Archive for the 'Publishing a Comic Book' Category

Sep 06 2011

Erik Larsen’s Comic Book Submission Answers

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

If you’re interested in submitting a comic book, particularly to Image, I would really recommend checking out these answers from Erik Larsen.

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6 responses so far

Jul 13 2011

List of Instant Rejections

Here’s a list of submission mistakes that may be instantly fatal to your query or submission letter.

1.  You’ve submitted something in a genre or medium the publisher doesn’t handle.  If you submitted a novel without a major romantic component to Harlequin or a comic book to a novel publisher, you’re dead on arrival.

2.  You’ve submitted a story that isn’t yours.  For example, if your story bears a startling resemblance to something that’s already been published, is fan-fiction, and/or is fan-fiction with the names changed, you’re probably dead on arrival.  Note: Most publishers do not accept unsolicited submissions for preexisting series or licensed works.  When DC Comics needs a writer for Batman or Dark Horse needs somebody for Star Wars, they’ll call authors that have already published notable works.

3.  Your submission was missing something listed in the submission guidelines.  For example, if the publisher asked for illustrated comic book pages but you forgot to include them, you’re dead on arrival.

4.  You submitted a query for an incomplete novel but are an unpublished author.  Finish the novel and try again.  I have not yet encountered a publisher interested in novel submissions from unpublished authors because nobody knows how long it will take the author to finish the novel or even whether the author is capable of finishing the novel.  The publisher can wait.

4.1. You tried submitting an “idea” or a “concept.”  Sorry, but novel publishers only consider completed novels from unpublished authors*.  On the other hand, some comic book publishers will consider partially-completed series (but usually want to see at least one issue scripted).  If you’ve been professionally published, you might be able to query a proposal for a book you haven’t started yet, but even then you’d have to finish it yourself.

*Unless you’re a major celebrity, like a film star or head of state.  In that case, a publisher might be willing to ghostwrite a book for you.

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7 responses so far

Aug 08 2010

Answering This Week’s Questions from Google

Here are some queries that brought Google users to Superhero Nation this week.

  • How do I find out if my superhero story has already been told? Keep reading superhero stories, particularly in your medium (novels, comic books/graphic novels, etc).  Authors that have only read one or two series tend to write original work that reads like fan-fiction for those series.
  • Unused superhero names? When you use a name you found on the Internet, there really isn’t any guarantee it hasn’t been used.  If it’s good enough, someone will use it.  The closest thing you have to a guarantee of originality is doing it yourself.  The second-closest is asking a friend to brainstorm ideas without posting them online.
  • How do I sell a comic I wrote?  I assume you’re trying to get professionally published, rather than self-published.  Check out Nine Surprising Facts about Writing Comic Books.  Also, when you submit to a publisher, you’ll probably include  a page-long submission letter introducing your work and why they should publish it.  When it comes time to write that, I’d recommend reading as many of the articles in the Query Letter category as possible.  How to Communicate with Editors is a good place to start.

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Apr 28 2010

How Long Should Graphic Novels and Comic Books Be?

If you’re interested in length guidelines for graphic novels, please see this LinkedIn discussion. By the way, if you’re interested in getting published, I’d recommend getting on LinkedIn. It’s like Facebook for professionals. For example, right now I’m in discussions with other writers about how best to build up a writing platform to impress prospective publishers. I think it’s even better for comic book teams: I posted a request for feedback on a group for comic book illustrators and received feedback that was very useful and informed.


PS: Based on the graphic novels I’ve seen recently, I think anywhere between 132-200 pages would be publisher-friendly. However! Each publisher has its own preferred length, so check out what they’ve been publishing lately. If your length is significantly outside of the range of what they’ve published in the past few years, I think that bodes poorly for your chances there.


One final note: As a measure of comparison, comic books are usually 20-26 pages of content (not including ads). As always, check out what the publishers put out, but Marvel and DC usually publish at the shorter side of that, compared to Dark Horse and Image.

5 responses so far

Feb 21 2010

Kris Simon’s Top Five Suggestions Regarding Comic Book Submissions

Kris Simon is an editor at Shadowline Comics, an imprint of Image.  You can see her list of submission tips here.

1.  Follow the posted submission guidelines. When editors make these lists, this rule is almost always listed first.  YES, THE GUIDELINES APPLY TO YOU.   Not following them can only hurt your chances of getting published.

