Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Notes – 10/09/2020 Nuts and Bolts of The Graphic Novel with Janna Morishima

“The Nuts and Bolts of Getting Your Kids/YA Graphic Novel Published for Writers & Illustrators” presented via Zoom by Janna Morishima, agent at Janna Co, a literary/illustration agency specializing in children’s and YA graphic novelists and visual storytellers (, and founder of on 10/9/20. Notes taken by Barbara Senenman.

To get started, write all word and image ideas down, flesh out the best ones, organize them into an outline, expand it into a synopsis or thumbnails, and expand those into a manuscript. At each step, get feedback from critique partners.

Potential Planning Formats:

  • Beat sheet: bullet points denoting each major point sin story’s action. (
  • Outline: a more fleshed out list of the story’s action.
  • Synopsis: a description of the complete story.
  • Manuscript: the GN’s final text: usually captions, dialogue, and art.
  • Thumbnails: rough sketches of the GN’s pages (often small-scale).


Manuscript Length (ages are approximate): Early Readers: ages 5-7, 32-96 pp; Early Middle Grade: ages 6-9, 128-240 pp; Middle Grade: ages 9-12, 192-272 pp; YA: ages 13-18, 224-368 pp

You don’t have to break the script into panels. Give enough art notes to ensure artist can interpret your vision but not so much you limit their creativity.

Programs for drafting/storyboards: Google Docs, Microsoft Word, Scrivener, Superscript, Final Draft, LiveWriter, Comics Draw

Read kids GNs and books on GN/comics craft: Making Comics by Scott McCloud, Drawing Words and Writing Pictures by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, Cartooning by Ivan Brunetti, Making Comics by Lynda Barry.

Finding freelance editors: Don’t try to edit it yourself. Here are places to find professional help: Reedsy, Editorial Freelancers Association, Northwest Editors Build, ACES: The Society for Editing, Grub Street Writing Coaches & Consultants, Upwork

Sample Art: For submission, include 20-25 penciled sample pages (or one full chapter), 3-5 full-color sample pages, some character sketches, and a cover mockup. Show visual development.

Sample art should give adequate idea of what whole book will look like.  If you have very different settings, characters, time periods, flashbacks, be sure to show how you’ll illustrate each. Include some pages from beginning and some from a climactic or dramatic event.

Graphic Novel Portfolio: Include only type of work you want to do and bio to allow someone visiting your site to understand who you are and the type of work you do.

Pitch Package – A proposal that includes a short synopsis, format and specs, author bio, comp titles/marketing info, a detailed synopsis or full manuscript, and sample art. When preparing your package, keep track of how long it takes to pencil/ink/color/letter each page. Multiply this by total number of pages to figure out how long you’ll need to complete the book.

Writers: Partner with a professional illustrator.  In picture books, the publisher pairs you.  Some will do this for graphic novels, but best if you have one.

To find an agent or publisher, join organizations and study with industry insiders at SCBWI, Highlights Foundation, Center for Cartoon Studies, SVA Continuing Education, SCAD Sequential Art program; share work online; use hashtags to make your work findable: Twitter, Instagram; look for who represented/ published your comp titles by checking Manuscript Wishlist, Publishers Weekly Rights Report,, Niki Smith list,; and exhibit at comic-con and comics festivals.


Self-Publishing: Only if you’ve exhausted traditional publishing options or prefer doing things yourself.

If You Find a Publisher without an Agent Hire a literary lawyer or consultant who specializes in literary contracts.

Graphic Novel Production Process: Finish the manuscript, then the Pencils. *Very important. Complete editing now because you don’t want to change artwork at the ink stage.  Next is inking, then colors, and then lettering. Good lettering is part of the art. It conveys emotion, sound, and drama. Sometimes lettering is digital and sometimes hand drawn. You also can create digital font created based on your handwriting.