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B&N Week 38: Networking

| September 13, 2011 | 15 Comments

 

I’ve got a non-Prince song in my head for once, and it’s making me wish this group still produced music. It’s Digital Underground, and the name of the song is The D-Flo Shuttle. However, there’s a Prince connection. Shock G remixed a Prince song on Crystal Ball, and since Prince wrote Manic Monday, and Monday comes before Tuesday, everything is great!!!

I wonder if I can get to Tuesday by somehow going through Kevin Bacon…

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, so it’s another installment of Bolts & Nuts! And the Six Degrees of Separation game is a great thing to start with, because this week, we’re going to talk about networking.

Honestly, I’ve tried to avoid this subject for as long as possible. I’m not very good at it, partly because I’m shy, and partly because I don’t have a huge body of work behind me. But, everything I do goes toward that, and as long as I’m not too much of an asshole and do decent work, I can probably get recommendations. But that’s only part of it.

Networking. What does that mean? Dictionary.com defines it as a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest. So, what does that mean? You’re a comic book writer, right? Does that mean you can just go to Alex or Dan/Jim and get a job, because you share a common interest, comics? You’re Kletus Jerkovitch! You’re known throughout your family as Kletus the Writer! Dan/Jim or Alex are certain to give you a writing gig, right?

Probably not. Actually, I’m going to go out on a short, sturdy limb, and say almost definitely not. Meeting Alex or Dan/Jim, from a working standpoint, is something that must be eased into. And it’s that easing into that I want to talk about.

I attended SDCC a few years ago, and attended a meeting about networking. I don’t want to call it a panel, because there was really only one panelist. Art Thibert, if I remember correctly. I remember thinking to myself “that’s the cat that drew that great Black and White poster I had up in my room in the barracks!” followed immediately by “He’s thinner than I thought.” I remember sitting in the audience and listening to him, and wishing I had a card to exchange with my fellow audience members. But I was new and learning. Hell, I’m still new and learning.

Anyway, Art was up there, all lonely on the stage, and I was thinking about how to get to where he was at: being in the industry and staying there. And let me tell you, getting in is easy. (The hell, you say!) Trust me. Staying in is so much harder. The way to do that is to network, and let me tell you, networking is hard, frustrating, and time consuming. As a writer, you’re always going to think that time is against you, because you want to write Deadpool vs Deadshot right now! However, with networking, slow and steady will win that race every single time. [As will being able to produce good work on time.]

Before you go out into the wilds of networking, I want you to do a few things, first. First, you’re going to create an e-mail address that will never go away: hotmail or gmail or yahoo or whatever. Make sure that it NEVER GOES AWAY. I moved from Virginia to Arizona, and I had a Cox cable account. My e-mail address was supposed to move with me. Because Cox is a giant corporation, it got screwed up, and that account was deleted. I then moved from the apartment I was in into a house. The location that the house was in did not have Cox as a service provider, they had Qwest. So, again, that address was lost. Then I moved yet again, but no, I didn’t lose that address because I started using hotmail. I even created an addy that was more professional, just for my work. I then got turned on to gmail, and haven’t looked back since.

By having an addy that will NEVER GO AWAY, you’re creating an air of stability. That is something you need. (Steven, it’s a free service. Anyone can have one. How does that set me apart?) That’s the entire thing right there. Because it’s free and anyone can have one, you have NO EXCUSE not to have a nice, stable e-mail address to put on your cards. You can change jobs, you can move to a place not serviced by your usual cable company, but a Hotmail/Gmail/Yahoo account never goes away. Use your resources. Free does not equal bad.

Another thing that is free, and no less important: a Google phone number. For those of you that can (generally, the US and now Canada), getting a Google number is absolutely free. Hook it up to either your home or mobile number, and you’re ready to rock. Why? Because it is just like your FREE addy in that it will NEVER GO AWAY. Your phone gets cut off? You move? Your number changes? Your Google number won’t. It can be used from any phone you designate, and it can do things your other number can’t. You’re on the internet. Go research! [This also saves you from giving out your real number to anyone.] (And you have one of these numbers?) [Sure do! 520-344-4633. Don’t say I never gave you anything.]

