Question about Pitching

edited August 2014 in On The Road
Hullo hullo!

I had a quick question for those who have pitched broadly (which I think is many of you, from what I've seen!). A few places - like Image Central, for instance - ask for a cover letter and a one page story synopsis. Are these meant to be two separate things? I've written frightfully few cover letters (my background has been science/medicine), but from what I've gleaned they're sort of about introducing yourself, telling about your background and then saying a bit about why you'd be a good fit.

Does one introduce one's story here, or is that a separate page? If the synopsis is a separate page, does that mean the cover letter is strictly for introductions/thanks, or are we meant to slip in a kind of logline there?

Thanks to all who read and/or reply!


  • Annnnd of course I just found THIS by our very own Justin Jordan and feel like a fool for wasting space here.

    Sorry everyone. I suppose that answers that; the cover letter is the synopsis.
  • Deniz: You do whatever the publisher tells you to do. If you aren't sure, email the publisher.

    DO NOT DEVIATE FROM WHAT THE PUBLISHER WANTS. And every publisher may want it differently.
  • Russell!

    I certainly agree but sometimes there's a bit of ambiguity in the way the instructions are formatted, so I wanted to be sure. I've emailed, but they can take a while getting back at times (or sometimes just never reply back at all).
  • edited August 2014
    Here's Jim Zub's pitch for Skullcrackers:

    For Image, the cover letter and pitch document are two separate items. Don't overthink them, just do your business and get on with it. Neither is as important as the actual finished pages.

    Also, don't expect a reply from Image unless they're interested. I know what the site says, but getting an actual "No thanks" is almost unheard of under the current management. (That's not a knock; you've just got to prepare yourself for the silence.)
  • Eric!

    Thanks so much!

    I am definitely very prepared not to hear anything back from a pitch to image. Completely reasonable, and expected, given the volume they're dealing with.

    Hmmm. In the case of Justin's pitch it seemed like the cover letter and the pitch were one continuous thing, with his 'personal data' interspersed with the story stuff (broad overview, introductions, then more detailed story map).

    In the case of Zub, it seems, as you say, they were separate things.

    I suppose it's probably not terribly important, just prefer to give it to them in whatever format is most readable.
  • Don't overthink them, just do your business and get on with it. Neither is as important as the actual finished pages.  
    I like that philosophy. 
  • Also, don't expect a reply from Image unless they're interested.
    I got an actual this-isn't-good-enough e-mail from Eric Larsen when I pitched Captain Miracle several years ago. I'm not sure if that's a good sign or a bad sign. :)
  • Also, don't expect a reply from Image unless they're interested.
    I got an actual this-isn't-good-enough e-mail from Eric Larsen when I pitched Captain Miracle several years ago. I'm not sure if that's a good sign or a bad sign. :)
    Larsen always sent rejection notes. I think I've gotten one from Stephenson out of six or seven submissions. 
  • Haha, ah man, I just remembered the mild heart attack I had when I pitched R+M to Shadowline and immediately got a response (that turned out to be an automated message about their 2013 publishing slate being full). I've never had an email give me a jump scare before.
  • The thing with Pitching that no one seems to mention: it doesn't matter how good the story or art is. how polished the pitch is. If it isn't really what the publisher is looking for, it will get rejected. it's even more likely to get rejected if said publisher doesn't know you. Also, don't expect any response at all for the most part. If you get a response, call that a win even if it's a rejection.

    I've spoke face to face with publishers who have told me to pitch stuff to them. I do, and in return have gotten no response, even after polite follow ups. Pitching is VERY hard and getting a greenlight is the best possible moment you can have. So enjoy it when it happens.
  • Anthony is right, of course.

    Fortunately, thanks to POD printing, crowdfunding sites, comiXology SUBMIT (and similar sites like DriveThruComics, Comicsfix, etc), and the proliferation of conventions, publishers aren't the gatekeepers to the industry that they once were. 
  • edited August 2014
    Really, I dunno that they ever were; Diamond kinda was? And/or the newspaper syndicates? Basically, I think being able to distribute your work was always the hardest part of making a go of it in the industry.

    But now, there's, well, the Internet. There's still benefits to working with publishers (WFH paydays, production work, editorial feedback, quicker access to a wider audience), but yeah, they're in no way necessary.

    (Audience access is the big one for me, personally. I'd digitally publish everything I wrote and/or drew from here to the grave if I had my druthers, but most comic readers don't know me from Adam, and publishers are a way to change that.)
  • Good advice not to get wrapped up in all this, for sure.

    Seems as though face to face will be my best bet to get some real eyes on the work, so I'm aiming heartily to get a bunch of stuff ready for NYCC.
  • @DenizDesaad There's a great podcast called Let's Talk Comics. 
    I was really impressed with the Charles Soule interview: 

    He does a really good talk about live pitching to editors. His main point was just to be "a normal, good person", be very brief and ask if you can follow up. 

