How Did We Run KCU Pitchfest Behind the Scenes?

Our goals with KCU Pitchfest are to do 3 things:

  • Offer a structured event and deadline that gives creators support to finish their pitches
  • Provide a competition “post-mortem” that helps creators learn what editors and agents liked in the successful pitches
  • Showcase undiscovered kids comics talent to the industry at large

We were inspired by the many competitions sponsored by SCBWI and pitch events held on Twitter, but most especially by the renowned “Unpublished Picture Book Showcase” held by international picture book art platform dPictus. The wonderful thing about dPictus is its high quality website and online presentation of artists’ work, as well as the breadth of its industry network.

Taking a page from dPictus, we deliberately assembled a diverse group of judges. Our judges included literary agents and editors from “Big 5” publishers; from small and medium sized book publishers; from comics publishers; and from manga publishers. You can view the bios of our complete list of judges here.

It was important to us to create a well-designed online gallery of artists’ work. We looked at sites like Behance and Dribbble for design inspiration, keeping the look as simple as possible. We wanted to make it easy for judges to navigate and view the pitches. Limiting the word count and how many pages to display was necessary due to the amount of pitches we would be receiving. We also wanted to make it as useful as possible for agents, editors, art directors, and others to look through the submissions and connect with creators once the voting finished.

This process has also given us headway into some the functionality and design of the upcoming Talent Directory we hope to launch next Summer/Fall!

How Voting Worked

There were two stages to the voting process:

  1. Each judge voted “request” or “pass” for each submission. (I.e., did they think the pitch would merit an editor taking a closer look at the full proposal.)
  2. Each judge chose their top 5 favorites among all the submissions.

From this 2-step process, we calculated a numerical score for each submission. The pitch received one point for each “request” vote it received from a judge. It then received an additional one point if it was selected as “fifth favorite” by a judge, two points if it was selected as “fourth favorite,” and so on to five points if it was selected as “first favorite.”

We then sorted the submissions by score. Groups of tied scores were ordered alphanumerically by title. The speakers for our December 3rd, 2022 event/announcement of winners — Colleen Venable, Whitney Leopard, and Rivkah LaFille — also chose one manuscript-only submission as an honorable mention. View the winners here!

Next Steps

The online gallery is now public! We’ll be sending an announcement to a huge list of editors, art directors, and agents on January 11th, 2023, and welcome your help in making some noise when this happens! You can help us spread the word by posting about the showcase on your social media channels or blog on January 11th, using the hashtag #kcupitchfest.

If you didn’t win this year, or weren’t able to submit, we’re giving you plenty of time to hone your pitches for next year! We’ll host KCU Pitchfest 2023 on November 4th, 2023.

Now that we’ve done the competition once, we have a template to follow that’ll make things easier, and we can improve the timing so it happens before the holiday season.

We would also love to get your feedback. If you submitted your work for KCU Pitchfest 2022, please fill out this short survey to tell us what you thought of it! Click below.

About Janna Morishima

Janna Morishima is the founder of Kids Comics Unite and a literary agent who specializes in graphic novels and visual storytelling. She started her publishing career at Scholastic, where she was one of the co-founders of the Graphix imprint. She then became director of the Kids Group for Diamond Book Distributors, where she worked with publishers such as Marvel, Dark Horse, and Oni Press, and helped launch Françoise Mouly’s Toon Books imprint. In addition to her background in publishing, she has worked as an associate producer for documentary films, and as an assistant teacher in a kindergarten and a teacher in a high school for teens in the juvenile justice system. She later launched and ran the NYC Department of Education’s “NYC Reads 365” literacy initiative.

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