Go Back   Digital Webbing Forums > Talent Engine > Writer Showcase

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 09-10-2009, 02:48 PM   #1
jrod
the moose in the closet
 
jrod's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Arlington, VA
Posts: 1,294
jrod will become famous soon enoughjrod will become famous soon enough

Pitching to anthologies

I have a bit of experience in this arena so I figured I'd start this thread. I haven't hung around DW for some time so for those of you who don't know me, here's my brief bio:

My first comics gig was as the submissions editor (and full editor starting with issue 3) for WESTERN TALES OF TERROR. The book ran from 2004-2005 and was published by a little label called Hoarse & Buggy Productions. Every issue featured a handful of headliners (Steve Niles, Phil Hester, Tom Mandrake, Tony Moore, etc), a handful of up-and-comers, and one story from a previously unpublished writer. We received a TON of submissions every week for the unpublished writer slot and I learned a lot about what makes a pitch good and what makes it...well...unreadable. My second anthology was the Eisner and Harvey nominated POSTCARDS: TRUE STORIES THAT NEVER HAPPENED. For that book I followed the same exact format (with headliners like Harvey Pekar, Tom Beland, and Phil Hester), up-and-comers (like our own Chris Stevens), and one story slotted for open submissions. Once again, the response was tremendous - who wouldn't want to be in a book that had Harvey Pekar and was going to be published by Random House, after all. And once again, my method of telling bad pitches from good ones had improved. As far as anthologies go, I've written for THE HORROR'S OF WAR (available at SPX this year!) and the SHEAR TERROR ANTHOLOGY, both published by little groups with big talent. And I'll be doing a story for this upcoming DW anthology as well - mine is the Pinocchio one from the solicitation.

In addition to my anthology work, I teach WRITING FOR COMICS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS at the Bethesda Writer's Center and I'll be teaching a PITCHING YOU BOOK class at the Arlington Adult Education Center starting in January.

I like to pitch, in other words. And even though I've been focusing more on feature-length graphic novels lately I love, love, love anthologies. So I'll be posting some bits in this thread, answering questions, and offering some constructive criticism on some of the pitches that pop-up for this anthology.

I hope this is useful to some of you. If you don't want me commenting on your pitch because you hate being helped, please PM me and I'll take down whatever I've written.
__________________
Jason Rodriguez
Editor, Writer
http://www.jasonrodriguez.com
jrod is offline   Reply With Quote
Connect With Facebook to "Like" This Thread

Old 09-10-2009, 02:51 PM   #2
Phatman
Midi-chlorians are a lie!
 
Phatman's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Folsom, CA
Posts: 4,347
Phatman has much to be proud ofPhatman has much to be proud ofPhatman has much to be proud ofPhatman has much to be proud ofPhatman has much to be proud ofPhatman has much to be proud ofPhatman has much to be proud ofPhatman has much to be proud ofPhatman has much to be proud ofPhatman has much to be proud ofPhatman has much to be proud of

I pitched half a season for the Anthologies before I got moved down to AA ball. Good times.
Phatman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-10-2009, 03:06 PM   #3
Dan Hill
Potential Scribe
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Worcester, England
Posts: 468
Dan Hill will become famous soon enoughDan Hill will become famous soon enough

One of my biggest weaknesses is pitching or writing a synopsis. I find it hard to cut away the needless fluff and still get the essence of the story across. It's funny because when it comes to actually cutting or fixing needless fluff in a script it feels easy (therapeutic even!).

I look forward to hearing your comments and feedback.
Dan Hill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-10-2009, 04:53 PM   #4
jrod
the moose in the closet
 
jrod's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Arlington, VA
Posts: 1,294
jrod will become famous soon enoughjrod will become famous soon enough

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Hill
One of my biggest weaknesses is pitching or writing a synopsis. I find it hard to cut away the needless fluff and still get the essence of the story across. It's funny because when it comes to actually cutting or fixing needless fluff in a script it feels easy (therapeutic even!).

I look forward to hearing your comments and feedback.
I can't really make any comments on your story since Chris hasn't commented yet and that would be rude of me. I can make some comments on the structure of your pitch, however...

