Part 1 – Idea to concept
Part 2 – Concept to outline
Part 3 – Outline to page breakdown
Part 4 – Scripting and the first step of finding an artist
Part 5 – Finding a great artist
Part 6 – The great artist and defining visuals
Part 7 – From script to finished page
Part 8 – Identity and branding
And that brings us to today’s post, where I’ll talk a bit about the pitch package, your sales document for your comic book, and what to do about it.
Now, some publishers aren’t open to submissions (seemingly), and some encourage it (seemingly).
Those that state they aren’t open to submissions haven’t stopped looking for content to publish, they just have enough channels and a big enough network to find this content themselves. They know who to get in touch with to get the content they want. That said, if you strike up a conversation with a person from such a publisher and a communicative relationship springs from that initial talk, I’ll bet my left margin that you’ll eventually be able to pitch, show them content or even be asked to pitch for them. You’ve entered their network, their channel. So NO publisher is closed shop. Remember that. There are always ways in, although they might be long and look like a maze.
Then there’s the “other”, seemingly easier side, and that’s the publishers that encourage submissions – usually electronically on their websites. Easy! They’ll usually have rules on how and what to submit – and everyone says you should follow them. I have. (And I haven’t.) But no matter how hard you follow the rules, fact is that putting your content in that submission pile won’t get you far. If we’re talking about the “higher-ups” publishers, at least. And those are the ones we’re aspiring to, no? You’ll have to do the part mentioned in the previous paragraph. Network, meet and greet and get to know. Once your name is on their radar, then they’re more likely to give your submission a proper look. But I’m not saying you shouldn’t submit to these seemingly open publishers – you absolutely should, from the get go. Especially if you’re an artist. Because they’ll see your art and that can lead to things. And extra especially if you’re a writer working with an artist. Send that stuff in so publishers can start to see your artist’s work. Hustle and pimp that lovely lady or handsome bloke. Get their art in front of the eyes of editors, whenever you can, without being a pain in the ass, of course.
But, all in all, I’m not a fan of does and don’ts, rules and restrictions. I’m not saying break the rules and go crazy, but bend the rules, use some tricks, pick some locks and sneak in where you can. As long as you act professional, humble yet confident and plain ol’ nice – you can get away with a lot of rule-bending. But none of this matters unless you have good content on your hands.
Another issue that arises for me personally is my location. I’m far away from any comic cons where I might meet editors (because meet editors is what you really want to do!). Sure, we have a couple of very nice conventions here in Norway, but usually there’s just a few guests from the States and the UK, and they are always creators. If I want to speak to an editor, I’ll have to fly over to the UK, or better yet the US. So if you have high-profile conventions near you where editors from all walks of comic publisher lives regularly appear, know you are privileged. And take advantage of that.
So, let’s get back to Spiral. Me and Emerson put together a simple and easy submission package, or pitch package, if you prefer. A handful of finished pages (*see below), some character sketches, a quick outline of the content/story**, and our contact info. All in a small, handy PDF. This was back in January, and I had already set my sights on London Super Comic Con (which I’ve been to before) to see if I could get some face-time with editors. There were a few publishers there that were interesting and a fit for Spiral.
So I flew down to London, which was also a trip to promote and talk to creators about Outré. Together with my co-editor Glenn Møane. I had the Spiral pitch PDF on my iPad and went up and talked to a few editors. (I’ll leave the names up for guessing.) The “industry” says you shouldn’t pitch stuff at the convention floor, because editors either want to sell their books or talk to fans there or just hang out, but here we’re back to the rule-bending business. I introduced myself, talked a bit about their books (which are books I really like and books from creators I like and some I know), told them about my situation and asked about their submission policies. And since I was plain ol’ nice – (hey, I am!) – of course they could take a look. Up comes the iPad and I tell them the sales pitch for our project while I show them the pages. Everyone I showed the pages to, creators, friends, fans and editors really dug them. And I can’t blame them. Emerson’s pages are fantastic. The editors I spoke to asked me to send them the PDF so they could have a proper look at the office. Mission completed.
And this is where your imaginary high fives, your silent victorious war cries, you on the knees laughing of joy – in your head – soon vanish and turn into a long, long wait. Because that’s what it says on the package: hurry up and wait. The week after, (this is March still), stuff was sent and initial replies were received and the wait for the final “yes, let’s do this, boys” or the “nope, chaps. Next!” began.
And we waited, and waited. But what you need to do in these periods where you are walking the Withering-Soon-Away-From-Waiting-For-That-Email Plains (you’ll walk them a lot), is create, create, create. Me and Emerson quickly began producing more pages, setting our goal on completing the first issue. The indication from peers and editors was that we had something good on our hands. Pages kept coming in from Emerson and the notion of waiting seemed to vanish into the back of my mind. I had started working on other projects at the same time, so you kinda forget you’re waiting.
Then one day, that e-mail came diving into my inbox…
*Here are the pages we included in the pitch package. The first 7 pages of Spiral. All art by Emerson Dimaya and lettering by Chris Crank!.
**which is called the pitch text, the hardest part of writing for most writers. It’s hard to distill your own work into a quick and sales-worthy paragraph – but it’s easy to do it to other people’s work. So practice on properties that you like, books, films, comics whatever.