Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been having an email discussion with a few creators about the Joy of Pitching — that dark art of trying to sell a script to an editor.
For some years now, downtheubes has had a guide to writing comics on its pages, but just for fun, here’s my take on interpreting rejection responses.
If you’re outright rejected don’t give up: an editor has several levels of response. (What they really think is in brackets)
– Thank you, but no thank you. Here are our guidelines for submitting stories.
(Don’t write in crayon – and yes, I did once get a pitch in crayon).
– This is great, but it’s not what we’re looking for. Have you actually read our top title, BLUG BLADDER BEAST AND CHUMS?
(If you’re submitting stories, read a company’s output first).
– This is great, but it’s not what we’re looking for right now.
(We like your stuff, it made us laugh/cry/scared us, but we’re not printing that kind of book, but if you wrote something that was our kind of book we’d look at it)
– This is great. With a bit more polish, we could buy this
(We’re giving you the chance to re-write it but if you screw up we won’t ask again)
– Have you got time to come to the office or chat?
(We like the work, we want to employ you, let’s see if you’re amenable to us re-writing it, find out if you are sane, and how mad we make you are when we re-write)
– This is great, send us an invoice, it’s being drawn by Brian Bolland as we speak. Would you like to write a 12-issue mini series about anything you like?
(This never happens)
Of course, these days some editors are more direct and say exactly what they think, but I’ve always felt a little common courtesy goes a long way — after all, do you really want to lose a reader by being rude to them, especially an active one who likes your book so much they want to be part of it?
One final more serious point. As an editor, I always found it easier to comment on a script if I saw it drawn — I recall showing some of my stuff to Alan Grant that way back at one of the London UK Comic Art Conventions and he said it was easier than reading a script. That’s why fanzines are such a valuable way of crafting skills, and these days, the additional editing being done on the best of these is really paying off.
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.