Illustrated Work or Graphic Novel Proposal Guidelines

If you’ve ever seen a pitch deck for any company, that’s essentially this for your story. Don’t feel like you need to ultra-design it, though that doesn’t hurt. Ultimately, you’re trying to make this feel like a shortened version of a book. Give this your best shot. The more you pour into this, the more agents and editors get all grabby hands over your book. Essentially, make it as pretty as you like.

Though whatever this reference says, do what your agent says once you have one, even if their advice is contradictory to mine!

Basic things to remember in formatting it includes the following requirements:

  • Title page
  • Page numbers
  • Your or your agent’s info (Represented by X at Y Agency, email address, and phone number)
  • Consistent font
  • Once you’re represented, I suggest not using your own contact information (sometimes this stuff can get shared beyond the original editors an agent shares with, so best to have their information; also sets the precedent that this is business and editors should be going through your agent with deal terms etc., but above all do what your agent says once you have one)

Overall Outline of the Proposal

  • Cover
  • Introduction/Elevator Pitch
  • Story/Outline
  • Characters
  • Market and Platform
  • Format and Delivery
  • Creator Bios
  • Sample Pages
  • Additional Art

*Note: this does not need to be the exact line up, feel free to switch things around to your liking, though market and platform, format and delivery, and creator bios are better grouped together and towards the end.

Cover

This is just the proposal cover so don’t feel like this is going to be on the cover of the book and you’re 100% committed. HOWEVER use this opportunity to make an impact! Really wow the editor (and their teams) with a stunning image on the first page. Look at your favorite book covers, posters, and movies for inspiration.

Introduction/Elevator Pitch

This is the hook that keeps them wanting more, start with some short, sweet, but just as juicy! This should include genre, themes, and the central jump start to your story. If you’re trying to sell this book to a random person on the street and have 5 seconds to get them to say they’re interested, then what do you tell them? Themes, tropes, similar titles, etc., can go here, but keep it brief. This is just a quick taste, and you want to keep it under 2 short paragraphs, sometimes even 1.

Story/Outline

A full synopsis from beginning to end of what your story looks like. This can be anywhere from 2-5 pages double spaced (please make sure it is double spaced, editors and their teams have terrible eyes. Make this easy for them to read!).

Don’t leave anything to the imagination or to find out later. The editors who read this need to know the story and what they’re buying. There is no such thing as “no spoilers” in a proposal (or in all of book publishing). Put it all on the page in this section.

If there’s a part of the story you haven’t sorted yet. Talk it over with your friend, writing group, agent, etc., so you can figure it out, but essentially the basics of the story need to be ironclad.

Be sure to include the emotions and motivations of characters in this section, and not strictly plot. You’re storytelling here, not just summarizing. Evoke the feeling of your whole book in this bit. You need both the story arc but also the character arc.

Characters

Here you put your central characters. If they’re crucial to the plot they need to go here. Full character designs, sketches and/or busts of the characters are really helpful in this section. Give us the helpful description pieces and keep these brief like a character card. Name, age, good guy or bad, motives, origin story, gender, pronouns, etc., whatever you feel is necessary and fits your book. You’re going for the basics of the character. You can generally fit 2-3 characters a page in a proposal with their illustration and description.

Market and Platform

This section is most of all talking to the larger teams beyond just the agent/editor interested, and is helping everyone who sees this proposal get an idea for how to position this story in the marketplace and make this story sellable. Embrace your inner girl scout in this section and sell this shit (and it’s okay to ask your friends, agent, creator buddies for help here). What’s going to make readers go grabby hands with this book?

Here you answer “Who is the audience?” You can repeat the one sentence elevator pitch, and be sure to include potential comparable titles, genre, mood, tropes, as well as other piece of media like this book.

Also helpful is to include your platform as a creative, and illuminate for the agent/publisher how you’re going to publicize this book. If you have social media followings, or a newsletter, or a website with regular visitors, this should go here. Especially any numbers you can provide on what those metrics are.

If you have connections to media contacts who would help publicize or review the book, put that too! And if not, just talk about how you’re going to be involved in getting this into readers’ hands.

If this section is hard, that’s okay! Your agent once you have one will be there to help with this.

Format and Delivery

Include the following here:

  • Page number
  • Volume number (if more than one)
  • Size (though it can range, most traditional is 6” x 9.5”)
  • Full color, B&W, or limited palette?
  • When can you deliver the script?
  • When can the final art be finished? *Air on the side of caution here, and give yourself a little more time than you need. This is a whole book and you don’t want to short yourself. Everyone gets sick, needs breaks, and holidays. Try and account for that. Burning yourself out is not worth it.

Creator Bios

Include the basics of who you are, what your profession is, talk more about your platform, and any previous publications or related work. A headshot or drawn equivalent is a great thing to include as well.

Sample Pages

These need to be at minimum 5 (not too many more) pages. These don’t necessarily need to be the first 5, but they should be from early on in the story telling, showcase your main characters and be your best foot forward. It’s helpful to land on a cliffhanger or big “ahhhh! I need the rest of this story now” kind of moment. But what this section is illustrating is that you can pull of paneled work and deliver a whole book given the chance.

Additional Art

Any other sketches, maps, doodles, truly whatever can be scattered throughout. But also placed at the end if it’s feeling a little crowded!