Pitching Comics to an Editor

Pitching to a comics editor can be a rather daunting process. You’re reaching out to a professional to evaluate your work. You’re telling them the idea merits all the time, effort, and money it takes to create and market a published product. There’s a level of confidence in yourself and your story that is innate to the process, which will undoubtedly be rife with rejection and frustration. Assembling your first pitch, then, without any prior experience, can feel overwhelming. In any project, however, most editors look for the same elements: a quick summation of the story, information about the creator, and the scope of the project. Keep in mind, however, that just like a resume, there are no cookie cutter pitches. First and foremost, a comics pitch is a sales pitch. Different stories and authors will require different methods of garnering interest and demonstrating marketability.

One of the key components of the process is the elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a short summary of the concept in three sentences or less; preferably using just a single sentence. By limiting your summary, you should be able to show why the idea is interesting and unique. If you don’t have an elevator pitch, you aren’t ready to pitch just yet. If you’re having trouble formulating a pitch, imagine the sort of summary might appear on the back of the book to potential readers. Crafting an elevator pitch is a great way to hone your focus for the project, and understand what separates your idea from a generic description.

Another critical component for a pitch is the creator biography. This isn’t the place for modesty. Showcase your past accomplishments and projects, any social media that demonstrates the size of your audience, and your qualifications to pitch this story. In comics, typically a single author/artist or a full creative team will pitch a story. Rarely, an individual writer will pitch a story that gets considered, but this typically requires an industry veteran. Most creators, but especially writers, should include relevant research and experience that empower you to share this story. Sharing your contact information and where to find your portfolio is crucial if you ever plan to hear back from an editor! Some creators include their email on every page of the pitch, just in case!

Demonstrate that you understand the process of creating a fully completed piece of work. Do you know what you expect the length of the development cycle to be? What time will be needed to complete the script and the artwork? How long do you envision this project? Give a specific page count or number of issues. Word to the wise: generally speaking, graphic novels are much easier to pitch than comic book issues, especially for industry novices. Giving an editor a clear indication of your intended genre or target audience is also a good idea, to avoid any miscommunication.

When covering your story outline, give all major plot point developments. Don’t hide or tease anything from an editor. The story outline should be laid out plainly, and the editor should be able to understand the general reasoning behind your decisions. This outline can touch on character backgrounds and general story arcs if you believe it will help your pitch. But don’t let the outline overstay its welcome. Stay focused: Your main job here is to convey a functioning, distinctive plot that shows it can deliver on the elevator pitch.

Another crucial aspect in a comics pitch is covering the art direction. You need to match the writing aspect of the pitch with a visual guide, and show where you want to take the project. Artists need to show sequential art: telling a story in pictures is an entirely different skill set than drawing pinups of characters. Typically only a page or two is fine, any more than eight is typically overdone. Demonstrating your ability to draw characters and backgrounds in depth while remaining true to style may also help, depending on the story you are pitching. Writers pitching individually should include about three or four artists examples that show different art styles they’d consider a great match for the story.

Finally, it always helps to know comparable titles for your book. This aspect is typically an editor’s responsibility, but having answers to these questions when they follow up with you could be advantageous. Typically, comparable titles are considered during most publishers’ acquisition process. Knowing several specific titles of the same genre as your book, and knowing how your title is both similar and different to them just might make your editor’s job much easier. Editors won’t expect this from you, but making your project as easy as possible for your editor to sell up the ladder can really grease the wheels of production.

Again, not all these boxes necessarily need to be check-marked, but they will help you make an informed decision about what elements will and won’t improve your pitch. As you work, keep in mind that all pitches will need to be easy to consume. Editors typically have a very large pile of submissions to consider, and frequently have to move through them at a quick pace. Front-load the most important pieces of information; there’s no guarantee they’ll make it through the whole thing.

After you’re done creating your pitch and start sending it off into the world, consider the following. Don’t be afraid to send your pitch to multiple publishers at once. Always be easy to reach and quick to reply. Be open-minded about counteroffers that may adjust the original project vision. Most importantly, be friendly and respectful. Your reputation is one of your most valuable assets in this industry. Don’t flood anyone’s inboxes with emails. Many pitches get lost in the weeds. Sending a single check up reply after a month or two is appropriate, but if you don’t get a response, treat it as a rejection and move on. With persistence and genuine engagement in the comics community, you can find opportunities opened up to you. Best of luck to you!

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