The experience of preparing the submission to the Octal catalog of comic pitch packets
Written by Emir Pasanovic
Writing for comics is not easy. I've been doing it on and off for 10 years now, and the last 6 months have been the first real attempt to get noticed internationally. So what changed to make me show off my writing chops to an international audience after having script after script dropped by publishers, artists and just my inner dissatisfaction with what I've written (or the reception thereof)?
Like most things in life, it was a happy coincidence of knowing the right people and finding the right resource at the right time. I met a new (incredibly talented) young artist Milenko Bogdanovic at the end of 2015 and immediately started working on a new story because of his love for robots. His enthusiasm turned it into a much longer comic than originally planned, and as I was thinking whether we'll be able to use it for anything (i.e. get it published), I heard about the Octal catalog giving it a go with a new model of pitching comics (series, OGN) to publishers.
So what does preparing an Octal submission pitch entail? After you go through (skim through, really) the rules in the instruction manual, the hard part begins, and I think it's quite important for anyone thinking about doing this to get a broader picture beforehand, so here is my attempt to do so in three not so easy tips. Shall we?
- Follow the rules!
Comics are a creative industry, but this creativeness is necessarily limited and shaped by rules you need to follow. While there are rules of the genre you have to follow (if you're looking into Octal, you're probably writing/drawing SF or Fantasy), the formatting is crucial here, and it goes beyond what you'd usually expect from a publisher.
Mike Schneider spent years researching and creating a certain standard for preparing Octal submissions to be attractive to a wide range of publishers in the US, and he is serious about what his built. Sure, throw yourself into the comic itself, be original, give it your best with the people you work with, but for the rest of the pitch, follow the rules! If Mike has done such a great job with the templates, follow them instead of inventing your own versions of the same thing. This is something that my designer did and… yeah, created 10 times more work for himself, me and Mike. The pitch and the end catalog is set the way it is, everything outside of that needs to be redone and fixed. Mike won't do it for you, and all the goddesses of the world bless him for his patience in explaining why you've done the wrong thing again. And you're not even the only person he's talking to! Just realizing how much work we've created for him with a relatively simple b&w comic makes you appreciate why it takes so many months to prepare all of the submissions for the catalog, and putting the thing out there.
- Build a good team
I don't think that this can be overemphasized, so bare with me. Your team needs to be professional because you're not just showing that you can do good comics by making this submission. You're also showing that you can do the work professionally and adopt suggestions and criticism about everything in the process.
This generally means doing and redoing stuff, and not everyone can commit to the project for so long. I don't know whether we're a bad example, but Travelers submission pitch took nearly six months, and even working with the one artist, I had to wait for his work for a long time due to technical difficulties, lack of time, Southern depression… and then there was that tiny detail that needed to be reworked, and the cycle restarted.
For someone so young, Milenko received some very important experience, but has a lot to learn. This is why I brought in two more people to prepare the final pitch, both of them comic book professionals that work in France, Serbia and Croatia. Because they have plenty of work as is, they decided not to provide their names in the catalog, but the lettering and minor computer fixes would be impossible without them with deadlines short as they were.
- Follow the instructions!
Comparatively, I had very little to do as the writer, but Mike's instructions helped me immensely too: to better set the tone of the book and the characterization of the heroes, but also making all of the elements of the pitch work to their purpose. As both me and Milenko are non-native speakers, this included extensive explanations about every little part of the submission, which made it even more important to follow what he said!
Another reason for this third and probably the most important piece of advice is that we all have other things to do and other people to deal with. As I was going through some random shit throughout this period, having a committed editor that has an understanding of what publishers want and what he needs us to do (while believing in the story itself) was essential. Now, whether all this work brings us the attention of a publisher (or two) is still questionable; one thing is for certain: we have learned so much, and the next comic will be much better because of that.
You can read the Travelers as well as 7 other packets in Octal Volume 2: http://www.drivethrucomics.com/product/193428/Octal-Volume-2
Octal Volume 3 is now in production. Head over to www.OctalComics.com for the templates and manual. Also be sure to check out the production group on Facebook.