Research, Research, Research – Distribution What Is the Best Way to Submit Projects to Diamond?

A column article by: Ace Masters

Part One: WHAT NOT TO DO

My last two columns were about "What Diamond Can Do for You?" and "What Can You Do For Diamond?" While these subjects are important, they are also moot if you don't take the all-important next step – you must submit your project to Diamond.

My last column ended with this Burning Question: "What is the best way to submit projects to Diamond?" This question will be discussed and answered in both this column and in the following column. Why two columns, you ask? Because there are two schools of thought that need to be discussed: What not to do and What to Do (otherwise known as "How to Submit").

In this column we will cover what not to do, as the hope is that by doing so, you'll avoid some unnecessary mistakes.

You wouldn't think that submitting something to Diamond would be that difficult a thing, right? After all, information on how and what (at a minimum) to submit to Diamond can be obtained at their website by clicking on this link.

That's really all you need to know. Right?

Yeah, right.

Of course it's not. There is much more to know than what Diamond has on its website, even though that's probably your best starting point. For example, the following first paragraph from the "Getting Starting" page on Diamond's site (located here) states that:

"First impressions can truly be lasting impressions. A complete, professional submissions package could mean the difference between a standard listing, a Spotlight in Previews, or editorial coverage in Diamond Dialogue. Conversely, an incomplete or unprofessional submissions package may not provide us with the information we need to carry and market your product successfully."

This is followed by links to samples of the kind of materials and information they want from you. These are very important and need to be studied.

The "Getting Started" pages do tell you what they want to see. However, there are two things those pages do not tell you: What not to do and What to Do (How to Submit).

What not to do and What to Do (How to Submit) are two very important points to consider. Because the subject of "what not to do" is a lengthy one, we'll go over that now, while the whole question about "what to do (how to submit)" will be covered in my next column.

WHAT NOT TO DO... OR, THE BEST WAY TO GET THE WRONG TYPE OF ATTENTION

What not to do is equally as important as following Diamond's guidelines and creating "A complete, professional submissions package."

The first thing you need to remember in what not to do is this: do not be haphazard when you get your submissions package together. Instead, be careful when creating your submissions package. A stellar presentation can go a long way and may even get you personal consideration if the project itself is lacking. But if you have a poor presentation, you may have a stellar project that Diamond will have a hard time paying attention to, and that hurts your overall chances.

Even the tiniest of things can set the prospective business partner (in this case, Diamond) on edge and make the company believe you are not someone to do business with.

A good reference to start with is any version of The Writer's Market Guide. Focus on the section regarding query letters. This section breaks down both good and bad query letter approaches. Why is this relevant? Because it gives example of what people look for with regards to submissions and what they don't.

Ideally, while there are a number of things not to do, there are three main things to consider:

  1. Do not approach with a bragging attitude.
  2. Do not whine.
  3. Do not send in a poor presentation.

Let's break these down:

Do not approach with a bragging attitude.

Approaching a business partner with an attitude of braggadocio will not help you; instead, it's one of the likeliest things out there to gain you a quick rejection. In other words, being a braggart may only earn you Diamond's standard rejection letter. So don't do it.

Do not tell Diamond how you are going to change the industry forever, or revolutionize it.

Why? Diamond hears this from every new publisher, yet no publisher has ever "changed the industry forever."

Besides, why would you think Diamond wants any changes? While the industry is hurting, Diamond is still the "top dog." Odds are that Diamond wants to keep the industry just as it is.

Next, don't brag about how much money you will make or how many issues you will sell. Don't tell Diamond about how they have found the "goose that laid the golden egg" with you. Yes, Diamond wants to know they will make money with you, but don't tell them "you'll make millions." Diamond hears this all the time, and it never happens.

Don't tell Diamond how great you are and how Diamond would be privileged to do business with you. Don't act like you know more than Diamond, either. Any of that sort of behavior will get you nowhere.

While this next example sounds silly, some new publishers have actually approached Diamond with the pitch that they "will be the number one publisher within a few years and put DC and Marvel out of business."

What? Do you really think this would endear a new publisher to Diamond? Why would anyone think Diamond wants Marvel or DC out of business?

And this next may sound really silly, and perhaps even stupid, but people approach big companies like Diamond, along with other publishers, editors, etc., with this kind of attitude every day. In the course of running Masterpiece Comics, I received numerous submissions that started with, "this is better than anything you have published." As a publisher, why would anyone want to take a submission from someone who insults him right off the bat?

So why would Diamond want to take a project from someone like that, either?

