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Business and Friends

11 Sep

I first want to apologize for being a bit MIA lately. All of a sudden I got crazy busy at the job that pays me. Add in some planned travel, unplanned travel, the city catching on fire, August being one of the most difficult months for a lot of people and TA DA! No blogging for me.

But today I am completely unmotivated to do yard or house work, so firing this baby up!

I was asked a few weeks back by a friend if I thought a blog post about friendship and business would be something I would want to talk about.  I thought it was a fantastic idea, one I have touched on briefly before but haven’t really gone in-depth.

So here we go.

I THINK TRUE FRIENDSHIPS ARE VITAL TO A SUCCESSFUL CAREER

Now there IS a difference between “being friends” with someone and “being friendly friends.” I’m friendly friends with a whole lot of people. Social media has certainly expanded that list. Every year, I meet more and more people in comics and publishing. So the friendly circle continues to grow, as does the good friend circle.

The difference for me only involves a couple of points that really all revolve around a level of trust. To me a “friend” is someone you would help no matter what, someone to share the things you can’t talk about in public, someone you could call on for honest advice, someone who would stand by you and help you in your darkest, lowest place. And someone who grounds you when you’re at your highest.

That all being said, I can honestly say except for maybe two people in my life and my family, all of my really good friends I met through doing business of some sort.

Some of them I met, became friends and then ended up working with. Some of them I worked with, then ended up becoming friends.

Sometimes my Director of Photography, who I haven’t gotten to see very much lately, calls me just to check in and chat. We talk about his kids, wife, film equipment, funny things that happened to us lately and tons more.  I often talk to one of my closest friends about the state of the comics and publishing industry along with possible solutions, for hours, cause we both know all the players, the in’s and out’s of the publishing business, etc… I love those conversations.

My BEST friend is also my business parter, as well as my husband. We tackle everything we do as a team. Working each problem and celebrating each victory, together.

I would do anything for these guys. Yes, ANYTHING.  And in turn, I know they will always be there for me when I need them. I love all of them and am very glad and proud to call all of them my very good friends.

GET TO THE POINT ALLISON.

(It does explain why I am a con junkie. CON= GET TO SEE MY FRIENDS) Anyway.

I’ve come to realize that without friends, Chris and I would’ve never gotten to the place we are in our lives professionally. And because we were willing to open ourselves up to accepting help from friends, we’ve become strong advocates of helping other friends pursue THEIR endeavours.

Which I think is really cool, personally.

There is nothing I love more than making introductions, making all my friends, friends with each other. If that is beneficial professionally for them both, all the better.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A FRIEND LETS YOU DOWN IN BUSINESS?

Listen, we have been royally screwed by people we thought were good friends. That’s what happens when you put yourself out there. Did it completely suck? Absolutely. But in the end all crappy stuff in life is just a lesson you need to learn. And without those experiences, we wouldn’t be the people we are today.

I also became friends with a debt attorney in AZ. So there’s a silver lining. (sometimes you have to dig deep for those linings)

If you let the few bad eggs spoil the whole lot, well, you don’t have any eggs. People can suck. It happens. Move on.

TRY TO BE A FRIEND TO EVERYONE

Now not everyone is going to be “your people.” Sometimes it just doesn’t jive. You don’t have to be best buds with everyone.  But if you make an effort from the get go, everybody wins.

This has always been my philosophy. Comes in real handy when things start going wrong and is awesome when things go right.

AND BESIDES

Who wouldn’t want to be friends with the coolest most talented people on the planet?

A

Finally! The Chris Roberson & Me, SDCC Schedule You’ve Been Waiting to See

13 Jul

After many days of collecting info, managing times and hostage negotiations, the schedule has finally been locked. So if you are curious where we will be, I’ve make a schedule that any stalker would drool over.

Here we go!

WEDNESDAY JULY 20TH

Chris and I fly in Wednesday morning, will try to check-in before check-in time and will then run to Ralph’s to get supplies.

