Things the entertainment and publishing industry won't tell you about executing the best pitch bible for your story.
Originally published on Medium.com
Pitch bibles can be a very handy way to sell and produce your story. If you’re not familiar with a pitch bible it’s a visual tool that helps convey your story or concept. It can either be presented or a leave-behind for a company's key decision-makers when purchasing a story or IP, but also a cornerstone to how your team will be able to execute the story. The upfront cost of the story might take significant time and money to create that is why it’s critical to have your bases covered. Whether you are a comic book artist, writer, illustrator, or studio executive the following information will make you a pitch bible master.
Things to Consider Before You Start
Before we get specific on the outline of your pitch bible, you need to mindful of couple of different things — This information will help you identify some target points that will give your pitch better clarity and direction. The sooner you address these points, the easier it will be to elevate your story.
Don’t write into the void. Make sure that your story is marketable to an audience. First, you must identify who is your target audience is and take a high-concept approach. You do not want to handicap your audience or your story. Avoid using niche audiences like using gender and age-specific markets. For example Boys, ages 11–14 is too specific. Companies can’t necessarily cater to such a small market, their main objective for them is to make money. That's why it’s important to have a broad range of audiences or a high-concept approach to your story. If you’re not sure how to approach adding a broader audience, look towards the story’s themes and how your “B” storyline can apply to a larger audience.
Not only do you want to think about your audience, but you also need to know who your sales outlets are and who your competition is. It’s imperative to know your unique selling point and why your story is something new and different from what is currently on the market.
Art & Design
Your art should be able to set the tone for your comic or show. It should be masterfully produced and fits with the correct demographic you’re trying to reach. It needs to be specific for each section and avoid reusing artwork in your bible at all costs. When identifying concept art, the best-case scenario is to utilize the climax of your episode or story. Your characters need to convey not only their personality but their emotions in your compositions. For your design, consider using a grid system, template, or hire a designer to help you fit your content into ten slides or less. I’ve spoken previously about how design can help elevate your pitch, you can find it here.
Ten Juicy Slides
Ain’t nobody got time for more than ten slides. Seriously, if you can’t pitch your story in tens of slides or less, you should seriously consider pairing down your content into a more digestible presentation. The key decision makers do not have time for your deck to world-build in. This is where good design can be your best friend. The following is the core of what your ten slides should contain. Any additional information that may not be provided in the pitch can be incorporated into a sell sheet. A ‘sales sheet’ or ‘one-sheet’ gives a high-level overview of your story and be used as a leave-behind when presenting your property. Depending on the format, sometimes pitches can also be supported with style frame, test pages, and additional concept work that was created to build out your story. However, the pitch at its core should be the following:
1. Title Slide
Your title slide should have the most compelling art that incorporates your story, theme, and characters. Ideally, you should take the “movie poster” approach to your art composition. It should incorporate a well-designed title treatment, and your logline added somewhere.
2. Setting and worldbuilding
This slide is going to set the scene for the world you are building into your story. Most often, the art might be a physical landscape of your world or setting. It should have a compelling paragraph that explains where you are taking the reader and any structural elements that help drive your world, like magic systems, social, and/or political climates.
3. Themes, Tone, & Format
This slide is going to incorporate important themes in one paragraph and go hand-in-hand with your setting and world-building. Often, themes can be high-level and sometimes are never thoroughly addressed in a story. Tailor your writing to the tone you want to convey, is your story serious? Is it a comedy? Even your copywriting in the pitch should reflect that.
The format is often the most imperative dynamic in selling in your story and can show a strategy to execution. Writing the story is a more creative and fluid part of your IP. However, there’s still a science to storytelling, your story should not only include the why but the how. This makes it easier for the consumer to ingest the story arc in bite-size pieces that follow a structure. Your pitch needs to incorporate how many issues, episodes, chapters, as well as the medium/format for production (i.e. Animation, live-action, comic trades, graphic novel) that you wish to create. This shows key decision-makers that you’ve developed a long-term game plan on how you will execute your IP.
4. Main Character(s)
This one speaks for itself - This slide should have your main character or cast and their names located on the slide. Main characters come before a synopsis, often creators mistake that the story is more important than the character traits. However, your story is only driven by its characters. These traits are what gets us from point A to point B in the story. Hence, it’s important to build them out in a way that is both relatable to the reader and uses examples of actions in the description to draw the contrast between each character. Include traits that get them in and out of certain situations. For your protagonist, you should have a paragraph for that details briefly on their back story and their flaws that ultimately help the drive the story forward. Avoid using a list of adjectives on your characters.
5. Secondary Characters
This includes the supporting characters and antagonists that are in the story but might not drive the story or change the main character in some way. Much like the slide before it, the secondary character slide should incorporate visuals of characters a short paragraph about each. It’s still okay to place any spoilers on this slide and should still be able to draw the contrast between the characters in a relatable way for the reader.
This is the most critical slide and should be the most fleshed-out. It should contain the paragraph that explains the story to its entirety and its main character(s). It should also be written in the same tone as the story itself. The most common mistake creators have is not starting a story at the very beginning. Those who will be viewing your bible have no idea what’s your story is about and creators often forget a lot of information about the story and start from the middle because it’s early information tends to be embedded into the character slides. Your synopsis is the story from start to finish, it needs to include all three acts and any spoilers of your story.
7–9 Main Springboards or Pilot
These slides are going to dive deeper into your story. With the format in-mind, your springboards or arc of your story is going to be showcased in these slides that follow the proposed format from the third slide. These slides are often supported with artwork for each episode, issue, and pilot that shows the climax of each. These slides often vary depending on the format, but you should have a paragraph ready to support the format. Slide seven usually focuses on one core part of your story, like a pilot, while slide nine might showcase might option 3–4 different storylines the connect with your main character, your “B” storyline, and worldbuilding.
10. Contact information and Legal Information
This slide is going to include some artwork plus any additional information needed for follow-up. This slide might also include any legal information about property rights or optioning for rights. Often, I see pitches have had a copyright line, however, just because you add a legal line does not mean it’s protected. Speak to a lawyer beforehand to file any copyright information needed to protect your work. Otherwise, you might end up in A Bug’s Life and Ants scenario.
-Identify your competition and why your story is uniquely yours and hasn’t been done before. -Gain feedback from peers and apply it to your pitch. -Think about your audience. -Use excellent grammar (or if you’re like me, hire someone to edit for you)
-Don’t create for niche markets, the higher the story concept the better. -Don’t read for your pitch bible while presentation. Practice to your peers and strangers. -Don’t start your story from the middle -Don’t read from your pitch document if you’re presenting your story.