The next thing is to create a card. On this card will be a few things: your real name [See how things keep coming back to that? Kremator-9 won’t help you here!], your e-mail address [you know, the one that will NEVER GO AWAY], your Google phone number, and what it is you do. That’s the very least amount of information you want to have on the card. (Steven, I won’t even say “Duh…”) Too late. But that’s not what I’m getting at. You can add more things, if you have them. Your Twitter handle [@stevedforbes]. If you have a website, put it on there. If you’re running a webcomic, put the site address on there. You want to make it interesting and clever if possible, but even if it’s as plain as the day is long, at least you’ll have it. That card is a tangible reminder that you exist, and that you’re available for work. [There is the rare writer that isn’t available for more work.]

Oh, and leave one side blank.

The card is important, and you’ll see why later.

Networking! It’s best done face to face, but this is also the age of the interwebs, so you’ll be forgiven for not talking directly to people, even on the phone. [Well, mostly. Remember, I advocate using the phone, at the very least, whenever possible.] Networking is something you do so you can get “in”, and once there, you have to be faithful to the trust you’ve earned.

The next thing I advocate is setting up some sort of social networking account. In the day and age of Facebook and now Google Plus, as well as Twitter and to a lesser extent, LinkedIn, there’s no reason at all that you shouldn’t have a social networking account. All of these are free, and only take a little time to set up.

After you join up, I recommend joining a few discussions. Do a search for them. You’ll decide which ones are best for you. Simple.

Okay, so you’ve got your e-mail addy that will NEVER GO AWAY, you’ve got your card, and you’re ready to hit the streets, right?

Almost.

Let’s talk about your appearance for just a little bit.

You’re going out in public, and you’re trying to get work. You’re going to do a few things in order to prepare for this outing. The first is you’re going to shower. (Steven…) I don’t want to hear it. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t have to. (But still…) Hey, don’t blame me. Blame the guy you decided not to sit next to because of the pizza stains and stench from his pits. He’s the reason I have to say this. Ladies, in general, you’re more hygienically inclined than some guys. [There is a small population of you that aren’t though. I was in the Marine Corps for eight years. I’ve met some of you.] So, bathing with soap and water, and while you’re at it, proper grooming is also needed. A haircut and possibly a shave. At least trim it, make it look presentable. Next, you have clean, stain- and dinge-free clothes to dig out of the closet. I recommend a collared shirt, jeans that are in good repair, and comfortable shoes. No, not tennis shoes. This is what is known as looking presentable. No cologne. Your au du smell-good is someone else’s au du crap. [Ladies, I’m not excluding you. You just generally know better than we do. This will be one of the rare times I assume.]

Now, add a little self-confidence, and you’re ready to rock!

Imagine you’re at home, and writing. Or doing research, or on the phone, or something. You’re home, minding your own business, not harming anyone. Your doorbell rings. It’s a salesman, and he has a pitch for a rock he wants to sell you. You say no thanks, but he goes on and on about the uses of the rock: paperweight, doorstop, home security, and the like. He will not shut up about the damned rock that you don’t want! You agree to take his card, just to get him out of the house [how’d he get in, anyway?].

That’s you, up in someone’s face, trying to pass off your card, trying to get a job. Don’t do that. Don’t be that person.

How do you network?

By talking to people. You talk to people about other things that are not work related. You build something of a relationship. This. Takes. Time. I know the press of time you feel, and you want to get things done now, but it doesn’t work that way. You need to be patient. You need to talk to people.

If you had the money right now, how many of you would hire me right now? I mean, right this very second? I’m thinking [hoping] that a decent amount of you would. And I haven’t talked to many of you, either. Why would you hire me, then?

