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.


  • At 6:50 AM, Blogger Elliot said…

    Ok, I think I get it...but you'll still read my pitch right?

    Seriously, it's nice to see you back here, I hope you follow up with the tips idea.

  • At 7:44 AM, Blogger Barry said…

    Yeah, you posted!

    Another female comicbook writer told me once that one thing you needed to do to be a writer was just that, write. That is what you did with your column. Good advice and warnings in this post, look forward to future comments.

  • At 7:46 AM, Blogger Barry said…

    Hey, I just noticed you have locked out anonymous commentors. If you get named comments that are spambots, try adding the scrambled words. That stopped those people cold on my Blog.

  • At 8:55 AM, Blogger Raph said…

    Hey Gail. Thanks for the insightful post. I guess I'm sort of following your footsteps, as I'm a columnist for Raging Bullets (aren't they just awesome?!?) I should probably learn to edit myself a little more. I should also learn to do a proper pitch, as mine is 2 pages long and it involves so many characters, I just don't know how to do it short, so I'll be looking out for your next post on that. I LOVE your work, especially on Secret Six, Birds of Prey and Gen13. I wish Secret Six was an ongoing, I don't know if you could take the workload, but if I can get people to write in, I hope you're the writer they tab.

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  • At 12:38 PM, Blogger R.Nav said…

    You just don't understand how awesome my City of Heroes character is!

    Seriously, good advice :)

  • At 6:53 AM, Blogger DrJeff said…

    Yes, Gail. If you could do a piece on tips and suggestions from the lessons you've learned along the way, that would be fantastic.

  • At 8:57 PM, Blogger Unknown said…

    Hey, late to the part, as usual. I think what you have posted helps out aspiring writers greatly. Thanks for the information.

    The one thing I am learning, is to keep writing, no matter how difficult it may get. Also that there will be MANY setbacks.

  • At 6:41 AM, Blogger alessandro said…

    Hi, just a note to say that I am an Italian fan of Gail Simone (I am spending serious money in BoP and Secret Six in English). Issues like Hong Kong Surprise or the kidnapping of Canary by Savant are simply great!
    I hope Gail will put Dinah again in the team and will not lose her touch on the Huntress (lately she is a bit underrated..)

    Thank you very much for the fun!
    And I look forward for you advices.


  • At 2:17 PM, Blogger spacekicker said…

    You are one of the best writers in comics today.

    I often wonder what it is that you and C. Dixon do to make the bat periphery titles so good...whatever it is, keep doing it!

    And...bring back Ted Kord, you'd rock writing him back


    Expain why Dick and Babs split (I smell a trade Plllleassee!!?!?!)

  • At 1:26 PM, Blogger Adam Barnett said…

    One suggestion I would offer from the get-go (sorry, I *do* live in Oklahoma, and you it's encouraged to start from the "get-go" here) is *bloom where you are*.

    Back in the 80's, when I was on an independent recording label, I remember shoving 1000 45's into envelopes to radio stations all over the place, then waiting for months to see where I got airplay. A couple of years ago, I put together 2 CD's and sold more of them through internet dealers and download sites than I ever did back in the day.

    The same can be said for writing. These days, you can not only write, but get published immediately. By putting your material online, you can start building your reader base as you grow. If no one reads, you try harder.

    Regardless, the internet is providing wonderful outlets for those of us who may not ever make a dime at writing, but do it for the love of the game. We can't all write for the Big Two, but you can still find your place in the sun if you are willing to take the time to cultivate it.


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  • At 6:34 AM, Blogger Hieu Le Bui said…

    Hey Gail, I just found your blog this morning and so glad that I caught your last entry. If you would sooner rather than later please post tips about breaking into the business. I'm an artist and an aspiring writer putting together two pitches to Image comics along with sample sequential pages soon. The two pitches are connected because one is a prequel and the other is a sequel where characters from both series interconnected with each other. I don't know if anyone had done something like this before to pitches to a publisher. So any advice would really be useful.

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    P.S. You may see this, or may have seen this already, in the DC message boards concerning WiR, but is it alright that I quote you from the posts and maybe even from the WiR site? I'm writing an op/ed article for my school's newspaper. I would really appreciate it if I had your approval to use you for quotations. My email is

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  • At 10:12 AM, Blogger Korkuss said…

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    PS: And somebody should take again the whole Batman-Wonder Woman fling thing... it's so cool.

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  • At 9:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Im not here for a pitch, but Thank You for being at the recent Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo! I was just reading a wikipedia entry about "women in the refrigerator" plot manipulation. I really enjoyed the Birds of Prey T.V. series and will look for the title at the comic store I go to. I have some catching up to do, no doubt...

  • At 8:11 AM, Blogger LW said…

    Dear Gail Simone,

    'Villains United' is one of my favorite comic book series ever. I read it over and over because it was sensitive, surprising, witty and exhilarating. You have repeatedly proven the comics community right for giving you your break. I think you are brilliant.



