Bloodstains On The Looking Glass

A ribald old-timey revue, featuring the Scots Flying Monkey Battalion and Shakey Pervy Pete, the Inelegant Dinner Guest.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Bugs Are So Creepy!

This post is from my message board (You'll All Be Sorry) at in response to a very nice guy who asked whether or not I could read over his pitches (if I understood his request correctly). I actually do have a couple tips in that regard, but first, a little bit about an industry secret, which is, within a few moments, we probably know if you have a shot or not, and it's not because we're geniuses with amazing talent radar.

Here ya go:

While I can't read people's pitches (just not a good idea legally, I've been told often), I will say that I am regularly suprised by the demeanor of people who want to pitch at a comics company.

I hate to reveal an industry secret, but it is very easy to spot those who are likely to have a shot and those that aren't. Those that aren't aren't listening. If you tell them that a 48-part epic that includes every hero in the DCU from Anthro to Zatanna is not a good first pitch, they don't listen, so convinced are they in their own brilliance. If you have advice about storytelling, they are certain in doesn't apply to them.

They are often vaguely hostile and insulting. I've had letters from these people where they start off with, "I'll be honest, I don't follow your work..." which is fine, except, why in the world are you asking my advice?

They often overwhelm you with everything EXCEPT a readable, exciting and concise presentation of a strong idea. Please do not bring me folders and folders of material featuring the backstory of the guy pumping gas in page three. I not only can't read it, I don't WANT to read it, and no one else does either.

Being an editor is a hard job. Yes, they DO want to find exciting new talents. But if you fail to present yourself as a sellable and professional commodity, it's your own fault if you get no shot. I'm sorry, but that's true in ANY industry. No one's TRYING to keep you out. There are many, many resources out there...use them!

I had an editor tell me the true story of a current industry superstar who COULD have been a superstar months or years sooner, but his pitch was so completely unprofessionally produced that it was essentially unread. But this writer was so clearly of the group that was going to make it in somehow, that he found another way in and pretty soon companies were knocking on HIS door. Very few roadblocks will deter those that conduct themselves well, don't give up, are willing to do what needs to be done, AND have talent. It will not be handed to you, so don't even have that expectation. This creator was talented and dedicated beyond reason, so the notion that he might NOT make it in was never really in doubt. He cut his own doorway.

In some ways, I was incredibly fortunate, and I know that, in that I didn't have to hassle editors or pitch at conventions, etc. etc. But on the other hand, I wrote a column that meant for two years I gave up my weekends, worked my ass off on research and trying to improve constantly, for (at first) no money at all and then very little money. It meant staying up all night some nights after a hard day of work when the next day ALSO was a full day of work. And it allowed editors to see not only that I could write some in different styles, and could make people laugh, but also that I could follow a self-imposed deadline (truthfully, I was better at that last when there was no real JOB attached, somehow). It showed that I wouldn't quit even when the only real reward was some people might laugh a little bit.

I used to be really a bit tender about how I broke in, because I felt bad that I got in over some folks who had taken the classes and gone to the seminars and had hassled editors, etc. etc. But enough pros I respect have said that EVERYONE finds a different way in, and I've gained enough distance to see what a ridiculously massive amount of effort went into my silly column that now I'm more comfortable with it. Deserved or not, I didn't blow my shot when it was given to me. I put everything I had into every assignment whether it was Deadpool or an X-men backup or a Simpsons single page Sunday strip. I never intended to have this career and I didn't have a master plan...but that's not the way YOU should approach it, not if you want in. You should have a master plan and when a pro or editor advises you to relook at it, you should dang well relook at it. If you do, you will instantly set yourself apart from the guy who wants Marvel to get Bryan Hitch to draw the epic saga of his City Of Heroes character.

I hope that makes sense. I want to be encouraging. But I do not want to encourange those who are unrealistic and hostile. I want to encourage those who have a goal and some idea of how to go after it.

Good luck!


PS. When I have a bit of time, I will post some actual tips for those who are serious about trying.