Scott Pilgrim and Sixth Gun publisher Oni Press made waves a few months back when they announced the opening of their open submission program, which is notable for its focus on writers as well as artists.  Today, at their SDCC panel, they gave a sobering update to all those hopeful scribes.

675 submissions of the pitch submissions that were received between May 1st and June 30th have been reviewed thus far.  Of those, only eight of those 675 have been discussed at the company’s monthly pitch review meeting.  Of those eight, only two have been escalated to the publisher for final consideration.  This means that any given submission has a 1.2% of making it past the first vetting round and a 0.3% chance of making it to the publisher’s desk.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that comics are easy.


  1. I wouldn’t call it a marketing stunt. I would say that the vast, VAST majority of people who submitted were not ready for professional publication. Which is understandable, and (honestly) probably a realistic percentage.

    If it helps two worthy people break through who wouldn’t have been able to do so otherwise, it did what it was supposed to.

  2. I do question their submission process and editorial ability. I submitted THE PALADIN: BLOOD BANK, a screenplay I wrote that has been adapted into a novel. The Paladin has a website, a motion comic trailer, been favorably reviewed in the Monitor newspaper, and well received by readers. Yet, Oni Press rejected it outright, saying it needed more work (?). It was obvious, they didn’t read it at all.

  3. Well, Stephen, did you submit it as a screenplay? Because the submission rules said they wouldn’t take screenplays, only formatted comics scripts, period.

    And if all they were asking for was a script… what does it matter if you made a trailer and a website too? That’s not what the editors are looking for, nor should it be. They’re looking for a great pitch and a good comic script.

    If your reaction to rejection is, “What do editors know anyway?” and not, “How can I top this?” you’re probably going to struggle as a professional writer.

    I’m one of the 673 rejects. Rejection is just a (huge, huge, HUGE) part of being a writer. You get used to it.

  4. Also Oni only has so much money to publish. They probably financially can’t consider more than two projects in a years time to publish. Plus they have a “house” style so to speak. Look at their line-up, there is a style, like it or not. Its the same with almost every publisher, except maybe Dark Horse or IDW. So while some of the ones they rejected were probably damn good, it just didn’t fit what they were looking for.

  5. ACJ, obviously I sent it as a formatted comic book scripted, I didn’t think that needed explanation. I only mentioned the extra bells and whistles to illustrate The Paladin: Blood Bank has already done well as is, and did not need more work as they put it. While I understand your opinion, and it does have validity in some cases, in this one I don’t agree, but thanks for your input.

  6. Stephen, I think ONI dodged a big bullet by rejecting you. Sounds like you have a real problem with criticism and frankly you need thicker skin to be in the comics game. Good luck to you and your paladin thingie though.

  7. Hey Stephen I’m sorry, that sounded a lot harsher than I intended. I just meant that no editor wants to work with someone who thinks their ideas are perfect and amazing and incapable of improvement. They want to work with people who understand the value of editorial input and collaboration, people who are always striving to up their game.

  8. @ Matt, again, not trying to start a fight here. My original intent was to illustrate that it seemed the editors didn’t even take the time to read my submission and that editors are human as well as the rest of us and despite their credentials can make mistakes as well. I was sharing my opinion for what it was worth, just like yours, for what its worth.

  9. Good luck to all of the hopefuls. I enjoyed my time at Oni and the staff. Even if a submission is turned down its still good for the creator. They turned it into something tangible and real. That’s the best first step. Rejection is part of creation.

    But I know know know know the following is true.
    Some of the submissions were too similar to other things.
    Some of them ripped off Scott Pilgrim.
    Several were bad.
    Several weren’t quite there.
    Some were wrongly turned down, will go elsewhere and enjoy success.
    Some were by children.

    Combining a pro referral, good chops and a good idea isn’t for sure but its as good as you can get.

  10. I’m not surprised by this. I worked as an assistant editor for a Canadian publisher, and 99% of what we received was junk.

    There were plenty of good ideas, but the execution is what matters. Most people don’t know how to create a comic. They think they do, but they don’t.

    Stephen, I went to your site to see what your project was about. Here’s some feedback on your site.

