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Submissions Thoughts

Sometimes I'll dig into the slush pile (that is, the stack of submissions I have next to my desk), and as luck will have it, the first few submissions I read will push at my particular cranky-causing buttons, and I'll have to stop reading submissions for a little while to get back into a more open frame of mind. I realize that every company and editor has different tastes and preferences, so you don't want to take my particular prejudices as universal. But here they are, for those of you considering submitting:

1. Twenty-something loser guys who have lame jobs and lamer love lives, unless there is something more to them. (Daddy issues don't count.) Seriously, this kind of guy makes up a good chunk of the protagonists in submissions. Is it a lack of diversity in artists that is causing a lack of diversity in characters? Perhaps. But I think it might just be artists' narrowness of scope. That's a bigger issue than I really want to get into now, though.

2. Comparisons of your work with TV shows or movies in the cover letter.
I have heard the "Big Two" encourage this kind of self-loathing, but I say love the media you're using, dammit.

3. Storybooks in rhymed verse.
(Especially true if the verse does not have any kind of consistent pattern or meter and you expect us to print it in color.) This is a hard sell for us, as well as for you. Think for a moment. How many rhymed-verse storybooks have we published that weren't by artists with whom we worked for some time and who have an established audience? How many of them were in color? When was the last one published? (To the best of my knowledge: Very few, if any. None. 1999; unless you count a back-up story in a prose storybook--then it's 2002.)

4. An incomplete synopsis. You have to tell us how your story ends. A coy question-ending to a synopsis like, "Will Trixie discover the dark secret behind Troy's strange behavior?" does you no favors. And it makes us suspect that you don't know the ending of your story. (On the other hand, don't go crazy; you don't need to include every little detail -- try to keep the synopsis to two pages, single-spaced.)

Another tip, but it's not on the list since it's not a particular prejudice of mine, just a reflection of the current state of the market: Don't tell us about "issues." We're just not very interested in series right now. If you take a look at what we are currently publishing, there are only two creator-owned comics still being published as a series--Nightmares and Fairy Tales (which is ending at issue #23) and Rex Libris. [EDIT: I should clarify: These are the two titles that we are still publishing as regularly scheduled series. We still are publishing intermittently-scheduled comics by some of our established creators, like Dork and Lenore. The market is just in such that it actually seems to be easier to get people to try new artists' work in graphic novel format than in floppy format. It's interesting. Perhaps because it involves just a one-time purchase and the people buying aren't "visit the comic book store every week" sorts of people. Perhaps it's something else. But, right, just to clarify: I mean to say that we are not really considering new series. ] The other series are Disney-licensed comics. You should think of projects in terms of graphic novels.

All-in-all, there are more things that don't trigger negativity in me than do. I'm often impressed with people's creativity, even if their project is not something we decide to publish. SLG welcomes submissions -- most of our new projects come from the slush pile, and we try to give constructive feedback. Read the submission guidelines at our website to learn more.



( 46 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 15th, 2007 01:01 am (UTC)
2. Comparisons of your work with TV shows or movies in the cover letter. I have heard the "Big Two" encourage this kind of self-loathing, but I say love the media you're using, dammit.

Yes, the Big Two love the Hollywood model of "high concept," like my sure-fire hit, "Just Desserts," which is "Silence of the Lambs" meets John Grisham. It's about a cannibalistic serial killer bailiff who kills members of juries who let the guilty go free.
Nov. 15th, 2007 01:06 am (UTC)
"If you take a look at what we are currently publishing, there are only two creator-owned comics still being published as a series--Nightmares and Fairy Tales (which is ending at issue #23) and Rex Libris. The other series are Disney-licensed comics."

And I so remember how much you ridiculed those of us who ~dared~ question you guys for your agreement with Disney. Now you're down to two series, one of which is about to end.

You used to publish original ideas. Now it's all Mickey Mouse.

For the record, I'm much more likely to buy "twenty-something guy in a loser job with loser love life except" books from an independent publisher than I ever will be to buy "Mickey loves Minni."
Nov. 15th, 2007 01:17 am (UTC)
No, actually, we're moving to a graphic novel model. The industry on the whole is. We still are publishing a lot of original creator-owned books, and will continue to do so. But those are just facts that get in the way of your agenda, aren't they?

Anyway, the Disney comics are doing pretty well for us, actually. There are very creative people who work hard to tell new stories with what happen to be Disney-owned properties, none of which have Mickey or Minnie in them, either loving each other or not.

(Deleted comment)
Nov. 15th, 2007 01:25 am (UTC)
I love bunnies.

