So You’ve Made A Comic? Now What? A Reviewer’s Guide To Getting Our Attention.
In lieu of Underrated this week, I wanted to rerun this column. It’s five years old, but still relevant.
So you’ve made a comic? Now what? Well now you’ve put in the hard work creating your comic, graphic novel or anthology you probably want to get some coverage, but how do you do that?
There are a couple of options, and what works for you may not work for another, just as there’s also a chance that you’ve thought of something I haven’t – I’m not claiming to be an expert in this because I’ve never reached out for coverage for a comic I have created simply because I’ve never created a comic. But that said, I have done my best to promote as many independent comics as I can so any and all tips from here on out are going to be based on what to do in order to garner the attention of the websites and the folks writing for them based primarily (but not exclusively) on my own experiences.
• We’re often quite busy. I’m not saying this to sound important, but one of the first things you’ll want to be aware of is that a lot of reviewers don’t get paid for doing what we do. What this means is that we’re often balancing a full time job, school of some level and/or a part time job as well as our typical duties for the website. Personally, for me that looks like two columns a week (one of which requires between eight to twelve comics being read), between one to four reviews as well as a couple of other features on top of a day job. The reason I want to make you aware of this is that unless our main source of income is from the site we write for, there’s an excellent chance that our time is quite limited. What that means for you is that if we don’t cover your comic it isn’t because we don’t like you or your work, it’s because we just don’t have time and, unfortunately, it didn’t jump out at us so you’ll want to spend some time…
• Crafting your pitch. What that means is that you’re going to want to make your pitch stand out. Whether that’s with a deep synopsis that gives an accurate, largely spoiler free overview of your comic or a two line elevator pitch; if you’re able to make an impression then you’re ahead of the game. One of the best pitches I’ve ever heard came from Markisan Naso for Voracious: “Time travelling chef hunts dinosaurs.” It may be very short, but it drew me right in without the need to see any art whatsoever because if you can grab me with a brief synopsis then I’m yours. However, in talking to other contributors, I’ve come to learn that some are more likely to ignore a pitch because there isn’t any art included – something to keep in mind when writing your emails. Make us want to read your comic.
• Do more than the bare minimum when contacting sites. While many sites have a “Contact Us” form that encourages you send submissions through this way (and honestly, it’s a great option), some contributors tend to gravitate toward covering comics from those they have a preexisting relationship with, whether digitally or in person. For the sake of this guide, I’m going to assume you don’t have a friend or acquaintance writing about comics. So what can you do? First, spend a bit of time finding reviewers who tend to cover a similar style of comic than the one you have to offer, and try to approach them directly; for example whereas I’ve got a fondness for steampunk, fantasy, and vigilante stories I don’t tend to read as many horror comics as other folks, so am I the best person to cover your reinvention of Dracula? Take some time and figure out who you want to read your comic (but don’t put all your eggs in one basket).
Food for thought: Speaking from experience I’m more likely to cover a comic from a person who has contacted me directly than from a Contact Us form (I have a much higher rate of return on those because I tend to see less), but I’ve covered more comics that have come to me from such a form than I’ve been sent directly.
• Reach out to a reviewer directly. However your comic ends up getting coverage, once it does, reach out to those who took the time to do so – you can usually find our names somewhere on the article byline – and offer some form of (purely verbal) appreciation. It’s a simple step, and often overlooked, but it can pay off in the future simply because once a dialogue is established between yourself and a reviewer then it’s easier to keep the flaky reviewer engaged. Once you’ve got their attention, then there’s greater chance that they’ll cover your next project. I say that from personal experience, but it was also a common theme with the contributors I spoke with.
• Take advantage of our laziness. A review is great, but what about a preview? This is where a press release comes in super handy. Have you ever noticed how most previews are exactly the same across multiple different sites? There’s a reason for that; most sites will just rewrite the press release (if they even bother to do that) so that it fits the style of the website publishing the preview. So if you want additional coverage other than a review or interview, provide a press release.
• Help us help you. It’s corny, but something as simple as a link to where people can buy your comic. I’ll always include it if it’s provided, and sometimes I’ll track it down if it isn’t, but not always. This is especially crucial for digital only comics.
• Don’t be discouraged if we don’t cover your comic right away. Sometimes we genuinely are very busy. If you get a quick turnaround, great, but be prepared to wait at least a week, if not closer to a month before you see a review (personally I consider two weeks to be a good turnaround for myself, so take that into consideration). We don’t always get the time to cover what we want to cover right away – for example there are two issues that sat on my desk top that have been there for nearly a month that I haven’t read yet.
Hopefully the above tips will help you out a little once you’re ready to send your comic around. Thank you to Ben Howard, Patrick Goddard and Elana Levin who also contributed to this guide.