I’ve been getting asked quite a bit about pitching to an editor, agent, or publisher. There’s no standard way to pitch in comics, but there are certain elements of your book that should be included no matter who you’re reaching out to.
I’ve melded my own personal way of pitching with Jim Zub’s method (from his post Here Comes the Pitch and other educational posts by him). Feel free to change it up to be whatever you need, but this is my go-to way to make sure I have everything that I need for telling folks about my story idea.
Keep in mind that what you need for a pitch can vary from editor to editor and from publisher to publisher. For publishers that have open submissions, they’ll typically list what they need from you right on the page. Make sure to follow the instructions and include everything that they require to give your pitch the best possible chance for success.
This is everything you’ll find in the pitch doc here (but scroll down under it for a downloadable Word file):
TITLE (OR WORKING TITLE*)
*Always include a title as opposed to UNTITLED PROJECT or whatever. The title can be changed later but it’s important to have something in place here.
A short summary of your story no more than 1-2 sentences long. It’s basically the elevator pitch to entice readers in.
This is the longer summary of your story that gets into slightly more detail. Think of what you’d read on the back of a book or graphic novel. Concise, catchy, and alluring. Ideally 2-3 paragraphs long. You really want to entice readers (aka editors, agents, publishers) with this.
One of the biggest components of any pitch is your character section. This is a breakdown of the major characters that we’ll meet in the story (or the first arc that you’re pitching—if you’re looking to create an ongoing series). Put the focus on the ones that we see the most and/or the ones that have the most impact on the characters around them.
You not only want to include a blurb about who each of the characters is, what they look like, etc. but also the journey they’re on. Who are they at the start of the story vs. at the end? What will they learn? How will they grow?
If you have an artist attached to your project already, having concept art for the main characters can be very helpful. If you don’t, that’s okay! I personally like to build Pinterest boards to establish a “look” and aesthetic for each character to help support the visual. And you can include those Pinterest boards in your pitch too. Ideally, if an agent or editor is working on comics and graphic novels, they’re fairly visual and can use the tools you give them to envision the final product.
I’d say this can be optional to expand on in a pitch with the exception being if you’re creating a fictional place. It can be helpful to lay out the world and explain any differences between ours and the one you’ve built.
This isn’t story-related stuff, per se. In this section, you want to include an estimated page count (or issue count if you’re thinking of a serialized story). Include whether or not it’s standalone, part of an ongoing series, etc. Make sure you research approx. page counts for the audience you’re aiming for too, so you know if what you’re pitching is within reason. And speaking of audience, this is also the place to go into that. Is your story MG (middle-grade), YA (young adult), adult, etc.
Again, do your research there to see what would be the best fit based on your characters and the story you want to tell. Sometimes an editor might ask to age your characters up or down to better fit into a market too. But that’s not something to worry about here.
You also want to select some comp(arable) titles to help show that there’s a market for your story. For instance, with Oh My Gods!, some of our comp titles included Lumberjanes, Percy Jackson, Clone High, etc.
Finally, you need a breakdown of the story. You don’t want to hold back here—include all the details of the story from start to finish. Lay everything out for the reader. If you have the story broken down into chapters, think of each outline as a detailed version of the DESCRIPTION section but with everything spelled out. Make each chapter 1-3 paragraphs long and be as concise as possible.
You’ll want to have a sample script to show too. Having at least 30-40 pages written will likely be the bare minimum. Some agents and editors want to see a FULL manuscript, so be sure to read submission guidelines to know what you need.
If you have concept art, include it. If you do include art, you want to make sure that you have character concept designs. If you’re building your own world, consider including some designs showing that off too. Direct market pubs often require preview pages* of the story (usually six pages, minimum) but be sure to read submission guidelines. If not, it never hurts to mention what you envision for the art and list a few artists whose style you think may work for the book when the time comes.
If you do have an artist/creative team on board, make sure details are worked out between you (ie. ownership split, payment system, royalties division, etc.) Be sure to have it in writing in the form of a collaboration contract. You can use this one as a template.
*if you’re going to include preview pages, keep in mind that the recommended six-pages don’t have to be the first six-pages. Use six-pages from your script and story that best represent the overall vision and tone of your project.
Lastly, this isn’t the definitive guide to pitching your comic. This is what I do and have had success with. Research other pitches and do what’s best for you and your story. This is a starting place to help you out. Before you submit, be sure to visit the websites for any editor, agent, or publisher to read their submission guidelines. They’re often outlined extensively so you’re giving them what they want to see.
If you pitch and get interest from an editor or agent…that’s great! But don’t sign a single thing until you’ve had a lawyer or agent review the paperwork. That’s another thread…but always protect yourself, your team, and your IP.
- A Literary Agent’s Guide to Querying Your Graphic Novel
- Agents for Illustrators
- Literary Agents Who Represent Graphic Novels
- Manuscript Wish List
UPDATED ON: JANUARY 17, 2023, originally published January 7, 2019.
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