Before You Get Started:
Graphic novels combine words, art, and design to make a compelling story. Because of this, graphic novel pitches–also known as graphic novel pitch packages–tend to be more visual than their prose counterparts. Before we get into the contents of graphic novel pitch packages, we first have to understand several factors that could influence what to include:
- Are you pitching as an author, author-illustrator, or author and illustrator team?
If you’re an author-only, you probably won’t have illustrated spread samples, but are more likely to have a completed manuscript.
- Do you have previously published works?
Graphic novelists that have created notable past publications can usually pitch fewer materials because they’ve already established themselves as being able to finish a book.
- What are the agent’s or editor’s requirements?
Agents and editors sometimes have different requirements for what to include in a pitch package. They also represent specific genres or age groups, so it’s important to know if your story meets what they represent.
Please keep in mind that pitch package requirements can vary per agent or editor, so it’s always good to check their MSWL (Manuscript Wish List), Query Manager (the website many agents use to manage pitch submissions), social media, and their personal or agency website before submitting anything.
Now that we understand expectations, let’s dive into what a graphic novel pitch package needs!
What to Include in a Graphic Novel Pitch Package:
Graphic novel pitch packages tend to include the following:
- Title page
- Overview (logline, comps, target audience, synopsis)
- About the creator(s)
- Character bios
- Script and/or Outline
- Sample illustrated spreads (for illustrators or author-illustrators)
- Bonus items! (see below)
Book covers with catchy titles grab readers like title pages grab agents/editors. If you’re an illustrator or author-illustrator, I would recommend illustrating your title page. Because the preview image in an email shows the first page of your pitch packet, it’s good to leave a positive first impression.
This includes a quick logline, comps (comparison titles), target audience, format, and a synopsis.
A quick 1-2 sentence pitch about your story. This should tell the reader who your protagonist is, what happens to them, the central conflict, and what makes your story unique.
A good rule of thumb is to use the following formula:
[protagonist] + [inciting incident] + [protagonist’s goal] + [central conflict]
Here’s an example of my logline for my debut graphic novel, CRAMMING:
“An overachieving girl’s school, soccer, and family life is thrown completely off-center when she has to wear a scoliosis back brace.”
- Comps (comparison titles)
Generally, this includes books that are similar to yours in genre, theme, targeted audience, and/or content. It’s typically recommended to include books that have sold a lot of copies in the past 3-5 years, although some people may include television, movie, or video game references too. Comps play a role in payment advances, so it’s important to include them!
- Target Audience
Includes your age range (middle-grade, young adult, etc.) and genre (memoir, fantasy, etc). If your target audience is a part of a specific community or niche, it might be good to reference that as well.
This is generally about 3 paragraphs long and should give the agent or editor insight into your book without spoiling the ending. Think of this like the back cover of a book: what’s your book about and what would make the reader want to know more?
- Format (not required, but helpful)
- Approximate page count
- Page size (includes trim and margins)
About the creator(s)
Talk about yourself and why you’re the right person to tell this story! Sometimes, people might break this part into several sections:
- 1) Author Bio
Make sure to list any notable past publications, pertinent writing credentials (such as a degree in creative writing), and connections you have to the book’s content. I would also recommend adding a photo or illustration of yourself here.
- 2) Inspiration
Why are you the best person to tell this story? For my middle-grade graphic novel CRAMMING, my main character struggles with scoliosis so I included my family’s experiences having scoliosis in the inspiration section.
- 3) Author Links (if applicable)
This includes a link to your website and social media accounts. If you have a large following, platform, or other notable marketing funnels, this is where you could talk about that too.
(+Settings are optional)
Give a brief description of your characters that’s pertinent to your story. If you’re an illustrator, add some illustrations of your characters here. You might also include a description of your settings, especially if your book takes place in a fantastical world that’s relevant to your plot.
Sample Illustrated Spreads
For author-illustrators and illustrators
An editor once told me that they “skip everything in the pitch package and go straight to the sample spreads.” This section of your pitch package is one of the most important because it blends all the elements required of a graphic novel: dialogue, style, pacing, paneling, and more!
- How long should it be:
Agents and editors tend to have different requirements for how many finished spreads to show for this but in my experience, I had 10 full-color sample pages for the pitch package that got me an agent and 15 sample pages (2 full-color, 6 inked, and 10 thumbs) for an editor. I know some publishers only require 6 full-color pages based on your experience, so take a look at their guidelines to determine how many you should have.
- Where to start in your story:
I’ve often been told that starting from the beginning of your book for your sample pages is preferred however, sometimes doing a later scene in your book might help pitch your story better. No matter which direction you go, make sure that all of your pages are sequential.
Manuscript or samples of a manuscript
For authors and if applicable, for author-illustrators
How long should a manuscript be:
When I pitched to agents as an author-illustrator, I had 15 pages of script but when I pitched to editors, I had none. Some editors like to work from a manuscript while others like to work from a detailed outline.
- Author-only: I’d recommend having a full manuscript handy.
- Author-illustrator: I’d check if the agent or editor you’re submitting to has requirements listed anywhere. I’ve seen some agents say a minimum of 2-10 pages, a chapter, or the entire manuscript for debut author-illustrators.
Remember, an agent or editor can always ask for more pages if they need more to make an offer! If you don’t have more, be honest with them. I once had an agent request a full manuscript when I was querying. When I told her I didn’t have one, she offered representation without it!
How should the manuscript be formatted:
This is another hot topic within publishing. Unlike film, there aren’t global standards for writing a graphic novel script.
- Authors: If you’re an author, it’s important to write a script an agent, editor, and illustrator can understand. Usually, it’s suggested to have a panel breakdown to show you understand the format, but this isn’t always required. A good template you can use if you’re starting out is the Standard Comic Script template.
- Author-Illustrators: If you’re an author-illustrator, you have a little more flexibility with your script because you’re working from it and don’t need to instruct someone else to draw it. Because of this, author-illustrators can often get away writing their script without a panel breakdown.
It’s important to note that every agent and editor has their own preference when it comes to manuscript formats! In general, as long as you have a story that’s captivating, agents and editors are willing to work with you on your preferred way to write a manuscript.
A detailed outline lists out everything that happens in your story. Unlike a synopsis that typically only covers some of your story, your outline is where you want to tell everything (including your ending). Some creators might write the outline with paragraphs, while others use bullet points. I also know some people who will break down the outline by acts, chapters, or timeline/location.
Length of outlines can vary, but I’ve heard a lot of editors prefer around 5-6 pages to give them time to go through it. When I first pitched to an agent, I had a 1-page outline but when I pitched to editors, I had around 10 pages.
Bonus Items (if applicable)
If you’re working on a series, you might want to consider adding a paragraph explaining what your next book could be.
Mood board or artists:
Some authors might include mood boards or illustrators they want to work with to give the agent/editor a feel for their story.
Some people might discuss marketing channels they can tap into when the book is launched. For example, if you’re a librarian or teacher, perhaps you can share your book in school events.
I like to have a contact page at the end of my pitch package so an agent can contact me or an editor can contact my agent. Oftentimes, they are sifting through hundreds to thousands of queries and submissions, so having a contact page could help them know where to reach you.
Once your graphic novel pitch package is completed, I highly recommend getting it critiqued before you send it out to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. Some ways you can do this are by getting feedback from a critique group, participating in online pitch events such as the Kids Comics Unite Pitchfest, or participating in mentorship programs such as Round Table Mentor. Sometimes, authors, editors, or agents will offer editing services on their website or participate in charity auctions, so it’s always good to explore what option is the best fit for you!
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