Because you know something of how I think. These columns give you a lot of insight as to who I am. The Proving Grounds shows you exactly how I edit. Based on that, you know what you’re getting. Now, without either one of those, without knowing something of me from the Digital Webbing boards, how many of you would hire me if you were looking for an editor? More than likely, there would be less of you. Why? Because you don’t know much about me.

And this is what I’m talking about.

You have to do this when you’re looking for work. You have to let people know who you are. You have to let people know what you can do. Every time you make a post under Kremator-9, you’re not helping yourself to be memorable. If you make it as Kletus Jerkovitch, and you stand behind your words, you’re going to be better remembered. [See how your real name comes in handy?]

Now, the NYCC is right around the corner, and that’s why this topic is very apropos. Most of you don’t have cards, but that’s okay. You’ll know better for the next convention. Convention season is decently long, and I advocate everyone hitting at least a local show, and one big show. Everyone reading this should hit SDCC at least once in their lifetime. If you want to feel small and insignificant, that’s the show to hit. Don’t even worry about networking too much at SDCC. It’s huge, and unless you have something to sell, you’re not going to get much networking done there, because there’s too much to look at.

So, I’m going to pass on some advice that was given to me when talking about networking. You go up and introduce yourself to an editor, and you talk about work. That’s fine. After the work day is done, you go to one of the bars, and see the editor. Buy them a drink, and DON’T TALK ABOUT WORK. Chit chat, talk about their family, talk about whatever. If they bring up work, great. If not, leave it be. Let them lead the conversation. They’ve had to glad-hand people all day. A drink to relax after that is always nice. The next day [yes, this is a two-day operation, at the least], you see the editor again, and ask how their day is going. Converse. Steer the conversation back to work a little. And then, the only thing you give them is a short pitch and your card.

That’s it. Just your card. That’s the only physical thing you give away, unless they ask for more.

(Steven, I have an entire PITCH I wanna give them, and my 105 billion page epic about Pen-Man! You know, what we’ve been working on all this time! I’ve done my homework. Why do you think I keep coming back week after week? And now, you’re telling me just to hand him my card?!)

Yep. Because you’re going to get lost in the shuffle, otherwise.

You’re going to be one of a billion people trying to hand an editor a gazillion page package—a package that they weren’t looking for to begin with. The editors are there for a few reasons: getting to see old friends in the business [making comics is a lonely pursuit], hawking their wares, seeing their public, and looking for artists. Did I say anything about writers in there? (…) Well? (…no…) Because we’re a dime a dozen, and it takes too long to read a script and see if there’s merit in the work. It can’t be done at a convention. So everyone has a packet ready, and it gets round-filed.

So, you give your card and hope to be contacted. If they ask for your card [which is infinitely better], ask for a timeframe to contact them if you don’t hear from them. They’ll usually say a couple of weeks. LISTEN TO THEIR TIMEFRAME. Don’t pester them before then. They’ve shown some interest by asking for your card, don’t blow it by being on them like white on rice. If you haven’t heard from them by their timeframe, contact them by whatever method they’ve given you for a gentle reminder of who you are, they told you to contact them, where you met, and what you’d like to talk about.

I’m going to tell you right now, don’t lie. (First, you stepped over the line by telling me to bathe. Now you’re calling me a liar?) Nope. I’m telling you what not to do. Don’t misrepresent yourself in any way. If you didn’t meet with the editor to talk about Pen-Man, and you tell them you did, hoping they won’t remember, one of two things is going to happen: they’ll remember that they’ve never heard of you and you’ll never get work there for as long as that editor works for that company, or they’ll ask you to send stuff over, and then eventually remember that they don’t remember you, and you’ll never work for that company for as long as the editor works for that company.

It’s the same boat either way, with you losing. Oh, and it gets worse.

Editors talk to one another. Comics is a small pond. [Seems like I’ve said that before somewhere…] You’ve used your real name. So, they’ll talk, and start to reminisce about the putz that lied, trying to pass off their work through a back channel. Then Kletus Jerkovitch gets known as a liar, and possible work starts drying up, and it gets that much harder for you to get your break.