Later that afternoon, I have a late lunch date with a friend.

And at some point after that, Chris and I will go pick up our badges.

6PM to 7PM Chris will be signing his name on comics he may or may not have written at the BOOM! Studios Booth #2743

Chris and I have dinner plans with the hardest working man in comics and his lovely equally hard working wife.

Then Chris and I go meet some other people at some secret bar cause well, it’s supposed to be cool.

After that, we will probably head back over to our balcony.

THURSDAY JULY 21ST

11AM to 12PM Chris will be signing some more books, but with my name instead of his own, at the BOOM! Studios Booth #2743

And then we have a joint lunch date. (I’m not telling)

3PM to 4PM IDW Panel…

3:00-4:00 IDW Publishing Presents: The Greatest Panel of All Time— New creator-owned books? Ever-larger licensed titles? All-new creators, and even some major crossover events? How about prizes just for attending? Yep, you’ll find all that and more, in The Greatest Panel of All Time. CCO Chris Ryall, editor Scott Dunbier, and creators Chris Roberson, Eric Powell, and Steve Niles, along with MC Dirk Wood, present a gamelike atmosphere as they spin the wheel on projects coming in 2011 and 2012. Come on down! Room 9 

Hmm. That looks interesting.

5:45PM to 6:45PM Vertigo Panel…

5:45-6:45 Vertigo Editorial— They come from the cutting edge of comics…and Vertigo has never been edgier, with thought-provoking titles from some of comics’ most acclaimed creators. Don’t miss this panel featuring Scott Snyder (American Vampire), Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth), Michael Allred (iZombie), Chris Roberson (iZombie), Mark Buckingham (Fables), Les Klinger (Annotated Sandman), Rebecca Guay (A Flight of Angels), Colleen Doran (Gone to Amerika), Bill Willingham (Fables), and many others. This is your opportunity to learn more about the entire Vertigo line. Hosted by Vertigo executive editor Karen Berger. Room 6DE 

Then we go to dinner with some of my favorite people on the planet along with some folks I am very excited to meet.

After dinner we have three parties that we NEED to go to but might go to as many as six. Late night on our balcony.

FRIDAY JULY 22ND

I have a lunch date with another dear friend.

1PM to 2PM Chris will be signing at the IDW Booth #2643. Exactly what he will be signing, will be up to you all. (be creative!)

I left this day kind of open on purpose since last year we seemed to be in a mad dash to get to stuff. So we will probably be on our balcony before we get ready for the Eisner’s.

8:30PM Eisner’s start. So cross your fingers, we have two shots!

Later that night/ morning. This is when we will be celebrating our Eisner (fill in the blank). Whatever the outcome, just an honor to be on the shortlist. Really.

SATURDAY JULY 23RD

1PM to 2PM Chris will be signing and signing and signing at the BOOM! Studios Booth #2743

Cocktail break!

7PM to 8PM Fables Panel…

7:00-8:00 Fables— The annual Fables panel has become a Comic-Con tradition — and with the original graphic novel Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland on the way this fall, there’s no better time to hear what Bill Willingham, creator of the multi-Eisner Award-winning series, has to say. Join Bill, artists Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha, group editor Shelly Bond, and others for a panel that is truly legendary. Room 6DE 

Chris and some others will also be on this panel.  If you’ve never been to a Fables panel at SDCC, let me tell you, it is super fun and entertaining. I HIGHLY recommend going.

And then right after the panel we head over to a long standing dinner with some of the most talented people working in comics today. Yeah, I would say who but I think name dropping is a little gauche.

Then we are going to race over to the Trickster set-up and see if we can catch Andy Kuhn and then Gear play.