Nov. 15th, 2007 01:36 am (UTC)
And I know I'm unworthy of a response, but what exactly do you envision my "agenda" to be? I know I'm just one of the unwashed masses who can't understand what you, the almighty editor, understands as part of your natural superiority, but I can't even figure out what you mean by my "agenda."
Nov. 15th, 2007 01:52 am (UTC)
See my other reply. You seem bent on making the Disney deal a deal with the devil that undercuts our commitment to "original ideas." It's all you ever seem to comment about, so I may be seeing you as being more single-minded than you are.

You also seem bent on attacking me. The sarcasm is just really annoying. Seriously: Engage in a discussion like a civil person. You obviously have some thought that you want to express, and I will try to understand what you mean, but I can't if you continue with this tone, all right?

Nov. 15th, 2007 02:16 am (UTC)
Well, I only comment on the one thing about SLG that really disillusions me. Mostly, I read (passively) for news and tips about what's coming up. I've bought books in the past solely because they were produced by SLG. I've bought merchandise. I'm a fan.

I'm sorry if my judgments of some large Multinational Corporations seem unreasonably harsh or unjustified to you. Since we've never discussed the ethics and corporate practices of Disney, you would have no reason to know why I don't trust them. I'm not interested in airing my grievances with that corporation here. Not only is it the improper forum, I'm sure it would do no good whatsoever. You would disagree. It's enough for me that I have made these judgments for myself and let those conclusions guide my consumer spending.

When I read the above quoted portion of your post, it awoke my old objection to your Disney deal. It sounded as though SLG were moving away from it's independence toward being a publishing arm of Disney Corp. Which is what I feared before. I'm glad I misunderstood the degree of your switch, and that you were only speaking of issue-formats.
Nov. 15th, 2007 01:25 am (UTC)
And, by the way, one of our Disney comics, Gargoyles, is written by the creator of the series. We're lucky to be able to give him a venue to continue to tell stories that were his original idea. We really went about this in a way so that people are working on projects they want to work on and stories they want to tell.

It's really too bad you're so riled up about this while you don't even have the proper grasp of the situation. It's a waste of both our energy to participate this exchange, so I suggest you just stop, if you understand.
Nov. 15th, 2007 01:33 am (UTC)
Well, you're consistently condescending to anyone who disagrees with you. That's certainly not changed. Anyone who disagrees with you is unworthy of their opinion.

I'm glad your Disney deal is making money for SLG. I've always been a fan and supporter of SLG and other smaller publishers, so I'm happy for you.
Nov. 15th, 2007 01:47 am (UTC)
It's not the disagreement with me that is the issue. It's that you do not frame your argument in a rational way that is consistent with facts. It's really difficult to take someone's argument seriously when they're spouting hyperbole and outright incorrect statements at you, you know? And instead of acknowledging that possibly you are misstating the situation, you decide to attack me instead.

I would not be so annoyed with your opinions if they were expressed in a reasoned way and not based on something that is not true or has no nuance. What exactly do you object to about the Disney comics? I would understand, for example, if you said you were disappointed that perhaps artists are putting their personal work aside to work on them--that is completely understandable, and something I think about. Then we could discuss something like the balance a working artist has to make between personal work and paying work and the conflict between idealism and pragmatism. But there is just no way to discuss "Disney is evil," Manichean thinking.

In any case, thank you for being happy for us.

Edited at 2007-11-15 01:48 am (UTC)
Nov. 15th, 2007 07:45 am (UTC)
Actually, Ms. de Guzman's being fairly patient with you. You want condescending? How about this: Your knee-jerk, pseudo-liberal jackassery concerning "selling out to The Man" makes you sound like a seventeen-year-old dweeb whose just discovered your first issue of Adbusters and, lacking the ability to reason through arguments for yourself, simply substituted its dogma for whatever opinions you previously held. You're like a Bizarro Steve Ditko, seeing only black-and white in a world dominated by shades of grey. Seriously, grow up.

-Dirk Deppey,
Online Editor, The Comics Journal
Nov. 15th, 2007 03:46 pm (UTC)
Nov. 15th, 2007 04:49 pm (UTC)
You're right. You clearly have the mad skills to be incredibly condescending. I'm sure it suits you well in your vocation. My favorite part is how you "quoted" me as saying something I didn't say. Neato.

Best Editor Ever.

