Byron’ Note: Danny submitted this guest article and I felt it was an interesting read. Any views expressed are of the author’s and not of the Webcomic Alliance. Enjoy!
Last week I joined in on a really great Webcomic Chat on Twitter regarding press kits. (If you’re a webcartoonist you should definitely join them or eavesdrop a bit- just search #webcomicchat and follow @webcomicchat for more info).
Since I’d studied press kits heavily and put together a few for our short films, I found it to be an exciting conversation, but there were still a lot of webcomickers asking for more information once the chat ended.
With this post I’m going to put everything I know about creating press kits into one single, massive, all-you-need-to-know article. So here we go… it’s the ultimate guide to press kits for webcomics!
What is a press kit?
A press kit is a document that contains all the important information about your webcomic- an outline of the story, description of characters, bio of the writers/artists, etc. Press kits are typically used for attracting media attention. They’re great to have on hand when you’re submitting your work for reviews, potential job opportunities, or looking for exposure in newspapers & on the radio or TV (alongside any press releases you’d submit).
Do I need a press kit?
- If you’re looking to turn your webcomics into a career and want to gain greater exposure and be taken seriously as a cartoonist or publisher, then yes.
- If webcomics are your hobby/creative outlet and you have no desire to turn that hobby into a career, don’t waste your time. Seriously, you’ll stress yourself out for no reason. Press kits are A LOT of work.
I myself have not created a webcomic press kit because I fall under category 2. However, I’ve done a lot of work with press kits in other areas, and they all follow roughly the same format.
So here’s what you’re going need:
The 10 things you need in your press kit
- A polished cover page with a great image from your comic
- A tagline
- Short description of your comic
- Full synopsis of your comic
- Character information
- Artist’s statement
- Team bios
- Production notes/sketches
- Images from your comic
Let’s jump into it.
1. Cover page
When it comes to promoting your webcomic, this point can’t be stressed enough: strong images are a must!
The cover page is the very first thing someone looking at your press kit will see. If you’re submitting a press kit for media attention, usually this is the only part of your webcomic the journalist will see. You need to draw them in so they feel compelled to read more (and eventually read your actual webcomic, hopefully as soon as they finish looking over your awesome press kit).
Here are a few other things to include on your cover page:
- a) Title of your comic– Self-explanatory I think.
- b) Copyright date, or when the comic was completed– This could be important if you’re submitting your work for grants that may only be interested in new material currently being produced (or expected to be produced soon). It’s also important for media outlets who want to know when you completed a comic. Obviously if you finished a few comics 15 years ago and are still producing new work, they’ll take you much more seriously!
- c) Specs– This would include the page length of your comic (or number of issues if it’s a series), style, B/W or full color, etc.
- d) Contact information– Include your name, phone number, and e-mail address. You can also include your website here, though I would suggest putting that at the footer of every single page of your press kit.
- e) Blurbs – If you’ve gotten any press already, definitely include blurbs on your cover. You know, things like:
“Best comic all year. I laughed myself silly!”
-The New York Times
Those quotes show that your comic has already been validated by someone else, which makes it much more interesting to potential media representatives. But don’t worry if you don’t have blurbs yet! This press kit should help you score a few 🙂
You know how every movie poster you see at the movie theater or online has a witty slogan under the title like “In space no one can hear you scream” (Alien)?
That’s called a tagline, and it’s the second thing you need in your press kit. It should be at the top of the first page, right after your cover page.
Taglines can be tough to come up with, but put some thought into them. Along with your title, the tagline has to hook your audience and make them want to know more about your comic.
Don’t get lazy and write something like “MY WEBCOMIC: An online comic.” Try to come up with something clever. Check out a few examples of taglines from popular movies:
“An adventure 65 million years in the making”
“Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free”
“Trapped in time. Surrounded by evil. Low on gas”
-Army of Darkness
“Sword and sorcery… with a vengeance”
Use these as starting points to come up with your own tagline. Consider the genre of your comic and remember your audience. You always need to keep in mind who you are ‘selling’ this comic to. If your comic is funny, your tagline should be funny too- otherwise you’re sending mixed messages.
Check out these examples:
“A film about the moments that touch us in ways we’ve never been touched before.”
-40 Year Old Virgin
Obviously a comedy. Now try this one:
“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.”
This totally screams out “campy sci-fi horror movie!!” Use your tagline as a hook, and make sure you keep the tone consistent with your comic, otherwise you will confuse or mislead your audience, and that is never a good thing.
3. Short description
Immediately after the tagline on page 1 of your press kit, you should include a short description of your comic. This lets your reader quickly get a sense of your story.
The short description should be no longer than 3 sentences. This is tough for a lot of people, including myself. You want to do your comic justice when explaining it, but how can anyone possibly understand the complexity of your vision in just 3 sentences?
Don’t worry if you can’t fit every detail about your comic into your short description- this is just your hook. You get to elaborate all you want in the Synopsis, which comes next.
Keep your description simple. Who are the characters? What do they want? What is the over-arching plot? What are the consequences if the hero fails?
