A few years ago, I attended my first local Drink and Draw in Chicago and eavesdropped on a conversation that Tim Seeley was having with a bunch of local creators. At one point he said that no one ever really breaks into comics. The truth of the matter is that you are ALWAYS breaking into comics.
I always grew up thinking that there was some sort of invisible firewall that separated average folks like me from the fortunate few that make comics for a living. I used to think that if only I could somehow break through that firewall, everything would be all right.
Growing up, I didn’t know anyone who worked in comics for a living because I was raised by Russian Jewish immigrants. Everyone I knew was either studying to become an engineer, a lawyer, or a doctor. I was the odd ball who wanted to write comics.
And so that’s what I ended up doing. Tim’s words finally made me realize that the invisible firewall never actually existed. You never break into comics–you ALWAYS break into comics!
Today, I’d like to share three very short stories to support this theory. I hope you will find them enlightening and helpful!
A TALE RE-PITCHING
Next month, YI SOON SHIN will sell a total of 20,000 units. Almost 90% of those sales were acquired through my interactions with actual comic book readers at various conventions located all over the US and abroad!
I have had numerous customers tell me how much they are enjoying the series and reviewers are all raving about how great my series is. Hell, Stan Lee himself wrote the foreword to the damn book! That should count for something, shouldn’t it?
Well…no. Not really.
I will ALWAYS have to pitch YI SOON SHIN to everyone for the rest of my life. It doesn’t matter who I have working on the project or who I have doing variant covers. EVERY book must be pitched and re-pitched! Again and again and again!
And it makes perfect sense! Every organization has to do this. Take the military for example. How many people actually want to join the US Marines and be a part of one of the most powerful military organizations in the world?
Only a select few say, “HELL YES! SIGN ME UP!” But the majority say no. Of all the US military branches, the Marines have the lowest rate of recruitment, which is why they coined the term, “The Few. The proud.”
The same principles apply to selling people comics. The same thing applies to a company like Sony that wants you to buy their latest model television. Why should you buy it? Simply because it says “Made by Sony”? No way!
People consume and invest in the things that they believe in. Whether it’s a name brand or not.
That is why you will ALWAYS be pitching and re-pitching your work! Writing and creating your story is one thing. Convincing others why they should endorse your work is something that only you can master!
BREACHING THE PUBLISHER’S STRONGHOLD
Don’t think that just because your book is now being published that you can just sit back and wait for the money to start rolling in. The truth of the matter is that unless you make publishers a ton of money they will do virtually nothing to promote you or your book. That responsibility falls on you.
And the creators that do make publishers lots of money do so because they have already established themselves after years of back-breaking work. Overnight success is a myth! Those who are in true positions of success, such as the creators who have huge lines in front of their tables at conventions, have earned it and are still earning it! Otherwise, nobody would approach them.
It doesn’t matter if you are young or old talent. At every show I’ve seen him at, Mark Bagley (who has been drawing comics for decades) has crowds of people at his table. So does Neal Adams, Greg Horn and Arthur Suydam. Don’t think they didn’t work their butts off to achieve this level of success. These artists are workhorses and that is why we admire them and their work!
As a creator you have two responsibilities–to master your craft (be it writing, drawing, inking, coloring, lettering, or all of the above) and to promote your image.
The reason why is because nothing is ever 100% certain. Today, you may have everything going for you. But tomorrow, everything can instantly go to shit. If you choose to work in this business you cannot give up! Ever! The only way that is an option is if you decide to pursue a new line of work. If you’re like me and comics and entertainment are the only things you know, then you have no choice but to survive, especially if you have a family to provide for!
A good friend of mine was working as a regular artist on a DC title and recently discovered that DC no longer wants him working on that book. Yesterday he was working for one of the top publishers in the comic book industry and now he’s back to square one and trying to figure out a way to break back in!
There is no such thing as a permanent position at a publishing house unless you bring in money or are cleaning toilets and fetching people coffee for pennies on the dollar. However, if you manage to break in as a creator, there is no guarantee that you will be there tomorrow. Even if you are a top writer or editor.
There are countless stories of talent getting jobs from editors at the Big Two who are then fired, thus leaving both the editor AND the talent out of work. There are even more stories of creators discovering that they’ve been fired from the Big Two from outside sources like Bleeding Cool and CBR. Yep, the industry is that cruel.
The lesson here is that you must first win the hearts of your readers and then they will follow you wherever you go so long as you continue to maintain your promise to them and deliver the best damn work you are capable of putting out there! That will ensure your survival even when the shit hits the fan.
BLEEDING THE SAME BLOOD
Being a creator means the following;
1.) You are going to worry endlessly about the survival of your project. You are your work!
2.) You are going to be envious and jealous of other creators that are successful. Hopefully, that will encourage you to work even harder.
3.) Money is going to be an issue for you. Whether you are struggling to make ends meet or making millions of dollars.
All creators bleed the same blood. We all worry about the same things. We all want to succeed and we are all deserving of our fate!
If you come to a show, sit on your ass all weekend waiting for people to come to you, and don’t make a single sale–you deserve it!
If you come to a show and work your ass off to make every single sale–you deserve it!
If you come to a show and work your ass off but don’t get any sales–learn from it!
It helps to work with your neighbors at shows. Promote each other. Help one another. Because whether you have more or less experience than them, there is something to be learned.
Last weekend at Heroescon, I was setup next to an upcoming writer named La Ron Jenkins. La Ron has written two wonderful sci-fi prose novels so if you’re looking for something new to read, check out his stuff HERE!
This show was La Ron’s first time exhibiting and throughout the entire weekend, he was carefully watching me work. He asked me lots of questions, which I was more than happy to answer.
By Sunday, La Ron’s book sold out. He made that show work for him where many others couldn’t. His wife and son were there too and I have no doubt that they were proud of him for putting all of his efforts into pushing his book. I hope that one day, I can perform a perfect sell out in front of my own son when he’s old enough. That is my dream!
Seeing La Ron interact with his customers made me realize how much I love this industry. La Ron LOVES sci-fi! He wouldn’t have written two books within the genre if he didn’t! Seeing him share that love with his newly acquired readers as if they were his closest friends was a touching moment for me.
He wasn’t just trying to take people’s money. Once La Ron’s customers invested in him, he reciprocated. That is a very powerful thing.
La Ron earned his success at Heroescon.
Nothing in life is easy and nothing in life is impossible! Fight for your dreams and force your own path! No matter how hard it may seem! You can do it!