Question #1: The Pitch
Submitted by Faith on July 18, 2009 - 10:05
Alright, answering questions time. Hopefully these will turn out to be halfway interesting, and I don't bore you all to death. Remember: These responses are based on my experiences, so other people might have had different ones. I can only relate what's happened to me.
nenimo asked: I'm curious about how you go about putting together a pitch for a comic. Little bits of information like what do you include or anything specific to exclude. Are your pitches tailored on the publisher? or do you make it so you'll go ahead with the idea regardless?
(Aside: I'm going to be talking about my experiences pitching to SLG, but just so you know, they have closed down their submissions for a few months. So don't send them anything until after October 1.)
Making the pitch always seems to be the million dollar question. This has been said many many times before by people far more seasoned than I am, but it's really important to follow the submission guidelines of whatever publisher you intend to pitch to. And that's what I did when I sent Zombies Calling in to SLG. I went to the 'submissions' section of their website, wrote down everything that was written there, and went off and made a pitch. (And hey! Here's a helpful website that has links to every comic publisher's submission guidelines! Man, aren't you guys lucky?) My pitch included the first 15 pages* of Zombies Calling, 3 pages of character sketches of the main characters (you can see the pitch comic and character sketches on the ZC website), a clear, concise outline of the story I wanted to tell (SUPER IMPORTANT! Publishers want to know you have a finished story in mind), and a casually-toned but professionally produced (no typos, spell checked) cover letter to SLG telling them who I was, and that I had a comic I wanted them to publish. SLG was the only publisher I sent Zombies Calling to. I don't really recommend that, but I had done a lot of research into what publishers took unsolicited submissions, and they were the only ones I thought would be interested in a graphic novel about university students and zombies.
So important fact #1: I did my homework on the publisher I wanted to work with. Important fact #2: I also was very clear in outlining story I wanted to do, and happened to luck into wanting to do it in a format that SLG was already leaning towards: I pitched ZC as a graphic novel, not a comic. I did this because I don't like floppies, and even though I knew SLG mostly as a publisher of floppies (I purchased their trades), I didn't want to do a floppy comic. Fortunately for me, SLG seemed to want to move towards the graphic novel format, something I didn't know at the time. Which brings us to important fact #3: DUMB LUCK. There is a lot about the pitch process that's out of your control, and sometimes you can do everything perfectly, follow submission guidelines to the T, and it just doesn't end up working out, for whatever reason. This sucks, of course, and I've no idea how to cope with it. I am very bad at letting things go and accepting that they are beyond my control, but if you're one of those people who can do this, I suggest you apply it to the pitch process. You'll certainly be a lot less crazy.
Anyway. Other things: I keep hearing conflicting reports about this, but I don't see the harm in putting it in, so I say do it. I talked briefly about my online comics in my cover letter, mostly to try and communicate to SLG that I had been doing comics on my own for a while, and I was interested in the art form, not just the glory of being published. I feel that there's so many options for self publishing (and free self publishing, online publishing) for young comic folk today, I find it strange when someone right off the bat starts pitching to a publisher. Wouldn't you want to spend time developing your craft first? I don't know if SLG took that into consideration, but it was important to me.
Little tip: Get your pitch printed nicely! Don't print at 72dip, use at least 300. I think making sure a pitch is nicely turned out is half the battle.
As for "anything specific to exclude" in the pitch, I think it's important to be realistic with your first pitch. Again, this has been said by people far more important than I am, but it's not a good idea to pitch something super complicated and long right off the bat. Try and think of being in comics for the long haul. You're trying to develop your skills and do the best comic you can, with the skills you currently have. You also have years and years to try and get that one special project published (we're not athletes, with a 10 year window to be a professional. We're artists, and we can draw into our 80s), so try and think of that dÃ©but comic as something to build on. Start with a small, simple, one off idea and try and get that published. If it happens, you can go from there.
Anyway, I hope that was helpful. I know I was very confused about the pitch process, and was fortunate enough to have a few people offer me advice, which I am very grateful for. Hopefully I can do the same for others. Good luck!
*This is way too many pages, as I think SLG asks for 4-6 pages, but I wanted to present that first ZC joke, the one with the nachos.