Kody Chamberlain is an artist, writer and creator. He created Sweets: A New Orleans Crime Story a comic book series from Image Comics. Sweets came out in July 2010 and is now available in graphic novel form anywhere comic books are sold. Through out Sweets Kody brings us some wonderful story telling with some great artwork.
Here is more on what SWEETS is all about: A spree killer terrorizes New Orleans days before Hurricane Katrina makes landfall. Detective Curt Delatte just buried his only daughter, and he’s in no condition to work. But when the bodies pile up, Delatte masks his grief and joins the hunt through the bowels of the Big Easy. It won’t be long until his city—and his evidence—gets washed away.
Here is my quick interview with Kody Chamberlain:
Comic Booked: How long did you work on Sweets before it got picked up by Image?
Kody Chamberlain: I had the full five issue script written before I pitched anything to Image, it’s about 112 pages total. As for the pitch itself, I sent in what’s normally considered the standard comic pitch: A cover illustration with logo, 6 colored and lettered pages, a single page outline, and a cover letter. The script wasn’t in the actual pitch, it was included as a link where the publisher could download the script as a PDF if they wanted to read it. I’m honestly not sure if they did or not, but it was there just in case.
Comic Booked: What inspired you to create this world you created in Sweets?
Kody Chamberlain: The original idea for Sweets was born from my sketchbook. I constantly jot down little ideas and character notes, and I had the high-concept for the series jotted down in there somewhere. Over time, the idea grew into a basic plot idea and these two main detectives. From there, it took quite a while to work up the actual storyline. Drawing comics takes up an incredible amount of time, so my writing time is limited to a few hours a week.
Comic Booked: Why did you decide to do everything in Sweets? Like the writing, artwork and etc.
Kody Chamberlain: I enjoy collaborating with other creators, but for Sweets, I wanted to test myself to see if I could do every job in the comic at a competent, professional level. I saw this as an opportunity to grow as a creator and to challenge myself, and hopefully, draw some attention to the book because of it. I enjoy stepping outside of my comfort zone and I think that’s really the only way to learn new things. And I learned a whole lot by doing Sweets.
Comic Booked: What advice could you give creators about putting a comic book together for a publisher?
Kody Chamberlain: There are really only a few steps to doing a good pitch.
 DON’T SUCK
Make absolutely certain every aspect of your comic pitch is at a professional level. That includes story, art, colors, lettering, logo, etc. Apologizing for crappy lettering in your pitch is inexcusable. If anything falls short, the pitch will fall short. Take an extra few months to polish your material before sending it to a publisher. I can’t stress this enough. Pound the hell out of that story and make sure it’s original, interesting, and marketable. Push the artwork to make it as good as it can possibly be. Experiment with balloon placement and color pallets. Get feedback from respected professionals in the industry and rework that material again. Take it as far as you can take it because your pitch is your foundation, it’s your key into the door. The publisher will appreciate the work you’ve put into it, and by working your ass off, you’ll discover new things about your material and the project will be better overall because of it. And this is, by far, the step where most pitches fall short.
 CONTROL YOUR PRESENTATION
Your story is now awesome, your artwork is amazing, and your coloring and lettering are flawless. You even have a nice, clever logo. Shooting over a few low-res JPGs to a publisher’s email address is a horrible idea unless you have an established relationship with that publisher. I’m amazed at how many people pitch their material this way. If you don’t have a relationship with that publisher or editor, I strongly suggest you do a professional presentation. If you don’t take your pitch seriously, how can a publisher take it seriously?
For Sweets, I made very nice prints of my finished artwork at actual comic book size. I made some adjustments and reprinted to make sure my colors were accurate. I rewrote my outline a million times to get it tight, exciting, and informative. I set the type for my cover letter with a nice, readable typeface and I used proper business letter formatting. I printed all this out on nice paper, then I took out a pen and actually signed my cover letter. I then packaged it up very nicely and mailed it to Image. Does any of this make the comic any better? Absolutely not. But when I sent out my pitch, I was certain the material was well represented based on my vision for the comic. It looked the way it was supposed to look and it was clean, readable, and easy to understand. By making it actual comic book size, the publisher could see everything in context. The last thing in the world I’d want is for a busy publisher to judge my pitch based on a few images they see on an iPhone with a broken screen.
