Okay, I’ve covered quite a few different aspects of how I put together a pitch, from the purpose of a pitch, to summarizing your ideas and the different sections you can use to explain your concept. Above and beyond that information, I wanted to offer some other advice that didn’t quite fit anywhere else.
DO check and follow a publisher’s submission guidelines before following any advice I’ve given you. If they ask for specific things you’ll make it a lot easier for them (and they’ll see that you can follow instructions) if you give them what they’ve asked for.
DO explain the elements that make your story compelling, entertaining or unique. It’s okay for you to be inspired by other things, just make sure you have something new to add instead of offering a carbon copy of an existing story.
DO get people you trust to look over the pitch to help edit it for spelling, grammar and clarity. A fresh set of eyeballs checking things over can be invaluable.
DO credit everyone involved in the pitch: the artist(s), colorist(s), letterer, you name it. Everyone involved should have their contribution clearly noted. This isn’t just about your writing.
DO put your contact info on the header or footer of each page so the publisher has it even if the pages get separated.
DO send your pitch to a specific editor rather than “To Whom It May Concern”. Find books from a publisher that fit the kind of story you’re working on, check who the editor is and do your best to track down their contact information.
DO include a brief cover letter/email. Introduce yourself, mention any previous creative work or related experience you have and explain why you think the publisher would be a good fit for the pitch.
DO keep your emails to publishers simple, professional and direct. They’re not your friend (yet, who knows what will happen later on) and this isn’t a social call. They won’t sift through a rambling or confusing email waiting for it to get to the point.
DO hand over a pitch in person at a convention or social event if the opportunity presents itself, but keep it brief. Putting a name to a face can go a long way; just make sure you’re professional and polite. Read the social cues and try to pick a good moment. Try not to stress out about it (easier said than done, I know).
DO be open to adjusting your pitch if an editor wants revisions to the concept. Be open to their feedback/critique. If they want changes you’re uncomfortable with, walk away as politely as possible so you don’t leave a bad impression.
DO build polite social relationships with professionals in person or online. There is a strong social aspect to this industry and it’s important to be around it, just don’t expect people to involve you in every interaction just because you’re there. It can take a really long time, so try not to force it.
DO have an easy to remember email address and website so an editor can stay in touch. Even if they don’t pick up this pitch, having a way for them to easily find you can pay off down the road.
DO remember to be gracious even if your pitch is rejected. As difficult as it can be, thank them for their time and consideration.
DO buy and read more creator-owned comics. If this is what you want to get into, you need to stay current with what’s being released and support the industry if you want the industry to support you.
DON’T expect other professionals to look over your pitch if they’re not your friends (heck, probably not even then). They’re too busy working on their own projects and probably can’t help you get your work published anyways.
DON’T send your pitch randomly to every comic publisher you can find. Do your research and only choose companies who fit the work you’re putting together. The shotgun approach does not work and sending inappropriate pitches to publishers makes you look desperate and poorly informed.
DON’T use self deprecation as a way to try and get a response from a publisher (things like “I know you probably won’t answer this email, but…”). If they like the work, they’ll contact you. If not, that’s your problem not theirs.
DON’T use your cover letter as a way to explain your life story or how long you’ve wanted to work in comics. Pretty much everyone who works in the industry has been a “lifelong fan”. Just quickly introduce yourself and let them get to the pitch.
DON’T trash other people’s work to try and boost your own (“Since you guys already published [crappy comic] I’m sure my new concept will knock your socks off”). Keep your interactions positive.
DON’T exaggerate how long you’ve been working on a pitch. Telling an editor you’ve spent a decade developing your story or that this is your life’s work is a turn-off, not a selling feature. Remember, your first projects should be small and manageable, not grandiose.
DON’T include hype about sales/media potential in your pitch or cover letter. Even if you think you have the next Harry Potter meets Walking Dead by way of Scott Pilgrim, let the publisher decide its commercial potential.
DON’T spam an editor with multiple pitches at once. They won’t think you’re a story genius, they’ll just find it obnoxious and almost certainly trash them all. Send one at a time and wait for a response before sending another concept, and only if they agree to look at more.
DON’T spend a crazy amount on pitch artwork unless that amount of money is meaningless to you. Creator-owned comics generally make very little, so you don’t want to be starting the process deep in the hole. Team up with artists who are professional quality, but understand that this is a stepping stone to more work, not an instant big-time payout. I know finding those kinds of collaborators can be really tough, but that’s the ideal.
DON’T spend too much printing your pitch package if you’re sending/handing over a physical copy. Sharp print outs in a simple document protector is fine. Paper-clipped/stapled sheets in an envelope work too. You can print it as a sample comic or use fancy paper if you’d like, just don’t break the bank. The quality of work will make or break the pitch, not the printing of your pitch material.
DON’T expect a quick reply to your submission. Remember that looking at your pitch is not a priority for an editor. If you don’t hear from them for a couple months, send them a brief and pleasant email asking for an update. If you don’t hear anything at all a second time, you’re probably not going to make any headway with this pitch at that company.
DON’T phone a publisher about your pitch unless they specifically give you their phone contact and ask you to call. Even if they hand you a business card, ask them if it’s okay to call. A pestering random phone call comes across 10 times worse than a pestering email.
DON’T expect editors to help you get your work up to a professional level. If they give you feedback on a failed pitch that’s great, but if not don’t be surprised. They rarely have time to give in-depth critique on material they’re not interested in publishing.
DON’T expect that getting your first comic published is going to change your life or make you rich. Very few people make a really good living solely from comic work. Hold on to your day job and see how things go. Get into this industry because you love the medium and want to tell stories, not because you expect fame or riches.
…And that’s it! Four parts of info all about comic story pitching.
If you found this post helpful, feel free to let me know here (or on Twitter), share it with your friends and consider buying some of my comics to show support for me teaching you how to steal my job. ;P