Because you decided to be a damned dirty liar. So don’t do it. And if you do, don’t come crying to me because of the consequences. I don’t want to hear it. You’ve been informed.

Okay, I said to leave one side of your card blank. You thought I forgot, didn’t you? Anyway, why leave one side blank? Because people keep cards, and then pull them out to write on the back of. This makes them keep them even longer! This gives them more looks at your name and what you do. This keeps you in their mind. It’s all a game, and the card, used effectively, is an important tool in winning it. See? Told you the card was important.

Yes, networking takes time. Networking isn’t something you do for work now. Networking is something you do to have work in the future. Networking is something you do to stay in work. It’s something that you have to keep doing. You keep forging those relationships. Networking will eventually pay off. Think of it as your pension. You pay into it now, so it will pay you back later.

And that’s really about it. For homework, I want you to get your e-mail addy and phone number that will NEVER GO AWAY, and start thinking about what you want to put on your card. Start designing it. See how much it’ll cost you. Search out others’ cards for ideas. Be as happy as you can be with the design, because it’s something that someone else will be keeping for years. Striking, eye catching, and as free of inaccurate information as possible.

And there’s the bell. See you all next week!

 

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Category: Bolts & Nuts

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

Comments (15)

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  1. John Lees says:

    Good article, one all the more relevant for me considering that NYCC is indeed just around the corner.

    There’s one thing I don’t know about, though. You talk about how it’s better to try and befriend an editor – get them a drink, ask them about their family, etc – rather than just immediately pitching a project to them. But my question is… wouldn’t an editor see through that in a heartbeat?

    Yes, an endless deluge of people who want something from you, who are only introducing themselves to give you their pitch or their comic for your consideration, must be wearing. But, I’m trying to put myself in the mindset of an editor, here. I think it would be worse having people buying you drinks, acting like they want to be your friend and spend time with you, and all the while you’re waiting for the moment when they’re going to ask you for something.

    In a way, isn’t it more honest to just introduce yourself and your work, show a knowledge and respect of their work as an editor, and explain that for this reason you’d like to ask them about a project you’re developing? I don’t know, I just feel like I’d respect that direct approach than feeling like someone’s playing a game with you to try and win you over.

    I don’t know, maybe it doesn’t need to be Machiavellian and scheming. Maybe the key is to be genuinely sociable and interested in this editor as a human being, rather than it being a waiting game until you can ask them for something. Maybe it’s because I’m atrocious at small talk at the best of times, and even worse when talking to Americans who can barely decipher my thick Glaswegian brogue.

  2. John Lees says:

    Also, for people in the UK interested in getting business cards, if you go to http://www.vistaprint.co.uk/tv, they’re doing a special offer where you can get 500 business cards for £5.

  3. Yannick Morin says:

    When you say to get a Google phone number, are you talking about Google Voice? Because that’s not available outside the US yet.

    • John Lees says:

      Yeah, upon reading this article I immediately looked up Google voice, and got a message telling me that it’s not available for people outside the US. I’m putting together my business card now, and honestly I think putting a phone number in is probably a waste of time, because internationally, people are unlikely to make that expensive call, and even locally, it’s a lot easier to reach me by e-mail or Twitter.

      • Yannick Morin says:

        “You have a call from *shrkzz* ‘Uhm… Dan Didio’ *shrkzz* Do you accept the charges?”

        Yeah, I can see what you mean. 😛

        I thought it might come in useful to me since I’m not THAT far away from the action but oh well, that’ll just give me more time to beef up my resume before it becomes available.

      • Noel Burns says:

        I have Vontage for making internaional calls, but I did get my google number after the article, too.

  4. Noel Burns says:

    John I think you need to see your editor/publisher as a person. If all you are looking at them for is a paycheck or chance to move on, which is how I read being direct. Then why should they invest their time and energy into you? I know from a personal level I enjoy working with people I like, but it doesn’t mean I have to like them to work with them. However, if a new project comes up I am also not likely to call on them again. Networking is about creating relationships, it is actually rare that I have met someone who was only out for the money, it is hard to be that cold. This is especially true in comics. Given the choice I will always work with the people I enjoy being with. That is just my two cents.

