Hey there folks, I have been in the comics game for around three years now. In that time I have learned many invaluable lessons. While there is a great deal more for me to figure out I decided to post some of my accumulated knowledge in a series I like to call Z2 Tips.
One of the things you will have to do in any business but especially in comics is pitch. Whether it be to investors, publishers, journalists, writers or just friends, mastering the art of the pitch is paramount. In that regard here are a few rules I have learned about pitching to publishers.
1. Dress To Impress- This may not seem to be the most important thing, but the first impression is the one that sticks in peoples’ minds. One of the things a person should always do is think “How am I presenting myself to the world?”. If you’re wearing an ill fitting T-shirt, Crocs and sweatpants no one is going to listen to you. They are going to think you are a slob. The inverse of that is you don’t want to be overdressed either. Pitching in a tuxedo is probably not the best idea as you will appear a bit crazy. I find a good pitching outfit for a man, is a nice dress shirt that is freshly ironed and a good pair of slacks that fit well.
2. Never Be Late- If you are lucky enough to have a pitch meeting scheduled under no circumstances turn up late. When you keep someone waiting for you, you’re basically saying to them “My time is more important than yours”.
3. Proper Poise- When pitching to someone it is important to not only look the right way but behave the right way. Be calm and collected but also enthusiastically present your project. Try to get the pitch recipient as excited about your comic as you are. That said don’t step over the line into mania. It is a tough balance to keep but on an enthusiasm scale of 1-10, 1 being getting a plate of broccoli and 10 being winning the lottery. I find the sweet spot is around a 6.
4. Don’t Ramble On- One of the big mistakes people make when pitching comics is to tell the whole story from start to finish. Keep in mind the person you are pitching to does not have all the time in the world so keep it brief. Perfect an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is being able to sum up your idea in a sentence or two. IE “It is Pokemon meets Dawn of the Dead” or “It is about a schizophrenic whose hallucinations become real”. If the person you are pitching to is intrigued they will ask to hear more.
5. Do your Research- When pitching to someone learn as much as you can about them and the company they represent. Taking the time to learn, signals that you are serious and is flattering to the pitch recipient. Also it lets you know certain topics to bring up and certain topics to avoid.
6. Pitch to the Right People- Make sure the project you are pitching is suitable to the publisher you are presenting to. For example if you somehow end up pitching a book about a zombie super hero to Drawn and Quarterly you are doing something wrong. Companies have certain themes learn about them and pitch accordingly.
7. Have as Much Art as Possible- When pitching a graphic novel or comic, have as much art as you can developed. No publisher will give an glance to a pitch by a first timer that has no illustrations. Most comic publishers/editors don’t even have time to look at all the submissions they get WITH art let alone a pitch without any. Have as much of the project drawn as you possibly can afford.
8. Have a Marketing/PR Plan- The most important part of any comic/graphic novel is the book itself. However knowing how to properly market and sell a book is paramount too. Now you may be thinking isn’t that the publishers job, well yes it is BUT comics is a business without that much money in it. Due to this there are only so many resources to promote and a lot of the time some books end up getting the short end of the stick. However this is also an opportunity, there are few things a publisher loves more than an author who can promote their own book. So if you have any press contacts let the person you are pitching to know, also let them know you are willing to promote the hell out of the book.
9. Following Through- Once the pitch is complete and if you have done a good job/had a bit of luck, you may get contact information to send more material/follow up. Do not be shy about doing so. Wait a day or two, more if you are pitching at a convention in that case wait about a week, (The reason for this being people are wiped out after conventions and you are more likely to have your e-mail over looked) and send an e-mail. Also if you do not get an immediate response wait awhile and try again. Editors and publishers get a ton of e-mail and a lot of time they may not have even seen your message.
10. Know When to Move On- Let’s say you have pitched your comic everywhere and have gotten turned down every time. In that case it may be time to reevaluate your idea, step away from it and move on. That is not to say give up on comics totally but think of something new. Most people don’t hit one out of the park on their first try. Personally I have had many ideas that I had to give up on. Go on to the next thing, the next big idea chances are it will be better. Finally you can always revisit your old idea later with 20/20 hindsight.
So I hope these ten rules will be helpful. If anyone has any questions feel free to ask in the comment section.