Creating a noir comic book – part 9

Recap:
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!.

Spiral_01_001 Spiral_01_002 Spiral_01_003 Spiral_01_004 Spiral_01_005 Spiral_01_006 Spiral_01_007

**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.

Screenwriting: A thrilling February. A scientific March.

February is a bastard. It’s cold and short. Well, the cold bit is great for those of us who need to sit inside and write. But the loss of three days. Not so good. Still, I’ve managed to keep on track with my schedule. And on top of writing I went down to London for a brief visit, to friends and the London Super Comic Con (which you can read about here).

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Apart from that this last month has mainly been devoted to my screenwriting endeavors, and in March I will finally see not just one, but hopefully two feature screenplays finished. For what is a writer if he or she doesn’t have anything finished?

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By finished, we never mean finished as in «never touching this fine-chiseled diamond ever again, because it’s perfect!», but finished enough for us to be happy with the draft, and hopefully make a producer, director or agent excited in return.

Right now, my co-writer Robert and I are putting the finishing (there’s that word again!) touches on our thriller, about a prison teacher who’s trying to track down a missing inmate. It’s a story about the individual versus society, and if we can sacrifice individual freedom for the good of society.  It’s about memories, about what makes us who we are. And, after my grandmother started loosing hers, I’m more sure than ever that memories are the most precious thing we have as human beings.

We have pitched this project to several producers and a few directors, and some of them were keen to read the script. It’s a good start, but still a million miles away from a shooting day. But it all starts small. Just ask Jack with the beans.

On top of the thriller I’m working on a sci-fi, a pure sci-fi that doesn’t veer into horror at the end (I’m looking at you Sunshine*), or end up being involuntarily silly (those Mars films). Or completely flawed with perfect production values (Prometheus). I’m trying to add many elements, story-wise and tonally, that I haven’t seen much in sci-fi films. But the tone is reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Reads like an indie, with the scope of a blockbuster. But its no $200 mill movie.

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I’ve already written a short version to test the story and the world. Micro-gravity, claustrophobia, space station layout, the character journey, the ending. It all needs to fit nicely together, and the nice thing about a feature is that you have room to explore aspects you cannot in a short film/teleplay. The short version is actually in the hands of an up-and-coming director who I admire, so fingers crossed it’ll move somewhere.

I hope to finish up a good feature draft of the sci-fi before March is done with me. This is another project I’ve pitched around and it has a lot of interest from producers and directors. It’s a tough story to pull off, so the script needs to shine, but I’m confident some of the industry people will find it both refreshing and bold. Again, I hope to grab the up-and-coming director with this version of the script, as well.

After these two scripts are «out there» I’ll be focusing on my animation scripts again. My insect noir screenplay is already done and just needs a trim and tune-up. The family adventure project needs some heavy lifting, though, so that’ll come last.

I already have a few ideas for future screenplays, as well, but I’m not going to put more on my schedule at the moment. On top of these projects I have my comic writing, which now consists of about 4 – 5 projects. My role as editor for Outré takes up some hours a week, and we’ve got a bathroom that needs to be refurbished.  Yeah, I know. Funny thing that real life stuff. Sometimes, in my witching/writing hours, I’m so deep in a fictitious world I’ve created that I forget the real one.

But I’m pretty sure that’ll change come summer. When my son is born.

* For the record, Sunshine is one of my favourites within the genre.