 DIGITAL VERSION IS A BONUS
And as a bonus, I did include a downloadable PDF version of the entire pitch using a very short link within the cover letter. As I mentioned before, I also made a PDF of my script available. These things do get passed around the office and bad photocopies won’t do you any good. So quality PDFs are a must.
 BE PERSISTENT, BUT DON’T BE ANNOYING
Don’t ever assume you’ll hear back from a publisher. In fact, assume the opposite. Once your pitch is out the door, start working on your new pitch for your new comic project. When you hang out with professionals, you quickly learn how many pitches never get picked up. You can pick any cliché you want, but persistence is the key. Wait a few weeks, then send in a follow up letter or email if you’d like, but never demand a reply, and be prepared to be ignored. Publishers and editors are busy. Their job is to get out the books on their schedule, and your comic book pitch is NOT on their schedule. Therefore, responding to your pitch is not their job. Some do respond, some send form letters, and others won’t respond at all. They’re not jerks, they’re just busy. Move on to your next pitch.
Once your pitch is rejected, focus your rage and your disappointment directly into your next pitch, or focus on revising your previous pitch. If the publisher responded well but thought you had a weak link in the chain, it may be worth replacing that link in your chain and trying again. But be warned, publishers are smart. They will know if you keep sending in the same pitch with a new title. Move on, do new work. After a while, come back to that rejected pitch, shoot it full of lightning, and give it some new life.
[5.b] THEY LOVED IT!
If your pitch took you 8 months, are you prepared to work at a much faster pace without loosing quality? This is where many projects fail and get canceled. The capacity of the creators just isn’t there and they quickly get overwhelmed by the workload. Most of us can generate a good amount of work on inspiration alone, but what happens when the inspiration is GONE and the deadline looms a week from today? So before you pitch, make sure you’re actually capable of generating the work within a reasonable amount of time. If your artist can only draw one page a month, what happens if your book gets picked up? You’re in big trouble. Did you have your entire story worked out before you pitched it? What happens if your six issue miniseries gets picked up and you’re well into issue three before you figure out you have no idea what’s going on? You don’t just wake up and run a marathon, you have to train for it. So start training, be prepared.
On a similar note, I think he toughest skill to acquire in art and in life is an honest self-awareness of your own strengths and weaknesses. I’d say it’s almost impossible to become completely objective about it, but the closer you get, the quicker you’ll improve as a creator. Learning to tap into your strengths and overcome your weaknesses is essential, and most artists fail because they’re not able to do this. Most of the comics and pitches that fail do so because the creator(s) can’t see the flaws, or they’ve ignored their own strengths.
Comic Booked: Are you planning anymore creator-owned comic book series?
Kody Chamberlain: I’m currently writing three new scripts, hopefully I can get started on artwork for the first of those three very soon. But in the meantime, Josh Fialkov and I are re-launching PUNKS at MTV Geek and we’re preparing material for that launch. If we find a good audience for that, it’d be great if we could do an ongoing with MTV. Time will tell.
I know I can’t wait to see what he brings us in the near future. His style of story telling is a new and unique and that makes for some great success. You can catch Kody Chamberlain at a few Comic Cons this year.
Here is the Comic Cons he is scheduled to attend:
How Design Live (June 24) (Actually a graphic design an illustration conference)
Comic-Con International (July 11-15)
Austin Comic Con (Oct 26-28)
For more information on Kody, find him online:
This was a really cool read, talk about breaking it down for all those people trying to get that foot in the door…don't buy any self help books, Kody just showed yeah exactly how it's done!
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