ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT BREAKING IN PROFESSIONALLY INTO COMICBOOK BUSINESS:
And without further delay THE TOP TEN "DO NOTs" for writers, artists, colorists submitting work to an editor or trying to break into the comic biz. Please keep in mind these are my own personal "stand outs" from 13 years in the industry and in no way reflect the views of Zenescope Entertainment and blah blah blah LET's GET TO IT!!!! (still have comics to write...damn deadlines)
(P.S. I have been more than a little guilty of a few, if not almost all, of these things)
(P.S. Disclaimer and warning: For those who have never been to a Raven Gregory panel I tend to be more than a bit vulgar and harsh about these kinds of things but I'm honest for no other reason than when I was trying to break in I had to sift through the bullshit politically correct version of this business and the real deal...what you get here is 100% real so those with thin skin need not apply)
(Last P.S. The below DO NOTs list is not absolute. Sometimes you can get away with one or another. Rule of thumb though is as follows. And there might be some typo's. I took an hour out of my morning to write this so I'll be damned if I edit it.)
10. COMPLIMENT AN EDITOR OR COME ACROSS AS A FANBOY OR FANGIRL
Yes, I know there is more than a high likelihood that the publisher or editor you are trying to get work from is someone you admire and enjoy their work. It only makes sense that you want to be working for a company that produces product that you like. With that said DON'T DO THIS. There's a couple reasons why.
For one, we probably won't believe you. We, as editors, are hounded for work each and every day so we are fully seasoned with the knowledge that people will usually say whatever they think you want to hear to get on your good side. No one is going to come up to an editor and say they suck and their company sucks (at least no one who would ever get a gig from me) but there will be more than a few who will say how much they love so and so until the cows come home.
To prove this point, I once was doing portfolio reviews in San Diego when the artist I was looking at began raving about the various Wonderland series Zenescope publishes...having no idea that I was the writer of the series...and when I asked what was his favorite part of any of the series, he couldn't come up with a definitive answer at all. Not even the main character's name. Just broad stroke reinvented blah blahs that clearly showed how little he knew about the series. I'm glad you like the books and I appreciate the support so much but if you want work leave this trait at the door.
The second reason, and this is gonna get me much shit, if you're a fan of a comic series there is usually one hard learned truth, most fans suck at writing comics. I was a fan since I was a child and I can honestly say it took me about seven years to get "decent" at writing and I'm still learning to this day. But after ten years I knew many of the tricks to writing and why what works works and why so and so does this and that. I had studied the art form in and out and published dozens and dozens of books and with those made my many occasional and not so occasional fuck ups and tried best to learn from my mistakes. Much of NOT sucking is sucking a whole lot and learning what is making you suck and learning not to do it.
The best metaphor for this has been and will always remain the one of the heart surgeon. Who would you want to operate on you if you were going in for heart surgery? The surgeon who's done this for years or the one getting his first crack at a heart? Or the fan of the surgeon who has wanted to do this his whole life and wants to take a crack at it?
9. ASKING TO WORK FOR FREE
A lot of young writers or artists do this when they are first trying to break in and sometimes it works. Most times however, it comes across as desperate and unprofessional. It also shows a lack of self value you have in your work and if you don't value your work you can't expect anyone else to. I'm all for keeping the budget on a project low but usually you get what you pay for. In other cases it makes you come across as a fanboy in which case see the reason above this one.
8. ASKING FOR A CHANCE TO PROVE YOURSELF
I'm pretty sure every editor in the industry has heard this line from me at least once. DON'T DO THIS. Holy shit I was young and naïve. Yes, it seems like it showcases your passion, drive, determination and inspirational motivation to make your dream a reality but the truth is it comes across the same as asking to work for free. It might work on rare occasion but it oozes of a lack of confidence. If I see an artist I like, I LIKE THEM, that's about it. I'll get them tested out and as long as they don't blow the deadline they usually get the gig. If I'm not ready to offer you a gig you asking for a chance to prove yourself or emailing me that is not going to be the thing that tips the scales in your favor.
7. NEVER BEG (Desperate)
I remember the year I broke into comics BIG like it was yesterday. I had just lost my job and had been hitting cons HARD CORE trying to find a gig. In the meantime I was selling my comic book collection just to pay the bills and make ends meet. My ex-wife had left me with my two boys and I was a single dad doing everything he could just to keep my head above water. I sent out a very heartfelt email to all my peers and more than a few editors regaling my story of woe and asking if anyone had any open gigs or knew of any leads to keep me in mind. The resulting response was absolutely nothing...with the exception of one or two "that's too bad, etc, etc sorry you're going through that keep your head up." If you're gonna try to get in this business keep in mind that most people who "make it" have been through the wringer just getting to where they are at and no matter the sob story you may be experiencing on any given Sunday no one is going to hire you out of pity and if they do...it'll probably be the only time. Plus, it makes you look like a bum, and even though if I have a dollar or two to spare I always try to help out the less fortunate there is no way in hell I'm putting the title in the hands of someone of that character.
