How Do I Submit Written Work to DC?

I don't know. I only know how I did it, and that every breaking-in story I've ever heard about in this industry seems to have played out in some unique and unpredictable way.

That said, there are a few basic rules you need to understand.

That means that if you send them a script they didn't ask for, they have to throw it away. The same is true, technically, of their freelancers. The issue here is the potential use of uncredited material. If you send me, or an editor at DC, a script about Batman, and we read it, and then even accidentally use one of your ideas in a story we publish, you could theoretically sue DC. Best way to protect against such suits? Refuse to read unsolicited material.

Okay, so how do you get them to solicit a proposal from you?

You kind of need to ask them to. And that means:

There are a few different ways to do this:

a) send a query letter

b) make contact with an editor online or at a convention

c) befriend somebody in the business

d) spill coffee on someone entering 1700 Broadway, and hope for the best

I advise strongly against the coffee business, and there's nothing I can tell you about befriending somebody except that:

There is NO excuse for contacting a pro in the industry to ask about breaking in without stopping to spellcheck your letter. You know that old saying "you only get one chance to make a first impression?" Well, it's absolutely true. If you send me a letter about wanting to break into the industry as a writer, and you can't manage to use proper grammar or punctuation in your email, I'm going to have a hard time taking you seriously. Look, I admit it - I can't spell. And frankly, public schools being what they are in America, my punctuation is probably a bit shaky at times, too. But if I'm trying to sell someone a script, and have them buy it from me on the assumption that I'M A WRITER - or even if I'm approaching someone for advice about being a writer -- I'm thinkin' this is a DAMN good time to make it look like I'm fully literate in the English language. This may seem like an obvious point, but I get about four letters a week to the tune of: "i want too work in comix and your one of my favurite righters how can i brake into dc!" When possible, I always look up their AOL profiles in the vain hope that they'll prove to be, say, nine, but, mes amis, these letters come from forty-year-olds just as often as they come from teenagers. Understand, I'm not mocking illiteracy - I'm just noting that writers are expected to be linguistic experts. Put your best foot forward every single time you reachout (and don't mix metaphors!).

Oh, and now may be a good time to note; excuses, in and of themselves,are unprofessional. Don't have an automated spellcheck? Get a friend to lookover your letter. Don't have any friends? Make one. When you submit a proposal,or even ask someone about how to go about breaking in, you're asking for a JOB. Keep that in mind.
Okay, so say you have online access (which you apparently do if you're reading this) and you're almost ready to send a query letter out. If you have AOL, you may know that DC editors frequently attend scheduled online chats. Once you find an editor you're interested in pitching to, casually ask him or her in an IM or email if it would be all right if you submit teda pitch. There is a lot of weekly chats online, and that's a perfectly acceptable way to get editors to know who you are.

Next, you want to read DC's submission guidelines. There are very clear instructions there for what they're looking for, and I have two things to say about this: first of all, BELIEVE THEM. They didn't just make that stuff up just to amuse themselves. Secondly, you're trying to sell them something, but that doesn't mean that you have to come across as an arrogant know-it-all. Believe it or not, they know more about creating comics than you do, no matter how long you may have been a fan. They don't need help "fixing" continuity "problems," and if you have an obvious "solution" to an ongoing "enigma" there may well be a very good reason why they've never taken a character in the direction you're about to propose. Comics is a business, and no matter how dedicated a fan you maybe, and no matter how much you may know about the medium, YOU DO NOT FULLY UNDERSTAND THE BUSINESS. The editors at DC just may have a thing or two to teach YOU about what can and can't be accomplished in corporate mainstream comics. A touch of humility won't hurt you. In other words: they would rather hire someone they can teach than someone who's going to "fix everything" for them. Approach with respect.

Okay, now, since you need that pitch to be so pithy, I think it's acceptable, and a good idea, to include a separate cover letter (no more than one page!) explaining who you are, any concrete publishing experience you can offer them, and your contact info, etc. and then a one to two page pitch. Make sure your contact info is on the pitch, too, in case it gets passed around (just use a header with your name and number or some such) and this sounds silly, but don't be afraid to really SELL your hook with all the tricks --bigger fonts, everything. We're starting from the assumption that you have a good idea, so now you have to sell that idea. Comics may thrive on great ideas, but they're sustained on product. PRODUCE something.

Once you've sent something out there that you're proud of, you just have to wait (or, better yet try some different companies, approaches, and pitches). As I've said before, breaking in is really difficult - one of the hardest hurdles to get over is simply finding a character to work with that isn't already "in development" (a vague term that can mean anything from "another writer's in the middle of a miniseries with this character right now" to "an editor likes that character's name and told everyone else to stay away from him,"). It's unbelievably frustrating to hear that an editor liked your pitch, but "that character's in development, so you'll have to try again. "Which reminds me: chances are, you're not going to break in with a Superman or Batman pitch, every pro in the industry has ideas and projects lined up for those characters. Try to find a character that no one has done anything with for awhile (or invent one of your own!). For instance, the ten Titans on the new team that I just set up? Forget them. They are all "in development" now. They may appear in miniseries of their own (and, of course, many of them will continue to appear in their already established core books) but chances are, me or a friend of mine will be writing those minis. Basically, I have an "agenda" for those characters now, so not only would you have to convince the editor your ideas were good, you'd have to convince me and my entire posse. That's just the way it works.

But persistence counts, so hang in there.

My last note for the day: just because you love comics, don't think that you have create them. Personally, I advise against it. Nothing will make you hate comics faster than working professionally in the industry. It's extremely hard work, with amazingly horrific deadlines, and it's much more political and corporate than most fans can imagine. Not to mention, it's the only industry I can think of where over half your fans think they can do your job better than you can - not always a fun group to work for. I get the sense that a lot of fans want to work in comics primarily as a way to "legitimize" their hobby. Examine your motivation. This kind of work can be terrifically rewarding, but it WILL change the way you feel about the medium. Maybe you're better off just relaxing and enjoying being a reader.There is absolutely no shame in that.

In any case, good luck! 

-Devin Grayson
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