Here are a few great examples:
“A man with a secret past. A girl who is anything but ordinary. An office building full of idiots. And that’s just the first chapter. Action and comedy come together as two unlikely martial arts heroes deal with the horrors of an office job and the dangers of fighting super villains.”
–Kung Fu Meghan
“A vengeful barbarian warrior sets off to avenge his tribe and his parents whom were slain by an evil sorcerer and his warriors when he was a boy.”
-Conan the Barbarian (1982)
If you’re still not sure where to start, think of the main conflict in your story. When we’re introduced to conflict, we can’t help but want to know what happens next. Tell us who the characters are, what the main character’s struggles are, and for more impact, let us know what happens if they don’t achieve their goal.
Okay. So far you have a kick-ass cover page with a great image and all of your contact info. You intrigued your readers enough to flip to page one, where you again hooked them with the perfect tagline and a short (1-3 sentence) description of your comic.
Your reader now smells the dinner cooking and his mouth is watering. Give him the steak.
There is no word limit for your synopsis. It can be one paragraph or three pages. Use your best judgment and make it as long as it has to be.
The synopsis is where you lay out EVERYTHING that happens in your story. All the characters, all the conflicts, scene by scene, just like it plays out in the comic. Don’t leave out your ending. This isn’t a movie trailer that’s going to spoil it for fans and this won’t be posted on your website. Forget about spoilers. The purpose of the press kit is to let your reader (media publications, potential reviewers, grant application officers, etc) know EXACTLY what happens in your story so they can decide whether or not they want to move to the next level with the project.
If you keep them guessing, they will get irritated. Plus, if you leave the ending vague, and they read the finished comic and find out you were misleading them with crafty wording, you may have just blown your shot. Be completely honest and don’t embellish your synopsis with details that aren’t in the actual comic.
Remember, descriptions written for blogs and websites are not used for the same purpose as a synopsis in a press kit. Online you want to intrigue the reader so they feel compelled to find out more. In a press kit, the reader is already interested; you hooked them with your cover page. That’s why they’re reading this thing in the first place: to learn more. Make sure you tell them everything.
The synopsis should fall on page 2 of your press kit and can continue on for as long as it needs to. Insert a page break after your synopsis and we’ll move on to the Character Descriptions section.
5. Character descriptions
If you have a characters page on your website, you can just copy that right in here. This section gives a quick description of each of the major characters in your comic. It’s best to include an image and 2-3 sentences describing their role in the story.
Not much else to say here, but it’s important to include anyway!
6. Artist’s Statement
This is also something you may already have on your website. The artist’s statement explains why you are making this comic.
You want to show some personality here. Everything in your press kit up until now has been details about your comic, but now it’s time to talk about you. After all, there wouldn’t have been a comic without you, so give yourself some credit.
When writing an artist’s statement, be personable. Don’t act condescending (my comic is the greatest thing since sliced bread, PVP has nothing on me, who needs art school anyway I figured all this stuff out on my own!), and don’t include anything you will regret later.
I’d advise staying away from sarcasm, but that’s just me. Without facial expressions and body language, some readers won’t understand your intended humor. And you know how people are these days… they’ll get offended about anything. Try not to risk being rejected from a magazine write-up because you accidentally offended one of the journalists with a snarky comment that wasn’t even directed at them.
Anyway, the artist’s statement is where you talk about what drew you to the project. Why was this story you chose to tell out of the infinite number of other ones you could have chosen?
Get really personal. Tell people why this comic is important- to them and to you. What was it like putting everything together? Do you have any funny stories about how you raised money for books or came up with the idea? Did anyone go to jail during a publicity stunt gone wrong? What was it like being able to write only on your lunch breaks while working a 9-5 job and then coaching for your son’s basketball team after work?
Let people get to know you, and let them like you. We’re all on your side. We all love to hear about a great artist with an awesome story who made his/her dream come true. So tell us yours. In the next section we’ll get to hear a bit about the people who helped you bring your vision to life… unless you did it all on your own.
7. Team bios
In this section you should include short biographies of the main contributors to your comic. If you wrote and drew the whole comic yourself, this section will be easy!
Depending on the size of your project, you may have a larger team- writer, character designers, character artists, background artists, lettering guy, inking guy, digital composition guy, publisher, layout designer, book formatter, etc.
Ask your team to provide you with bios they’ve written themselves. There is no set limit on how long or short the bios should be, but they should all be about the same length to keep everything looking nice. If your inker writes a 10-page dissertation recounting his entire life story while your character designer only writes “I’m an comic book artist from New York,” you probably need to moderate this a bit and ask for a happy medium.
Biographies don’t need to include things like when people switched high schools or how they used to work as an assistant manager at Subway; keep it relevant. How long have they been working on comics, what other comics have they worked on, what other jobs have they performed in the art/graphic design/media industry? If this is everyone’s first comic, have them play that up! Why did they want to make a comic at all?
Make sure to include pictures of these people, but remember to make them good pictures. Don’t crop your writer out of a picture on Facebook where all of his buddies are hanging around him… all the sudden your editor has six disembodied arms draped around his neck and four of them are holding red cups…
Be professional and use nice pictures that show off the person’s face.