Remember this well: no matter what you do, do not brag.

Do not whine. Or be self-indulgent, either.

This one is somewhat controversial, depending on how you want to define the word "whine." When submitting a project to Diamond, or anyone, it is fine to say things like "This is my life's work (or Dream)." However, keep that sentiment short and sweet; don't expand on it.

Don't write a page on why it is your dream, how your family loves everything you do, how everyone tells you how great your work is and that you're bound to make it big. Don't write your life story, then try to convince Diamond to carry your title.

This is considered, at best, mushy. At worst, it's sentimental – maybe even "whining" – and is unprofessional. It is definitely not what Diamond expects, or wants, to hear.

To be blunt, Diamond doesn't care about your dreams, what your family thinks, or how many people you know say that you're going to be a big star. If you spend your time telling Diamond about your hopes, dreams and how badly you want this rather than what you're supposed to be discussing, the project, you'll find the rejection pile fairly quickly.

Do not send in a poor presentation.

While it can be debated as to what makes a "complete, professional submissions package," what makes a poor presentation, or poor submissions package, should be common knowledge. Unfortunately it isn't, and poor submissions are made every day and rejected. Most of these poor submissions usually suffer from the two above-mentioned points (bragging, whining), from incomplete submission packages, and a poor – or missing – cover letter.

This is your chance to shine and impress, so you need to put your best foot forward. A cover letter that does exactly what is mentioned above (bragging or whining, being self-indulgent), comes across as poor and unprofessional. Avoid this.

The other problem with cover letters is that some packages are submitted without a cover letter. You can do this and not be considered unprofessional, but it doesn't help you, either.

A cover letter is the ideal way to do two things: give some info on your project or product and tell Diamond how to contact you. (Yes, before you ask the question: direct info about the project and how to contact you are far more important than telling them all about you, the person.)

(Cover letters will be covered in greater detail in my next column, "What is the best way to submit to Diamond - Part Two - What and How to Submit.")

But the biggest problem for you is that of a poor presentation. This usually is because the presentation isn't complete, or because of sloppiness.

Per its website, Diamond wants specific info. Give Diamond that info. All of it!

Diamond wants this for a reason, and it's not just to make you jump through hoops. So if Diamond wants something, send it – this can only benefit you in the long run. Diamond wants to see a complete book, but if that's not available, Diamond needs to see the art.

Do not send in five or six pages and let Diamond know that more is "available if Diamond is interested." They won't be. Diamond is not going to go to you looking for your submission.

Instead, if you have the first issue to a mini-series or ongoing series completed, or a graphic novel; send in that entire first issue or graphic novel. Even if it is only copies of the art, do that. If it is inked and colored, send in the colored piece. Remember, send the full issue or graphic novel.

Sloppiness is another issue, and the easiest to take care of. Do not shove everything loosely into an envelope; this is never good. It should be organized, nice and neat so the person reviewing the submission can find things easily.

This is not traditional publishing, where staples, clips and bindings of any sort are traditionally frowned upon (though this is starting to change). Diamond has no steadfast rules that state: Do not staple. Nothing like this is on its website, either. So, go ahead and use staples, clips, folders, or whatever works to keep your project neatly organized. Label each page. Staple, clip or use a folder to keep things together and in order.

If Diamond opens the envelope and your package spills out all over the place, or if things are just badly disorganized in the first place, don't think the submissions person is going to automatically take the time to pick up and organize your package for you. They might, but odds are this will already be a strike against you. If they now have to organize twenty-two or fifty pages of art into the correct order, it won't look good. And it won't matter if every page is properly labeled and numbered - this is a time waster. The reviewer's time should be spent reviewing your project, not reorganizing a disorganized, sloppy package.

Time is money. Time is valuable. At any business, time is a valuable commodity. If Diamond's people have to spend their time organizing a sloppy presentation, or going through a presentation that is missing materials, then they might consider your presentation time wasted.

And if you waste Diamond's time, guess what?

While many of the above points may sound silly, people approach Diamond (and publishers and other business companies) like this all the time. Why do you think Diamond knows what they don't want, and what things to look for that will get your project in the reject pile in record time?

At any rate, this is only a jumping-off point. You need to go beyond what is listed here. Consider that you are Diamond. Think about what you would want to see, and what you would not want to see. Make a list of both. Keep to that list, if there is something you would not want to see, avoid doing that.

Okay, that is what not to do. What about what to do? How are you supposed to successfully submit a project to Diamond?

That is the Burning Question now, isn't it?

Until next time,

Ace.

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