Friday, August 9, 2013

How to Submit Your Art to Comic Book Publishers!

Last week was a big one for yours truly. The times have been tumultuous in my life over the past several months, to say the least – getting Sylvanna officially ready to go, a big move in October, and balancing some tricky and ill-timed family health issues to name a few. It’s all culminated with me resolving to go full-time with freelance once more, and thus putting together some work samples to send out to publishers for the first time in a great number of years.
So! How does one go about getting work in comics, anyway? I like to think this blog could, thus far be a great resource for those looking to put their time into the effort of making great comics, but I’ve not gotten an entry around to show the actual submission process – so let’s cover that, today!
The first task is to gather some work around. In my latest submissions, I was primarily looking to get work as a penciller/inker, so that’s what I sent the most samples of! Here’s what’s in my submission packet, this time around:
·         Three pages of penciled comic book pages featuring a subject I’m very comfortable drawing, and one which I know how to draw very well.

·         Three pages of inked versions of the penciled pages.

·         Four more inked pages  from a different type of story with different characters in a different setting which utilizes a wholly different style, as well.

·         One inked cover image.

·         Four really nice pin-ups - some in color and some black and white. 

A few notes about my samples: They were submitted as (no more than) 800px wide JPEGs, and each was under 500KB. When sending in samples, keep them big enough to show your nice details, but small enough to not choke your editor’s email. The total size of ALL the attachments you send should be under 10MB and preferably under 5MB. If they want to see a larger version of something, you can always send that along, later.
Along with my samples, I also sent a cover letter! It went something like this:

Dear _______ (always use the actual editor’s name when you can!):

My name is Dawn Best and I am currently in the market to take on some freelance work. I thought I would start with some of my favorite comic book publishers (and this is very important – they SHOULD be comic books you would LOVE to work for and could do great things for – don’t just mass-send to everyone unless you’re interested in doing sub-par work for a comic you might not enjoy). I feel _____________ (the publisher’s name and even better, a specific title) might be a great fit for my style and would be interested to see what you think of the attached pieces.
I will be at __________ (convention or meet-up – this paragraph is optional but it is HIGHLY recommended that you go to comic conventions if you want to work in the comics industry!) and I noticed you will be as well. I’ll be sure to stop by and meet some members of your team in person, regardless of whether you can use me at this time or not. Looking forward to it!
All the Best,

Feel free to copy that whole thing and fill in the blanks. Try to remember to change my name, too! Cover letters should be to the point, speak of your intentions and what you can do for a company, and promise to follow-up in some way!
Let’s talk about the follow-up, which is a step that is as important as your initial submission. Remember: you’re a salesman, and in a very general sense, salespeople average a sale for every 9 follow-ups they make. In comics, it can be a bit higher, but depending on how you go about it, you can cut out a lot of that time and that means cutting out a lot of wasted effort.  Either way, if you’re not following up, you’re making an amateur mistake – it’s RARE that someone gets hired on after a single submission packet has been sent.
Since most comic book editors don’t readily post their direct phone numbers (with good reason) what then, are your options for following up? Here are but a few:
Go to a convention: Meet the editors, writers and artists who already work for a company you’ve targeted, in person. If the editors or artists who work on the title you’re specifically looking to get into aren’t present, do NOT snub the people who ARE there. Talk to them, ask them what they like about working for the company and be honest about your intentions to break-in, yourself. These people are a wealth of information and will likely have great pointers about what they’re looking for in a submission packet, and if there are any new and exciting properties they’re considering for the future. Get a business card and keep in touch. In putting a face to your name, they’ll have an easier time remembering you, and if nothing else, you can use the information gleaned from such encounters to make a second, even better-targeted submission packet.
Attend a portfolio review: This step usually requires you go to a convention and track down editors in the same way as the first example, but not always. Sometimes companies hold open portfolio reviews on their forums. I know a few companies who ask for submissions to be placed on their public forum so their audience might first consider the work, as well as the editors. Traditionally, you’d sign-up for a portfolio review with a company at some point during a convention, agree to a time, and sit down with an editor to discuss. Don’t even think about coming to a con and plunking your work down in front of an editor without an appointment unless you want to make the editor angry! When the editor has time, that means they are taking a few moments away from what is a very busy schedule to meet with you and give you some instant feedback. Don’t rush it and don’t blow them off! They want you to succeed. Even if an editor doesn’t think you’re ready yet, they’ll remember your work, your face and the impression you made for next time. Keep pushing yourself and keep improving.
Find the publisher on Twitter and follow, don’t stalk, them: It’s poor-form to get online and follow your favorite publisher the same day you send in your submission packet and immediately Tweet to them: “Hey, just sent you my submissions – Please hire me!” If anything, and you really were interested in working for the company, you should have been following them long before your submission packet went out. Keep up with them for a while, and pay attention to what they’re sharing on social media. Follow them wherever you can – Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and others. Retweet them when something interesting comes up. Once in a while, feel free to send out something like this, “Great work on (your favorite book here), I loved it when ______ happened! If you’re ever looking for freelancers, I’m open and would love to work with (your dream-team) in the future.” Make sure you’re polite with your interactions and your pitches are well outnumbered by your praise of their work!
The follow-up process, let’s be honest, is where the magic happens! As I said – it’s rare, even as a seasoned pro, to get work with a single packet sent out, these days. You gotta get serious and you gotta take a close look at what your editor wants to see when you’re set on working for them. Most editors are so busy and get inundated with so many submissions that even an email stating that they received your packet is impossible. If a few months have gone by and you’ve gotten no response, then it’s as good as a rejection letter.
You shouldn’t fear these, “thank you for the interest” notes. If anything, you should take them, hoard them and frame them. Statistically, you’re more likely to succeed, the more times you try and fail. So long as you keep improving, you will eventually make it, but where most artists fail to become what they want – that is, paid professionals at their favorite book, is right here. And the reason is simple. These people fail to take the rejection letter for what it is: a piece of paper telling you that you can do better. That being the case, there are only two ways you can screw up your ultimate goal, here. The first is that you can see the rejection letter as more than a piece of paper and as some big scary dream-crushing monster which bars you from ever considering doing work in comics ever again.  The second is to not do any better than the work you’re cranking out now. This is time for honesty – you can do this, but you must improve your game, first. That means it’s back to the drawing board and, hopefully, back to seeking out advice on what, specifically, you can do to raise the bar!
Remember – if you’re really serious about the work being done by a publisher, then editors there will want you to succeed because they want people who are passionate! A dedicated fan one day can turn into an inspired and inspirational teammate who can take their book to the next level. Don’t miss out on becoming that person! Do your homework, do lots of submissions, expect rejection letters but keep trying! You can do this – all you need is love!

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