Hello everyone! I’m Michi, the writer half of VVBG. Last fall, we were one of the selected creators for the Tapas Incubator Program. Being selected for the Incubator Program has opened so many doors for us professionally, and it is an amazing opportunity for anyone serious about becoming a professional comics creator!
I wrote the Born Sexy Tomorrow pitch that was chosen as the example for this year’s Incubator Submission Guidelines, but back when we first applied for the Incubator Program, I had never done any sort of pitch writing before. I spent lots of time on research before I even began: reading articles written by published comic artists, and studying other comic creators’ pitches for their published projects. So I’ve put together this How-To Guide to share with you what I’ve learned, and hopefully it will help guide you to success!
Please keep in mind that this is my personal point of view, as well as a compilation of various pieces of advice from professional comic creators - however, as with any sort of writing advice, this isn’t the end-all be-all guide. If you find something different that works for you, that’s great!
This post is specifically geared towards Tapas Incubator submissions, but I’m also going to include some general information about pitching to publishers that I picked up during my research. Let’s begin!
A different type of writing?
Pitch-writing is a specific skill. Essentially, you’re trying to sell yourself and a concept to a publisher. Not only do you want to grab their attention with your story concept, you have to show them that you have the skills to execute that story.
So, first rule: Read the Rules!
You want to pay attention to what a potential publisher wants. Every submission format can be different. Reading the rules shows that you can follow directions, and that you are detail-oriented enough to pay attention to what is required of you. The world of comics publishing is tough and competitive - many potential publishers will throw out a submission that doesn’t follow the rules. Submit exactly what is asked of you. If you write a great pitch and they want to see more, they will ask you for more!
Everyone wants to work with someone who is professional, capable, and easy to work with. A good pitch will show them that you are that person.
So, now that we’ve read the rules, let’s break down what the Incubator Submission is asking for:
- Your profile on Tapas (if applicable)
- A brief bio
- If you're not currently publishing with us, please provide links to your websites or social media pages
- A short summary of your story (If you only had 1 minute to pitch us the story.)
- Story themes
- A full synopsis (3 - 5 paragraphs) of your story
- Concept Art (in a .zip file)
- 3 - 5 panel sketch of an episode scene (in a .zip file)
Your Profile, Bio, and Past Work
This is your opportunity to introduce yourself. Think of it as your portfolio. Your Tapas profile (if you have one) will show any existing comics you have, and therefore your ability as a comics creator. In your bio, mention what you’re about, what kind of work you usually do, or whatever relevant experience you may have in creating comics. You are introducing yourself, so treat this as seriously as you would treat a CV or a resume for a job interview. Your first contact should showcase your ability and professionalism!
If you don’t already have work published on Tapas, you could put together an online portfolio, using a deviantart, tumblr, or personal website. Show only your best work. A few amazing pieces that you feel are representative of your work is better than many pieces that you consider not as good. Another option is to include your Patreon, if it is successful, to show that you have supporters who are willing to pay for your work. Take advantage of this chance to present yourself in your best light!
Now that you’ve shown them who you actually are, let’s talk about the pitch. Any article about writing pitches will tell you that a pitch must be BRIEF, and to the point. One to two pages is ideal. Because pitches are so short, they are deceptively simple. It’s easier to write 50 rambling pages of any idea than it is to distill all that down into 1-2 concise, interesting pages.
Since it must be short, every line is precious real estate. Every sentence should serve a purpose. If there’s something that takes up two sentences that could be said in one, try and condense it. Keep it exciting, and try to use words that capture the same mood as your comic. You never, ever want to bore the editor. If it’s boring, you’ve lost before they’ve even begun.
You can have complicated backstories for each of your characters, you can have world-building to rival the Silmarillion - but none of that matters in the very beginning. The pitch is a straightforward presentation that gives the whole feel of your story in a short amount of time.
