By Roger McKenzie
Back in the day it was called “making a name for yourself.” These days it’s called “branding.” But it’s the same thing, and often a hard thing to accomplish for newbies hoping to get their shot to break into the professional comic book business.
Unlike many comic book companies, Charlton Neo has an open submission policy. This is both good news and bad news. While it means your work will get looked at, it also means there’s a LOT of submissions. And it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.
So the question is, then, how does a “newbie” make his or her work stand out? How does a comic book hopeful make a name for himself with the editors at Charlton Neo?
1. Do Your Homework! Check the types of comics we do. Look at our webpage. Check out our Facebook pages, Charlton Neo Comics and The Charlton Arrow. A majority of our creators and all of our editorial staff post there frequently. You can get a very good feel for the type of material we’ve published…the caliber of story and art we’re looking for. That will help you focus on ideas or art that are more likely to catch our eye. Since we are anthology-driven, just about any genre is a fit for us. Not just superhero. See if there’s a genre niche or void you can fill!
2. Present your work as professionally as possible. In many cases this will be our first look at you. So make sure you “hit us with your best shot!” Even if your first submission doesn’t quite make it, a professional looking submission still “brands” you as someone who is serious about learning the craft. We’re much more likely to be able to offer you some pointers and encouragement if you are genuinely, sincerely hungry to do comic books!
3. Writers should “pitch” a short synopsis of their story idea. Just a few paragraphs. Pencil artists should send us a few pages of digital sample art. And sequential art is of paramount importance. We need to see if you can tell a story panel by panel. Inkers should send in a few sample inked pages and the original pages so we can clearly see how you embellished the pencils.
4. Put you best foot forward. Not every idea you have or drawing you make is gold, so you need to mine your work for those precious nuggets. Ask anyone who has ever done portfolio review at a convention; they all have stories of artists who lay their portfolios down with an apologetic, “This isn’t my best stuff” or “I did these a few years ago but my work’s much better now.” Showing an editor or art director your work is a job interview. You wouldn’t apply for an office job with an incomplete or outdated resume, would you? The same applies to writers: When submitting to a publisher, show us your best ideas, not every idea. An artist’s ability can usually be judged from a few pages of pencils or inks, but a writer’s talent can’t be discerned at a glance. Asking an editor to wade through an avalanche of ideas isn’t only unfair, it’s just not going to happen. That phone book thick pile of pitches, outlines, and scripts aren’t going to impress an editor so much as depress them. Pick your best drawings/ideas and pitch those. Keep it brief but make it your best!
5. Include a brief cover letter. List any comic book credits you may have. Any work in the business you’ve done. Follow these few simple steps and even if your submission isn’t quite what we’re looking for, and in probably 95 % of the time it won’t be, you’ve still conducted yourself with professionalism. And when your next submission comes in we’ll remember you as one of the serious newbies. You’ll have “made a name for yourself” as someone to watch!
6. Learn to accept rejection. As passionate as you may be about your story or series, not every idea is going to sell. In fact, most will not. Even established professional creators face rejection, probably more often than they have their ideas accepted...sure as heck more often than they like to think about. Even when an editor asks a writer for ideas for a specific title or series, the pro will send in three or four pitch ideas for the editor to choose from...all of which the editor might reject and ask to see more. The hardest truth of all, however, is that not everyone has the creative chops to make it at the professional level. That assessment is nothing personal; think of it in terms of music. Just because you enjoy playing the guitar and have been at it for years as a hobby doesn’t mean you expect to be hired to play with Clapton.
7. And remember, all of us were “newbies” at one time, too. We know exactly what it’s like trying to break into comic books. The hard work, study, and dealing with rejection that are involved in the tricky business of making a name for yourself. Oh. There was another saying back in the day, too. “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”
© Roger McKenzie