    I've made the mistake of being awkward or trying to give too many leave-behinds, and the Soule podcast really put it all into perspective. Well worth a listen. There's a bunch of other great interviews there.
  • Thanks Dino!

    It's fairly intuitive, I think, to try to be natural in that kind of meet, but much more difficult to put into practice! Pitching cold is, for me, an awkward prospect; you're literally impinging upon these people's time, unwanted. Part of the whole deal, of course, but definitely something I'll have to get use to (and, if we're being honest, something at which I'll probably fail at the start).

    Definitely will be saving that podcast for later today!
  • Busy week.

    My Image pitches have the cover letter, which has a paragraph about the book and then about a para each for the creative team,and then the synopsis, about a paragraph apiece on the first six issues, and however many pages of lettered art - always at least five, sometimes more.

    I've never found takeaways to be useful. It's alright to have printed out stuff, I've done that, but I think you should just let them flip through it, and then keep it if they ask. But what you're trying to do is show you're not a douche and have some social graces.

    I think the Tao of Steve applies: Be brief, be awesome, be gone.
  • Thanks for the clarification, Justin, and for having posted that pitch online. Very helpful stuff
  • edited August 2014
    I am a stuttering mess when I pitch verbally. My best trick is to talk up the artist's work, which is much more comfortable than selling myself. 

  • Do you think a three issue mini-series is pitchable? Currently, it seems like 4 issues and up is the standard. 
  • From Comics Beat:

    SDCC ’15: Less than 1% of Open Submissions Might be Published

    Scott Pilgrim and Sixth Gun publisher Oni Press made waves a few months back when they announced the opening of their open submission program, which is notable for its focus on writers as well as artists. Today, at their SDCC panel, they gave a sobering update to all those hopeful scribes.

    More @OniPress stats (they love their stats and charts.) Dreams for a few coming

    — Chris Callahan (@rgb_alpha) ;July 9, 2015

    675 submissions of the pitch submissions that were received between May 1st and June 30th have been reviewed thus far.  Of those, only eight of those 675 have been discussed at the company’s monthly pitch review meeting.  Of those eight, only two have been escalated to the publisher for final consideration.  This means that any given submission has a 1.2% of making it past the first vetting round and a 0.3% chance of making it to the publisher’s desk.

    Don’t ever let anyone tell you that comics are easy.

    Embedded image permalink

  • Comics are not easy even when competition is light.
  • I mentioned this elsewhere, but I don't think competition is the right word when you're trying to break in.

    If you sent your stuff in, you're not competing against the other 675 (or whatever the total was) you're competing against sucking, basically.

    Image, Oni and Dark Horse (for instance) don't really have a certain number of books they will or won't publish, which is what would be required for there to be competition. They publish however many good books they get. it is hypothetically possible for them to get so many good submissions a book they would otherwise publish, but in practice this essentially never happens.

    There IS competition for WFH spots, mind. But for creator owned, it's not really that kind of zero sum game.
  • I wonder if two "quality" submissions out of 675 is about the right ratio for open submissions? Like, I wonder if that's about how things break down at Image too...
  • It is.

    I mean, I've been told that by Image, but beyond that, Stephenson still mentions me and Hickman as blind submission successes.

    I did it in 2010. Hickman was....2007? 2008?

    In the interval since then, I know of maybe one other comic (Bivens' Dark Engine) that maybe got in that way. There might be others, but still.

    Now consider that Image will publish anything they think is good and they get submissions everyday.

  • Last time I heard Eric Stephenson mention you, Justin, it read to me like he was incredulous that he found a publishable sub in the slushpile. 
  • Justin, your points about competition are well taken. When I wrote that, I was thinking as much about the early days of the direct market when black and white comics could sell 50k. Well a few could. There were far fewer people trying to do comics back then. But of course my real point was simply that comics are hard. Cheers.
  • "If you sent your stuff in, you're not competing against the other 675 (or whatever the total was) you're competing against sucking, basically."


    And those numbers are the best demonstration of that: It's not like the books that didn't get in "failed to compete" against a bunch of books that didn't get in. Only two pitches had a level of quality and innovation — and fit with the sort of comics BOOM publishes, which is a really important aspect — that got them seriously considered. That's not "competition."
  • @BrandonSeifert - yeah, I agree.  The quality of the potential work, not the quantity.
  • @marvinmann - and I also agree with your comments, too.  Finding that lightning in a bottle is hard.

  • Hopefully that didn't come off as any kind of attach, Marv - it was more a general thought on the nature of competition for newbs.
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