This is the premise of your story, the core elements of what it is about. Keep it 2-5 lines. It should be quick and snappy. It would be appropriate to put a logline here. A logline is a 1-2 sentence snapshot of what your story about. (You can google famous movie loglines for examples/inspiration; I’ve also included two links about writing loglines at the end.) “Two best friends, both unlucky in love, discover during a treasure hunt that the real treasure is the love they had for each other all along!”
Basically, what happens in your story? What’s the main idea of it? Write it in a way so that people want to read more! Think of this section as your first chance to hook your audience - you want to intrigue the editor/selections committee, so that they want to read the rest of your submission.
The Story Themes
This is the big picture version of your story. What genre is it? What is the mood and tone of it? Is it a high flying space adventure or is it a dinosaur mystery? Is it a creepy ghost romance with moments of slapstick comedy? You can also write what you’re trying to accomplish here: “A poignant story about a man trying to connect with his father told through flashbacks of their time together as they run from the police.”
Have fun with it! Every moment of your pitch should be entertaining to read.
You could also include the scope of your story here. Tapas Incubator calls for one season (24-25 episodes) only. Maybe you have a multi-season story planned in your head- that’s great! However, your first season should still have a beginning, a middle, and a satisfactory ending. It doesn’t have to be extremely specific, just give an overview of what you intend to cover. Remember, you’re painting in broad strokes here. You can go into more plot detail in your synopsis.
The basic plot of season one. The synopsis for Born Sexy Tomorrow linked in the pitch example is very specific; I wrote it after we’d actually outlined the story. Yours certainly doesn’t need to be so specific, but you want to write enough so that the editor can get a real feel for the plot of the story.
Ideally you should have a beginning, middle, and end. Include the main beats of the story. Perhaps you could introduce the setup, but you need to show you know where you’re going with the story. For the Incubator submissions they’re looking for someone who not only has a great story idea, but also a direction for that idea.
And remember, nothing’s set in stone! You, as a creator, can always change the events or details once you start scripting. You can always make changes if you discover that there’s something that works better while you’re in the process of creating the comic. But in this initial stage, the pitch, you need to show someone you can tell a story from start to finish.
Don’t hold back on information here, either. Pitching to a potential publisher is different than writing a synopsis to entice a reader to check out your comic. If there are spoilers or twists that will make your story unique, you want to show them!
The concept art is a visual representation of your story. Here you can include your essentials: character designs, a poster mock-up, anything to convey the feel of your whole comic.
Three to five panels of sequential art. Again, the lines included in the Born Sexy Tomorrow pitch example are pretty polished. Yours doesn’t have to be so polished. The panels can be sketched out. Mainly, what the editor is looking for is your art style, and how you execute your story. You should choose a scene that displays your skills and what you’re capable of; something that you’re proud to show off!
Now that we’ve covered the requirements, how do you grab attention with your pitch?
Look at the pitch as a chance to show off your skills - as an artist and a writer. You want to put your best work up front. In terms of writing, be succinct, concise, and be interesting. That means, whittle your story down to the core elements. It’s harder than it sounds, but it can be done!
Try to capture the flavor of the story in your writing. You want to give the tone of the story throughout your pitch. If it’s an action/adventure comic, make it sound exciting! If it’s a horror story, make it sound scary! And if it’s a comedy, try to make the reader laugh!
You want to write something that makes an editor say, “Wow, that sounds intriguing. I’d really like to see more.”
And finally, edit, edit, edit. Make every sentence count. You have a whole month to submit, take advantage of it! There’s no prize for submitting early! So take your time and make sure you’re representing yourself to the best of your ability.
Every creator dreams about being able to make money off their creation, and the Tapas Incubator Program is a great opportunity for anyone serious about becoming a professional comics creator. This could be the first step to getting your foot in the door in the industry, so make it count. Good luck!!
Two great articles about comics pitching in general:
This first one is my favorite, it's very informative and thorough! Here Comes the Pitch by Jim Zub, who works for Image Comics
"How to PItch Your Comic" written by an editor at 8th Wonder Press, detailing things from a publisher's perspective
How to write loglines: