Creators Corner: Creating Rebirth of the Gangster, Part 7–Submitting the Comic and Cover Letters

Over the summer, I wrote a few parts in a series detailing the creation of my comic Rebirth of the Gangster (on sale now!)

In case you missed it, check out these links to the first six parts-

Part 1: The Birth of the Idea

Part 2: Brainstorming and Outlining the Plot

Part 3: Outline, Synopsis and Chapter Breakdown

Part 4: Scripting the Action

Part 5: Finding the Right Artist

Part 6: Pages in Progress and the Artist/Writer Collaboration

Comic publisher submission guidelines_ Making RotG part 7-page-001

Image from “The Definitive List of Comic Publisher Submission Guidelines for 2018”

 

Step 1: Research:

Most advice on submitting to comics publisher comes down to a few things:

Do the research on the company and editors, so that you can tailor a cover letter to their strengths and interests and enlist an agent.  This advice also helps save time: after all, if you create a superhero comic and you submit to a publisher that doesn’t produce superhero comics, you’ve just wasted both your time and the publisher’s time.

 Of course, if you have an agent, they’ll take care of this for you, leaving you free to focus on the creative aspect of the comic.  As a self-publisher with no agent, I don’t have that luxury, so I’ve always submitted directly. I’ve sent out some requests for representation, but I’ve hooked as many fish with those requests as I hook actual fish when I actually go fishing.  In other words, I’ve only had a few nibbles, a few responses, but nothing that I could bring home.

To do the first step, research, I created a spreadsheet with the following format:

Name email or other contact info Past work that’s a good fit Why my work is a good fit Requirements for submission Anything else

 

This spreadsheet led to me creating entries like this:

215 Ink submissions@215ink.com The Price–noirish feel (not the fantastic element);
Ignition (possible place in the anthology for first chapter);
Ghost Lines (noirish feel);
Broken (noirish feel, haunted by family legacy);
Black River (noirish feel);
The parentheses in the previous column explain why it’s a good fit Introduction about yourself and your credentials as well as the creative

team on the project.
● One sentence summing up your story.
● One page (at most) summary of your story.
● Completed pages for review.
(I didn’t have anything for the Anything Else column)

 

One last note on agents: even though I don’t have one, I’d jump at the chance for representation, but I don’t have any representation offers coming my way yet. This might explain why some publishers (like Image Comics) haven’t even replied to me–they’re busy enough, so they’ll probably only respond to known commodities.

 

Step  2: Cover Letters

Although all of the advice says that you should tailor your cover letter to specific publishers and editors–and I did do that–I tweaked that advice a little.  I work best from a template that has flexible sections, so that was my middle ground to save time and still have some personal aspects of the letter tailored to the publisher and editor.  

The first template I created looked like this:

To

 

(first paragraph here–talk about stuff that editor or publisher has done that makes RoG a good fit; maybe talk about some personality element of an editor that meshes with me; end on thesis, why this comic is strong and a good fit)

 

I have attached the first 8 pages of Rebirth of the Gangster, completed by Juan Romera (the artist of Strange Nation, Tall Tales of the Badlands, Los Muertos, Clockwork, Chillers, and more).  In it, you’ll see that Juan Romera and I have a strong sense of comic book storytelling: we use strong panel transitions, action-to-action, subject-to-subject, or whatever option is best suited to the story, character moment, or theme.  We truly understand that words and images need to be interdependent in a comic. Some quick examples of this: the first page shows how this juxtaposition can be done ironically–”born out of darkness into light” right next to a murder is ironic–or can be done to reinforce a thematic element–that same quote and “take nothing and make it something” reinforce the motif of redemption; the “want more and more” paired with a woman reaching for champagne highlights the motif of greed.  Additionally, I’ve only added dialogue if it’s necessary to add a character moment or thematic concern that can’t be done by the image alone. Sometimes, I’ve deleted dialogue that was originally in the script, because the strong image and sequential storytelling make it redundant, which shows that I’m truly creating for the comic book medium and my artist. These pages should also show that we have a strong sense of “camera” movement in a page, with specific shots done to increase tension, characterization, or thematic development.

