B&N Week 59: The Good Ol’ Boy Network

| February 7, 2012 | 0 Comments


It’s Tuesday! Welcome back to Bolts & Nuts! This week, I figured we’d talk about the Good Ol’ Boy Network. I know some of you are groaning and complaining, but there will be mire interesting stuff next week. I felt this was important.

I’ve been somewhat remiss over the past year, and for that, I apologize. I should have gone on this tangent about twelve weeks or so ago. It was staring me in the face, but, I’m not all-seeing, all-knowing. I’m just trying to give you the benefit of my experience, in order to cut down your development time to reach the Promised Land.

In order to do this, though, I’m going to have to talk about me for a little bit. You know that I don’t do it often, and they’re invariably long. So, sit back, relax, and let me regale you with two stories and a realization.

When I was with Paper Dragonz, before becoming Editor in Chief, I was also trying to get a superhero book off the ground. The artist I had originally I wasn’t too happy with, and he flaked out on me. The second artist, though, the second artist was brash, talked a lot of trash, and from the samples I saw, he could do the job. And yes, I must admit, I wasn’t particularly happy with the original artist, besides the flaking. So, I let this artist take over the reigns.

Well, first, he would only commit to doing twelve pages. He had other, paying work he had to get to. Since he was doing this for free, I wasn’t in a position to complain. Then, when the pages came in they were small. No, I mean small. At one hundred percent, they were about the size of banner ads that you see. Yeah. Useless. And his reasoning? He needed the paper in order to do real work, not pro bono stuff. And did he complete the twelve pages that I had completely rewritten in order to tell a complete story? No. He disappeared, presumably for paying work.

So, a few months later, I’m trying to get another project off the ground. I had an idea from my KingFinger Comics days that I wanted to continue on. I got in contact with a guy who seemed like he was moving and grooving, and he gave me a list of artists to choose from. One of them was the artist who bailed.

I told this guy in no uncertain terms that there was no way I was going to work with this artist. I’d pick from the list, but anything that we would do together, would not be done with this artist, no matter how talented he was. I told him the story, and he understood totally, and we moved forward with the project.

Nice, right?

Second story: I was working with a new writer in an editorial capacity. I was taking this writer through the ropes as a first time creator. They wrote a script, and their original artist flaked on them. Once the script was basically up to snuff, it was time to go through an artist search. I had them write up an ad for my review, and after some tweakage, I told them to put it up on Digital Webbing, and then to sit back and watch the flood happen.

The flood happened.

I informed the writer to forward all of the e-mails to me, and we’d whittle through them together, making up a list, talking about it, and then making decisions and making offers. The first thing I want you all to realize is this: you’ll get more credible artists if you offer money than if you don’t. There are some artists out there that are more concerned about concept than money, but let me tell you, the good artists that are like that are few and far between. Even if you offer just a little bit of money, you can often get a worthwhile artist. (You’ve said this before. Say something new!) I’m getting there.

Anyway, among the deluge of artists that responded to this writer’s ad are a comics legend [an offer will be made, knowing it will be rejected, but it never hurts to ask], a scam artist [Ron Runstrum, one of Josh Hoopes’ alter egos], and a host of artists that are either damned good, pretty good, decent, or not yet ready for prime time.

However, what I did was go through each one, accepting or rejecting, and giving my quick thoughts as to why. And when I ran across a name I recognized, that name went higher up the list. And when I say recognize, I’m talking about we’ve either worked together before, we’ve met in person, or I know a person that worked with the artist before.

Here’s what I want you to realize. Creators talk. A lot. And not just creators. Editors ALSO talk. A lot. Probably more than creators.

Third: Let me go back to my last San Diego Comic Convention. I had inadvertently sat through a lecture aimed at artists about making their portfolio better. It was moderated by Andy Schmidt [go get his book, The Insider’s Guide to Creating Comics and Graphic Novels—it’s worth your money!]. Andy is an editor: used to work for Marvel, left there to do Comics Experience [which also has online classes now—I plan on taking one, so you should, too!  www.comicsexperience.com  ], and is now editor over at IDW. So, basically, he knows his stuff. Now, if he says that editors talk a LOT, then you have to take that as gospel.

He also gets calls from other editors at different companies: their book is going to be late, and do you have an artist that could do some fill in pages/issue? Sure, but I want them BACK. PLEASE, don’t steal my artist. And that’s how it goes.

And THESE, ladies and gents, are examples of the Good Ol’ Boy Network.