Sheesh. Didn't know Disney had it's own religion and Legion of Angry Zealots. You guys win the interweb.
Nov. 15th, 2007 06:03 pm (UTC)
Actually, I despise Disney, which in no way prevents you from being totally wrong.
Nov. 15th, 2007 06:25 pm (UTC)
I can't believe I'm still playing this game, but I'm curious. "Wrong" about what exactly?

I admitted that I misunderstood the original part I quoted - that SLG is not down to just two titles not Disney (which sounded wrong when I first read it and scared the crap out of me.)

So what am I "wrong" about? And are you the person who posted anon above? That's unclear.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 15th, 2007 06:14 pm (UTC)
Re: doh!
The issues thing is still so new that we know it's not artists' faults if they still are thinking in those terms, so it doesn't bug me ... YET! Muah ha ha. If we want to work with them, we just tell them that we're interested but we want their project to be a graphic novel, not a series.
Nov. 15th, 2007 03:11 am (UTC)
1. Twenty-something loser guys who have lame jobs and lamer love lives, unless there is something more to them. (Daddy issues don't count.) Seriously, this kind of guy makes up a good chunk of the protagonists in submissions. Is it a lack of diversity in artists that is causing a lack of diversity in characters? Perhaps. But I think it might just be artists' narrowness of scope. That's a bigger issue than I really want to get into now, though.

In fact, if I never see this concept anywhere ever again, in any medium, that would be super.
Nov. 15th, 2007 03:40 pm (UTC)
4. An incomplete synopsis. You have to tell us how your story ends. A coy question-ending to a synopsis like, "Will Trixie discover the dark secret behind Troy's strange behavior?" does you no favors. And it makes us suspect that you don't know the ending of your story.

Hear hear, well said.
Nov. 15th, 2007 03:45 pm (UTC)
Just to add to what Jen said...

When submitting, please have a passing familiarity with the publisher you are presenting your work to. Don't pitch 50-issue superhero epics to companies like SLG or Oni. I can't emphasize this enough.

I once had a guy come up to me and ask me what we were looking for. I told him anything but superheroes or vampires. I swear to God his next sentence was, "Well... I have this superhero vampire pitch I really want to leave with you." All he did waste waste his and my time.

Know the company you are pitching to. It helps.

Randal C. Jarrell
Nov. 15th, 2007 03:57 pm (UTC)
No more comic book series?

And I was all set to finish up Milk and Cheese #8 next year.

Oh, well. Is Lenore canceled, too?

Nov. 15th, 2007 06:19 pm (UTC)
Oh, shoot. I should make that more clear up there -- I was referring to regularly scheduled series, those that are published quarterly. The "no more series" probably should be "no more new series." Lenore and Dork and Milk and Cheese are ... let's say "intermittently scheduled." More importantly, you and Dirge have an audience who wants to buy your floppies. Trying to get people to pick start reading a new series by a new artist is, for some reason, near-impossible.
Nov. 16th, 2007 10:38 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I was wondering if there was something I should know when I read that too. Thought maybe it was like the Haunted Mansion thing where somehow I was no longer involved.
Nov. 16th, 2007 11:21 pm (UTC)
I honestly don't know what you mean about Haunted Mansion. But if there's something bothering you, it's probably something to speak or write to Dan about privately instead of in a comment on our blog.
Nov. 15th, 2007 04:13 pm (UTC)
"1. Twenty-something loser guys who have lame jobs and lamer love lives, unless there is something more to them. (Daddy issues don't count.) Seriously, this kind of guy makes up a good chunk of the protagonists in submissions. Is it a lack of diversity in artists that is causing a lack of diversity in characters? Perhaps. But I think it might just be artists' narrowness of scope. That's a bigger issue than I really want to get into now, though."

God forbid if Neil Gaiman ever had to submit to SLG. The majority of his protagonists seem to fall into this category...

Nov. 15th, 2007 07:02 pm (UTC)
I was kind of impatient with what's-his-name, the protagonist of American Gods, but at least he'd been to jail--being a criminal is a step beyond being just a loser!--and was haunted by his dead wife. The protagonist of Neverwhere (I can't remember these guys' names for some reason) at least had a girlfriend. Most of the time these books are a guy going on about how he can't even speak to a woman for twenty pages or so.

I admit I get a bit frustrated with the "normal, boring guy meets incredibly odd and alluring chicky" model of storytelling, too. I think Death: The High Cost of Living really fed that in the comics world.
Nov. 15th, 2007 10:14 pm (UTC)
Actually, I thought the having gone to prison bit would augment the "loser" part;p I might add that in evey one of these stories the key is character development through ordeal and interaction with catalyst characters. The beauty is that you CAN take an everyday guy and transform him into something different by the end of the story. I used Neil Gaiman as an example because he is obviously a sought-after comic author whose stories would automatically be excluded through the application of the above rule. The same applies to Peter Milligan, Garth Ennis and....Will Eisner:O
Nov. 15th, 2007 10:38 pm (UTC)
Harsh reality lesson: Neil Gaiman is Neil Gaiman. Joe "read my comic about a guy who can't talk to chicks" Blow is not.