SUNDAY JULY 24TH

11:30AM to 12:30PM Chris will be signing his little heart out trying to stay awake at the DC/ Vertigo Booth #1915

1:30PM to 2:30PM BOOM! Studios Panel…

1:30-2:30 Editing Comics the BOOM! Studios Way— BOOM! Studios editor-in-chief Matt Gagnon talks to three of fandom’s favorite BOOM! writers — Chris Roberson (Starborn, iZombie, Superman), Daryl Gregory (Planet of the Apes, Dracula Company of Monsters), and Michael Alan Nelson (28 Days Later, Dingo, Hexed) — about the ins and outs of editing comics at BOOM! Don’t miss this in-depth look into the editing secrets of one of the comic book industry’s leading independent publishers as they discuss editing dos and don’ts at today’s hottest comic book company. Room 23ABC 

And from this point it is all balcony, dinner with old friends, followed by a dead dog party we go to every year.

We might sleep a few hours and then head back home on Monday afternoon.

So that’s it folks. Really looking forward to seeing all of you who will be there NEXT WEEK!

A

My SDCC OR How I Manage to Really Enjoy San Diego

15 Jun

Me on the balcony of the Bayfront Hilton doing the pointing thing I do sometimes

I really like going to SDCC. Probably cause I don’t really have any obligations. Chris usually has to run around to signings and panels but during a lot of that nonsense, I get to have lunch with friends I don’t usually get to see but a couple of times a year.

That doesn’t mean I’ve never had to work at SDCC. As Monkeybrain, Chris and I used to exhibit, pop up display and all.

Chris sitting at our booth in 2005 trying to stay awake on Sunday

That was NOT very fun. (Especially the year I was pregnant) It was during that time we coined our description of San Diego, “the Bataan Death March with drinking.”

But now, with the expense, hassle and lack of available space, we gave up all that exhibiting nonsense and really enjoy ourselves as much as possible.

HOW DO YOU ENJOY YOURSELF IN A SEA OF A GAZILLION PEOPLE?

Me and Stormtrooper Elvis on the con floor in 2005

I am prepared.

Chris was the Eagle Scout (believe it or not) but my 15 years in film production trumps and would make a logistics goddess out of anyone. So I’m going to let you in on how you do it and have fun.

LOCATION. LOCATION. LOCATION.

Ever heard that phrase in terms of real estate? Same goes here. Your HOTEL LOCATION is a factor for a fun SDCC. I know. Getting a hotel you want without having to sell a kidney is really hard. If you have a tiered back up plan, you can usually do all right.

  1. ASK YOUR PUBLISHER FOR A ROOM IN THEIR BLOCK. Lots of publishers get blocks of hotel rooms and get to go through the Travel Planners system prior to the public.  This happens around February. They might not pay for your room (or they might, if they are super awesome) but you could be in their block at the con rate. Most comic publishers have blocks that are in the main downtown hotels.
  2. Even if you get a room with your publisher, ALWAYS DO THE TRAVEL PLANNER’S LOTTERY. And do it right when it opens. You never know, you might get a better hotel location. And it’s also just a good back up plan. Never rely on your publisher to get you a room. Things can always go array.
  3. MAKE A RESERVATION A YEAR BEFORE THE SHOW. This was how I got into the Bayfront Hilton this year. We usually get in the DC block at the Hyatt, but last year we spent most of our time at the new Hilton. So I made a reservation as soon as I got home.  The rate is slightly higher than the con rate, but not that much.  Hotels usually open up rooms for reservation a year out, so if you want to be super prepared I recommend this as a solution

DO YOUR PROFESSIONAL REGISTRATION EVEN IF YOU AREN’T SURE YOU ARE GOING

Even if you are on the fence (which I really don’t understand), do your professional registration anyway. That way you aren’t left in the lurch when you end up wanting to go at the last minute.

IF YOU WANNA RUN WITH THE BIG BOYS AND NOT ACT A FOOL, TRAIN BEFORE YOU GO

I know this sounds kinda crazy, but Chris and I have a few drinks everyday a couple of days before the con. That way we can still drink, but don’t get drunk. There is a reason some people call us the Nick and Nora of the business. But it takes practice.

