Last month at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Randal Jarrell from Oni Press and I hosted a panel called “How Not to Break into Comics.” We talked about the common and often unintentionally hilarious mistakes people make in their efforts to get their comics published. This is one of them.
I didn’t mention the overly-taped-and-bubble-wrapped glitter-filled submission specifically at the panel, but it fits into the category of one of the common problems we see: style over substance. Elaborate packaging, “cute” details like glitter confetti, “bonus” material like T-shirts and stickers — these are not what editors care about. This extends into the work itself — flashy coloring won’t cover up basic drawing problems or poor writing and a slick cover letter and pitch (which often are not a slick as you think they are) won’t make up for a lackluster project.
Simplicity in approach and an ability to follow directions will get you farther than gimmicks when it comes to breaking into comics. Here’s a little step-by-step for the submitting life:
1. Research comics companies. Know what they’re publishing, their submission guidelines, and who their editors are. Read their comics. Look for interviews with their editors and current artists.
2. Honestly assess your work. Your submission lives or dies by, more than anything else, what the editor thinks about your art and writing. How does your work compare to other comics being published by the companies you plan on submitting to? Hone your skills until you feel your work is ready. Don’t fall into beating yourself up, but don’t be cocky, either.
3. Write a cover letter and put together a package that is customized for each publisher. We can tell if you’re sending the same submission package to every publisher you submit to, especially if you accidentally don’t change the company name in the letter. (I get cover letters that are addressed to Image Comics and Dark Horse Comics pretty regularly.) Publishers all have different requirements and different priorities. You can find the former in submission guidelines and learn enough about a company for the latter through that research you did.
4. If you’re rejected, don’t immediately become defensive or self-pitying. Neither will get you any closer to getting published. And they’re not attractive personality traits. If you received feedback with the rejection, think about what it says, and use it or don’t use it as you see fit.
And for goodness’ sake; your submission isn’t the Holy Grail. A sealed envelope will keep it plenty safe enough.