2. Don’t overthink things. At Shadowline, you only need to worry about five sample pages (inked, lettered and preferably colored), a paragraph-long synopsis and a cover. Kris doesn’t want more than that because you may need to scrap a lot more work than necessary. Notably, Shadowline doesn’t want the script and doesn’t want a page-long synopsis.

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One response so far

Jan 18 2010

Do Comic Book Writers and Graphic Novelists Need Literary Agents? Probably Not

I haven’t come across too many comic book writers that work with literary agents. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a literary agent for your comic book.

For example, Bob Mecoy wrote me that he’s sold several projects to DC Comics as well as many more to book publishers and their affiliates (such as FirstSecond, Three Rivers, Lerner, Aladdin, and Abrams ComicArts).

So, if you’re absolutely dead-set on selling to Marvel or DC, pursuing literary representation may be a strong option.  Marvel and DC do not accept unsolicited submissions. However, if you have an experienced agent, he may be able to use his own credibility to convince them that your comic book is worth considering.

Here are some other pieces of advice from Bob.

B. MAC: What are some of the most common reasons you pass on graphic novel and/or comic book submissions?
BOB:  Poor storytelling, telling a story that I’ve seen a hundred times before, telling a story “unlike anything you’ve ever seen” which is unlike anything I’ve ever seen because of a series of arbitrary choices, lack of understanding of the market, slavish service to the perceived market, lack of originality, lack of understanding of my taste.

B. MAC: How long does it take you to reject a typical script?
BOB: It takes as long as it takes. If there seems to be something here, I research the category, the writer and/or artist and the comparables or competition before making my final decision.

2 responses so far

Jan 13 2010

Ten Facts About Queries That Surprise Prospective Writers

A query is a page-long business letter introducing your novel or comic book proposal to an editor or agent.  Here is some advice that will help you write a convincing query.

1.  What goes with the query? A novel’s query is usually accompanied by a partial manuscript (~50 pages) and/or a 2-5 page synopsis.  If you’re writing a comic book, you’ll probably send in a cover letter– a page accompanied by some combination of the synopsis, the full script of the first issue and art samples. (Follow the submissions guidelines, obviously).  Cover letters are very similar to queries, so I’ll refer to both as queries for simplicity’s sake.

2. Your main goal is to show that your story is strong and interesting. Do NOT give them opinions like “my book is interesting!” or “everybody I know loves it!” Give them the evidence so that they will conclude the book is interesting. “I’m writing an interesting novel about a detective solving a murder case” is weak. “I’m writing about a poisoned detective that has two days to solve his own murder” is much more gripping. Likewise, if you’re writing a comedy, you need to prove yourself by making them laugh. According to literary agent Janet Reid, “if you tell me your book is a comedy, and the query letter isn’t funny or amusing, you have a big problem.”

3. Most queries include the following: an introductory paragraph/hook, a body paragraph summarizing the work in a clear and interesting way, 1-3 sentences about your writing qualifications, and contact information. Don’t worry too much about your writing qualifications. It’d be nice if you had them, but it’s not a deal-breaker for fiction writers.

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7 responses so far

Jan 12 2010

What do you think about this query letter for Superhero Nation?

A query is a page-long letter used by a novelist or comic book author to interest an editor and convince him that the writing is promising enough that he should spend the time to look at the sample chapters (for a novel) or script (for a comic book). What do you think about this query letter?


It’s been a normal day for IRS Agent Gary Smith, besides the car-bomb.  And the US Marshals threatening to send him on a one-way trip to Alaska.  And the revelation that everybody he knows has a pretty good motive to murder him (even besides the fact that he’s an IRS agent).  His only chance of surviving with his sanity intact rests on joining a top-secret spy agency and partnering with a mutant alligator whose powers of deduction make Scooby Doo look like Batman.

Superhero Nation is a wacky mix of an office comedy and national security thriller.  I’ve enclosed the script for the first issue, five colored and lettered sample pages, and the synopsis for the five issue arc.

My main writing qualifications are that I’m a communications contractor for [AGENCY NAME] and the webmaster for a superhero writing advice website with hundreds of thousands of readers.

Thank you for your time and consideration.  I can be reached at [PHONE] or [EMAIL].



8 responses so far

Jan 03 2010

Nine Surprising Facts About Writing Comic Books and Graphic Novels

1. Marvel and DC Comics don’t consider unsolicited submissions. Fortunately, Optimum Wound has a useful list of publishers that do. If you’re dead-set on working with Marvel or DC, I’d recommend taking a job with them in some other capacity (such as editing, sales or marketing) and then moving laterally into writing.

