Comic-book writers and artists who dream of breaking into the industry must find creative ways of getting their ideas reviewed by publishers. As with traditional book publishers, this process can be a daunting one. You will need to be prepared and professional, build up a portfolio, research the specific needs of each publisher, and be systematic in your approach.
Be ready. Ideas may drive this creative industry, but in order to sell one you need to have a finished product. Create believable characters and a strong plot for your synopsis. If you're an artist, sketch story pages and sample work. Once you have created your sample, get critiques by objective outsiders. If possible, gain agent representation. Some bigger publishers do not accept unsolicited material. If you have an agent, your agent will contact these publishers and advise them what you have available. The publisher then can request, or "solicit" your material.
Do your research. Find the comic books that best represent your style to find the best fit. Use the Internet to research different publishing houses to find out what their submission guidelines are. Some allow unrepresented writers and artists to submit, like Dark Horse; and some are only open to artists, like DC Comics, which doesn't accept unsolicited material from writers. Some, like Marvel, will not read unsolicited material at all, and some, like Zuda Comics, only read new work based on competitions. Almost all require you sign a submission agreement of some sort in order for your material to be reviewed.
Specifications can and do change (the above are guidelines as of mid-2010). Contact the publishers for their current criteria. Always know your current market.
Follow instructions. Once you find out what the publishers want, it is up to you to provide it. If they want a synopsis, provide a synopsis. If they want story pages, provide story pages. Each house can have different rules, so don't assume that there is some kind of "one size fits all" criteria, especially since there are so many job titles in this collaborative art. For example,Dark Horse has the following guidelines broken down by job title:
Writers - send a full synopsis in addition to the full script for a short story or eight beginning pages of a full series. Artists - send in roughly five pages of story pages. Inkers - follow the same format as the artists, but you can request sample pages to ink by sending in a 11″x17" self addressed stamped envelope. Colorists - send five pages of sequential art that demonstrates how you handle different storytelling arts. Letterers - submit roughly five pages of story; make sure to demonstrate diversity of balloons, sound effects, font and italicized and bold text.
Often failure to follow these instructions can result in immediate rejection, as by Image Comics, which accepts only full proposals of original material and nothing based on pre-existing Image material. Any writer content such as scripts or synopses unaccompanied by corresponding art will be discarded without being read.
Be professional. Keep your correspondence concise and courteous. Follow the basic standard for business correspondence, and personalize each query for the publishing house in question. This pulls all the previous steps together: you've researched who they are, what they want and how they want you to give it to them. Put your best professional foot forward to ensure you do so. You also want to treat the publisher's time with respect. Be concise.
Be realistic. Just as in traditional book publishing, it is not easy to break into comic book publishing. Look into opportunities where you can work on existing material to get your foot in the door, and learn the business from an insider's perspective. This will also help provide networking opportunities. Comic-book conventions provide good avenues to meet contacts and get your work into the right hands. DC's annual Talent Search, for instance, occurs during the New York and San Diego Comicons. Artists can drop off copies of their work, and DC may ask to see further samples.