Monday, July 19, 2010

Con advice from my Twitter feed

Okay, so the title ain't snappy, but I've been Tweeting a lot of information on breaking in for writers and artists lately. This was all tweeted quickly and off the cuff, but it's a good example of the kinds of things you can get from following us. You can follow me on twitter as @ComicExperience.

Here's some tidbits I threw together today! Please check 'em out and explore the site. Sign up for the newsletter as we're announcing a few new programs right after San Diego Comic-Con. Thanks for stopping by.


General Advice for creators:
Keep a small notebook with you. Write down what you talk about with folks so when you reach out after the con you can remind them who you are.

Know your terminology. Understand how printing works. Bleed area, trim, trapping--all that stuff.

@mercwithataco asked how to get work to editors at Marvel and DC without going to a con: Your own website is good. A blog. I don't like Deviant Art, but some people do. But really, you want to make a connection with an editor at Marvel or DC. That's really helpful there. And get some work published first elsewhere.

A comic that is NOT owned by a company but by the creators themselves. RT @mercwithataco: @ComicExperience wats a creator-owned project?

Get your editor on your side. A lot of people tend to want to fight with an editor. Don't. We're there to help you tell your story.

At shows in particular, editors can be gruff. It's not you, I promise. But even on day 1 of a show, we can get exhausted pretty quickly. If you get that vibe from one of us, don't take it personally and don't hold it against him or her. And try back later.

You can always start with comics. If you've done research, you can find out what he worked on. RT @AyeQue: @ComicExperience talk about what?

Have a business card ready. And if you've got decent conversation with an editor or publisher, ask for their contact info before you go.

If you've got evidence of a professional manner (hitting deadlines, quality work, printed material) have that ready.

And while I'm spewing all of this out: remember all these rules, but THIS ONE ABOVE ALL: Relax. We all have comics in common.


For Writers:

When talking with editors, try to have a normal conversation. Remember, we're there to talk with you. We want to meet new creators.

If the conversation goes off topic, LET IT. I'm going to talk comics with a million dudes, but you may be the only one I talk baseball with.

The con is not a great place to pitch a story unless you already know the editor or publisher. What you want, is a good conversation and the OK for a follow up call or email later on. So be sure to ask if that's okay and for their contact info.

Know whom you're talking with. If you're talking to Marvel, they don't want your creator-owned project. If you're talking with IDW we don't do a lot of superhero stuff. Know not just the publisher, but also the individual you're talking to.

How do I get that information on the individual? Easy! Ask them. Most folks are happy to talk about what they do. And then you'll know.

More writer advice: You don't have to be "clever" when you're talking to me. Just be clever in your writing.

If you have a written pitch, do NOT force it onto everyone. Have it ready if you get the genuine sense someone is interested. You'll know.

Do research, if you're a writer. Some writers love it, some hate it. If you hate it, doesn't mean it's not important you don't need to know every single issue of a character's long publishing history, but know the basics and know some current stuff.

If writing a pitch for your own creation, give the premise, the story, the characters in it. And by story, I mean, include an ending. The most annoying pitches I got while at Marvel were for Spider-Man Unlimited in which people would end it with "Does Spidey get out alive?" It’s like this: I'm the editor. Working for the company that owns Spider-Man. Yes, he's going to get out alive. I'm sure of it. More importantly, how can I properly evaluate your pitch without seeing how the beginning and middle wrap up? It's impossible and creates extra steps to get to "go."


For Pencilers:
Some tips for artists: your portfolio doesn't have to be huge. It can be short, in fact. One cover and three sequential pages can nail it.

If you're getting a portfolio review, be open to feedback. The days of getting jobs at the con are almost gone. Make a good impression.

If you're not an inker, don't ink your work. Good inking is hard to spot. But bad inking takes the pencils down with it. Same for color.

Don't be nervous. As an artist you have two huge advantages over writers: 1) We need more of you. and 2) I can like your work instantly.