 

I’ve also attached a five-page synopsis of the whole story (not just the first issue).  It has a logline and the ____ meets ____ style pitch that shows I know how to boil my story down to different audiences and space/time constraints (for further proof, ask for my one-page synopsis).  In the synopsis itself, you’ll find that I have a strong sense of building a beginning, middle and end to conflict and character arcs. Every character has a relatable motivation and arc for us to follow and care about.  Maybe most importantly, each scene also serves multiple purposes (plot, character, and theme), which shows that I am able to convey a lot in one chapter and scene. I’ve paired this with another attachment–the outline–to show how I have a strong sense of pacing and of juggling an ensemble cast.  Of course the synopsis and outline are just a vision that could be adjusted based on editorial feedback.

 

I appreciate the time you’ve taken to read my work, and I truly believe I am a great fit for you and your company. At the end of the day, though, I would appreciate any feedback.  If you don’t think this comic is a good fit for you, but you think it would be a good fit for some other editor and/or publisher, I would appreciate any advice on that (contact info and why this is a better fit for them; ideally, I’d love an email endorsement from you to that editor and publisher).  Thanks again, and please consider how good a fit I am for your company: I have shown a level of professionalism that highlights my willingness to learn, adapt, and grow, which will sustain any publisher and worker in the comic industry.


Brevity-is-the-soul-of-wit

Image from IAS Papers

From reading this, you can probably tell that I wasn’t concise enough, and that I didn’t talk enough about the actual story of the comic.  So my next cover letter would start with my logline and then get into the letter proper, as seen below. While it still might be too long, it’s an improvement on the pitch.

Two sons–one rich and one poor, one black and one white, one with both parents living and one with a dead father and a dying mother–get sucked into a world of crime as they are haunted by their families’ secrets and a murder as old as the sons themselves.  

 

Dear ______________________

 

I’m writing to see if you or anybody at _______ would be interested in publishing my comic presently titled Rebirth of the Gangster (or, given recent feedback I’ve received about the present title, the possible alternate title could be A Family Affair).  It’s illustrated by Juan Romera (the artist of Strange Nation, Tall Tales of the Badlands, Los Muertos, Clockwork, Chillers, and more).  I envision our comic as a series released in individual issues, but it could also be released as four graphic novels, divided by story arcs, which you can see in the outline I’ve attached.  It’s essentially Breaking Bad meets The Wire with Othello thrown in; it’s a crime and noir driven family drama that examines society from many angles.

 

I have attached two covers (one for each possible title) and the first 8 pages of Rebirth of the Gangster.  Right now, it’s just inked in black and white, but I would consider adding coloring with further financing.  In the pages as they are now, though, you’ll see that Juan and I have a strong sense of comic book storytelling: we use what’s best suited to the story, character moment, or theme.  We truly understand that words and images need to be interdependent in a comic, developing irony, theme, character, and tone. Additionally, I’ve only added dialogue if it’s necessary to add a character moment or thematic concern that can’t be done by the image alone.  Sometimes, I’ve deleted dialogue that was originally in the script, because the strong image and sequential storytelling from Juan made it redundant, which shows that I’m truly creating for the comic book medium and my artist. I’m actually planning on deleting the one piece of dialogue in page 7, because the art shows the drama and character motivation enough.  I’ve paired this art with the script for the first issue and character sketches.

 

I’ve also attached a five-page synopsis of the whole story (not just the first issue).  It has a logline and the ____ meets ____ style pitch that shows I know how to boil my story down to different audiences and space/time constraints (for further proof, look at my one-page synopsis).  In the synopsis itself, you’ll find that I have a strong sense of building a beginning, middle and end to conflict and character arcs. Every character has a relatable motivation and arc for us to follow and care about.  Maybe most importantly, each scene also serves multiple purposes (plot, character, and theme), which shows that I am able to convey a lot in one chapter and scene. I’ve also attached an outline that breaks the story down into individual chapters or issues and story arcs (potential graphic novels). Of course the synopsis and outline could be adjusted based on editorial feedback.