2. Most publishers won’t evaluate a comic book submission unless it has ~5 illustrated sample pages. This means that a writer will usually need a professional-grade artist friend willing to work for speculative pay, a paid freelancer or the skill to illustrate his own work.  If you don’t know any artists and don’t have $500-750 for a freelancer, I’d recommend submitting to Dark Horse or another publisher that doesn’t require art samples.  However, if you can pull off a competent art sample, it will really help your submission.

3. Pretty much no one considers proposals for licensed works. Do you have an awesome idea for a Star Wars or Buffy comic?  Unfortunately, with licensed works, the publisher will almost always contact the writer it wants to work with rather than vice versa.  Additionally, when they need a writer for a major series, they will hire someone experienced and proven rather than an unpublished author.  Sorry. If you want to write for Spiderman or Batman, you need to establish yourself first.

4. Comic book companies usually buy the rights to the series and characters. In contrast, novel series are almost always creator-owned.  If you really care about maintaining ownership over your characters and stories, I’d recommend looking at Image Comics. Almost all of their series are creator-owned.

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7 responses so far

Nov 27 2009

Marvel and DC don’t read unsolicited scripts– who does?

Optimum Wound has a very useful list of comic book publishers that are accepting unsolicited submissionsMarvel and DC do not accept unsolicited scripts.  (If you’re dead-set on starting out with them anyway, I’d recommend getting a job with them in some other capacity, like editing or sales, and then moving laterally).

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Nov 22 2009

What goes into a comic book submission?

Short answer: usually some combination of…

  1. Script of the first issue.
  2. Synopsis of the larger work (either the first issue, arc or series as a whole).
  3. Sample pages inked, colored and lettered.

For a more detailed look at these three items, I’ll focus on Dark Horse specifically because I think DH is pretty standard.  But always check the publisher’s submissions page.  For example, Dark Horse’s submissions page is here and Image’s is here.

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5 responses so far

Nov 15 2009

How to Communicate with Agents and Editors

When you’re ready to submit your novel or comic book to an agent or publisher, these tips will help you make the sell.

1.  The only goal of your submission is to convince a publishing professional that your novel or comic book is likely to sell thousands of copies. Nothing else matters.

2.  Follow the instructions on their website. Most agents and publishers will have submissions pages that lay out what they want to see.  In most cases, it’s best to provide just what’s on the list and nothing else.  (Exception: if you’re submitting a comic book script, consider submitting some inked or colored pages even if they aren’t required– these pages will help the editor decide very quickly whether your proposal is serious).

3.  Check your spelling, punctuation and grammar. Trying to impress a publishing professional without clean writing is like trying to run a filthy restaurant.  It really doesn’t matter how good the cooking is–customers will run out screaming anyway.  Proofread or perish.  Not many publishing professionals would bet tens of thousands of dollars on an unpolished writer.

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13 responses so far

Nov 09 2009

Making the Sell: A Few Tips on Submitting a Comic Book Script

1.  READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. The instructions take precedence over everything else. If you fail to meet the guidelines provided by the comic book publisher on its submissions page, you are dead on arrival.  For example, you can see Dark Horse’s submissions guidelines here and Image’s here.  (By the way, Marvel and DC don’t accept unsolicited submissions– either they call you because they’re impressed by what you have already published, or you start working for them in some other capacity and move laterally)

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9 responses so far

Oct 10 2009

15 Questions with Bob Heske

Bob Heske is a screenwriter and an award-winning comic creator. Under his “Heske Horror” shingle, Bob produced a critically acclaimed indie horror series called COLD BLOODED CHILLERS and a “best of” CBC anthology coined BONE CHILLER which won a Bronze medal at the 2009 Independent Publisher Book Awards. Bob’s vampire graphic novel, THE NIGHT PROJECTIONIST, is being published by Studio 407 with film rights optioned by Myriad Pictures. 

Aside from being a horror writer, Bob has a funny side having written contest-winning short and feature film scripts. His comedy LOVE STUPID, an independent movie, will wrap by Summer 2010. Bob also writes the “Indie Creator” column for Invest Comics.

In our recent interview, here’s what Bob had to say…

SN: What are some effective and cheap ways to promote an independently published comic book?

