Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pitching at Comic-Con

Spotty week of blogging last week. It was a stressful, tired time. I'm feeling a lot more refreshed today. Hopefully, I'll turn that into more writing, here and on the pages of Ciudad.

C.B. Cebulski was just twittering about pitching as a writer at comic book conventions. His point was that you shouldn't get your hopes too high. That's true to an extent, and it reminded me of my experience pitching Union Station six years ago. So... blog post!

The two weeks before the San Diego Comic-Con where I first pitched are a blur of frenzied activity. Of course, I'd been working on the project for much longer... probably about two years by that point. Figuring out the right project, research, writing, etc. I wasn't working on US full time, but I had a lot of energy invested by the time it was ready to pitch.

I knew I wanted to have a substantial, attractive package to distribute at the big show. In the final packet were: one-paragraph description, themes, character bios, marketing, format, longer synopsis, a sample scene with art and lettering, and the complete script for the first third of the book on cd. Putting all that together, including revising and inking the art for the sample scene, was a daunting task, especially since I was dodging my usual inking commitments at the same time. Needless to say, I showed up in San Diego feeling not just anxious, but also exhausted.

I had a handful of publishers in mind - people with whom I had some relationship and I knew would take the packet respectfully. I figured I would find some other people to hand it off to, as well. I tried to get the packets handed out early in the show, before the heavy crowds of Saturday. It went pretty well, as I look back on it. Of course, the reality didn't live up to my naive expectations, built up by the anxiety of the whole process. I had a lot on the line, and I'm not just talking about the work I had invested in the Union Station pitch itself. I felt like all of my aspirations to become a writer were being thrown out there, waiting to be accepted or rejected.

So, I put the packets into the hands of several publishers. I smiled, thanked these men for taking the packet, told them I'd be in touch, and then went back to my hotel room to completely dissolve into a jelly of self-doubt. My ego as a writer had never been so exposed, and I became convinced that, upon getting back to their offices and reading the product of my labors, these publishers would all phone each other and have a big. long laugh at my expense. I vividly remember sitting there in the Embassy Suites bar, thinking it was okay. Of course, no one would want this piece of crap I just dumped into their hands, but that didn't mean it was over. I would publish it on my own. I'd do silk-screen covers, slowly write and draw the Union Station story on my own. I would get it out there somehow. Maybe I wouldn't ever be a professional writer, but I still had options!

Yeah, it was that bad. I don't know what I had expected. I guess there was a little part of me that thought these publishers would glance at the packet and say, "Holy shit... I've been waiting for THE Ande Parks to bring me something just like this! Thank God you showed up to save my company!" That didn't happen, of course. Almost everyone who took the packet, though, thanked me and did as they said they would - they got it back to their office and replied when I followed up a few weeks later. As a quick aside, I still hold a completely petty grudge against those who took the packet, promised to get back to me about it, and then completely blew me off when I attempted to follow up. Kim Thompson and Larry Young, I'm looking at you. See... told you it was petty.

Anyway, this is where my story parts ways with C.B.'s words of advice. In my case, my first pitch actually went over as well as I could have expected. Within a month of the convention, I heard from two publishers that they wanted the book. One of those two was Oni Press, my first choice all along, and the guys I knew pretty well already. I'm still working with Oni, and quite thrilled about it.

So... yeah, C.B. was right in a way. Don't build your expectations up to ridiculously absurd levels. On the other hand, my story demonstrates that, if you put in the work and behave professionally, you can achieve the outcome you're after. I am not the most talented writer out there - not by a long stretch. I just had a good idea, and enough talent to put it together well enough for people to see that it was good. It's a relatively simple formula... not as intimidating as we sometimes make it out to be.

So, get to work, people! But please, don't hand me your crappy proposal at this year's Comic-Con. I'll likely be too loaded to take it seriously.



James said...

Love this post. Would definitely love to see more like it. Keep it up!

Gordon Paul Harries said...

Man, back in the day there was muchos Kudos to Ait-Planet Lar/

Anonymous said...

Dang; sorry, Ande. Pitching at conventions isn't exactly ideal. And it worked out for you, so... yay!