 

I appreciate the time you’ve taken to read my work, and I truly believe I am a great fit for you and your company. At the end of the day, though, I would appreciate any feedback.  If you don’t think this comic is a good fit for you, but you think it would be a good fit for some other editor and/or publisher, I would appreciate any advice on that (contact info and why this is a better fit for them; ideally, I’d love an email endorsement from you to that editor and publisher).  Thanks again, and please consider how good a fit Juan and I would make to you or someone else at __________

Now that you’ve seen some templates, take a look at a cover letter to Self Made Hero Publications:

To Dan Lockwood and the other editors at Self Made Hero:

 

I’m writing to pitch my first comic Rebirth of the Gangster.  I have been published before (by Slant), but that’s only been written work.  Despite my rookie status in the comic field, my comic proposal reflects a level of professionalism and artistry rarely attained by few rookies, let alone veterans.  Rebirth of the Gangster is a multi-layered family and crime drama (centering on an Iago-Othello vibe between Hunter and Marcus, the son of the guy who killed Hunter’s dad), and it would be a great addition to your lineup: you show that you’re willing to go beyond superheroes and you’re willing to publish in black and white, as seen by the magnificent The Sculptor.

 

I have attached the first 8 pages of Rebirth of the Gangster, completed by Juan Romera (artist of Strange Nation, Tall Tales of the Badlands, Los Muertos, Clockwork, Chillers, and more).  In it, you’ll see that Juan Romera and I have a strong sense of comic book storytelling: we use strong panel transitions, action-to-action, subject-to-subject, or whatever option is best suited to the story, character moment, or theme.  We truly understand that words and images need to be interdependent in a comic. Some quick examples of this: the first page shows how this juxtaposition can be done ironically–”born out of darkness into light” right next to a murder is ironic–or can be done to reinforce a thematic element–that same quote and “take nothing and make it something” reinforce the motif of redemption; the “want more and more” paired with a woman reaching for champagne highlights the motif of greed.  Additionally, I’ve only added dialogue if it’s necessary to add a character moment or thematic concern that can’t be done by the image alone. Sometimes, I’ve deleted dialogue that was originally in the script, because the strong image and sequential storytelling make it redundant, which shows that I’m truly creating for the comic book medium and my artist. These pages should also show that we have a strong sense of “camera” movement in a page, with specific shots done to increase tension, characterization, or thematic development.

 

I’ve also attached a five-page synopsis of the whole story (not just the first issue).  It has a logline and the ____ meets ____ style pitch that shows I know how to boil my story down to different audiences and space/time constraints (for further proof, ask for my one-page synopsis).  In the synopsis itself, you’ll find that I have a strong sense of building a beginning, middle and end to conflict and character arcs. Every character has a relatable motivation and arc for us to follow and care about.  Maybe most importantly, each scene also serves multiple purposes (plot, character, and theme), which shows that I am able to convey a lot in one chapter and scene. I’ve paired this with another attachment–the outline–to show how I have a strong sense of pacing and of juggling an ensemble cast.  Of course the synopsis and outline are just a vision that could be adjusted based on editorial feedback.

 

I appreciate the time you’ve taken to read my work, and I truly believe I am a great fit for you and your company. At the end of the day, though, I would appreciate any feedback.  If you don’t think this comic is a good fit for you, but you think it would be a good fit for some other editor and/or publisher, I would appreciate any advice on that (contact info and why this is a better fit for them; ideally, I’d love an email endorsement from you to that editor and publisher).  Thanks again, and please consider how good a fit I am for your company: I have shown a level of professionalism that highlights my willingness to learn, adapt, and grow, which will sustain any publisher and worker in the comic industry.

*By the way, I ended with contact info and address in all of them, but come on–like I’m going to put that here*.

 

That’s it for this installment of “Creating Rebirth of the Gangster“.  Join us next time, and in the meantime, check out all installments of Rebirth of the Gangster or visit me at my site.

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