    1) autoplay music with obnoxiously loud sound will turn me off immediately, and I love Prodigy. Every page I went to triggered breathe to play. I eventually had to turn the sound off on my computer to continue browsing. Normally I would have just closed it and not bothered continuing.
    2) an improper web domain, such as .webs or .weebly scream amateur. Most of us remember the old geocities subdomains, and this gives off the same vibe. If you believe in yourself and your project, spend some money on it. RIght now there’s a banner ad for Webs on the bottom of every page. Why are you giving them money?
    3) Your Extras page needs a ton of work. Your book commercial is boring. Proper film work needs that lead black, but a teaser trailer on youtube doesn’t. When you go to the movies, does each trailer start with 10 seconds of black, followed by 5 seconds of the studio’s logo? Your trailer gives no info about your book. It’s some vague phrases with a lot of waiting. I stopped caring before I got to the halfway mark. This looks like something a first year high school media student would put together.

    As for your comic, from what I can see from the trailer, it needs a lot of work.

    1) the art is pretty rough. The perspective is way off in most of the pics in the trailer.
    2) the coloring is flat. It makes it look rather cartoony. I don’t think that’s the vibe you are going for.
    3)The lettering is really bad. The spacing is way off, the balloons are stagnant, the pointers are off, and there are crossbar I’s all over the place. The sound effects are really poorly done. The only ones that looked passable were the Bams for gunfire.
    4) You may have a particular demographic locked down, but I don’t see Oni publishing a book where every character can’t complete I thought without the work “f#ck” being used.
    5) Your dialog is weak and boring. All the characters sound the same. I could change the pointers to different mouths and it wouldn’t affect it at all.

    There is a ton of competition out there. I used to review over 50 projects a month, and maybe 1 was good enough to think about picking up. Even though Oni cut their teeth on indie stuff, they’ve come a long way since then. Look at what they’re putting out: You have to be better than that to get a seat at the table.

    You may have a solid idea. I don’t know because you didn’t tell me much about it on your site. But if you do, you’ve got to do a better job of executing it if you want a publisher to pick you up. Otherwise, you can stick to self publishing. My buddy Ed Brisson published his own stuff for years before he got picked up by Image, Boom and Marvel. Just keep your head down and keep working. If it’s good, someone will notice.

    Best of luck.

  11. I submitted a solo graphic novel that is like 90% done, with the bonus of being about queer characters and by a transwoman, and I got a pretty generic form letter rejection. No discussion of why it was rejected. This happens. There will be other rejections. And in the meantime there’s a Kickstarter to run soon for the third and final volume of it, growing piles of good reviews, and new conventions to sell it to new audiences at. Eventually there will be enough buzz around my work for it to make business sense for someone to pick it up.

    They’ve still got another six hundred or so to plow through. Ain’t no way they’re going to be able to give everything a close reading. Welcome to the slush pile, Stephen. You’ll be here for a while yet. Get comfy. Maybe think about paying someone to draw your idea if you’re so convinced it’s great, and join the crowd competing for audience and attention online.

  12. Hey, folks, thanks for your interest in our open submissions! It’s been a challenging, fascinating process and despite a touch of reluctance when it was originally suggested in our office, I’m really happy we did it. To address a couple comments and concerns:

    J block: I’m sorry you think we’re a joke. 99% of our books are creator owned titles and we’re able to budget different advances for different projects based on a variety of factors including format, primary sales markets and demographics, and past creator performance. One thing is true of virtually all our creator-owned books though, advances are advance payments on a net royalty that makes us true partners with our creators. The details of those partnerships are between us and our creators.

    Risbo: No marketing stunt. Frankly, we’ve never been that savvy in that regard. I know the percentages are low, but we’re an independent publisher with limited resources and on,y so many slots for new projects. If an off-Broadway play with a cast of a half dozen, held an open casting call and 2,400 people auditioned, it wouldn’t be a “marketing stunt” for them to only cast the 6 parts and turn the other 2,394 people away. There have been a few working professionals in the pool of submissions we’ve gotten through to date. It’s not been 50% though. More like 0.5%.