Hard work and determination will only take you so far. Look at this column. I put in a LOT of hard work, and I’m EXTREMELY determined to put it out every week, without fail. The same thing with The Proving Grounds. I write ahead, and I keep writing ahead, so that I’m rarely behind. I make arrangements for when I’m going to be out of town, in order to make sure the columns go up like clockwork. However, how many radars am I on?

Honestly, I don’t know. No company has come knocking on my door, asking for my services. Some creators come to me every so often, saying they want to hire me, but they are few and far between. No, you have to go get the opportunities, but you also have to realize that the hard work you put in will only take you so far as an unknown creator.

Here’s what happens: editors are more willing to hire someone they know than someone they don’t. Or, if they’re thinking about hiring someone they don’t know, but they know they’ve worked at a different company, they’ll call up that editor and see what’s going on with that particular creator. A bad report, and that creator may not get the gig.

Now, editors aren’t the only ones who do this. Creators talk, too. They’ll talk about the artist or writer they worked with, and how that experience went down, and when it comes time for getting the gig, that report may be the deciding factor. Yes, when I took that writer through the ropes, there were artists whom I recommended based on other creators testimony that I know and trust, and there are some that I’m going to pass on due to personal experience—at least one of which the writer I worked with liked.

In comics, a lot of it is who you know. It helps if you’re known as well [or at least noticed], but if you know someone, you can parlay that into work, because they’ll recommend you to their editor.

It happens. It happens more often than you think, on scales big and small. Your body of work helps, but it’s just your resume. It says that you may be able to do the job. It speaks nothing of your personality, which is where the Good Ol’ Boy Network comes in.

I remember reading an interview with Peter Tomasi, a former DC editor and currently a writer there. He was talking about being at a convention, and there was a guy hanging around that he didn’t know. Once the guy was vouched for by someone that Peter knew, he was able to relax and go with the flow. Being known as a good guy (or girl!) [yes, or girl] is a good thing. It gives you access that you wouldn’t otherwise have. If you’re good, you can turn that into a meeting, and that meeting into work.

So, the unspoken question is, how do you get to be part of the Network? (Yeah, Steven! Tell me how!)

The simple answer is this: hard work and determination. [HA!] The long answer is not satisfactory. Remember, I warned you ahead of time.

You need to put in the work, and you need to get your work out there, and you need to get it out there consistently, and you need to be nice while you do it. Then, maybe, just maybe, you’ll get onto someone’s radar. Someone will start watching you and what you do, in order to see what you do next. You’ll have to spend a lot of money, fail a lot of times, learn a lot of lessons, before someone will say Hey, Kletus, I see you’ve been putting in the work. How would you like to write a backup story of Leggs, International? And then, if you do a good job there, they’ll remember it, and if another job comes up, you may get recommended, rehired, or have someone speak positively about you. (That sucks.) Told you it was unsatisfactory.

Anyway, the Network is the reasoning behind LinkedIn. You get LinkedIn to other professionals and peers, and the more people you know, presumably, the more people they know, and possibly, you may be linked to the President! Think of it as the professional version of Kevin Bacon taken literally: you’re only separated by degrees from people you may need to talk to, and you have the opportunity to be introduced to that person by your mutual connection.

I’ve gotten referral requests from people I barely know—and that never ceases to amaze me. How can I refer you to anyone if I don’t know you? Or if I DO know you, tried to do some work with/for you, and got no answer back [which is a rejection]—why would I refer you? Yes, that’s happened. No, I didn’t refer them. Really, don’t know how they got into my circle, anyway.

Getting into the Network is no easy thing. It presumes you have a skill someone wants, a body of work to show off that skill, the ability to produce, and a somewhat favorable disposition. Like I said before, hard work and determination is nice. It’s great, and you need it, but you also need something akin to a sponsor to get in.

Where do you start? Digital Webbing is a great place. You go, watch for a little bit, get a sense of the place, and then introduce yourself and start interacting. [Again, I suggest you use your real name.] Don’t get all wrapped up in trying to make a move immediately. It’s a great community where creators go not to just create, but to also hang out. And during that interaction, you will get known, and then when you start showing off what you can do, people may start to look at you differently, and hit you up to create something. Then, while you’ve got your mojo going, you create your stuff, and hopefully it gets noticed. And so it goes.

This is how you become part of the network. You keep your nose to the grindstone, you keep up the hard work and determination, and you interact with your peers. You get good enough, you get some gigs, and then people start to talk about you. You get more gigs, more talk and that’s how it goes.

And that’s it for this week. See you in seven!

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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.

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