Quote:
SID (a scarred battle android who has seen better days), finds himself in the possession of William T Billington, the worlds richest man. Here amidst his huge collection he spies Daisy, a deactivated entertainment droid. It’s love at first sight. However,Troll, Billington’s mutant manservant warns SID that Daisy is his and his alone. SID, over come with love, is defiant and Troll orders him to be taken away by those who found him. These fortune hunters, unable to tell SID, dump him into the vast sewer network. Here SID comes across strange mutant creatures, caused by the fallout from the Android Rebellion, before being washed out into the ‘Big Stink’. A helpless SID is soon swallowed by a huge mutant whale. Going into hibernation mode SID is shocked to awake hours later,cut from the whale's stomach and back amongst Billington’s collection (which apparently extends to aquatic life too). Just then Billington arrives, ordering all of the droids to be melted down for an art piece he has commissioned. Amidst the flames SID musters the last of his battery power for a first and final dance with Daisy. A week later Billington unveils his commission, a metallic sculpture in the shape of a heart.
Now I know you said you cut this down but this is incredibly long for an anthology pitch. Any pitch for any publication should have a log-line followed by the expansion of your log-line into a "log-paragraph," of sorts, and/or the plot synopsis. For an anthology, you can really cut out the complete synopsis. An anthology story is the log-line, really, because that's all there's room for.

The log-line is your entire story in one concise sentence. It's the most important part of your pitch - if an editor is sifting through hundreds of pitches, the log-line is what gets him or her to say, "Ok, I'll read the rest of this." A lot of times the log-line can borrow well-known themes or characters from other properties ("It's the Godfather meets Star Wars") but I'm really not a fan of that, myself, even though they effectively get the story and themes across. For this project, however, you're supposed to be basing the story on existing properties so you should be using that technique. So, you know, "screw me," right?

The first line of your pitch should have been something like: "A retelling of HCA's STEADFAST TIN SOLDIER, following a decommissioned battle android's fantastic journey to win the hand of an entertainment robot."

Short and effective, that's your story. The rest of the pitch shouldn't necessarily be a beat-by-beat recap of what every single page of your story is going to be, it should expand on your log-line but paint the mood and themes of the piece. An editor needs to make sure the story thematically fits, if it's going to be a fast-paced tale that will counteract all of the introspective pieces on the line-up or if it's going to be a trippy tale to counteract all of the by-the-number, white-bread pieces in the book. We already know what your story is in that one line, now tell us HOW you're going to tell the story.

With my Pinocchio pitch (which, I have to admit, if I knew it was going to be publicly displayed I would have went a touch more formal) I set up my entire story in the first sentence and then expanded on the central idea of the plot and implied that it was going to be more of a quiet parable of meaningless human existence than an adventurous romp. That tells an editor more than, "And then he'll do this and then he'll do that and then it'll end like this."

Dig it?
__________________
Jason Rodriguez
Editor, Writer
http://www.jasonrodriguez.com
jrod is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-10-2009, 05:13 PM   #5
jrod
the moose in the closet
 
jrod's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Arlington, VA
Posts: 1,294
jrod will become famous soon enoughjrod will become famous soon enough

A little more on log lines, I think they work best when they're clever and elegant. You think of Steve Niles' 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, the log line is something like, "It's a story about vampires in Alaska where there're 30 days of night." The editor may need to think about it for a moment but they'll get it and when they do it'll hit them as a fantastic concept. Then they'll give you bags with dollar signs on them.

Now take the same pitch and turn it into..."The residents of ______ are preparing their small Alaskan town for the coming 30 days of night when they begin to notice something sinister is afoot. The cell phone towers are down, people begin to disappear, cars are ravaged, and all communications to the outside world are cut-off. The sheriff locks up a stranger who's rolled into town, one who seems to know what's going on. The townsfolks eventually discovered their town has been targeted by vampires, but it's already too late - there's no way out and sun-ups a month away."

Honestly, if I got the second pitch, I'd probably pass. The pay-off isn't until the very end and it sounds like your run-of-the-mill horror and/or thriller from the start. Even if I read all the way through I'd say, "Oh, vampires, whatever." It doesn't have that same WHAM as the first pitch, where you're forcing the editor to come to the realization on his own, get a euphoric response from it - instead, you're building up to a realization and then spelling it out for him. There's no excitement in that.

So, what I'm saying is, start with the payoff.
__________________
Jason Rodriguez
Editor, Writer
http://www.jasonrodriguez.com
jrod is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-10-2009, 05:20 PM   #6
Dan Hill
Potential Scribe
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Worcester, England
Posts: 468
Dan Hill will become famous soon enoughDan Hill will become famous soon enough

Thanks for taking the time to look over it and hand out some good advice.

I'm going to try and take your advice on board moving forward. I think as well that a lot of it (if not all of it) can be applied to pitches for longer form stories as well.

For longer form stories (when I've been writing practice pitches etc) I've been using a modified version of the template/layout B Clay Moore used for his Hawaiian Dick pitch. I find it really helpful for structuring the pitch and getting the pertinent details down.

