How to Pitch Your Comic to Publishers and Audiences with Anthony Del Col at MCM London Comic Con


Kill-ShakespeareHaving studied business rather than a creative arts subject, Anthony Del Col is not exactly typical of those breaking into the comics industry, but in many ways, it is this difference which has been key to his success. Unlike many writers and artists, Del Col set out to get his comic, Kill Shakespeare with a good idea of what publishers and editors were looking for, sold it to them and, once he’d acquired a good deal, continued to take an active role in the marketing and promotion of his work. In a workshop at MCM London Comic Con, the co-creator of the Kill Shakespeare comics series offered his advice to budding creators on how to set about getting noticed by publishers.

20110509tcaf5Before developing Kill Shakespeare, a comic pitched as “The Justice League of Shakespeare”, Del Col had never worked in comics or attended a convention, though he had been involved in the entertainment industry more broadly. Using this media industry experience, combined with his earlier business background, Del Col and his fellow Kill Shakespeare creator Conor McCreery managed to put together a professional-looking pitch package that helped them raise thousands from independent funding and enabled them to get their comic made.

Appropriately enough, the presentation started with the subject of pitching at conventions, with Del Col listing the best ones to go for. Out of the US cons, New York, Emerald City and Chicago were picked out as good choices, as opposed to San Diego, which has become much more concerned with film and television. Though those based in the UK may not have immediate plans to fly out to the States to sell their work, the basic principle here is applicable anywhere in the world – do your research to avoid wasting time and money on the wrong people in the wrong places.

About a month and a half after attending their first comic con (described by Del Col as a “sensory overload”), the two writers had managed to attract the interest of five different potential publishers. The reason for this? Well, partly, it was down to self-presentation: they had looked and acted like professionals at all times, avoiding the pitfall of seeming like “fanboys with an idea”, but more important still was the quality of the documents they handed over to the publishers they met. Here’s how Anthony Del Col describes the layout of a good pitch package.

First of all, it’s important to keep the pages clean and tidy. Publishers and editors are busy people with tons of other proposals to read over. Put too much information on one page, and their eyes will instantly gloss over. Keep things short, clear and to the point: a good pitch package is around 10-15 pages in length, and a lot of that will be blank, white space.

The structure of your package should be something like this:

  • pitchSeries synopsis – For your main series summary, you’ll want to start by condensing your idea into one simple, single-line sentence, similar to a film or TV logline. A good way to think about this is as a Twitter pitch with a character limit, or as what Del Col calls “an elevator pitch”. Imagine that you have 30 seconds alone in a lift with someone. How do you get across your idea before they step out? This can then be expanded into a longer paragraph, followed by a full-page description – these are the follow-ups that publishers will read if they think you’ve got a good idea.
  • Individual issue synopses – Each of these should be about 1-2 paragraphs in length. Make sure each story idea is complete though. Publishers aren’t concerned about spoilers, but they are worried about working with writers with half-baked ideas, so they want to be certain that you know how all your stories will end, even if your readers don’t.
  • Character designs and descriptions – A single line followed by a couple of short paragraphs should be sufficient to describe each character, and it’s generally a good idea to place them in order of importance: main characters first, followed by supporting cast. These should be accompanied by some character sketches, preferably from two or three different angles.
  • Sample pages – Five or six sample pages from one or two scenes are enough to give a sense of your style and themes, if well-chosen. Take care to ensure that these are representative of the series as a whole, so if you’re writing an action comic, you might do well to choose a battle scene, while if your work is romantic, a love scene would be more appropriate. You can think of these samples as a sort of teaser, designed to interest the intended audience without giving too much about the main feature away. This is your chance to leave people wanting to read more.
  • Marketing ideas – Think about who is going to buy your comic, because your publishers will want to develop a targeted marketing strategy. Probably the best way to do this is to look at what’s already out there that could be compare to your work. In the case of Kill Shakespeare, there were obvious comparisons with other comics like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Fables. It’s also a good opportunity to think about a “cross-sell”, e.g. “The Lord of the Rings meets Shakespeare in Love”. Based on this, it becomes clear that two good, potential audiences to target will be fans of other fantasy franchises, and those with an interest in Shakespeare, such as literature students or those in the theatre industry. Do make sure you pick out popular, successful titles, though: you won’t do yourself any favours by comparing your work to something obscure.

richard IIIOnce you’ve handed out your perfect pitch package in person, it’s a good idea to follow it up with an email to anyone who has expressed an interest, just in case they lose or forget about the document, particularly when they’re likely to be travelling long distances home after the event.

The work doesn’t end once you’ve got people interested, however. In this age of mass communications, creatives are increasingly expected to have a very public presence, and to participate directly in the promotion of their work. As Del Col put it himself, publishers “want to know that you’ll hustle”. Between the two of them, Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery attend about 20-30 comic conventions every year, as well as being active on social media, talking to the press (no publication is too small) and signing books for fans. Learning how to put together press releases has been a great help, since the media are “always looking for new ideas”. They’ll even speak directly to their retailers, another thing which Del Col feels has set them apart from the crowd, since retailers are rarely approached directly by creatives in this way.

Finally, two key lessons were instilled in us which, according to Del Col, were the most important things to take away from the workshop. The first of these was “branding”. Always be aware of what is unique about you and your idea, and think carefully about how to present both. The second was “persistence”. Getting published is not an easy thing to do, so don’t give up when things seem tough. Success never happens overnight, and getting your work out to audiences takes a lot of time and effort. You’ll find you’ll probably spend at least as much time on marketing and promoting your work as you will on actually making it in the first place. Nevertheless, the feeling at the end of it all is definitely worth it!

Copyright © 2013 MCM BUZZ – Movies, TV, Comics, Gaming, Anime, Cosplay News & Reviews