I think most people are sensible enough to understand that "unless there is something more to them" can cover a variety of situations. I am giving people leeway to use their own judgment, which is perhaps a mistake because it seems that they tend to interpret a lot in a very either/or absolutist way. Good lord, this is not a legislated "zero tolerance" law.

In any case, I do think, no matter who is doing it, that it is an overused writing trope to start out with a loser guy and develop him "through ordeal and interaction." And if someone isn't sophisticated as a storyteller yet, they might not have the skill to pull off that particular kind of story. Most of the people who submit to us are just starting out and they do not introduce anything interesting or hints of development about their loser guys soon enough to get one interested in their story.

Also, I am interested in seeing what kind of stories might be told if artists do not fall back on this standard character type, famous big-name writers as well as neophytes.

Nov. 15th, 2007 05:25 pm (UTC)
i liked the end where you stated "we try to give constructive feedback." a few years back a boyfriend of mine has submitted to you and i beleive you insulted him. As i remember it correctly you said it was obvious that he got his inspiration from Jhonen which didn't make sense seeing as the copy right date pre-dated jhonen's work published with you. Also the main character being based on mostly me. I did agree with other points you made about the writing being shotty and not flowing. but as a suggestion i wouldn't insult or tend to assume to much in your future "constructive feedbacks."
Nov. 15th, 2007 06:26 pm (UTC)
Without any specifics, I couldn't comment on this particular rejection, but I know we do reject an awful lot of submissions that we think are too close in style to Jhonen's or Roman's or Evan's work. If it pre-dated Jhonen's work with us, it must have been a long time ago, since Johnny is ... gosh, almost twelve years old now, so if it was that long ago I really couldn't comment on it, as I've been working here for six and a half years.

Edited at 2007-11-15 06:27 pm (UTC)
Nov. 15th, 2007 05:49 pm (UTC)
I got handed (inexplicably) a small handful of SLG submissions the one year I was in San Diego at the SLG booth and I'd have to advise (not that I'm any expert), well before any of the things Jennifer mentions: READ THE GODDAMNED DIRECTIONS. There're only nine items there in the guidelines. If you can't read and complete those nine instructions, why would a publisher believe you to be capable of pulling off a project in any sort of professional manner?
Nov. 15th, 2007 05:50 pm (UTC)
(That's me in the comment above BTW...)
Nov. 15th, 2007 05:57 pm (UTC)
... and regarding missygoddess above: I obviously don't know what went on in her/her boyfriend's particular case, but in my--albeit limited--experience, most folks who ask for "feedback" on their work don't really want _feedback_ at all; they want to be told that their work is just fabulous as is.

Even feedback whose tone you don't like can be valuable. Pre-SLG, I submitted something to NBM and got a _scathing_ critique of my work... and you know what? They were pretty much right on all counts. Instead of getting pissy about it, I took it as a good indication of skills that I needed to work on.
Nov. 15th, 2007 06:20 pm (UTC)
Wow. Alot of hatred can be brewed when someone is merely trying to help.

I plan on submitting a graphic novel to SLG possibly in the very near future and after reading this post I have a better grasp on how to properly go about it. Thank you for the info, Jennifer.
Nov. 15th, 2007 07:24 pm (UTC)
THANK YOU!!!! ^_^
Thank you so much for the advice for submitting stuff to SLG. I didn't know that you were going to print all the new ones in graphic novel form instead of individual issues. It makes sense though, as a consumer, I tend to just wait and buy the bound collections. So thanks for the tips! I love reading any advice for submissions you have to give! And I think it is great that you actually take the time to write back and say what was wrong with someone's work if it doesn't get selected. I mean, who wouldn't want to know how to improve their work? Thanks again!! ^______^
Nov. 16th, 2007 02:20 am (UTC)
I must admit the "issues" uh.. issue in this post did catch me a little off guard..

Like everyone else in the world, I'm working on a new comic.
and i was planning it out in a strictly issue to issue fashion.

But with only the slightest bit of reflection your words make a lot of sense, as a large chunk of the comics i purchase these days come in the form of graphic novels or collections...

Thanks for the food for thought.