If you have the time and the forethought, prepare different samples for different kinds of publishers.


For Inkers:

RT @Jeff_Mccomsey: @ComicExperience what about folks who ink their own work. I'm looking to ink my own pencils. What should I know?

@Jeff_Mccomsey Have your script that you draw from with you. Keep copies of your pencils. You may not be in a position to judge your own inks. So you want to allow for the option of just penciling or just inking. Why limit yourself?

If you excel at one you'll get your chance to do the other. And I can always recommend a good penciling or inking class ;)


For Colorists:

Depends. Colorists have to be versatile. RT @jameslfreelance: @ComicExperience how many piece should a colorist have in his/her portfolio

@jameslfreelance I'd recommend anything that looks really good and is the kind of work you like. No use getting yourself jobs you don't want.

@jameslfreelance But also remember only to show your absolute best work. Bring the inks you worked from so we can see the before & after.

@jameslfreelance I'll get a good sense of what a colorist can do in as few as three samples. I rarely reverse my opinion after three pages.

One more for colorists, feel free to show your colors on an iPad or laptop. Color projected can be much more vibrant than color reflected.


For Letterers:
Hand lettering is all but dead now. But (didn't see the but coming, did you) the greatest letterers learned their craft by hand lettering. I'm not saying you need to know how to do it, because you don't. But you need to study it. Understand what makes good lettering.

You're in a visual medium and a lot of the "visual" on the page is made up of your work as a letterer.

You've got to know how to flow balloons properly across a page, not just for reading order (which is key) but also to lead the eye into the story properly.

You've got to understand how to work WITH the art. You're going to impact the final product in a huge way, so you've got to think about each page as a composition of art. You've also got to figure out how to change your style to fit appropriate projects.

If going to the show for lettering work, do the research. It's not going to do you a lot of good to go to a place that does lettering in house.

Also, have a packet of lettering samples showing your versatility in styles as well as demonstrating you know how lettering works as a visual component.


For Editors:
Editors is interesting. Few publishers go to cons looking for editors, but... RT @JoshuaLazarus: @ComicExperience Editors! :-)

Most editors are way over-worked. I'd go in looking for creative solutions. You probably won't get hired as assistant or full editor quickly. But you might start looking for ways you can help out with a publisher.

Talk to folks there and see what they really need. If you've got something you can offer that they need, that might work.

If you're in school and can do an internship in editorial, that's great. That's one way I got into editing.


For Publishers:
That's a great one. RT (retweet) @ChicoFiesta425: @ComicExperience tips for people who wanna start their own little company one day.

@ChicoFiesta425 I'm not a publisher, but I've worked for some. And one thing IDW did that was really smart was start by doing something else first. They did creative service jobs before tackling full on publishing (which has a lot of business problems up front).

Publishers have to deal with things like setting print runs, which is really hard to do. Setting an appropriate budget for a project without prior experience is nigh impossible. So the best advice is to do tons and tons of research. Talk to different printers.

I'd look into Haven, not just immediately go with Diamond. I'd work with creators who can meet deadlines so that you can hopefully keep your cash flow coming in. SOme companies go under because they can't get their money back when freelancers take too long. There are too many potential pitfalls to count.

That all said, I can tell you that few things outside of being a husband or father are as rewarding as running your own business and Comics Experience is a small business by any standard, but it's mine. When it succeeds, I succeed (and I don't just mean financially).

Agreed. RT @JD_Oliva: Running your own bus is great. There's something rewarding about being able to pay your bills & doing it YOUR way.

Also agreed. I freelanced for a while. That's tough.RT @JD_Oliva: On the flipside, when it's your only source of income and you fail...eek!


Closing:
Thanks for reading. I hope this is helpful. Swing by for one of our upcoming workshops or courses. And again, sign up for our newsletter (we don't send it often) and follow us on Twitter!

Thanks and good luck at the shows!

Andy

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