I see it constantly.
My comic is “Die hard, meets Night of the Living Dead.”
I know it won’t stop anytime soon, it’s easy, requires no thought on the pitcher’s part, but here’s why it’s less effective than you might think.
#1) Your Interpretation of a Good Story isn’t Their Interpretation.
Actually, someone just did this to me the other day, here’s how it went down;
THEM: “My new comic is the Crow meets Mad Max.”
ME: Oh, so like a love story/revenge tale, set against high-octane, violent car chases.
THEM: No, no, there’s no love story, it’s not about revenge, and there are no cars, it’s about a musician who comes back from the dead in an anarchistic wasteland future and needs to save a band of innocent people from a gang living among them.
Every element that popped into my head, was not present in this dude’s comic.
Let that sink in.
#2) Lack of Originality
By its very nature, if you are describing your story, with other stories, it’s been done before. Sure your execution may be original, but the bones have already been seen. If someone is considering your project, which to some extent has been done, and another–completely new project–guess which one has a leg up.
You know who publishers love?
Creators who make them money…
but next in line, creators who bring original, fresh concepts to the table. Fresh concepts are generally more attention grabbing with higher potential to break out.
#3) Stigmas You Don’t Know About
Ok, it’s “the Crow meets Mad Max“, turns out the publisher your pitching too knows The Crow did bad with audiences in the exact demographic they’re looking to target. Or every Mad Max ‘esque book they’ve ever done has tanked in sales.
The bottomline is when your putting the weight of your pitch on some other property–cause that’s exactly what you’re doing–you’re packing along ALL that property’s baggage, for better or worse.
And unless you really know the history of the person you’re pitching, that baggage can be a major wild card.
#4) Already Working On It
So you reduce your pitch to the titles of 2 popular pieces of fiction… Do you think the odds increase or decrease that it sounds like something the publisher is already working on?
Let me break it down for you.
Comic Guy: “My book is awesome, it’s The Crow meets Mad Max.”
Publisher: (Thought Bubble) Hmmm Crow, Action oriented Gothic/Horror. Mad Max, Action oriented, Post Apocalyptic. What do we have in production along those lines… IP 1, IP 2, IP 3, IP4… heard that other pitch yesterday about a Post Apocalyptic Samurai…
Publisher: Sounds interesting, but we’ve got a lot on the table already along those lines.
You may be thinking, if they’re already working on it, it doesn’t matter how you pitch it. This is true to some extent, but when you pitch, you NEVER want to give them an opportunity to open the door and leave. Keep them engaged as long as you can.
The longer you keep them engaged–in the few seconds you have their attention–the more likely you are to grab their attention and peak their interest.
#5) The Big Obvious Flaw
The person your pitching to, hates your comparison stories, like literally is bias against them.
This could be for a million reasons, some business stigmas noted above–they lost a lot of money, or got a lot of bad press somewhere down the line, or maybe because the poor sap’s girlfriend dumped him right when Hans said “Shoot da glaass”.
99% of the time, folks make these pitches using popular, successful properties–but just because something had good sales and was well received, doesn’t mean the person you’re pitching to likes it.
And believe me, people in charge of greenlighting pitches, like to have opinions.
Most of the time, people reviewing pitches are reviewing a lot of pitches and it makes their lives easier if they can find something that allows them to reject an idea right off.
Don’t give them that.
Those are a few (not all) of the reasons you want to avoid this comparison pitch approach.
So the next time, you pitch someone your story, whether it’s a friend or a potential publisher. Don’t take the shortcut. Let the passion and confidence in your story manifest itself into a succinct, attention grabbing opening.
Turn The Crow meets Mad Max, into;
In a post apocalyptic future, an undead avenger returns from the grave to stop a road-racing murderous gang, from killing his brother and fiancee.
Actually sounds more like the Wraith (good movie), and it’s definitely boring as far as pitches go, but you get the idea. By the way, if you really want to perfect your pitches, nail down your Logline (discussed throughout the site and Storycraft). A well constructed logline will serve as a single sentence pitch… and then some.▪
About the Author —
Nick Macari is a full-time freelance story consultant, developmental editor and writer, working primarily in the independent gaming and comic markets. His first published comic appeared on shelves via Diamond in the late 90’s. Today you can find his comic work on comixology, amazon and in select stores around the U.S. Visit NickMacari.com for social media contacts and news on his latest releases.