The Alternative Press Expo, or APE as it’s affectionately referred to, is just over a month away and I can finally announce that I will have some real estate there selling my wares and taking commissions alongside my good pal and fellow cartoonist Bridgett Spicer of Squid Row fame. It’s one of my favorite conventions as it really is still all about the creators without any of the Hollywood interference of some of it’s bigger convention counterparts. I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to conduct workshops at the show for the past couple of years and I thought it’d be fun to do a little something different on the blog today and share the outline/info I distributed during my workshop on networking last year.
If anyone is interested I’d be happy to elaborate on the outline as I did during the workshop as well as start a series of posts about what it takes/my road to become a cartoonist. Please feel free to email me (via the email on my contact page) or comment on this post. Without further ado, here is Networking 101 as presented by me at APE 2012:
So how do you break into the comic business? John Ostrander (The Kents, Spectre, Martian Manhunter, Hawkworld, Suicide Squad, Deadshot, Blaze of Glory, creator of Grimjack) says, “Usually our answer is ‘with a crowbar through the skylight in the dead of night.”
“There is no one way that works for any two people.”
This is true. However, no matter how you break in there is one aspect which is consistent in every creator’s story about their ascent to comic stardom: Networking.
- Most important piece of networking is…YOU! Your work, professionalism, etc. creates the desire and/or demand to work with you.
- Find your style. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but it won’t get you anywhere in the cartooning/comics industry.
- Take time to build up a portfolio. Make sure your portfolio includes different genres, people, places things, etc. Variety is a HUGE aspect in separating a good portfolio from a great one.
- Very important in this day and age: Establish a web presence! No one can hire you if they can’t find you or your work. There are plenty of (free/cheap) channels to assist you including, but not limited to:
- Deviant Art
- For those who are artists or writers looking to partner with someone of like mind on a project and/or pitch.
- Many avenues of finding collaborators:
- Craigslist (http://www.craigslist.org/about/sites/)
- Digital Webbing (http://www.digitalwebbing.com/talent/)
- Community involvement (i.e. Cartoon Art Museum; National Cartoonist Society)
- Comic Shop boards, etc.
- Not all styles fit together. Make sure to find a collaborator who brings out the best in your work and vice versa.
- Open and honest communication. No working relationship will succeed if personal cannot be separated from the professional.
- Cross promote. Each collaborator should have online presence. Use them!
- Create collaboration fan page:
- Website, etc.
Editors & Publishers:
- First and foremost: Do not, I repeat, do NOT cold call, submit unsolicited material (unless otherwise stated) to or try to dupe an editor. As stated in the Image Comics submission guidelines: “DO NOT try to pull a fast one! Don’t think that you can get away with saying that you had a book approved at a convention or that a previous publisher gave your book the go ahead. If your book is not up to snuff, you’re just making yourself look unprofessional.”
- Conventions! Conventions! Conventions!
- Promote yourself. Print business cards (postcards, ash cans, etc. if applicable) to exchange with editors/publishers whom you engage at conventions/trade shows/holiday parties, etc.
- Only show your latest and greatest. Showing works-in-progress, half done or old samples only screams amateur and will do nothing but set you back.
- Do not take critiques personally. Be polite, take constructive criticism and do not defend your work. Editors are not being mean, they are sincerely trying to help. Heed their advice. *Keep in mind this is a very subjective business and a thousand “no’s” doesn’t mean you won’t ever find one “yes”.
- Table at a convention. Buy a small press or artist’s alley table when there is product to show/sell. This shows initiative, intent and the fact that you can produce a product.
- Conventions are also a great way to meet potential collaborators! Most conventions these days, including APE, have comic creator connections. Take advantage!
- Attend/volunteer (get involved!) gallery openings and industry attended parties for such reputable Bay Area establishments such as the Cartoon Art Museum. *As this workshop was conducted at APE I focused on the Bay Area but this is applicable anywhere.
- Keep track of your contacts. Business cards should be kept safe and organized during and after the convention.
Perseverance! If you want to work in the comics field then do not give up. You will be rejected. A lot. It’s a part of this game. The ones who end up doing this professionally are the ones who use that rejection as inspiration rather than discouragement.
Scott Rosema (Space Ghost, August, X-Men Adventures, Tiny Toons, etc.) agrees. “I did a lot of submitting. I had a really tenacious attitude of constantly submitting, regardless of the rejections.”
“What’s important is the ability to work your way past the rejection letters and just resubmit.”
Create what you want to create, not what you think people want you to create. The main piece of advice I can leave you with is do this because you love it. If you’re only looking to get rich or have a stable occupation you’re better off becoming an accountant. That said you can make a living doing what you love.