Nov. 16th, 2007 10:59 pm (UTC)
Just in case you change your mind about your rules: I have a totally awesome idea for a series about a 20-something loser, slacker, goth wannabe, dweeb who is totally in love with a goth vampire grrl who totally doesn't even know he's alive. It's called "BITE ME!" and here's the twist: the 20-something is the son of Locksley1138, famed Robin Hood of Space. The 20-something, whose name is Kevin, is a Libra and his favorite color is blue. I would need the series to be published half-fortnightly or quadra-semi-thrice monthly (it's important to the story). If SLG can't publish my epic can you find an artist for me? I need a writer too. Thanks in advance! :)

Mr. S. Saavedra (Art Director, SLG Publishing)
Nov. 17th, 2007 07:54 pm (UTC)
Wow. There sure are a lot of bitter wannabes watching this journal.
Nov. 18th, 2007 05:52 pm (UTC)
Is there a deadline you'd like submissions by? I have a few brewing that I'd like to believe don't fall under any of the advised against columns and just wondered how long I had.
Nov. 19th, 2007 06:38 pm (UTC)
Nope, no deadlines. We read submissions year-round.
Nov. 28th, 2007 06:32 am (UTC)
Just one question, if it's alright :)

Does the last point indicate that SLG will no longer be considering series in the old, 20-30 page, comic-book format and only publish in the graphic novel format?
Nov. 28th, 2007 06:27 pm (UTC)
Yes, we much prefer a graphic novel to a series.
Nov. 29th, 2007 03:45 am (UTC)
Okay, Thank you for the reply :)

Are there any specific reasons you prefer graphic novels over a series ?
Nov. 29th, 2007 06:30 pm (UTC)
Market reasons, as I state in the original post. Series don't sell well for us anymore.
Nov. 29th, 2007 02:17 am (UTC)
Oh so graphic novels are now wanted. Interesting.

I have a few questions though. What exactly is a rhymed verse story? I've never heard of that before.

For the synopsis letter, I've looked around and for the most part people say synopsis letter should be simple and to the point. I know that you guys say that you want it less then 2 pages, but should how detailed is "too detailed"? I always get stuck at the rough draft of the letter. I need a little more than a over exaggerated response(No sarcasm or impolite attitude implied.)

Also, I have a question about being original. This is an issue dealing with a comment I have read here on this journal. I know it's been quite some time since being compared to these people are even possible, however, there is an issue all over the net over copying Jhonen Vasquez and Roman Dirge. I guess it's a personal issue for I've been compared to artists quite a bit, but I didn't really see it as an issue until I realized that you in fact do reject a lot of heavily inspired comics. Now, I understand why you don't accept them, but it's a concern to a lot of artists. I apologize about pin pointing these two artists, but people are mostly compared to them versus others. I already e-mailed Dan or you about this concern before to see a better insight, but I never got a reply back (Probably because of my e-mail).

It seems like I shouldn't really be concerned because I should be confident that mine isn't close to anyone else's work, but I can't help but worry. I know it's mostly the fan's problem, but do you have any word on this? It's better safe than sorry.

Thank you on the advice to those who are trying to submit comics. It helps me out a lot.
Nov. 29th, 2007 06:28 pm (UTC)
What exactly is a rhymed verse story?

It is a story in rhymed verse. Like Dr. Seuss.

but should how detailed is "too detailed"?
That's hard to answer very specifically. Most of the time, people get bogged down in the intricacies of their world-building or character development when they write synopses that are too long and/or just dead boring. Try to think as if you're telling a story to a friend and you don't want them to say, "Jeez, would you get to the point already?" Give the points of the plot that impel it forward.

As for originality, everyone needs to find their own way to developing their own style and voice. A creative person's influences always show in their work, but if you broaden your influences, you can makes something that is different from what other people are doing with their own influences. Draw from life, too. Don't draw the same stuff you're good at drawing over and over again. As you draw more and widen your scope, you'll go a long way in developing your own style that people will be hard-pressed to compare to other people's work -- though that always will happen, and it's something that artists need to learn to deal with. Take what sounds reasonable and learn from it, shrug off what does not.

Nov. 29th, 2007 09:45 pm (UTC)
Thanks, that helps. So I am guessing the good ole vague summary on the back of books isn't good enough. I was just wondering what "professional" meant. From my definition of professional, I may have thought to make it boring. Looking at it as though I am telling a friend gives me a much better idea.

Well, I do draw from life all the time. I guess I get a little over paranoid about my work.

I really appreciate the help
( 46 comments — Leave a comment )


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