A Cautionary Tale For Writers

This post, by Scott K. Andrews, originally appeared on his site on 10/15/07.

or ‘Why I spent ten years being pointlessly annoyed at Neil Gaiman when I should have been doing something useful instead’

Way back when, I was an aspiring comic book writer living in Toronto. I used to hang out with talented and successful people like Salgood Sam and Ty Templeton, and I spent my every spare minute planning huge 100 issue comic book arcs, pitching for this that and the other, and writing spec scripts.

Those were heady days. After one comic con I found myself sat between Alex Ross and Ty, opposite Jill Thompson and Mike Mignola, nattering about obscure English comedy records and “Bal-Ham, gateway to the South!” I felt comfortable and at home, and a little over-awed.

I was briefly on nodding terms with a few superstars of the genre, so it was surely only a matter of time before I got my big break and joined the gang proper.

Surely.

I was cocky, too. I used to cold call editors and pitch storylines to them down the phone. You’d be amazed how successful this approach was. Well, I say ‘successful’, I had some very nice conversations and never got hung up on, which has got to be good, right…?

So anyway, I heard that Sandman, Neil Gaiman’s magnum opus, was coming to an end, but a spin off book, The Dreaming, was in the works. This would feature multi-story arcs by different teams, all set in the Sandman universe. This was a perfect thing for me to pitch to.

I decided to eschew the simple method of writing down a proposal and posting it, instead I cold called the editor of the book, Alisa Kwitney, and pitched to her down the phone.

Alisa was absolutely lovely, and she listened to my pitch, was very encouraging, and told me to write it up and post it pronto. It might be a goer, she thought.

The pitch was in the post a day later. I called her the week after that and, deep joy, she loved it. She actually said to me that it was one of the very best pitches she’d ever received. A few days later, another conversation, and she told me that Karen Berger loved it to.

She was keen to commission the tale, and would be letting me know for definite as soon as Neil Gaiman had taken a gander at the pitch. It was a formality, I was assured, he never said no; she simply didn’t send him things he was likely to reject. I should relax and wait for a confirmation call.

Done, dusted. I was made. This was my big break. I would be writing a story arc for a major book at last.

In the meantime another cold call, this time to the guy editing a series of TV tie in novels, went very well, and he agreed to consider pitches from me once the Dreaming gig was announced, coz then he could sell me to his bosses as a successful comics bod. He sounded very positive and led me to believe that a commission wouldn’t be that hard to secure. Fab. All I needed was the promised confirmation and I’d as good as got a novel in the bag as well. Laughing.

And so I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Three months later I finally got through to Alisa, who sounded a bit embarrassed. Neil had rejected the pitch, she said. Sorry.

What, rejected one of the best pitches you’d ever had? Why? How? What?

 

Read the rest of the post on Scott K. Andrews’ site.

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