A lot of artist and writers dream of being published by Marvel or DC. But how do you get them to look at your story proposal? How do you put together a portfolio? How do you pitch a story idea?
A comic book pitch is a proposal made up of story synopsis and sample artwork. You need at least an outline, a cover and five pages of finished art. Some pitches include character designs or concept art, but most publishers will want to see what the finished book will look like. They also want to see as little as possible for them to make up their mind, so don’t send them an entire script for a six-issue story arc!
The best way to get published is to already be published. After all, why should an editor with hundreds of established writer and artist contacts take on a newbie with no track record? Would you?
What if no one will publish your book?
The obvious answer is: do it yourself. Luckily, you no longer have to spend thousands of dollars in printing to get some eyeballs on your book. We now have this nifty thing called the Internet. Which also enables people from all over the globe to find and read you stories! What’s not to like? Well, the main thing of course is money. Not a lot of people make money by putting their comics online, but it’s still better to put it out there than to keep it in a drawer.
As you make your stories for your own webpage or a community, you also hone your craft and gain confidence. Hopefully you can build an audience before you even publish anything on paper! If you are really successful and have the numbers to prove it, it also makes a publisher more likely to consider taking a meeting or answer your query letter.
How do I find and artist to work on my comic book?
You need to write up a synopsis and script pages anyway. So do that first! If you are not going to be drawing yourself, you need to find an artist. And what better way to get them hooked than a detailed, killer script?
If you don’t have an incredibly talented artist friend, you might need to pay someone to do it. Finding the right artist for a project can be a long and painful process. You will get a lot of artists saying no. Some artists are too polite to say no, but never deliver – and that situation is even worse! There are plenty of places online to look for artist, DeviantArt is one of them, but a lot of artists have online portfolios and blogs too. Be sure to look for sequential art, not just pinups.
You will also find that the publisher’s unwillingness to work with a newbie should go for you too! You don’t want to be tied to a struggling, amateur artist who can’t deliver – on time or at all. If you are really serious about your project, don’t skimp on finding the right artist. You want your book to present itself in the best possible way.
If you do find someone who shares your taste and storytelling sensibilities, make sure to praise their work and be humble and thankful that they are willing to collaborate on your book. Be timely and accessible, and try to be flexible when they have ideas for changes or edits. Give them some room to do their thing in terms of visual storytelling – or learn to draw yourself.
If you do have corrections, make sure you can get it to the artist as early in the process as possible. Have them send layouts or sketches for your approval, give feedback and suggestions and get out of their way. But remember that you are the parent and need to set standars and be able to vouch for the finished result. Close communication with your artist keeps them on their toes and make them seem important – which they are!
Keeping the artist happy is important. If you can’t pay them, praise and being easy to work with goes a long way.
If you don’t have the funds to produce your comic, that comics pitch you put together can also be used for to raise money. Ever hear of Kickstarter?
While by no means a get-rich-quick scheme, crowdfunding has helped many an artist or writer realize their comic book dreams. Do some research and see what others have done in terms of perks and marketing, before you launch a campaign of your own. A successful funding campaign takes a lot of work, unrelated to the art and craft of making comics.
Make an awesome cover
Remember that the cover is the first thing that makes a reader decide wether to pick up a comic or not. Try to keep it simple and graphic – the image should be clear and visible from ten feet away! Look at other books in your genre for inspiration – but try to steer clear of being a direct copy. Sometimes looking at movie posters or designs from other media is a better idea than just looking at comics.
Part of the cover is the title. Make sure the title gives an idea of genre and what kind of story to expect. Or perhaps play against type, by coming up with a book title that makes the reader curious rather than being on-the-nose. If your book is about a barbarian, the title Barbarian may be a bit too obvoius!
Putting the pitch together
There is a saying that goes something like this: the best sales pitch is no sales pitch at all. Produce great work and try not to oversell it.
Let the artwork and the story speak for itself. But don’t forget to include a short bio with any relevant information, such as education, Awards the writer and/or artist have won, press coverage and links to relevant websites.
If you have put a pitch together and you are shopping it around, be ready for rejections. Lots and lots of rejections. If you can handle that, great. If not, perhaps going your own way is better. Putting your work online, gaining the skills and the confidence to keep going and making a platform for yourself is crucial if you want to pursue a career in comics. Just remember to do it because you want to make comics, not because you want to make money!
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