DON’T OVER-SCHEDULE YOURSELF

Whether it’s panels you want to see, or signings you have to do, don’t over-schedule yourself.  Build in breaks and learn how to say no. Use one of the con apps if you’re so inclined and make a document or put on a calendar you can update, your appointments, dinners, panels and signings as things get booked up before the con. This helps you avoid double booking and helps you visualize your schedule.

RALPH’S IS YOUR FRIEND

First thing Chris and I do after arriving in San Diego is a trip to Ralph’s.  If you are staying downtown, its not far and perfect for stocking up on water, snacks, healthy juices for an immune boost and liquor. Gotta love CA liquor laws.

When the bars close or you don’t want to spend $12.00 for a drink you are all set and when you are super dehydrated at 6AM you don’t have to pay $8.00 for the bottle of water in your room.

WEAR SHOES THAT YOU CAN REALLY WALK IN. I MEAN REALLY WALK A LOT.

You will be doing an amazing amount of walking. Whether or not you lounge with me on the balcony on the Bayfront Hilton or not. Walking to dinner, through the con, getting out of the con you can cover a lot of distance. I recommend a shoe with arch support and some kind of padding to the sole.  As a lady who wants to be stylish, I often take many pairs of shoes in order to change them out. I never take any shoes that aren’t completely comfortable.

Chris signs at the Vertigo table with his water 2009

TAKE A WATER IN YOUR BAG AND TAKE VITAMIN C BEFORE AND DURING THE TRIP

AND DON’T FORGET THE SUNSCREEN

You will be doing a lot of drinking. Drinking lowers your immune system. So does staying up till 7AM for three days straight. Counter that with water and vitamin C. Stay hydrated. Or you will get the con crud. Just ask Sims, con crud sucks.

Also, it may be cool temp wise, but a few hours in the sun, and you can get really burned. Put some on the top of your heads guys.

Chris on the SDCC floor in 2010

TAKE BREAKS FROM THE SEA OF HUMANITY

Go hang out with people for lunch, afternoon drinks or whatever.  If you can, I promise this will make your experience so much the better. Also, most business at SDCC is done in the bar NOT on the con floor.

Lunch at the Gaslamp Hilton with lots of comic folks in 2009

Chris and I typically only go to the floor if he has a signing or to a panel that he’s on. Then we head back to our refuge at the bar. You could do this or take a nap which is also recommended by many people who know of which I speak.

Chris at BOOM! Panel with Paul Cornell in 2010

HANGING OUT IN THE BAR IN THE AFTERNOON WILL HELP YOU GET A DRINK AT NIGHT

Tip well, treat the staff like human beings during the slow afternoon, and you can get a drink when there are a gazillion people also trying to get one. Last year, Chris and I were the only people at the Bayfront Hilton bar who got preferred service while the rest of the crowd went thirsty. That’s cause by the time everyone got there, we knew the waitstaff and ALL their names.  You really want to impress someone? Get them a drink when no one else can.

Me and Dave Justus on the Bayfront Hilton Balcony 2010

THERE IS A FERRY TO CORONADO ISLAND

That isn’t too far a walk from the con.  If you want to really get away from it all, take a boat to a beach and walk around. It’s nice. I’ve done it.

TAKE MONDAY TO TRAVEL

You will be a zombie on Monday and probably the rest of the week. Make it your travel day and if you can fly out in the afternoon all the better. Make sure you don’t have a heavy work schedule the week after San Diego. Your brain won’t work right for a few days.

And please also read up on this and this and this and this to make sure you are doing the business end correctly.

Repeat after me: NO PITCHES IN THE BAR OR BATHROOM.

If you are a comics professional, and don’t make the trek to mecca every year, reconsider. I think this con is vital to a continually prosperous career.

I know a lot of you folks aren’t free agents like me and actually have to work and do stuff.  But if you have the opportunity to take some of my advice, please do. I promise you will have a good time.

Only 5 more weeks! I can hardly wait.

A

See you soon balcony!

What Editors Want to See: Portfolio Review Edition

26 May

I recently received  a reader requested topic via twitter that dealt with portfolio reviews.