But I think the advice you've given here will help me GRAB whoever is reading it rather than just ticking all the boxes synopsis wise.

Thanks!
Dan Hill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-10-2009, 05:53 PM   #7
HouseStark
Registered User
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 220
HouseStark will become famous soon enough

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Hill
For longer form stories (when I've been writing practice pitches etc) I've been using a modified version of the template/layout B Clay Moore used for his Hawaiian Dick pitch. I find it really helpful for structuring the pitch and getting the pertinent details down.
Is that on the internet somewhere?
HouseStark is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-10-2009, 09:53 PM   #8
jrod
the moose in the closet
 
jrod's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Arlington, VA
Posts: 1,294
jrod will become famous soon enoughjrod will become famous soon enough

Tenn/Pitt commercial break, let's do another one.

We'll look at Jamie's LRRH pitch...

Quote:
Set in late 21st Century Detroit. The city has been overrun by a feral mob known as The Wolves. An evolution of a wild street gang, over the last four decades their ranks expanded to include prominent members of the city's community. Their stranglehold has been threatened in recent weeks, however, as the suspected head of the gang has been arrested and tried for murder. The task of transporting this man from the holding cells to the maximum security prison O.M.A. (Offender Management of America) has been given to the private security firm Hood Corps and their flagship armoured truck Little Red. Fending off the expected onslaught of rescue attempts by gang members, Little Red and its small crew arrive at Oma intact, only to learn that the prison is and always has been run by senior members of The Wolves. Things look bleak until Hood Corps' private army The Woodsmen are dropped in. Turns out Hood Corps have a score to settle with The Wolves from the old days. The story ends with both sides engaging, finally re-igniting the turf war.
This one has the same structural problem as Dan's. No log-line, too long, too dry. I don't really know what the story's about - it's an action tale, that's all I got out of this.

But, another thing to mention, and this is important for themed anthologies - this is way to wink-wink. You know what I mean? There's this gang, right, and they're called the WOLVES and they're up against the HOOD Corps, right?

The problem with pitches like these - they're really not retelling the source story, they're telling a completely different story and slapping iconic names onto the main categories.

What's Little Red Riding Hood about? It's about deception and heroics. Where are any of these themes in this story? The iconic characters, the sly wolf and the frail grandmother and the naive Riding Hood and the heroic Woodsman - where are these characters? I don't get them out of the pitch.

So it's a pitch for a different book, fitted for this book. That's how it feels, at least, to me.
__________________
Jason Rodriguez
Editor, Writer
http://www.jasonrodriguez.com
jrod is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2009, 09:33 AM   #9
maverick
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 1,658
maverick is just really nicemaverick is just really nicemaverick is just really nicemaverick is just really nicemaverick is just really nicemaverick is just really nice

in my experience, there's no "pitching" for anthologies. You have a finished story, show them. They either like it and publish or they don't. the end.
maverick is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2009, 09:49 AM   #10
chris stevens
Registered User
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: philadelphia
Posts: 2,405
chris stevens is just really nicechris stevens is just really nicechris stevens is just really nicechris stevens is just really nicechris stevens is just really nicechris stevens is just really nice

well, maverick, no offense, but your experience really isn't holding up here.
and i would advise anyone reading this not to follow that 'advice', whether it's for this project or any other project.

good stuff in here, thanks, jason.
__________________
my comics journal

http://www.digitalwebbing.com/forums...ad.php?t=77661
chris stevens is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2009, 10:56 AM   #11
jrod
the moose in the closet
 
jrod's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Arlington, VA
Posts: 1,294
jrod will become famous soon enoughjrod will become famous soon enough

Quote:
Originally Posted by maverick
in my experience, there's no "pitching" for anthologies. You have a finished story, show them. They either like it and publish or they don't. the end.
Well, first off, I'd like to know what anthologies you're talking about. Some smaller books certainly take full story submissions and most books will at least look at a full story but, as an editor of past anthology that has has many conversations with editors of other anthologies most people prefer to deal with pitches, first, just to make sure the style and story fit the theme of the book.

And, in reality, all of this is moot because for THIS book Chris wants pitches.
__________________
Jason Rodriguez
Editor, Writer
http://www.jasonrodriguez.com
jrod is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2009, 11:48 AM   #12
maverick
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 1,658
maverick is just really nicemaverick is just really nicemaverick is just really nicemaverick is just really nicemaverick is just really nicemaverick is just really nice

Quote:
Originally Posted by chris stevens
well, maverick, no offense, but your experience really isn't holding up here.
Not exactly sure what that's supposed to mean, but you come across as a total prick.

