Loose Cannon: Issue #60

Thu, September 30th, 2004 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Larry Young, Columnist

DO, OR DO NOT; THERE IS NO TRY

We're going to take a break with our examination of the comicsblogosphereiverse and help some of you folks out.

Long time readers of this column know that I'm the front man for the award-winning publishing house AiT/Planet Lar and it is in that capacity that I get pitched a lot of books. Even though I don't exactly make it a secret that we don't accept submissions

"Black Diamond" art by Jon Proctor
because I have a lot of talented friends in the industry, and they all know who they are, and they know whether or not something they're working on will make a good fit with our line, and they know how to pitch me something.

So, assuming we do 14-16 graphic novels a year, and I take a couple of slots myself, chances are pretty long that an unsolicited submission will be 1. actually good, 2. the sort of thing we would publish, or 3. from a creative team that we can work with. It's all very much the planets aligning, you know?

So if someone asks me what our submissions guidelines are, I say we're not looking for anything, because we're not.

Believe it or not, this weeds out 99% of hopeful creators. They just give up. Of the other 1% who send me stuff anyway, 99% of that doesn't fit the first three criteria. In five years, we've only published one book that came across the transom unsolicited by someone who I didn't know already or at least had been familiar with their work.

I guess what I'm saying is what I said on page 17 of True Facts: "If you're reading this book, you're probably doing your own comics. A first thought may be, 'Does AiT/Planet Lar accept submissions?' The short answer is, no, not really. We have a lot of stuff in the hopper, and a comic by an unknown is a tough sell. This is what I heard when I was shopping around the astronauts, and it's still true today. But if you have a completed, pencilled, inked, and lettered seventy-two page graphic novel, go ahead and send it to me to see what I think. Although, if I were you, I'd publish it my own self."

OK.

Let's wait for the first 99% of the hopeful creators to leave, because I'm going to give the rest of you guys some hints on how to pitch your book to me, and, by extension, all the other publishers who are looking for the next cool book to publish.

Ready? This first one is so obvious, you wouldn't believe how many people forget to do this.

It is absolutely imperative that you know what your book is about.

Believe it or not, I can tell you in the first two minutes of talking to you on the phone, rapping with you at a convention, or sitting around the Isotope with The Comic Pimp whether or not we will publish your book. But I don't want to hear, "Hey, I got this project I wanna pitch you: In the future, the world's richest family hires an army to hunt vampires and bring 'em to a lab, with an eye toward distilling what it is out of their blood that makes them immortal, so they can be the world's richest family, forever. Time goes by, and they basically hunt vampires to extinction without ever figuring out immortality. But two old crusty guys remain vigilant, never giving up, never stopping their training, figuring that they must have missed one or two. And then one day, a vampire named Landon shows up, and they get back in the saddle, and chase down the last vampire, in hopes of giving their own wasted lives some meaning."

I mean, yawn. I got up and went to the bathroom and came back and you were still talking and I didn't miss anything.

"Hemoglobin" art by Damian Couceiro
I want to hear, "Hey, I want to pitch you something. Anne Rice meets The Fugitive. The last, reluctant vampire is hunted by rough dudes. This time, they're out for his blood. I call it 'Hemogoblin.'"

See the difference? Sure, the first one isn't bad, per se, but it's much too involved for a quick pitch on the convention floor when I'm trying to talk twenty dollar bills out of the pockets of the passers-by. Look at the second one: if you can one-line it, tell me the title, and give me a marketing hook, chances are you can write a good comic book, too.

(Those of you who like the sound of that story can find it this December in Proof of Concept, my short story collection available to order this month in Previews on page 218. OCT042321)

But the point of a concise pitch like that is that I can tell you know your story, and I can tell you on the spot whether or not I want to see more. Seriously, the best pitches take no more than two minutes.

Here's another thing: if I tell you we have something else in development that sounds a lot like what you're pitching me, just stop talking and pitch me another idea. A whole bunch of other folks have been working a long time on their project, too, and they got to me first. Them's the breaks. Sort of as an adjunct to this one is don't bother pitching me a book about spacemen in jeopardy of some kind. The AiT in Planet Lar stands for Astronauts in Trouble, and I'm not a corporate television executive who just watched Survivor and then told his folks to give him a reality show for his company. I want to see something different, something only you could write or draw.

I know all this sounds a bit harsh, but it's a harsh world out there. Joe Casey pitches me four books at a time, and they're all excellent so we have to do them all. Tom Beland needs his True Story, Swear to God collected, Matt Fraction had another brilliant idea, Dan Curtis Johnson's sent me another email, Ryan Yount just tapped into the zeitgeist, Fabio Moon has sent over some art for his book, Joe Kelly calls with genius, and maybe I want some time to finish up some Black Diamond script for artist Jon Proctor. So you've got a lot of competition for my attention and my Tall Comics Dollars bankroll. If I'm going to fund your project, you suit up and come ready to play.

And the way to do that is to be ready with your pitch when the time comes.

I'm telling you, if you get good at pitching your idea, and it's a quality story with a good hook, somebody somewhere will publish it.

Mail about this column can be sent to larry@comicbookresources.com

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