What do people look for in portfolio reviews?

Since this question is a little bit outside my wheelhouse, I thought it was a good idea to ask some folks who actually review art portfolios.  I was lucky enough to get responses from two of my favorite people, Ross Richie, Founder & CEO, and Matt Gagnon, Editor in Chief, of BOOM! Studios.

Here’s what Ross had to say:

Sequentials, not pin-ups, not covers (unless you’re a painter). Strong page layouts that are easy to read so they storytelling is clear, married to a strong over all page design, so that at first glance it’s easy to see that the entire page has been put together as a cohesive whole, not just a panel put next to another panel willy-nilly.

Don’t hot dog. Impress me with your fundamentals.

Don’t spend 4 months on 6 pages of art. It misrepresents your ability to get the job done on a schedule. Show me what you can do in a page a day. If I hire you after you’ve misrepresented yourself, you’re done forever in my book — you’ve pulled a bait-and-switch.

Rendering needs to be strong. Perspective is a must. Bad anatomy is a non-starter. Show you have range — as a comic book artist, you’ll need to do fantasy, science fiction, convincing automobiles, believable city streets, real-looking buildings.

Don’t put EVERYTHING into the portfolio. I don’t want to see your old stuff. You might love that Batman drawing from two years ago, but believe me, when I see it, it looks like you just got worse. If you’re any good, you’re drawing all the time and getting better and better and better. Your old stuff might be sentimental to you, but you’re blind to how much better you’ve gotten since you did it. Leave it out, because it can create a bad aftertaste.

Draw, draw, and draw. And when you’re done, draw again.

The field is competitive. If you want to succeed, bring your A-game. There’s work to be had, but a lot of other people are trying to break-in. The industry is not a locked room, we break new talent at BOOM! constantly, but you can’t fool yourself and think you can take a shortcut or skip a step, it requires focus and discipline.

And here’s Matt’s insight:

Bring a “leave-behind” with you.  This could be as simple as a business card or a few printouts of your favorite (sequential) pages with your contact information.  An editor might request this if they like your portfolio and it’s important to be prepared.  Something simple that they can take back to the office with them can be worth its weight in gold.  The truth of the matter is, a lot of editor’s will prefer to contact you as opposed to giving out their e-mail address.

Listen.  Don’t be defensive when receiving criticism.  It’ll get you nowhere.

Know who you’re showing your portfolio to.  Have an idea of what type of material the company publishes. Chances are, if you’re starting out, you will be acting as your own “agent”. You need to pitch yourself as well as your art.  Know what the company publishes and showcase how you can be valuable to them. Your portfolio of manga art won’t get you very far with a company that doesn’t publish manga.

Present a confident self-image, as much as possible.  A firm handshake and eye contact makes a good first impression.  If you are sitting in front of an editor your portfolio review is also a potential job interview. Editors will be leery of hiring an artist who can’t form a sentence and articulate what their capabilities are.  If it helps your confidence, remember this: any editor with a line of comics is actually HOPING that your art is good.  In most cases the person sitting across from you is actually ROOTING for you.

How awesome it that? Super awesome.

I want to thank Ross and Matt for their responses. Really appreciate you guys taking the time.

If there are any other editors/ publishers out there that would like to share some knowledge to help everyone’s life run a little smoother, I would love to post any insights you may have. Just sent it over to me at allisontype at gmail dot com.

A

Reader Request Topic: GEEKOUT!

24 May

A reader would like to know:

How do I not geek out when I meet creators at a con?

I have a fairly simple answer to this question. The majority of creators really enjoy people telling them the work they produce is great and like to answer reader questions. For the most part writers and artists sit in a room, alone and rarely get positive reinforcement all of us crave as human beings. They go to conventions to interact with people, promote their work and to hang out with friends and colleagues.

So my basic point is, DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT.

But in addition to that advice, here are a few things you can keep in mind while talking to another creator you might admire.