  • At 1:11 PM, Blogger Unknown said…

    yes yes tips would be good. i do afterall admire your work though i miss out on alot of stuff having to go through great pains to get to the comic shop near here. its quite far. i'm a creator but i personally never really cared to work at the big 2..i'm more an indy guy. (though if given a chance i'd do the big 2) but i'm more a fantagraphics or slave labor person. when i read this post i could hear myself say 'shit i've done that shit like 2 years ago' funny thing is i wasn't even in the indusry and people have sent ME pitches for things. this whole business is screwed up.

    anyways,whatever advice you can bestow will be ever appreciated.

    and i'm probably the millionth person to do this but i linked you on me bloggy blog. i guess in my world its sort of an honor or something...i dunno.

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  • At 8:23 PM, Blogger MaGnUs said…

    I know you posted this a long time ago, but it's a great post, and I'm returning your favor of posting on my blog, even when I pick on your work.

    And this: "I wrote a column that meant for two years I gave up my weekends, worked my ass off on research (...) It meant staying up all night some nights (...) It allowed editors to see (...) I (...) could make people laugh, (...) I could follow a self-imposed deadline (...) It showed that I wouldn't quit even when the only real reward was some people might laugh a little bit.", among other reasons is exactly why I set my self up to follow a weekly deadline on my own column.

    Besides all the online stuff, I've already published a short story in print, and are soon to publish an essay on a book on the LSH... I haven't broken into the comic industry yet, but I'll keep on writing and when I think I have something worthy, pitch it to an editor (being far from conventions doesn't help, but what the hell)... and hope I get noticed like you did.

    Thanks for the good stories, the advice, and the inspiration.

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  • At 6:26 PM, Blogger Brian said…

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  • At 12:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Gail--just read lengthy interview with you in comics journal. Really liked your work in birds of prey (benes pinup art didn't hoit either)

    I have a question about superheroine movies. Why do they suck so bad, and no one wants to watch them, and what can be done, via good writing, to make them exciting and watchable movies? For example, Tomb Raider 1 was OK, but Tomb Raider 2 was horrid. Catwoman was horrid. Elektra was ho-hum. Can't we get YOU to oversee or significantly contribute to Wonder Woman movie, before it gets made and crashes & burns? Sorry if you have written about this before, I haven't looked too hard for old comments from you about this.


  • At 10:21 PM, Blogger Judy said…

    Dear Gail,
    I work for a French newspaper Vocable for teaching English to the French (600 000 subscribers all on the lookout for things to read in English) and would like to interview you from our Paris studio over the phone. Is this possible. We'll be publishing an article about you from Newsweek. Could you let me know if you could spare me 15 minutes of your time. Thanks so much. Thanks.

  • At 6:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's like AMERICAN IDOL tryouts. As they walk in, the ones who listen to the criticism, and actually look like professional singers, are MUCH more likely to be picked than the ones who look freaky and keep on singing even when Simon tells them to stop.

  • At 4:43 PM, Blogger Notes From The Ether said…

    When I was 20 or so I was trying to break into comics. My mom was friends with a lady who worked at Warner Brothers as a liason between the various companies and corporate, so she constantly dealt with DC Comics.

    Through her, as a favor, she got a Legends Of the Dark Knight treatment for a one issue arc to Paul Levitz.

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  • At 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This isn't in response to your blog. Just wanted to ask two quick questions. One) Why is Hippolyta still alive considering Imperiex? Two) To any JoeSchmo, could you explain why Cheetah and Wonder Woman hate each other, and why their arch-rivalry (if it could be called that) works? If it works at all, that is.

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  • At 8:32 PM, Blogger Emiliano Alvarez said…

    Great post Gail (can I call you Gail, right?) I love everything you do, greeting from Argentina.

  • At 8:45 PM, Blogger Karen Sealy said…

    Gail you really are an inspiration to female writers. The first thing I ever read of yours was actually your run on Deadpool way back when and I loved what you did with the characters. I also loved Agent X even more, especially the characters of Taskmaster and Sandy. You really injected a human element into characters who could just be the usual action archetype. Since then, I've loved your work. It only gets better! I love the advise you give to aspiring writers - especially us girls! Thanks so much for being a great role model.

  • At 9:35 AM, Blogger John D. Kennedy said…

    You know, I'll admit it: The writing industry is hard to break into. I've been doing it seriously for 3 years and the best I've done is a couple of published things that I didn't get paid for and only recently did I finally get into the company I've wanted to work for only to find that thanks to the economy they aren't releasing as much stuff this year. :P

    What you said is completely true though. I encounter it as well, where I sometimes have to look at a pitch a friend of mine is submitting that is a cross between Dante from Devil May Cry and Wolverine. And this friend refuses to take criticism on his epic master piece at all.

    If you start doing tips, I would *love* to see something on how to stay focused on writing. Focus seems to be my weak point and I'd love to hear your point of view.

    ....also, I geekishly loved Tranquility and Atom. :P

  • At 12:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You know what people don't do enough? Show people appreciation for their work. I discovered your work only lately with Secret Six. I'm an avid reader of everything, comics included, and in a weekly list (and extremely diversified) that would make the most hardcore geek blush, Secret six has grown to become my favorite one. It's touching, extremely funny and completely unique. I wanted to thank you for the good reading times.
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  • At 11:08 AM, Blogger Torsten Adair said…

    Well, this is my first time here...

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