Nail Your Next Comic Pitch In 60 Seconds Or Less
September 7, 2016
by Gabby Pietrzykowski and Ed Williams
Let’s talk about this pitch thing.
This is, more often than not, the first impression anyone gets of your story. And a great one is what editors hear and want to publish and what the public wants to purchase. So it’s definitely a time to say something—and say it well.
But how do you do it?
How do you masterfully pitch your comic’s story to captivate your listening audience?
Don’t Try To Pitch the Entire Story
60 seconds or less.
That’s all you got boss.
Or think of your pitch in the context of a tweet—140 characters or less. You’re giving us a taste, not the entire course. That right there is going to help you narrow your focus. That’s gold. Write that down on a sticky note and immediately start working on your pitch.
Give us a taste of your story, not the entire course.
60 seconds sounds like a short amount of time, but trust me —it’ll feel like an eternity trying to fill that space with words. Good words at that. I’m grateful every single time for the “or less” part of that rule. You don’t need to bog us down with fluff or information. We can only handle so much.
And I can guarantee we’re going to start losing interest, especially if you start name-dropping all of your alien races that have absolutely no relevance or importance to us. Just avoid that altogether. Because when I attended HeroCon in Charlotte a few months back, it was painful to have to sit through pitches and get bombarded with character names I cared nothing about. And places that meant nothing to me.
I want to feel something when I hear your pitch. I want to be taken on a journey. And that’s not as hard as it sounds.
Use the Power Of Emotion
Your pitch should elicit an emotional response.
I can guarantee we aren’t going to respond to the different plot points, twists and acts like you think we will. You have to tap into something greater. And that ‘greater’ you have to tap into is your story’s heart and soul—that core message that’s going to accompany us on the journey with your characters.
It’s your job to tap into our emotions to elicit an emotional response to your story.
Please—Don’t Do This. Don’t Pitch Your Story On the Strength Of Established Stories & Properties.
I’ve already made this mistake. Now you get to learn from it.
Do not—by any means—pull from established stories and properties to sell your pitch. It’s going to rob it completely of ever generating an emotional response.
The last thing you want to do is compare what you’re producing with something your audience already knows. We know Iron Man. We know The Dark Knight and Game of Thrones. So the metaphors that bring these films or TV shows up aren’t going to engage your listener like you think it would.
Don’t believe me?
Start pitching your project on the strength of an established property and watch how quickly people disengage.
If they wanted another Iron Man or Game of Thrones story, they’d catch one of those films, comics or books. They don’t need your spin on it. And that’s what you need to avoid.
Look at what I pitched when I launched our Kickstarter in 2011:
We are committed to delivering a journey as epic as Lord of the Rings, as immersive and character-driven as Harry Potter, and as dynamically layered and told as The Dark Knight.
Like—what is that?
It’s a crutch. Depending on the work of established properties and stories to carrying your own means there’s a gimp leg somewhere in your story preventing it from standing on it’s own. Mentioning other properties speaks of unoriginality, and that’s something you need to avoid like the plague.
Give us something new, something interesting—something we may have read before, but written or presented in such a way as to make it new.
Trust me. We aren’t reinventing the wheel here. Superheroes have had their day being tied to politics and social commentary (Speedy on drugs, anyone? Or hell—the X-men? Talk about real world influences), but our pitch, as you soon will see, makes it fresh, new and relevant.
Also Avoid Recycled Elements From Other Stories
This also makes your pitch weak. It’s a cop out. By no means does this mean to not use pieces of other stories in your own, but your pitch isn’t your story. It’s the 60 seconds or less you get to bring someone along with you on a trial run of your story.
The Wrong Way To Pitch
“Arclight’s first book is about heroes coming together like Marvel’s Avengers property. The leader is like an Iron Man-figure, a grandfather of the universe, and he’s responsible for assembling this team like Frodo did the Fellowship. They ultimately face a big threat, and much conflict spawns from that fight. We are going to have team conflict like they always have in The Avengers films because our characters go through things too, they aren’t just superheroes all the time.”
If I lost you, that was intended.
That pitch is a culmination of everything I said not to do. It’s weak. It’s tired. It’s uninspired and unoriginal. You’re not letting your story stand on it’s own merit. And what if the person you’re pitching to doesn’t know those properties, then what?
So let’s avoid this.
If this is how you’ve been pitching, that ends today. I want you to nail your pitch. I want to see you win. So let’s look at what it takes to do that.
Tap Into Your Story’s Heart & Core Truth
Picture it: you and I are at a comic con. You walk up to my table and ask me what my story’s about and what the characters are like in the Arclight Universe.
Can I ask you a question?
What would you do if you woke up tomorrow and you could fly?
Or maybe walk through walls?
The world feels the same as it did when you went to sleep, but everything’s changed because of this . . . power, if you want to call it that.
And you’re not the only one this has happened to. Your significant other keeps disappearing, phasing in and out of existence while your downstairs neighbors can’t figure out why your leg is phasing through their ceiling and their 5 year old is running around on fire yet unaffected by the flame.
What do you think is going to happen to us now that people can phase through walls? Predators have no limits to where they can go, and criminals can level buildings without dynamite. Guns become the least of our concern. Because in a world protected by alarms, locks, doors and keys, in just the course of a night, we’re now all living in what feels like glass.
We’re going to explore the human element and condition in this new world; a story about the world we now live in that’s gone from fearing terrorism and gun control to humanity evolving to a point where the nature of our evil ways are amplified with no restraint. And we’re going to show how ordinary people who have extraordinary abilities have to sacrifice themselves to keep everything from falling apart.
If your story doesn’t have heart, you’re going to have a hard time pitching. It’s your obligation to make sure your story has heart.
Much better, right?
Could you see the world as presented by this pitch? Were you able to imagine yourself in such a world, with powers and no idea how to use them? Could you feel how terrified or scared you’d be if criminals can now level your house or phase right through your front door?
This is what you have to do.
You have to bring your audience into the story with phrasing and questions that gets them to think, to feel and connect on an emotional level with your pitch.
And there weren’t any genres mentioned.
Genre Is 1% Of This Pie. The Other 99% Is the Story.
Don’t try to sell your story on the strength of the genre either. You need to sell your story to your audience in order to get them interested in the product. Your pitch needs to be flexible and draw on the audience’s reactions instead of trying to make them feel something you dictated.
Leave the genre out. Don’t rely on genre to carry your pitch. So no—It’s a sci-fi thriller mystery mashup—is needed here.
Now Put It Altogether
Use your pitch to get to the core of your story. Let it be a glimpse into the heart and soul of your story. Engage your audience. Let them make their own emotional connections. And it doesn’t matter who you’re pitching to—an investor, a janitor, whatever. You still need a well-executed pitch to draw them into your story.
There should be a takeaway. A little something that remains in the wake of your pitch to keep your audience interested.
And remember: think in terms of a tweet. 140 characters—30-60 seconds to immerse your audience in your story. Don’t bring popular stories in to do the work for you. That’s lazy. And we don’t do lazy here.
But most importantly, don’t sit around and wait an hour before you arrive to a comic con or somewhere where you know you’ll be pitching to put it together.
You need to be working on this thing now. And as you work, rework it to hit that emotional level. Write it down. Record yourself. Practice it. Reword it.
Keep iterating on it until it’s solid.
And if you ever see me at a con, pull me to the side and say: I got a pitch for you to hear.
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