  1. Try not to monopolize their time.  Other people would also like to talk to them.
  2. During cons, creators often keep a busy schedule. Panels, signings and interviews take up a lot of time. Just be aware they might have somewhere to go and it has nothing to do with you.
  3. Creators like to talk about things other than THEIR work.  A lot of them are self-conscious and while they might enjoy the praise and are happy to answer questions, dwelling on it for too long might make them uncomfortable.
  4. They are just another human being.
  5. They do not recall every detail from stuff they have written or worked on. While they might be able to recite the home planets of every member of the Legion of Superheroes, creators often forget details from their own work. It happens.
  6. Don’t ask them recommend YOUR book to their editors. If they really want to do this, they will. But asking is not proper etiquette and will result in immediate dismissal.  Giving them your book, on the other hand, is always cool.
So have fun and don’t be afraid to sing the praises of your favorite creators. They secretly love it!
Now go listen to this Jellyfish song.
A

The Press is Your Friend or Don’t Piss Off the Marketing Dept.

19 May

I LOVE me the press. And a good marketing department team can be your best friends.

Sometimes I think the people working in comics don’t realize just how great they’ve got it. Prose writers don’t have nearly the number of accessible press outlets to help promote their work. Not to mention immediate feedback in the form of reviews and discussion forums.

But while the immediate and accessible venues are clearly a boon to the comics field, they can also get you in trouble if you are doing it wrong. So today we will talk about how to do it the right.

Here we go.

INTERVIEWS AND PODCASTS ARE A GREAT WAY TO PROMOTE YOUR WORK

There are really two main factors to finding new readers: distribution of the work and promotion. A lot of people don’t even know you exist and it’s YOUR  job to tell them.

In written interviews, try to tease your projects without giving too much away, make sure your answers are interesting and thoughtful. And make sure you mention all the titles you are currently working on so the audience can make the connections.

For podcasts, try to have fun.  Try to be a podcast guest that you would like to listen to.

RESPECT OTHER PEOPLE’S TIME AND DEADLINES

The comics press has deadlines, just like you do.  Try to get answers back in a timely fashion.  If you hit a snag and just can’t get it to them when you said, let them know.

This part of your job is no different than that page you need to draw or script you need to get in. And your behavior should be the same as with your editor when dealing with these professionals.

RESPECT THE OPINION OF OTHERS OR DON’T USE TWITTER AS A WEAPON

This might be the hardest thing I ask you to do. And you can totally NOT feel this way in private, just don’t go public with it.

Not everybody responds to art in the same way.  And that’s okay.  You are going to get reviews that you don’t agree with. You are going to read message board postings that are completely misguided and wrong.  You might even see someone on twitter say the issue of “X-Whatever” you wrote was the “worst comic ever written.”  It happens and  it makes you feel like poo.

But if you can’t handle the criticism, if it just eats you up, don’t ever write a high profile book.  The bigger the profile, the more people who see it, the more people will complain. That’s just math and a part of the business.

I’ve heard some creators don’t look at reviews at all and that’s certainly a way to go.  However, sometimes there can be criticism that rings true, a problem you might have overlooked, and knowing about it can make you better.

But for crying out loud, DO NOT freak out on twitter and attack someone for a bad review.  You just look like an asshole.

NO MATTER HOW BADLY YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT THAT UNANNOUNCED PROJECT…DON’T

Good marketing teams have a plan to roll out your book with all the fanfare they can muster. But you just had to post that art or talk about it on your blog before the announcement. BAD MOVE.  I know it’s hard people. You get all excited and you just want to share. I get that. But you are shooting yourself in the foot and messing up someone’s hard work by doing this.

So this is what I want everyone to do.

If you have a new project and you aren’t sure if you can talk about it, ask your editor or the publicist/ marketing dept when the announcement will happen and if there is anything you should be aware of so that you don’t accidentally screw it up.

Let’s say that again. ASK SOMEONE AND DOUBLE CHECK. DO NOT ASSUME ANYTHING.