I have in fact had 11 shorts published in various anthologies, and three have been picked up to be reprinted in another anthology.

I'll use Negative Burn as one example. Joe Pruett, Desperado's editor, won't consider anything unless it completely finished, including lettering.

Most publishers want finished material before they make any commitments.

I always assumed it was because eager and flaky creators get all riled up and pitch some great idea but fail to follow through, leaving many a published to get burned once it's time to actually go to print.

I sat in on Zenescope's panel at Wizard World. Even they said that they require at least one fully completed issue before they will even consider picking up a title or not.
maverick is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2009, 11:59 AM   #13
jrod
the moose in the closet
 
jrod's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Arlington, VA
Posts: 1,294
jrod will become famous soon enoughjrod will become famous soon enough

Tackling this one because Chris really, really wants a Santa Claus pitch.

Quote:
Even in the future, time travel is still quite impossible, so when a lunatic arrives in town claiming to be from both Earth's distant past and it's not so distant future, the stranger is quickly locked away. Officially, he is held under the authority of section 122.5 of the penal code, also known as the Insanity Clause. The stranger claims to have witnessed first hand a disastrous blizzard that is about to strike the town. Since weather modification had long ago banished snow storms, hurricanes, and all other types of unpleasant weather to the annals of history, no one believes him. As the doomsday that he has predicted draws closer, the stranger escapes, and with the help of a young boy, embarks on one final, magical, midnight adventure to save the town. In the end, the stranger simply fades away.
I think the structural issues still apply to this one, as well - I don't really get the pay-off until the very end. But from a content perspective, I don't entirely get why this needs to be a Santa Claus story. Santa Claus is a character of compassion and magic but it's generally applied to more material items in almost every version of the character, that's the hook that people get.

I will say this about the content - the time travel idea is fantastic. When I was a kid my parents told me that Santa was able to deliver presents to all of the kids across the world because time was meaningless to Santa, he lived outside of time. It's such an elegant explanation, and it fits in well with the outlawing of time travel. Imagine a future where time travel is barred but there's this mythical immortal that uses it regularly to bring happiness to children and hope to impoverished people. You set up this totalitarian future with the one bright spot being hunted down every year because he violates time travel codes - that story is money honey.

So, what I'm saying is awesome set-up, probably better executions. Think about it.
__________________
Jason Rodriguez
Editor, Writer
http://www.jasonrodriguez.com
jrod is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2009, 12:03 PM   #14
jrod
the moose in the closet
 
jrod's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Arlington, VA
Posts: 1,294
jrod will become famous soon enoughjrod will become famous soon enough

Quote:
Originally Posted by maverick
Not exactly sure what that's supposed to mean, but you come across as a total prick.

I have in fact had 11 shorts published in various anthologies, and three have been picked up to be reprinted in another anthology.

I'll use Negative Burn as one example. Joe Pruett, Desperado's editor, won't consider anything unless it completely finished, including lettering.

Most publishers want finished material before they make any commitments.

I always assumed it was because eager and flaky creators get all riled up and pitch some great idea but fail to follow through, leaving many a published to get burned once it's time to actually go to print.

I sat in on Zenescope's panel at Wizard World. Even they said that they require at least one fully completed issue before they will even consider picking up a title or not.
That's probably true but I still think a lot of editors would appreciate a pitch before saying, "OK, let's see what you got."

Of course, I'm talking about circumstances where there's a pre-established relationship with the editor which, again, in this case is what we're dealing with.

Even when working with headliners on the books I've edited it always started with, "Here's my idea." And I only worked with people I knew would get the job done and there were deadlines for script, roughs, etc - we've dropped or delayed people in the past if they weren't going to get things done in time.

I think for themed anthologies, particularly, pitching is an important part.
__________________
Jason Rodriguez
Editor, Writer
http://www.jasonrodriguez.com
jrod is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2009, 12:07 PM   #15
jrod
the moose in the closet
 
jrod's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Arlington, VA
Posts: 1,294
jrod will become famous soon enoughjrod will become famous soon enough

Also, I think another key difference for a book like this (and for my preferred style of editing, too) is that Chris is bringing artists on board and pairing them with appropriate stories. You have to admit, this makes it easier for the writer and, at the same, time, allows Chris (and I guess Nick, who's helping with the art editing) structure the book to fit their visions.
__________________
Jason Rodriguez
Editor, Writer
http://www.jasonrodriguez.com
jrod is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -4. The time now is 03:37 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.11
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions Inc.
© 1997-2015 Digital Webbing, LLC