HESKE:  The cheapest and easiest way is to set up a free Partners account at and create an e-preview book. My 4 e-previews for my Cold Blooded Chillers issues 1,2, and 3 and Bone Chiller anthology have had over 500,000 hits in 9 months.

Another way is to comb through the bulletins at and read all the ones with “Read my interview/review with XYZ website” — then contact those websites directly to see if they would be interested in reading YOUR book or doing an interview (sometimes you’ll strike gold and get both!).

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One response so far

Jul 02 2009

Which comparable works make for the best references?

When you do a proposal, publishers may ask you for a comparable works section.  Your goal is to come up with similar works that have sold well, so that the publisher can visualize why your book will sell well.  Here are some tips to help you pick references that will go farther in the publisher’s office.


1.  If at all possible, focus on bestsellers. Publishers care much more about finding the next Harry Potter or Spiderman than the next John Banks. In general, publishers will only pick up a project if they think it will sell well, and the most persuasive evidence is that similar works have sold very well.


2.  Please use titles that have sold well recently. Contemporary references are usually more convincing because they suggest where the market is now.  Additionally, a twenty-something publisher’s assistant is more likely to be familiar with a recent title.


3.  Please pick comparable works that have a similar target audience to yours. If the audience isn’t similar, the work probably isn’t all that comparable to yours.


4.  Make sure that the works are well-tailored to the publisher. In particular, I’d recommend focusing on works that have a style similar to what they’re already publishing.  Also, if at all possible, focus on works that are in the same medium (novels, comic books, manga, nonfiction, etc). In particular, I recommend staying away from TV shows and movies because they have a very different business model than novels and comic books do.


5.  Don’t pick a work unless you’re certain you understand why it was successful. For example, don’t try to sell an action-packed book about an inordinately powerful superhero by claiming that “it worked for Dr. Manhattan in The Watchmen.”  That is a horrible misreading of the series.  Over the course of twelve issues, Dr. Manhattan has two fight scenes that span a total of perhaps four pages.  If you cite works you aren’t really familiar with, you might come off looking like an idiot.

5.1. Don’t cite a work unless you’ve read it.  

5.2. Read successful works that are similar to yours.  


6. If your work has any plot elements that are hard to market, make sure you find some bestsellers that have handled similar concepts. For example, if you’re dead-set on selling a book about a retarded protagonist, explain why the success of a book like Flowers for Algernon (or something more recent) suggests that your book will be successful.

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Apr 12 2009

Are you better-suited to write a superhero novel or a comic book?

Many authors here aren’t really sure whether they want to write a superhero novel or a comic book.  Here are a list of factors you should consider when deciding which one will work better for you.

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48 responses so far

Apr 12 2009

Goodbye to Praxis Comics? Not yet, thankfully.

Earlier this month, Praxis Comics’ site had gone down for a few days and I assumed that the publisher had folded. After all, it’s a cutthroat business and their website had previously mentioned some trouble with investors.  However, I am pleased to report that the website has returned with a new design.  (I’m generally fond of Praxis’ art, but I think the design probably uses sex-appeal a bit too blatantly.  Ah well.  That’s pretty standard for this industry).

I also came across Radical Comics.  They don’t accept unsolicited submissions, so I won’t add them to our index of comic book publishers.  But I think they’re worth looking into because they have book trailers for all of their series.

So, if you’re interested in doing a trailer for your comic book (or perhaps even a novel), I think you can learn something from their approach.  Their trailers are striking because they have no narration and hardly any words; they only use wordless images and an instrumental sound-track.  That’s a surprisingly interesting way to present a simpler story like Calibre, an Arthurian legend retold in the Wild West.  It did not work for series with a more complicated setup.  For example, the premise of City of Dust is that fictional stories have been outlawed 100 years in the future.  I don’t feel like the images gave me a good idea of what was going on or why I should care.

2 responses so far

Mar 31 2009

Some Thoughts on Self-Publishing a Comic Book

Robert Scott has an amusing and informative horror story here.

To summarize:

  • He and his artist weren’t working on the same schedule. Make sure that your artist will be to produce quickly enough to meet your deadlines.
  • “Had I put more thought into it, been a responsible business person, I would have never solicited [a distributor] without all of the books being drawn.   If I had done that, I could have died and the books still could have shipped on time!”
  • Planning your story ahead will help you keep production moving at a speedy clip.
  • Missing deadlines screws over a long chain of people, but no one gets screwed as much as you.

One response so far