Creating Comics – Pitching at Conventions

What is the best way to pitch scripts at conventions? This short guide is based on discussions on the Comics 2000 Yahoo group. Special thanks to those who threw in ideas for this and gave permission for their comments to be included here. For more advice on portfolio presentation, click here. Further thoughts always welcome!

Speaking from experience as a commissioning editor at Marvel UK in the early 1990s, in my humble opinion editors really need time to read scripts properly if they want to make an informed judgement about them, and also have time to respond without a background of clinking beer glasses.

So it’s great for them to meet prospective writers, but I wouldn’t honestly expect them to read scripts at such an event. But if you’re lucky, they may well come back to you later in the weekend about your work if they do find time to read it.

If you’re approaching an editor about working for their company, I’d suggest you simply express an interest in pitching scripts and see what they say. Ask if you can send in some samples to their office. (As you know, many of the larger companies won’t even look at unsolicited story ideas and pitches now). That way, you can begin your letter “Dear…., we met recently at [insert convention name here] and you kindly suggested I send you some samples of my comics writing.” Include in that letter any relevant experience – have you been writing a comic strip for a fanzine for example?

Be polite, keep the covering letter short and let your script tell your story. Make sure it is well presented, spell checked and reads well. If you can’t find time to invest in these simple preparations, then you are unlikely to sell yourself. Do not submit by e-mail and only send photocopies of your work, never originals.

Go and see as many editors on panels as you can, and if they are prepared to make time to talk to you afterward, offer to buy them their preferred legal poison in the bar and quiz them further if their title appeals to you. What are they looking for in terms of upcoming scripts? How should you submit a pitch? Sometimes you can glean more than might be available on the company’s web site or from anything they send by way of a stamped addressed envelope.

I’d also STRONGLY advise that as for artists, if you are approaching a particular company, you should submit a sample script featuring the characters that company features, rather than your own. As they want to see artists can really draw their characters, so they’ll also want to see that writers can really write for their characters. Keep the script short, perhaps: write an eight page vignette rather than a 22 page complete story. (More on cold pitching here)

Also, rather than thrust a script at an editor, give serious consideration to submitting a strip, working with an artist. That way, two aspiring creators may get work. If you can, ensure it is well lettered. Definitely ensure it looks as professional as possible given your budget. (Again, this is an investment in your future. If it looks cheap, you reduce your chances of success).

If you edit a fanzine, give the editor a free copy and make sure you have included the editorial address in it! If an editor has the time to read your story, they’ll know pretty quickly if you have the potential to write effectively for comics. Warren Ellis began his career by writing fanzines and it hasn’t done him any harm. So did I (hmm, maybe the logic becomes flawed here).

Matt Brooker’s Pitching Advice

“Go with the intention of making contacts to follow up later. Even as an artist, where it’s easy to show your work on the spot, it’s almost unknown to pitch to an editor and walk away with a commission.

“My best advice for meeting editors is; if you get the chance to talk to them in a relaxed situation, (i.e. at the bar later on) talk about anything EXCEPT comics – they’ll be so relieved not to be pitched at that they’ll happily chat about almost anything.

“Establish the relationship first – that way they’ll be more likely to remember you (and hopefully respond) when you send stuff on later.

“Above all, play the long game.”

Matt Brooker (D’Israeli)

Kev Sutherland

“For years I was a nervous and anxious wannabe, desperate to show my work to editors and get a job, but woefully insecure and intimidated by the more confident show-offs.

“As long as you have your work in a neat presentable form, then the best advice is to present it – and yourself – in a friendly way, listen to any comments or advice anyone has to offer, and if possible relax and enjoy the weekend.

“I find the best way writers sell themselves is by talking to people.”

“As for pitching scripts to DC editors, possibly the best method to use is the tried and tested one which worked for Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Alan Grant et al 15 years ago…

— Get something in 2000AD first then show them that!”

More Links
How NOT to Pitch at Conventions
Sound advice from one of the US Boom! Studios team.
“I love working at conventions,” says Michael Alan Nelson. ” Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of hard work that’s both physically and mentally draining, but it’s also genuinely fun. I sincerely enjoy getting the chance to talk with people about books (yes, mine especially) and socialize with colleagues.
“What isn’t quite as much fun is having to deal with a creator who has no concept of professionalism or courtesy. Fortunately, 98% of the creators that come up to the booth don’t fall into this category. Most know how to present themselves. It’s just that 2% leave me scratching my head in disbelief… Read the full article on Kung Fu Monkey

Thank You!

Thanks to Kev Sutherland and Matt Brooker (D’Israeli) for their tips on this matter. If there are any writers and editors out there who would like to add to the comments, please feel free to comment below!

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor. He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY. Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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