Ask the Comic Book Guy: Introduction

Welcome, readers, to Pronto’s newest column, Ask the Comic Book Guy. Here, comic writer and Pronto contributor Dennis Knight will answer questions about working in and creating comics. If you have a question for Dennis, leave a comment on this post (or any other) and you may see the answer in a future post. Without further ado…


Ask the Comic Book Guy: Introduction, and How to Pitch to a Publisher

By Dennis Knight

Hello everyone! My name is Dennis Knight and I have six years experience working in the medium of comic books and graphic novels. The purpose of this column is to offer advice to individuals who want to work in this medium professionally. This post will discuss how to submit an original creator-owned story to a publisher.


First Step: Write it. Own it.

Before you pitch your idea to an editor, write it down and own it first. Owning the rights to your story will make your life a lot easier when it comes to crazy things like royalties and contracts.

Steps for copyright include:

  1. Write a manuscript.
  2. Go to the Library of Congress Website and complete a copyright application.
  3. Mail a copy of the manuscript, the application, and a money order in the amount of the registration fee to the Library of Congress. Keep a copy of the copyright application for your records. Once you fill out the application, it’s just as good as a certificate of copyright and will hold up in court if someone tries to steal your idea.

In a pinch, you can also mail yourself your work. Don’t open the envelope when you receive it. The Post Office’s date stamp will prove that it was created by a certain date, though this is not the same thing as the “registered” copyright described above and may not hold up in court.

Second Step: Know your story.

Before you start kicking down doors of every comic book publisher you can think of, take a minute to ask yourself some questions:

  1. What type of genre does your story fall under?
  2. How long is the story arc?
  3. Is your story a one-shot or an ongoing series?
  4. How does your story end?

If you can’t answer those questions with confidence, you’re not ready to submit to a publisher.

Third Step: Research different publishers.

This step is important for a few reasons.

  1. Research helps find the right publisher for you and your story.
  2. Most publishers have a website. This is a quick way to gather important information prior to sending your submission. The key information to pay attention to is the submission guidelines, and if they are accepting submissions at all.

Fourth Step: Wrong Place. Wrong Time.

A comic book convention is a great place to meet people, look at merchandise, gather information, and eat crappy over-priced food. However, a convention is a horrible place to submit your story to an editor. Ninety-nine percent of the time, an editor is attending a convention in a professional capacity. At a convention, the goals for most editors are to sell merchandise and inform people of the company. It is highly doubtful that an editor will listen to your pitch and accept your submission on the spot. The more effective approach is to chat with the editor briefly, exchange contact information, and email him or her at a later date.

Fifth Step: Keep it short. Keep it professional.

When you are ready to submit your story, make sure the pitch is brief. Explain exactly what happens in the story and how it ends. Most publishers want the description in three sentences or less. If you are including pages with your submission, be sure the panels look professional and the paper stock is of high quality. Follow the publisher’s submission guidelines exactly.

Sixth Step: Wait.

It will take approximately thirty days for a publisher to respond to your submission. If there is no response in thirty days, chances are your submission didn’t get approved.

Seventh Step: Don’t be a baby.

It’s okay to be angry if your submission is turned down. Sitting on the couch in a bathrobe eating raw cookie dough for a week is also okay. However, it’s not okay to send rude or nasty emails to the editor or bother him with whiney phone calls telling him what a mistake he’s making. That sort of behavior is unprofessional and pathetic. The best approach is to revisit your submission and your story; there is a good chance something is missing or needs to be refined. Or maybe it’s simply not good enough. Consider this your motivation to keep writing and creating until you make something even better.

 

Hopefully this post was helpful. Please feel free to leave questions in the comment section. Remember: If you’re going to be anything, be amazing.

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2 Comments

  1. Andrew

     /  November 9, 2013

    what if I secure ISBNs and barcodes to self publish a story I have? once the book is printed is that as good as having it copyrighted? And can I then pitch that book to bigger publishers?

    Reply
  2. Andrew

     /  November 9, 2013

    also I read emailing yourself the items works, too. the electronic date cant be forged, but an empty envelope can be mailed and then filled.

    Reply

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