By Matt O’Keefe
Archaia submissions editor Rebecca Taylor moderated the panel with guests Archaia marketing manager Mel Caylo, writer of Feeding Grounds Swifty Lang, and Yehudi Mercado, the creator of Pantolones, TX. Taylor started out by going through the things every submission should have:
• Cover letter introducing the creative team and mentioning the vision for their book and why Archaia is the right fit for it
• Full title
• Names of the writer and artist
• Short description of the book
• A synopsis about one page in length
• Scripts for the first several pages (optional)
• Character descriptions.
• At least six pages of sequential art (colored and lettered, if possible)
• Your contact information
• Signed terms and conditions, which are available on Archaia’s website (if they don’t have this they won’t look at your pitch for legal reasons)
Taylor mentioned that both creators on the panel included something extra in their submissions.
Lang said that in real estate there’s something called curb appeal. Right when you pull up to a house you already have a sense of what it will be like inside. A comic pitch should do the same thing. Beyond the initial hook of Feeding Ground, the most important element of the story was family so he focused on that. The pages provided in the Feeding Ground pitch didn’t make it into the book but it gave Archaia a sense of the world they were creating.
(NOTE: Feeding Ground artist Michael Lapinski sent me some more details, including the full pitch book. You can read that at his blog.)
Design is an important factor for submissions. Feeding Ground’s stood out. Editors might not think about design when considering books, but it has a subconscious influence. Archaia asks for six pages to show the creators’ storytelling abilities. They can be from anywhere in the book, but must be in order.
Mercado’s background was in animation. Pantolones, TX was originally a pitch to the Cartoon Network. His synopsis was only a half page, but Taylor said it worked because of the younger age demographic for the book. He met Archaia founder Mark Smylie at C2E2 and soon after pitched online. Print submissions are good at conventions, but no matter what always send pitches digitally as well. With digital, one click and the submissions editor can share the pitch with everyone.
Lettering is a huge factor for Taylor. Bad lettering over great art can completely rip her out of the story. Pay for professional lettering.
Both Lang and Mercado gave their pitches on the convention floor. Taylor said she wouldn’t normally recommend that because when she’s on the floor 50% of her brain is thinking about how she wants to sit down and the rest is thinking about how she needs to go to the bathroom.
In terms of putting together a pitch package, at least make sure you know how to make a PDF. Attachment should be under 10 MB.
While Lang only initially gave Archaia a few pages, Mercado gave them a complete graphic novel. Taylor said that either approach was fine. With only a few pages it takes longer to produce, but if it’s already complete it’s hard to do much editing.
What can a writer do to get noticed? It’s almost impossible to get a publisher’s attention without art. There are two ways to work with an artist: payment outright, or half the rights. Mercado said that the art is 80% of the work, so respect him and, if you pay, pay upfront. Writers can find illustrators in Artist Alley or online. Go to your dream artist’s blog and see whom he or she follows.
If an artist switch happens between the pitch and the rest of the book, that can be problematic.
Appropriate to go to the publisher’s office to submit? Taylor said it happened once, and it was weird.
For the pitch, Archaia just wants ten pages or less to start. Not the whole book.
When is it okay to follow up a submission? Two to three months is a good timeframe before resubmitting.
Taylor said she likes working with either teams or individuals on books. If all the team members on the team are enthusiastic that’s great, but at the same time there’s something special about only one voice.