    Stephen, I take umbridge with your statement that it was “obvious they didn’t read it at all.” It’s patently untrue and insulting to me and my editorial team. However, there were some reading issues related to your pitch–just on on our side. First of all, your rejection didn’t say anywhere that your project needed more work. Here’s an excerpt directly from our rejection letter: “Unfortunately, this pitch is not a fit for us at this time. We encourage you to continue honing your craft and developing new stories. A passion for storytelling should never be extinguished by a rejection and we sincerely hope you are able to find the appropriate outlet for your work.” If you don’t think there’s always room to hone your craft (not your pitch) further, then I’m afraid you’re going to have a rough time in any creative field. The best people are always striving to get better, no matter how good they already are. Second, you bill your project as “Reservoir Dogs meets Blade.” Now let’s look at the “WHAT WE DON’T WANT TO SEE” section of our guidelines: “Avoid pitching long-form series, or stories in oversaturated genres such as supernatural noir, zombies, vampires, and gritty detectives with a dark past.” You used a vampire movie and a neo-noir as your touchstones after we specifically said to avoid this genre. One of us didn’t read what we were supposed to. I wish you’d quite implying it was us and own that maybe this project wasn’t a fit for Oni.

    Josh, Lars: THANK YOU!

    Margaret: I’m sorry that we didn’t have time to give you more specific feedback. Please know that your pitch was one of the more thoughtful ones we received–it just didn’t quite click. I hope you do pitch again when we open things up in the fall as you suggested you might in your cover letter. You should definitely come see us at Rose City if you end up coming doing for that con. Also, 675ish is how many we’ve gotten through, not how many we have left, unfortunately. We have 1700+ to consider before we get to our next open call in November.

    Finally, when I was doing the statistics for our panel, I failed to take into account one fairly major consideration. While we’ve only escalated 2 pitches out of the first 675 submissions to our publisher, not all 675 were project pitches. 200 were art or color portfolios. One colorist who submitted was one of the few working professionals we received samples from and we’ve already hired them for an upcoming project. Almost two dozen more artist moved from the submissions file to our “potential artist” file and we anticipate giving many of those folks the opportunity to try out on potential projects over the next year as casting needs arise. So, the odds aren’t great (Welcome to literally any creative industry, folks!) but the numbers on the stuff we’ve reviewed thus far, aren’t quite as dire as my initial stats made them out to be.

  13. @James, my apologies if my thoughts insulted you and yours, that wasn’t my intent. I was simply stating my opinion of what it seemed transpired. Apparently I mistook your words and read more into than should be. To clarify, I did acknowledge your list of do nots but chose to send my story anyway as a good story is still a good story and would be worth a look. If you say you read mine from beginning to end and still found it lacking, so be it and you are correct, it is not a good fit for your company. Going forward, should the other two submissions I sent Oni meet the same fate, I’ll know I was indeed incorrect in my earlier opinion and will rest assured they were read and judged fairly and accurately.

  14. Anyone UK based still looking to work in comics check out the International Comic Industry Conference “Comics Uncovered” in Birmingham this September.

    Publishers offering one to one advice include DC COMICS, Image, and Dark Horse, Aftershock, Titan, Humanoids and Image Comics.
    We hope OnI can make it along for next year’s conference too.

  15. The publishing industry is a hard nut to crack. Ask any successful creator, be it artist or writer, and they will tell you of their mountain of rejection notices. If you’re going to be in this business, you have got to be thick-skinned. Being hostilely defensive about a critique is the quickest way to turn off any potential publisher. No one wants to put up with someone so dead-set in their thinking. It may be your story, but the process on the whole is one of collaboration. It’s give and take partnership. Use any criticism as an opportunity to improve your work. Listen and be flexible enough to understand the “why” of the criticism. A great story is only a great story as long as it fits within the Submission Guidelines of that particular publisher. If the story does not, find another publisher looking for your kind of material. The worst thing that you can do after a rejection is whine and badmouth a potential publisher. That’s the quickest way to lose cred with any future publisher. No one wants to deal with that personality type. It only reinforces that you are truly amateurish and not to be taken seriously. I’m a writer who collaborates with several different artists on projects. I don’t care how great an artist is, if their attitude turns me off, I won’t work with them. Attitude and work ethic are the things I look for in potential prospects. It’s the same with publishers. Who wants to waste their time on someone like that? Not me. Not them. Kindness, courtesy and professionalism will take you farther in this industry.

