Hello, and welcome once again to Tales from Outside Comics! The series where someone just like you, a word-goblin scribbling away the madness, rants uncontrollably about how difficult it is to find shiny things in the haunted mines. Apparently, my stand-in for sports metaphors are fantasy ones. Today I’m telling a story about my experience (or lack thereof) pitching ideas to industry professionals. Enjoy!
So last time, I mentioned that I’ve actually had a chance to pitch story ideas directly to an editor at a comics publisher. I stood before the gates of the industry, but clearly, since I’m still unpublished, something went pretty wrong. So, I’ll be sharing 3 different stories of the 3 different times I’ve pitched ideas for comics to people in the industry; what I did wrong, but also what I did well. (Or, at least less wrong.) Hopefully, you can learn from me, and if you happen to find yourself in a similar situation, will have at least some idea what to do.
Let me start by saying that this side of things, the “getting stuff made” side of being creative, isn’t something I’d consider myself an expert on. Sure, I’ve read as much as I can get my hands on as far as “making-of” stories or “insider accounts” go, but I’ve still never been through the process myself. I might know more than someone who is just starting out, someone who’s never even thought about the publishing process before, but again, I’m sure there’s still a lot I can learn. As painful as it can be to think about sometimes, the comics industry is still an industry, and we all need to be able to think like business people now and then.
I could probably keep going down that line of thinking, but then this would end up being an entirely different post, and a much more depressing one at that. (Where’s my damn socialist utopia? I thought it was supposed to be here by now).
Anyway, the first time I tried pitching a story to a publisher, I was massively out of my depth. So much so, that I didn’t even realize how naïve I actually was.
As a senior in college, I attended a pretty out-there convention: Morrisoncon. An intimate comic-con with a limited number of entrees, as well as guests, all of whom either worked with or were inspired by Grant Morrison, taking place in the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. It was the first time I traveled anywhere by myself, without family or friends, and it was incredible.
So incredible, that when I saw Dan Didio, publisher of DC Comics, I was emboldened enough to walk over and talk to him. (OK, truth be told, I had happened to walk past him at least two or three times previously before I had the guts to do it intentionally. People are scary and social contact is the holy water to my reclusive, vampiric nature. But I digress). So, in a way, this was the first thing I did right: approach someone in the industry. If you want to make comics, and you want to get them published at an established company, you’re going to have to talk to people who work in comics. (Big surprise, right?) At the end of the day, putting a face to a name is always a boon. It shows that you’re a real person, putting yourself out there.
After a bit of small-talk about the series I’d been reading, I asked if I could share my idea for a series about a minor character. (An idea I’m still keeping tucked away in my back pocket, because hey, it might be useful someday). Of course, I was shot down, and given the spiel of “we want to see that you can make comics on your own, then if we like you, we’ll find you.” I took it all in stride, thanked him for his time, and walked away smiling from my first official rejection from the comic book industry.
Even though I wasn’t sure about it at the time, this was another thing I did right: taking “no” for an answer. By showing that I could be gracious in defeat, even if I’m not remembered for it, at least I’m not remembered as the guy who had to be dragged away kicking and screaming. Staying polite, staying positive, smiling through a rejection, is always better than storming off, throwing a middle finger over your shoulder. Yeah, I’ve heard that some people have gotten work through sheer persistence, not taking that “no” for answer, but I wasn’t at that point. I was still finishing college, and I hadn’t even written a comic script yet. I was totally jumping the gun, so it was best to back down, regroup, keep growing. And that’s OK.
The more I think about it, the more I’m reminded of this quote: “Failure isn’t the opposite of success, it’s merely a part of it.” (Which is totally on my inspirational wall of post-its.) Even though the outcome wasn’t what I wanted, this was still an experience I had to have to get where I am now. If I hadn’t walked over and tried to throw my idea in the ring, I would have wondered what if? And who knows what that nagging doubt would have done unchecked. I think of it like growing pains; yeah, it kind of sucked to get rejected, but it was something that would make me stronger down the road. And at least now, knowing rather than wondering, I had my mission clarified: make good comics.
Fast forward a couple years. I’m living in Chicago, attending the big con there, C2E2, talking to people and introducing myself as a writer. This was the first time I attended a show thinking of myself as a creator (despite not having a finished project to my name,) with the intention of trying to get into the industry. It was early on Sunday when I walked past a publisher’s booth, made eye contact with someone passing out comics, then looked down at his badge to see the word “editor.”
I’m pretty sure my exact words were, “holy s#*@, you’re an editor.”
And with that brilliant introduction, he was still gracious enough to give me his email address.
So that was it, I’m in the clear and will be strolling down the gilded road of success in no time, right?
Well, no. That much is obvious. But seeing as I’m already over 1,000 words into this, and can feel at least 1,000 more on the way, this is where I slap up a To Be Continued while cackling ominously. So tune in next week for Pitch Talk II: AKA, Put the Bat Down Before You Hurt Someone.
PS – My recommendation for this week is the new Spider-Man movie, Into The Spider-Verse. It was awesome. Go see it before the internet ruins it for you.