    And Steven if I won the lottery right now you would have a job till the end of time or the money.

  5. John Lees says:

    I don’t mean to come across as saying that I don’t see editors as people. My point was more that I don’t want to be manipulating anyone, or striking up a friendship with editors as a grounding to later pitch them my project. To me, I just worry that an editor would take that as, “You wasted 2 days of my time acting like you wanted to get to know me, when really you wanted to pitch to me.”

    I’m not opposed to forming friendships with editors, and indeed I consider Steven a friend. But he was an editor first, then he became my friend through working with him and getting to know him that way. I just think having a shared interest and working together towards a common goal seems like a more natural way to form a friendship, and doing it the other way round feels backwards.

  6. Noel Burns says:

    You didn’t really come off as not seeing them as people, but I think it is kind of like being a parent is. You are always Mommy or Daddy, but boy is it nice when you just get to be Noel. That is why you need to buy them a drink and chat. Editors are always editors especially at cons. You are not going to deceive anyone, but at least making an effort to be nice is a good way to make your connection.

  7. John Lees says:

    Okay, I have now ordered my first business card. We’ll see how it turns out!

  8. Lots of replies flying around today. That’ll show me for staying up late and sleeping in!

    Okay: Google Voice.

    I remember reading an article that it was rolling out in Canada. This was months ago. Maybe it hasn’t reached your province yet, Yannick? I’ll do some more research when I get to the library.

    John: striking up a conversation with an editor outside of a pitch isn’t Machiavellian. You used me as an example, so let’s use me.

    Although possibly somewhat intimidating, would you have contacted me about that very first draft of The Standard if you didn’t already know something about what you were getting into through both TPG and B&N? Was there some sort of comfort level on your part because you saw me as something of a person instead of this emotionless drone who spat out information? Would you say there was a glimmer of something there that expanded during our working relationship? Yes, it was the work that allowed us to become friends, but at the same time, I think it was our interaction beforehand that allowed for us to see each other as more than just ‘things.’

    We’re comic geeks, every single one of us. Just let that translate into conversation. But it also has to go like this: during the actual con hours, the editors are there to work. Off-con hours is their time. If you go out and buy them a drink at the bar, already have a topic of conversation in mind that isn’t about their work and isn’t about your work. That time isn’t about working, that time is about relaxing. Show that you can relax. Go with the flow. IF they want to talk comics, go with that. You’ve got a leg up on the competition, John, BECAUSE you’re from the UK. After getting around your brogue, you can talk about European comics, sensibilities, comic shops, and do a compare and contrast. No need to make small talk. Just talk.

    And good luck with the cards! You left one side blank, right? What did you put on it?

    Anyone else have cards?

    • Yannick Morin says:

      I just checked with Jon Rector for Google Voice. He can’t connect either and he’s from Ontario.

    • John Lees says:

      I indeed left one side blank. As for the card itself, I had my name, my job title (writer), website links (johnleescomics.wordpress.com, thestandardcomic.com, http://www.comixtribe.com), my email address, and my Twitter handle (@johnlees927). And on the other side a little picture of The Standard to personalise it slightly.

  9. Noel Burns says:

    I have cards. If you need help with cards let me know. I am not going to be able to do Vista Print pricing, but that doesn’t last forever either. I am currently working on a two-sided card. One side for my blog and one for me. Could be a mistake as you will not be able to write on it, but it looks nice.

  10. Tyler James says:

    Just to piggyback…Never approach or cold-pitch “an editor”…meaning a generic “oh, he’s an editor, I need to talk to him.”

    Instead, do the research. Figure out who (the person) is working on books you love. And then go talk to them about their work. Make it a situation where, even if nothing ever came of your conversation, you’d be glad to have it, because you’re speaking with someone who’s work you respect the hell out of.

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