Here Comes The Pitch – Part One

Like I did with the blog series focused on my comic writing methods (parts one, two, three, four and five), I thought I’d break down some of the things I’ve learned so far about pitching comic story ideas to publishers. As with my previous writing advice, these are just my thoughts and methodology, not rules etched in stone. If you find them useful, that’s great. If not, well I hope it’s mildly interesting in any case.

Pitching a story to a publisher can be incredibly difficult, especially when you’re pitching cold. By ‘cold’, I mean that an editor hasn’t approached you looking for writing material and you’re sending it in without any prior ‘heat’ (interest). The cold pitch is the absolute worst position to be in because an editor has absolutely no reason to pay attention to you, and probably has dozens of better things they could/should be doing with their time. Never forget that! Most of the advice I give is centered around this simple fact: You are not a priority when you’re cold pitching a project to a publisher. You have to grab their interest and bring them on board the idea, taking them from uninterested, through neutral, to excited about working with you.

An editor’s primary job is to ensure their current projects are running smoothly (and here’s a hint – it’s extremely rare for projects to run really smoothly). After that’s done for the day they probably want to go home to their family and have some sort of a life. Assuming having a normal life isn’t a viable option for them, then there may be a need for new books/projects, but when those times come up an editor is going to contact trusted/dependable/known talent before anyone else. Why wouldn’t they? Why take a risk on someone who is unproven and (probably) going to require a ton of extra hand-holding to complete the same task an experienced creator could do, especially if the editor could end up putting their own job and reputation on the line if it gets all screwed up?

Think carefully about that. Never forget it. Everyone wants to work with people who are going to make things run smoothly and deliver the goods. Your pitch needs to convince them that you are one of those people (because you are, right? :) ).

The above is why companies like Marvel and DC have a ‘No Blind Writing Submission’ policy. They want people who have previous experience and are already consistently producing high quality stories. They have a large pool of experienced talent to choose from and don’t want to take risks on unknown writers. The simple truth is they’ll approach you (once you have a viable body of work) instead of you approaching them.

Brutal, eh?

But – here’s the good side of things. There are many other outlets for comics and many other publishers you can approach with your rockin’ creator-owned story ideas: Image Comics, Oni Press, Archaia, IDW, Boom!, First-Second, Dynamite and a ton of other great companies producing award-winning kick ass comics. There are opportunities if you can show that you’re professional and capable, even for first-time creators. That doesn’t even take into account self publishing or putting your work directly online, which is more valid than ever before.

So, assuming after all my rambling above you still want to go the pitching route, I suggest you make a strong first impression. You have to make sure your pitch is high quality, easy to digest and engaging.

In short – A pitch is all about clearly explaining your idea and justifying why you are the right person to see it through.

There are many ways to do that and, as long as it achieves the above, you’ve pitched it well. Cross your fingers and see where it goes from there.

I know this was quite the preamble, a blog post all its own, with a mixture of “no one wants to read your stuff” and “get ready to work your butt off”, but that’s a dose of reality I think some people need to hear about the process before we get into the nitty-gritty of it. Before I talk about format, hook, theme or how much information is needed, I felt it was important to talk about the overall purpose of a pitch and what kind of stuff you’re up against when starting out.

Now you know.

If you found this post helpful, feel free to let me know here (or on Twitter), share the post with your friends and consider buying some of my comics to show your support for me writing this instead of paying work. :P

Click here to read on to part two of this pitching tutorial

  1. I sat in on your talk at FanExpo in Toronto and found it inspiring. I appreciate the straight talk (this is how it is so deal with it). I’ve worked in the video game industry for the last 13years and give the same talk to kids wanting to make games for a living.

    I’m planning on submitting to Image as soon as my artist completes his part of the submission. The part that has me nervous isn’t the story, I’m confident in my story, my dialog and my artist… it’s the story synopsis that has me stressing. I would hate to get our work passed over, because I dropped the ball on the synopsis. Any tips you have on writing a synopsis would be great.

    I also have a few questions…

    1. Do you see any problems submitting to all the publishers you mentioned at the same time (Image Comics, Oni Press, Archaia, etc)?

    2. If our book doesn’t get excepted the first time around… what’s a good grace period before I rewrite the story synopsis and submit again?

    • 1) I’ll mention this in a future part of the Pitch tutorial blogs, but you may want to limit sending your pitch to one or two at a time, focusing on the publishers who have a style/sensibility closest to what you feel the comic represents rather than shotgunning everyone at once.

      2) If you’ve made major story/art changes, then you could try again in 6-8 months. There’s no exact figure for this, of course.

  2. The (Comic) Writer’s Toolbox | Nick Tapalansky: Pen For Hire - pingback on September 19, 2012 at 12:37 pm
  3. Week 2 | The Pitch | Advanced Illustration I - pingback on September 16, 2013 at 11:29 am

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