that have more mass market appeal.
Idea 1: A graphic novel about women, for women, and their challenges with men. You can get publicity in a women’s magazine, or get support from a women’s group.
Idea 2: A graphic novel hinged on a social science, like anthropology or sociology. If you have enough interesting factoids tightly woven with a well-developed story, you could get an audience from the academe.
Idea 3: A graphic novel about the corporate environment. Part-drama, part-commentary, part-insight, which can tickle the business world.
Idea 4: A graphic novel of the historical fiction genre. Choose a defining moment in history and add a slight spin to it, without sacrificing historical integrity. Again, you can benefit from attention from the academe.
Idea 5: A graphic novel memoir. If your great-grandfather has an interesting story to tell, then why not turn it into a graphic novel?
At the core of this is a thrust towards making graphic novels the new medium for a plethora of topics. Graphic novelists can use the novelty (pun intended) of the medium to get attention. And we all know that getting attention is a large foot in the door.