And if it gets leaked by someone else, don’t jump on the bandwagon.

LET’S REMEMBER: IT’S A TWO WAY STREET (or three way, hmm.)

The comics press need content, so they can have web traffic, so they can eat. You need to promote your work so that it sells, so you can eat. The marketing department wants your book to sell, so they can keep their job, so they can eat. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Nurture it and feed it. Don’t abuse it or mistreat it.  Treat them all with respect and they will do the same to you.

Later.

A

Quickie Don’ts

18 May

I wanted to do a quickie post on a couple of MUST NOT DO THAT, SUPER BAD, NO GOOD, HULK SMASH YOUR CAREER things. Why? Cause people are actually requesting that I go over this stuff (Isn’t that crazy?).

  • Stop harassing editors at 1AM when you are super drunk. Classy, right? Remember we talked a little about this in “The Long Game” post. If you haven’t read it or missed this part, let me be clear.  UNLESS YOU HAVE BEEN ASKED TO PITCH SOMETHING, DO NOT PITCH AN EDITOR YOUR WORK WHEN YOU SEE THEM AT A CON OR ON THE STREET OR IN THE BATHROOM OR ANYWHERE. Unless you really don’t want them to buy it.
  • And I really didn’t want to have to go over this one, cause to me it seems super obvious AND I didn’t want to insult my audience (love you guys, you rock!) but here it is. Don’t lie about anything. It will come back and bite you in your big behind. Don’t lie about who you know, who you’re friends with, where you have worked, what you did there, why you haven’t made your deadline. NOTHING. NOTHING. NOTHING. Which goes back to my post from yesterday, we all know each other and we all talk to one another. You will eventually be found out and you will be done.
Glad that is over. Now we can get back to the fun stuff!
A

Your Most Valuable Asset: Your Reputation

17 May

I know that this sounds a little cliché. But it wouldn’t be cliché if there wasn’t a solid kernel of truth there.

To simplify, I am going to speak in terms of the comics industry here but this really could be applied to any creative pursuit.

So this is the thought you should always have in the back of your head while singing “It’s a Small World”:

EVERYBODY KNOWS EVERYBODY.

And in ways that would surprise you too. Like they don’t just know each other from doing business with one another or meeting and hanging out at a con.  Some of them were best friends in college, or are married to someone’s sister.

Let me give you a personal example:

Matt Sturges (comics writer extraordinaire) met my husband when they were 18 at freshman orientation for college. And were roommates for years before either one wrote any comics.

I knew Mike and Laura Allred 7 years before my husband and also knew a number of other comics professionals prior to meeting Chris simply because a guy I was dating was friends with them.

So my point is, we all talk to each other. Editors at one house talk to other editors at other houses. Creators and publishers have relationships with the comics press. Creators are friends with other creators even if they have never worked together. Cause as I have said before, it’s all about relationships.

Which is why you should treat your reputation like gold and conduct yourself professionally.

What does that mean in real terms? I’ll be happy to tell you.

MAKE YOUR DEADLINES.

Now I understand that this sometimes can fall by the wayside when “life” gets in the way. But don’t let “life” become a habit. And when it appears that there is no way you are going to make it, tell your editor.  They usually have already built some time into their schedule and can accommodate the delay. Hiding under a rock, not answering emails, just pisses people off.

DON’T BE DIFFICULT.

I know that your original idea on how to write that issue of “X-Whatever” is the most perfect idea in the world, but if there are notes and changes, really step back and think about them before you decide to go to war to defend it.  Pick your battles.  If there really isn’t a way to accommodate the notes, then say so, but don’t be disagreeable every time.  Because in a lot of cases (most cases really), being challenged makes your art better and you a better artist

DON’T PUT ANYTHING IN WRITING THAT YOU WOULDN’T WANT ON THE COVER OF THE NEW YORK TIMES WITH YOUR NAME NEXT TO IT.

