One of the hardest things about comics that I’m glad to have finally gotten the hang of is writing pitches. It’s not elevator-pitch style (don’t ask me to do that), but it’s concise and has the goldilocks ratio of information needed. (3 pages divided into 6 sections).
Note: This is a mixture of general advice and personal knowledge. A lot of these I learned through trial and error. I’ve both the experience of a creator making pitches, and an editor reading through the slush pile for Hiveworks. In the end, it’s still personal. You do you.
Note for educators: I also have a Powerpoint version of this and once ran a workshop teaching comics creators how to write pitches; it comes with a group activity that simulates being an editor in a publishing house so they know what the experience of reading through the slush pile is like.
A graphic novel pitch is comprised of 4 parts:
THE COVER LETTER is a small piece introducing who you are as a comics person, your previous work/accomplishments and the pitch. This is the longer version of the pinned tweet. Can be written as separate PDF, but I usually put it in the email body.
I only write cover letters if I’m approaching a publisher, agent, or editor who I’m not familiar with. Like, obviously you can’t just come crashing through a stranger’s door like some kinda rando. Let them know who you are first. It’s courtesy.
THE PITCH is the PDF proposal of your GN.
My pitches are average 3 pages long of text. If I include artwork, obviously it’ll be longer. But the vital textual information is 3 pages, divided into 6 sections.
The most succinct explanation of your GN. The TL;DR. It’s the 6 sections distilled into 2-3 sentences.
I understand how hard it is to boil down your GN cos you’re so excited and bursting to tell everyone all the lil details that make it awesome. It took me 7 years to create a logline for my webcomic, and 3 years for my debut GN.
I find it helps that I repeat the summary of my GN multiple times, cutting out words, trying on different ways of retelling it, etc. It’s trial and error. You’ll find it eventually.
The full version of your GN. This is where you tell the editor what the story is about. Its plot, its themes, and its ideas. Comics in publishing are sold on proposal, unlike novels which are written in full before submission.
Meaning that if your pitch goes to acquisition, the editor is putting a lot of faith in you to make something cool, and if it gets accepted, the publisher is putting a lot of faith investing in you and your book. SO YOU GOTTA MAKE THEIR JOB EASIER AND KINDER FOR THEM!!
When writing ABOUT
1. Please talk about the ENTIRE PLOT. BEGINNING, MIDDLE AND END.
2. In the most concise way possible. Remember your editor is a person with limited time. Also, reading 10+ worth of text is hell.
3. Imagine you’re writing a Wikipedia article about your book
3a. Read the Wikis of well-known books and movies to give you an idea.
4. GIVE SPOILERS. DO NOT ATTACH MYSTERY. I know it seems cute to tease your editor but your editor needs to know as much as possible because they have to make INFORMED BUSINESS DECISIONS.
5. Mention your concepts, themes and ideas. You want to depict this in a black and white gothic style? Say it.
6. Be empathetic. Structure your ABOUT section empathetically. This is the contributing factor that’s made my ABOUT 1.5 pages long (out of 3 pages).
Artwork to attach to ABOUT (any or all)
– character designs/model sheet (important for fiction)
Can be its separate PDF.
The targeted audience for your GN.
1. Age: all-ages, MG, YA, adult, etc
2. Mention specific niches if any: librarians, educators, the knitting community, etc
What you think your GN might be categorised in the library or bookstore. Is it historical, romance, fantasy or all of it? You can go more specific too. For example, a self-help book which deals with productivity for creative types. Or urban fantasy.
The approximate size of your GN. I usually give a ballpark (less than 300 pages, for example).
STYLE is the hard details. Is it in black and white? Full colour?
LENGTH/STYLE are important to calculate your advance and the budget required to print the book.
Short for ‘comparisons’, these are titles for books that are similar to the GN you’re proposing, in terms of genre, style and theme. It can be fiction, non-fiction, comics, or prose, or even movies!
These 6 sections are meant to represent information required in an acquisitions meeting.
Logline is for publisher.
About is for editor and their colleagues.
Audience/Genre/Comps are for sales, distribution and marketing.
Length/Style are for accounts aka your advance and budget.
LIKE SERIOUSLY! The general advice is to write your pitch to help a group of strangers make the book for you. Give them as much info for them to make the appropriate business decision for yourself and everyone. IT’LL MAKE YOUR LIFE AND EVERYONE’S EASIER. BE EMPATHETIC!!
And now, the most important part of the pitch.
The subject line, the email body, the email attachments.
This is relevant to people who are cold-submitting to publishers, editors and agents: PLEASE FOLLOW THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES TO THE LETTER
So many creators get this part wrong! You know what happens if you get it wrong? Your pitch is way less likely to be read. You know why? Cos it shows that you DON’T read, follow instructions, and/or respect the person who set those guidelines. Sorry man, it’s real facts.
In this kind of situation (or in general really), you’ve to show that you’re a kind, empathetic, respectful, not-bonkers person who is able to cooperate in a team setting. Cos publishing your GN is a team effort. If you don’t show up at the start, what guarantee you will later?
A sample is about 15-30 pages worth of comics that preview the voice, artwork and potential of the GN. Due to the unusual process of publishing comics, providing the sample is recommended.
However I sold Seance Tea Party without a sample. Just on pitch alone. Probably cos the story/concept was strong enough. And the publisher really loved it! Also I had the strength of my agent AND my previous debut GN to back me up.
But generally I’d do samples.
My artist and I had to make samples for our latest pitch. Me for the script (only two chapters), and the artist illustrating a portion of that script.
Anyway, without further ado, here’s my pitch for Seance Tea Party, for reference.
Obviously the look of your pitch will be different, not just on an individual person basis, but for every project you do. A lot of it is trial and error. You’ll figure it out eventually. Go forth and make good GNs!!
I’m a huge fan of your work and graphic novels, specially the one of Alexander, it’s amazing.
I’ve been reading all of your blog articles about graphic novel development and pitching and all the information you have shared motivated me to try and make one of my own!
I only have a few questions regarding this subject but I understand you must be busy enough with your own work so I understand if that’s not possible!
1. When you were determined to start working on an specific story for a GN, did you share your WIPs and first art concepts on social media? Or is it better for artist to not do this?
2. Will publishers refrain from considering my GN pitch if I have mentioned it online or if I self published it as web comic before pitching it?
3. If I start self publishing it in parts as a webcomic and request for financial support via Patreon (for example) could that invalidate my pitch for a publisher?
Thank you so much for your time in advance! ✨
Thanks for sharing these tips. I need to work on my pitch and elevator pitch for Unscripted.
This has been SO helpful. I come from the traditional comics side of things – had a series at Image back in the day, and the book market is completely new and mysterious to me. Thank you so much! Following your guide, I made a pitch I’d love to get feedback on if you have time!
Reimena Yee is a graphic novelist, artist and flamingo enthusiast.
She writes and illustrates quite a few webcomics and graphic novels. When not making books, she lulls away her time with essays on craft, life and experiences in the publishing industry. Some of her thoughts of art and life are rather unstructured and will evolve over time as this blog matures, as they should be.
Currently committed to being Alexander the Great's death doula. Is a nerd for all things spooky and historical.
Melbourne / Kuala Lumpur