6. NAME DROP
Doesn't mean shit and doesn't show what you can do. I kinda know JMS, BENDIS, MARK MILLAR, PAUL JENKINS, DAVID MACK, PETER DAVID etc etc and even have a few of their numbers. Doesn't mean I can write anywhere close to as good as they can. I know Pat Shand extremely well but again that doesn't mean I can...wait...never mind...that one doesn't work
5. SENDING AN EMAIL THAT TAKES MORE THAN A MINUTE OR TWO TO READ OR BE PUSHY
Currently at this time I have 5 scripts due before the end of this month and I average on a good month (yeah, do the math) about a script a week. I work up solicit text, cover concepts, series outlines, spring boards for new series, co-edited way more books that I thought possible, sometimes book covers, answer emails from talent and the company, talent search when I can, work with various writers and given notes on their scripts prior to them being sent up the ladder, and do the occasional con or two. When I'm not doing that I'm a single dad raising four kids who has to get ready for carpal tunnel surgery later this month. When I'm not doing that I'm dealing with drama from my ex-wife or trying to spend the bare minimum amount of time my girlfriend will tolerate without putting me on "happy" restriction and RAVEN NEEDS HIS HAPPY. So the little bit of free time I have goes to reading novels (I have 25 on the shelf I need to get to) or comics (a whole magazine rack I'm still working through with a stack that grows similar to that blob monster). TV and movies have become a rarity let alone anything that can be conceived as free time. So if you send me an email and its as long as this list...it's not getting read...at all.
And don't be pushy. Even if an editor likes your work emailing more than twice a month is annoying unless we actively want to hire you and if we do we won't put you off. That doesn't mean we won't put you off if you like your work (see above reasons) but if we REALLY WANT you, you won't have to wait long.
4. SENDING IN A SHITTY or INCOMPLETE SUBMISSION
If you submit a comic be sure it's on par with what's on the stands. If it's not, and be honest with yourself, you are probably wasting your time and it'll get toss in the trash. Or much like Carrie's mother told her the night before Prom...all the editorial...they're gonna laugh at you. Many MANY years ago I learned of one such unnamed comic company that actually took one day a month off to look over all the submissions they received with the expressed point of making fun of the 90% of crap they received in the mail. The adventures of a stick figure SHARK BOY come to mind.
3. DON'T DRINK OR DO DRUGS (at cons or otherwise)
This one is EXTREMELY important. Say I want to give you a job and hear you drink a lot or do a lot drugs. Unless you are exceptionally talented creator with an already established name how could I trust you with a gig? Little known fact, if we editors bring a creator to our EIC and that creator fucks up or blows a deadline, we get blamed. Because each time we recommend a talent we put our name on the line in some aspect or another.
The other and much more dangerous reason not to do either is what if you're actually a better creator when you're on drugs or booze than when your not? What if the process is just made easier by being under the influence and you get used to that crutch? For all the great product or supposed great product you might be putting out eventually your ritual of inebriation will no longer be a ritual. It'll become a habit and a habit is terrifyingly close to an addiction and if you can't beat that addiction everything you've worked long and hard for will eventually burn whether you want it to or not. If you don't believe me look at all the incredibly talented celebrities, musicians, creators, and artists who have overdosed on drugs or whose drug use has lead to their death's and clearly realize that I doubt any of them ever thought to themselves at the beginning of their careers...HEY, maybe I should go and get addicted to drugs or alcohol...that should be fun.
2. MISS DEADLINES
Again, if you get a gig, don't blow the deadline. Most editors, or at least most decent editors, also have a buffer with the deadlines they give. The reason being you have no idea how many people blow deadlines. Of those, only a rare rare rare few keep getting work. Because of the nature of this business, the exceptionally talented or big names can get away with this more often than they should and editors do let it slide from time to time as long as the quality was worth the wait...but have it happen the first time you work for a company or more than a few times and editors will not longer find you dependable and be more than happy to ask the next person waiting in line.
1. ASK FOR WORK aka DO I KNOW YOU...followed closely by WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Yes, it is a catch 22 but if I don't know you or your work, why would I hire you? If I read a comic I really like, sometimes I'll reach out to the creator and see if they might want to work on something. But that's usually because they have a body of work I can reference. They've done stories I like and can showcase that they indeed know what they are doing. Or they are writers I've worked with in the past who I know can produce the goods. Most editors have a group of talent they continuously work with again and again over the years because they have an established relationship working with them and are comfortable with and enjoy it. So bringing in an unknown, never met or seen before outside of Facebook, never been published and has no work to showcase what they are capable of individual whose only samples are some short stories or fan fiction on the internet just seems a bit silly.
And the one 100% forgivable DO NOT DO on this list is the WHAT SHOULD I DO or HOW CAN I BREAK IN email? Now keep in mind I've written this email dozens of times at the beginning of my career and I get dozen of these emails month in and month out. And if it wasn't for Renae Geerlings answering my email way back when I might not be where I am today. But looking at it now with many years on these tired eyes, this is the laziest shit a person can do...especially in an age where you have the internet and library at your fingertips. GOOGLE! Nuff said. If you don't have the hindsight or at least the initiative to search out the answers and read a few books on the subject matter that's really not a good sign. Again, most of us in this business have busted our asses for quite some time before getting in and when someone comes up and asks what do to it very much feels like a slap in the face on some level. Like we should just open the door and make it all easy for you because you more so than anyone before you deserves to just have it handed to you. Yeah...uh uh...not happening. If you really want it you go play in the same fire as we did and if you make it back then we'll talk.
Alright guys and gals. Hope these help. These aren't meant to be mean or harsh more so than offer another perspective to those looking to make their dream a reality. And fuck I'm tired. No one ever tells you about the no sleeping for days deadlines. Actually they do, we just never listen. YAWN!!!
Executive Editor Zenescope Entertainment
P.s. And please SHARE this everywhere so I never have to write this EVER again.
— with Matt Rogers, Renae Geerlings, Marina Stepper, Pat Shand, Hannah Gorfinkel, Anthony Spay and Nei Ruffino.