Thursday, December 30, 2010

John Layman on Pitching - CBLDF 12/18/10

Rob Anderson, Panda Dog Press publisher, and writer of Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit, attended John Layman's workshop, The Secrets of Pitching Comics, at the CBLDF offices in New York City on December 18, 2010. Here's his report:

Photo taken by CBLDFSo, what would make me do a *second* road trip from Virginia to New York City just two weeks after the last one? How about John Layman, writer of Chew and former Wildstorm Editor, talking about pitching? Yep, it was time to hit the road once again, so Joe Sergi showed up at my door around 5:00am and we headed north. (Photo at left is from the CBLDF Twitter feed.)

I had already had a "Layman-filled week." (Wow, that sounded weird.) John, along with Rob Guillory, had been a guest at the live, online Comic Creators Workshop Book Club, on Tuesday, December 14th discussing Chew, Volume 1. So I had spent the early part of the week reading Chew and preparing a Powerpoint for the session, and then spent Tuesday night in the discussion. Hearing John and Rob speak Tuesday night cemented that the trip to NYC would be worth it.

The class was held at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund offices, and there were about 15 people attending, which allowed for a lot of interaction. John is a very laid back teacher, checking his outline on his cell phone as he went, and giving us straight talk on how to pitch. He was realistic, open, and clearly had a lot of experience from both the editorial and freelance writer sides of the table. He even shared the actual pitch document he used for Chew, which in itself was invaluable. He also talked mechanics like what should be in the pitch document, where and how to pitch, and even important details about how to structure deals with your collaborators.

What was really inspiring was hearing how he had pursued Chew as a project for six long years. For the most part, it was considered somewhat of a joke amongst his friends and colleagues -- "the bird flu cannibal book." He finally decided he had to publish it himself and everyone thought he would lose his ass on the book (with the possible exception of Image, who agreed to publish it). Considering how successful the quirky and unique book has been, this is definitely one of those stories that any comics creator loves to hear.

It was a great session, and Joe and I once again got a chance to catch up with our Comics Experience colleagues, Dan Rivera, Bill Yurkas, and Janine Frederick in the class. After the workshop, we all had a late lunch (along with Eric Drumm and Christopher Murphy who joined us--all pictured at left), and we even hit Jim Hanley's Universe and did some shopping before starting the long trek home. We made it back by around 11pm; not bad at all.

Bottom line: if you get the chance to attend a workshop like this with John Layman, don't miss it. You'll rarely find anyone who will be more open and honest with you about the business of comics.

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