8. Production notes/sketches
These aren’t essential for a press kit, but we aren’t just doing what’s essential, right? We want to stand out! So take the time to add a little bit of flavor to your press kit.
Production notes can be anything from memoirs about what it was like taking long walks to think about ideas to diary entries written during a sleepless night of editing. The great thing about production notes is that they can come from anyone!
The writer can certainly add something, but what if your background artist is a great blogger? I’m sure he has an interesting perspective about what it was like drawing the noh-inspired backgrounds over and over again, so why not ask him to write down some of his thoughts to use in the press kit?
The production notes section can also include any other write-ups you get while working on the comic, like an article in a local newspaper. You could also explain how this comic is the first step in your plan to build a mini-Marvel in a small town in Ohio. Anything related to your comic can be added here.
Now that everyone has giant phones with cameras on them, taking pictures to document moments throughout the creation process is getting easier as well! So add some pictures; show us what it looks like drawing in a tiny basement with a table that has only 1 leg. Add some behind the scenes photos of your writing team sleeping in the office surrounded by papers and coffee.
Even better, add character sketches! Show us what your characters originally looked like, and how much they’ve changed over the development process.
There really are no rules here; this is one of the most open and fun parts about the press kit. You don’t need a lot of stuff, but remember: the only thing your reader knows about you so far is why you’re working on this comic. They read that in the artist’s statement. Maybe they’ve already read your comic, but what did it really take to get that thing made? Throw in some fun stories and pictures so they get to see what went on behind the scenes.
One of the most important parts of your press kit is… Press! Of course!
Your press kit should be a living object, something that is constantly being tweaked and updated as you get new reviews or interviews. Obviously, the final print of your comic isn’t going to change, and unless your writer legally changes his name, there shouldn’t be any surprise updates on your cast and crew list. But the “Press” section will (hopefully!) be changing constantly.
Your “Press” section is where you let OTHER people talk about how great your comic is. I’ve gone over how to get reviews and newspaper articles written about your comic in an earlier later post, but once you start getting those things, add them to your press kit!
As soon as someone gives you a great review, plug a line of it into your press kit. Won an award or grant for your comic book? Add that too!
Even if the reviews are mostly negative, there are usually one or two well-chosen word you can put to good use. Have you ever noticed how movie trailers prominently display a few words from reviews? “Spectacular!” “Incredible!” “Action-packed!”
You and I both know the reviewer didn’t finish watching the movie and blurt out “Spectacular! Best movie I’ve seen all year!” He wrote a review of the film, and ‘incredible’ just happened to be one of the words in it. But did he actually say the movie was incredible?
I don’t know. You don’t know. For all we know, his actual quote was “It was incredible how quickly I fell asleep watching that piece of crap movie!”
The pros do it all the time, so even if your comic is a huge stinker (hopefully that isn’t the case), don’t sell yourself short.
“Success breeds success” is one of the most valuable lessons I have ever learned. Everyone in the comic book industry is looking to find that next big thing… so when you have 10 reviews praising your low-budget independent horror comic, your comic starts to stand out from all the low budget independent comics that nobody has ever heard of. And once you get one review, it is a heck of a lot easier to get a second one.
You can talk about how great your comic is all day long, but in the end, what difference does it make? Of course YOU are going to say your comic rocks; you made it! But once you have OTHER people put their name out there and say your comic rocks, well… then it’s a whole ‘nother ball game, my friend.
10. Images from your comic
Your press kit should be LOADED with the best images from your comic, behind the scenes shots, and concept artwork- this press kit is about your comic, after all! These images are going to hook your reader faster than anything you write. You can talk all you want about how your comic redefines the meaning of blood and gore on paper, but when you show an actual drawing from the book showing a room strewn with bodies and drenched in blood, your argument just got about a million times stronger.
Keep in mind, I’m not advocating throwing in ANY images. You need to have GOOD pictures. If your pictures suck, or look amateurish, then the opposite effect applies: someone reading your press kit will probably think the rest of the comic looks crappy.
Go into Photoshop and touch up the photos to make them really pop. Make sure everything is high resolution; we don’t want blurry or fuzzy photos in our press kits. You can also include captions at the bottom of your photos to make them look really professional.
Include the following:
- Title of photo (in italics)
- Title of comic (“in quotation marks”)
- Writer or artist’s name
- Publishing company or blog name
- Copyright date
That wraps up our press kit adventure. Hopefully you found something useful that sparked a fire in your brain that won’t go away until you create an irresistible press kit to show off to the media and score mad reviews, dawg.
If you need further assistance with press kits or layout, don’t hesitate to contact me or ask for my input on your kit. I’d be happy to help.
Best of luck with the press kits!
Bio: Danny Planet is a writer, cartoonist, and filmmaker living in Philadelphia, PA. He is the creator of Spaghetti Sauce Blackbelts and Prince Ashley and the Magical Crystal Quest. Danny runs the Kung Fu Space Barbarian blog and produces films (mainly in the kung fu genre) for Platypus Underground, Ltd.