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B&N Week 92: Become A Better Creator–Who You Know

| September 25, 2012

It’s another wonderful Tuesday! Autumn is here, the leaves have been turning, the weather is getting cooler, and people are starting to hunker down, preparing for the cold weather to come. However, I’m always warmed from the inside out, and that’s because you always show up. Thanks!

This week, we’re still talking about becoming a better creator. This week, I wanna talk about Who You Know, and where it can get you. Let’s get into the Bolts & Nuts of that, shall we?

I will be the first one to tell you, having someone on the inside of comics is a great thing. They can make introductions for you, they can promote your work, they can help you to get work.

I will also be the first one to tell you that I hate name-droppers. (Hate? Isn’t that a strong word?) [Darn tootin’ it is! Okay, fine. I don’t hate. Despise. I despise name-droppers. Better?] (I…I guess…) Telling me “who you know” doesn’t impress me. Not if you don’t do something with it. If you know Peter McEditor at Marble Comics, and you’re telling me about it, I want to know a few things: first, why are you telling me? second, why aren’t you doing any work for Marble? third, what’s in it for me?

People in general drop names when they want to do one of two things: they either are trying to impress you, or they’re trying to get ahead by using someone’s name. I don’t impress easily. I’m generally hard to impress. (You don’t say!) There are three people whom I want to meet. Meeting these three people would probably leave me speechless. In order, they are Stan Lee, Jim Shooter, and Serena Williams. (I don’t get it….) [Ask me another time.]

When you name-drop, people are going to have one of three reactions: they’ll either be impressed, they won’t be impressed, or they’ll call “bullshit” and want you to show and prove. Why those three reactions? Because they’re dropping names in order to be impressive. Everyone wants to be seen as impressive and important. A “good person to know.” Just be aware that that can backfire on you, especially if you don’t know the person or can’t prove that you do.

But like I said, knowing someone can get your foot in the door. You have a much greater responsibility when that happens, though.

Let’s say you’re an artist, and you  know Graeme McFreelancer. Graeme has been getting work from Peter McEditor at Marble Comics. You keep pestering Graeme to either show your work to Peter, or to make an introduction so that you can show Peter yourself. You’ve been putting in the work, you feel you’re ready, and you want to be the next comics superstar! Maybe you’ll even get a jeans commercial out of it!

Here’s Graeme’s position [of which there are three]: you’re his friend, and he knows you’re not ready. He knows that if he pushes for you to work there, he’s also putting his reputation on the line. If you get in and mess up, then he may not be able to bring others to this editor, or have a hard time bringing you to other editors in the future. Editors talk, and word gets around. By not making the introduction or showing the work, he’s saving both of you both face and heartache.

The flipside to that: Graeme knows that you’re good, and he’s jealous. He knows you have the chops to be a good artist on Spider-Lamb [HA! Chops…lamb…get it?!], but he doesn’t want to show your work. He doesn’t want you to be a bigger name than he is. (Steven, that doesn’t sound right.) [I know, but it happens.]

The best case scenario is this: Graeme agrees with you, and he promotes your work. He shows it to Peter, who also likes it, and gives you a backup story to draw in Moon-Pie Knight. It will test the waters and see how you do. You’d then sink or swim, but just know that your first few assignments will still have Graeme’s shadow on them. The editor will still be thinking for a while that Graeme brought you to them. You have a responsibility to Graeme not to mess it up.

Do you have to know someone in order to make it in comics? No, not at all. It makes it easier, but you can definitely go it alone. Like everyone else, there are a few things that you’re going to need, none of which you can truly really rely on.

You’re going to need talent [that you’ve honed—and this is subjective to both readers and editors alike], you’re going to need to be on the right book at the right time [which you’ll never know, because when talking about “the right time”, we’re really talking about readers taking to the book], and lots of luck. You can’t really count on any of that. But knowing someone on the inside will make it easier for you to get a gig.

There’s also another trick to this: you have to be good. Accidents of birth aren’t going to get you far. Dee Snyder of Twisted Sister? His son, Jesse, is a comic writer. He probably got the introduction because of who his father is, but his talent has gotten him gigs. Or, let’s take Nick Simmons, son of Gene Simmons of Kiss. Controversy aside, he had to be good in order to get a contract from Radical. (Controversy?) [Internet. Go look it up.] Accidents of birth will only take you so far.

I had someone write to me, telling me they were the cousin of a well-known celebrity. They wanted me to look at their comic and give my thoughts, and let them know if I thought it was something worth pursuing. I told them straight off: I don’t care who you know. If you want to do your celebrity family member proud, then ask them to give you some money, get together the best team you possibly can, and then put out the best book you can, because while it’s commendable that you were able to create something [not everyone can do it], no editor is going to hire you based on your accidental relation to this celebrity.

Who you know also has to be the right “who you know.” If you think that you’re going to use your “who you know” as a stepping stone, then they have to either be in the area you want to get work in, or near it. A celebrity relation that doesn’t have any interest in comics? Not the most judicious use of a “who you know.” What are they going to do for you? What’s an editor going to say? “We’ve got Felix Simpson, who happens to be the cousin of Academy Award winner Braeson Jervy, writing The Delectable Spider-Lamb.” What did Braeson do? What will Braeson’s name have to do with the selling of your talent, the book that you want to sell, or the book you want to work on? Not one thing.

Want to be a better creator? Remember that “who you know” can only get you to the door, and only sometimes. The rest will be up to you and your talent.

That’s all I have for now. See you in seven.

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Category: Bolts & Nuts, Columns

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.

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