    I wish the best of luck to those who submitted. I’ve heard nothing but good things from creators working with Oni Press. Be thankful of the opportunity presented, even if it ends in rejection, be gracious.

    Jackson Compton

  16. I’ve been involved with two projects that were submitted to Oni Press’s open submissions as an artist. One of which has already been rejected, the other is awaiting response. I’ve been making webcomics for about 5 years now, and within the last year I have started branching out to work a contract artist, and on several pitches to different publications, and I want to open up about that experience.

    First of all there’s a lot of comic companies, but comics is a very small group. You get no where by bad mouthing editors. In fact you burn bridges. Lots of them. You have no idea how easily word goes around about who is good to work with and not. Editors work hard, and reading submissions is not a joke to them. It’s important for you as a creator to read the guidelines carefully, follow the instructions on how to format the pitch, and understand what the editors are looking for.

    The first of my projects submitted to Oni Press, Help Wanted, was written by a David Furr who had a successful Kickstarter campaign under his belt with Frontier Graveyard. The comic itself was successfully Kickstarted, and I eagerly have people picking it up from me at conventions. I loved working on the project , I love working with David, and believe in Help Wanted’s potential. However when David informed me that he was pitching it to Oni Press I thought, “um … I’m pretty sure that it’s not what they’re looking for.” I felt the guidelines were very clear, and although I feel Help Wanted is a fun book there was a lot of emphasis on diversity in the guidelines which the book lacked. The rejection came. Their words were encouraging, and David is pitching it to other publishers. Those are the actions of professionals. You either move on to another project, pitch to other publishers, or retool what should be changed. There is no shame in that.

    The other project I’m waiting to here back about is Fight School High School with writer Matt Gordon. Matt’s a fantastic writer who writes the web comic, Musings with artist Jessi Jordan. Words cannot express how much I love this project, and what Matt has planned for it. I feel that Oni Press is the right publisher for it, but ultimately that’s up to them. Matt and I already have plans for our next moves with the story if they pass on it. Even if it is rejected I will encourage Matt that we retool and try again with it in November.

    Overall I really feel pitching to Oni Press has been a positive experience, and come November I may even pitch my own webcomic, Transyltown, to them to see if it has a chance. I have a number of other titles awaiting feedback from editors, and I encourage writers, artist, and cartoonist not to be put off by rejection. Use it to understand your voice, your art, your creations, and grow stronger.

  17. @ Marc Delgado,
    Yeah, Stephen’s work is really cutting edge. Especially his Amalaganimals stuff………

    Hahahaha. Holy shit. What a loser.

  18. @Peter Paladin, lmfao, so you got your feelings hurt enough you had the admins delete the previous texts? Why don’t you tell people how you’re a disgruntled ex-employee who worked for Steve on his last project? Or how you stalked him on FB and got upset because he won’t accept your friend invites? Run tell ‘dat!

  19. @ Marc Delgado
    Hey, don’t look at me. I didn’t have the admins do anything.
    They must have deleted my past comment because they don’t condone me making fun of actual retarded people. Hahaha

  20. @PetePaladin, I guess it was my prior comment regarding your chrons-having, binoculars-thick-glasses-wearing, in-the-closet-so-you-ain’t-fooling-nobody, blind-as-a-fucking-bat, flooded-mother’s-basement-living, art-so-bad-I-refused-to-pay-for-that-shit, balding-albino ass, that got it pulled. Bitch.

  21. @James Lucas Jones Good to hear that not everyone who got rejected is necessarily discarded.

    You write, ‘Almost two dozen more artist moved from the submissions file to our “potential artist” file and we anticipate giving many of those folks the opportunity to try out on potential projects over the next year as casting needs arise.’

    Were there any writers who got added to your rolodex for possible future projects? Are you folks notifying these maybes of being selected in this fashion?

    Thanks again for taking this on. It’s a big undertaking but it certainly shows that Oni believes in the community.

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