Comic Books 101—Part Five

How Will You Break into the Comic Industry?

“How will you break into comics?” my professor asked the class. He chose three students to convene in the hall and discuss their determined path to becoming comic book writers. The rest of us, he told us, were to play devil’s advocate.

The three students came up with three very different plans for how they were going to break into comics. After the remainder of the class picked apart their ideas until things got a little feisty, we had developed three unique—and possibly doable—ways to break into this turbulent, unpredictable industry.

  1. Attend comic conventions and network like a crazy person. Or, as one student put it, become a comic book whore. Give your comic to anyone who walks within a three-foot radius. Stalk editors and pitch them your arsenal of story ideas. Grab a beer with some fellow comic con attendees after the day is over and continue your networking endeavors well into the night. Basically, make full use of the opportunities a comic convention has the offer. What could be more beneficial to an inspiring comic writer than a large group of comic professionals crammed into a convention space for the sole purpose of talking comics?
  2. Pursue the indie rout. Utilize your current contacts within the industry and just BE NICE (because you never know who can help you later on). Sell your work on consignment in willing comic shops. Set up shop on Self-publish until a publisher with more funds and expertise is willing to pick up your work. Basically, prove your worth as a writer by creating your own stuff NOW, nurture and grow you contacts, and just get yourself out there.
  3. Brand the hell out of yourself. Start a blog. Don’t create a new you, but do hyperbolize the real you. Social media is your best friend, so utilize it. Write for other blogs or web sites, even if they don’t initially seem to be relevant to your career path. Basically, build your digital platform and launch off it as much as possible. Hell, go viral!

My personal plan for success consists of branding (hello, Ms.Comix!), networking (did you know that comic book publishers/editors/writers/artists actually really like to chat with newbies?), and writing, writing, writing.

Which path will you take?

And, by the way, some other quick tips I learned in class today:

  • Standards are tough right now, so hold yourself to them.
  • Take advantage of what might seem like a disadvantage (e.g. being a woman in a formerly all “boys’ club”).
  • The self you are selling is yourself…only more so.

See you next week for another Comic Books 101!

7 thoughts on “Comic Books 101—Part Five

  1. These paths don’t seem mutually exclusive. It would seem to me that doing all three would be the best!

    1. Yes, certainly they are not mutually exclusive! I would recommend taking from each (at least that’s my plan). And, thank you, for reading the series. I am absolutely enjoying my class, which I recognize as a rare opportunity that I had to share!

  2. Cool advice. And you don’t necessarily have to pick one path, you can do all of them, I would assume. =)

    I’m in the middle of outlining a web comic, would you say there is an easier way to go about finding an artist? Especially for those of us that have basically no budget. And what stage should we find one? I would assume that it would be fun to have an artist that is involved with the story from the beginning so they can too connect and add and get to know the characters they will be drawing. However, the way I always hear about the production of comics, it seems like artists are just “hired slaves.” And by that, I mean, the writer gives the script/content to the artist and they just draw it. Somewhat mechanical.

    1. I have no budget either (unless school loans count as a “budget!”). I’m lucky enough to live by a couple great art colleges. I posted fliers all around the campus asking for a comic artist for my graphic novel and received inquiries from student artists. Most students actually see working with a writer on a serious endeavor as a great addition to their portfolio. Most students, then, are willing to work for free. I would, however, recommend offering to cover your artist’s expenses (paper, pens, etc.) if you’re able. This method is forming a creative team (which means you’ll have to share the rights–see Comic Books 101 Part Four for more about rights) and has the added benefit of really getting to know and working with an artist. Creative teams are great if you’re interested in self-publishing or want to submit your creator-owned work to a publisher (note, though, that Marvel and DC don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts). Pretty much, you can’t expect a publisher to just look at a script; you need an artist! Oh, and check out deviant art. Good luck!

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