The internet is forever. And while you can try to remain annonomous using aliases and whatnot, people can find out who you are if you give them a reason to. So while you thought that jokey fake twitter account that cuts people down to make you feel better was a brilliant idea, it’s actually very stupid and can limit your career in a heartbeat. Also, that’s just rude.

EMAIL HAS NO TONE.

Be careful how you word email correspondence.  Whether you are a creator or editor or marketing person, make sure you read over all email correspondence to make sure something can’t be taken the wrong way.  I have talked many people off ledges because they took an email the wrong way when their brain read something that wasn’t on the page.

IF YOU REALLY HAVE A PROBLEM, TALK ON THE PHONE AND WORK IT OUT.

Your checks are always late or an editor is calling after your work hours. Constant changes at the very last minute. Whatever it is. If you don’t say something to inform someone of the problem, they can’t resolve it. And talking on the phone, prevents the “email has no tone” issue. You will find in most cases, the fix is a simple one.

Hope that was helpful.

A

The Long Game: 1st Things 1st

12 May

So you want to be a creative. And be an overnight success? Ha! That IS hilarious. Cause they don’t exist.

If I have learned anything from watching my husband work at being a writer for the last 14 years, I’ve learned that it takes a while.  And not only does it take a while, it’s hard, a lot of work and not necessarily a financially lucrative career.

So today we are going to start at the beginning.

IF YOU CAN STOP WRITING, DRAWING, or whatever you want to do, THEN THINK ABOUT DOING SOMETHING ELSE.

Seriously.

If you can stop doing those things for days, weeks or months, you really need to think about doing something else for money.  Because the odds are just going to be stacked against you from the get go. Being a creative is REALLY hard. Not everyone has the STUFF or the self motivation and drive. And that’s okay.

Now this next one is for the real newbies.

THE FIRST STUFF YOU WRITE or DRAW PROBABLY ISN’T VERY GOOD.

And if you have one idea and not twenty more percolating in the back of your head.  Start rethinking your long term career strategy.

So now that we have gotten those basic points out of the way, let’s get to the real hard stuff.

So let’s say you are ready to go, whatever you have chosen to do. What do you do next?

YOU HAVE TO MEET PEOPLE AND BUILD RELATIONSHIPS.

You find out where the people are that you need to meet in order for someone to hire you. Today, this is not that hard, I mean, it isn’t hard to figure out where people are going to be. Let’s just take comics for instance.

There are conventions all over the country, all the time. And I swear, the entire comics industry is on twitter in some way shape or form. But the internet won’t help you build the relationships you need to build.  It might help you open the door or window, but face to face encounters are what really seal the deal.

So what do you do when you get there? Do you tell your pitch to every editor you can corner for five minutes?

HELL NO.

Hang out in the bar. Be friendly to EVERYONE you meet. Follow proper bar etiquette. And NEVER talk about your stuff, unless you are asked.  But keep it short.  People like to talk about THEMSELVES. So let them. Be honest. Don’t sell yourself like you are the next great gift to the industry. People like to come to that conclusion on their own. And THAT is key.  If it seems like the conversation is lagging a bit, make your exit.

YOU WILL NOT SELL ANYTHING ON YOUR FIRST OUTING, OR SECOND OR THIRD.

This strategy takes time. It is a long game. If you are present at different shows and people like you, things will happen.

You have to be a human being. You are not just your pitch, or novel, or comic. Because fundamentally, when companies and editors decide to risk money on your idea, it’s because they trust you, like you AND they like your idea.

Trust doesn’t come instantly. So many others have come before, talking a good game that ended up being ALL TALK. So everyone that has made it to a certain level HAS BEEN BURNED. Someone might think your idea or art is fantastic, but until you can build a relationship where they can trust you, you might as well be another manuscript in the slush pile.

Granted, there are multiple factors to opening the door to become a successful creative. Building solid professional relationships is only one of the many facets of creating a long term successful career.  And I know that there are many exceptions.  But trust me when I tell you, it can only help better your chances to build your career on a foundation of friendship and trust.

A

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