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Thread: Week 26- Networking

  1. StevenForbes Guest

    Week 26- Networking

    I've got a non-Prince song in my head, for once, and it's making me wish this group still produced music. It's Digital Underground, and the name of the song is The D-Flo Shuttle. However, there's a Prince connection. Shock G remixed a Prince song on Crystal Ball, and since Prince wrote Manic Monday, and Monday comes before Tuesday, everything is great!!!

    I wonder if I can get to Tuesday by somehow going through Kevin Bacon...

    Anyway, it's Tuesday, so it's another installment of Bolts & Nuts! And the Six Degrees of Separation game is a great thing to start with, because this week, we're going to talk about networking.

    Honestly, I've tried to avoid this subject for as long as possible. I'm not very good at it, partly because I'm shy, and partly because I don't have a great body of work behind me. But, everything I do goes toward that, and as long as I'm not too much of an asshole and do decent work, I can probably get recommendations. But that's only part of it.

    Networking. What does that mean? Dictionary.com defines it as a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest. So, what does that mean? You're a comic book writer, right? Does that mean you can just go to Joe or Dan and get a job, because you share a common interest, comics? You're Kletus Jerkovitch! You're known throughout your family as Kletus the Writer! Dan or Joe are certain to give you a writing gig, right?

    Probably not. Actually, I'm going to go out on a short, sturdy limb, and say almost definitely not. Meeting Joe or Dan, from a working standpoint, is something that must be eased into. And it's that easing into that I want to talk about.

    I attended SDCC a few years ago, and attended a meeting about networking. I don't want to call it a panel, because there was really only one panelist. Art Thibert, if I remember correctly. I remember thinking to myself “that's the cat that drew that great Black and White poster I had up in my room in the barracks!” followed immediately by “He's thinner than I thought.” I remember sitting in the audience and listening to him, and wishing I had a card to exchange with my fellow audience members. But I was new and learning. Hell, I'm still new and learning.

    Anyway, Art was up there, all lonely on the stage, and I was thinking about how to get to where he was at: being in the industry and staying there. And let me tell you, getting in is easy. (The hell, you say!) Trust me. Staying in is so much harder. The way to do that is to network, and let me tell you, networking is hard, frustrating, and time consuming. As a writer, you're always going to think that time is against you, because you want to write Deadpool vs Deadshot right now! However, with networking, slow and steady will win that race every single time. [As will being able to produce good work on time.]

    Before you go out into the wilds of networking, I want you to do a few things, first. First, you're going to create an e-mail address that will never go away: either hotmail or gmail or yahoo or whatever. Make sure that it NEVER GOES AWAY. I moved from Virginia to Arizona, and I had a Cox cable account. My e-mail address was supposed to move with me. Because Cox is a giant corporation, it got screwed up, and that account was deleted. I then moved from the apartment I was in into a house. The location that the house was in did not have Cox as a service provider, they had Qwest. So, again, that address was lost. Then I moved yet again, but no, I didn't lose that address because I started using hotmail. I even created an addy that was more professional, just for my work. I then got turned on to gmail, and haven't looked back since.

    By having an addy that will NEVER GO AWAY, you're creating an air of stability. That is something you need. (Steven, it's a free service. Anyone can have one. How does that set me apart?) That's the entire thing right there. Because it's free and anyone can have one, you have NO EXCUSE not to have a nice, stable e-mail address to put on your cards. You can change jobs, you can move to a place not serviced by your usual cable company, but a Hotmail/Gmail/Yahoo account never goes away. Use your resources. Free does not equal bad.

    The next thing is to create a card. On this card will be a few things: your real name [See how things keep coming back to that? Kremator-9 won't help you here!], your e-mail address [you know, the one that will NEVER GO AWAY], possibly your phone number [I advocate this, remember Communication?], and what it is you do. That's the very least amount of information you want to have on the card. (Steven, I won't even say “Duh...”) Too late. But that's not what I'm getting at. You can add more things, if you have them. If you have a website, put it on there. If you're running a webcomic, put the site address on there. You want to make it interesting and clever, if possible, but even if it's as plain as the day is long, at least you'll have it. That card is a tangible reminder that you exist, and that you're available for work. [There is the rare writer that isn't available for more work.]

    Oh, and leave one side blank.

    The card is important, and you'll see why later.

    Networking! It's best done face to face, but this is also the age of the interwebs, so you'll be forgiven for not talking directly to people, even on the phone. [Well, mostly. Remember, I advocate using the phone, at the very least, whenever possible.] Networking is something you do so you can get “in”, and once there, you have to be faithful to the trust you've earned.

    The next thing I advocate doing is getting a LinkedIn account. It, too, is free, and it puts you in touch with all kinds of people who are also LinkedIn. It's a professional networking site, so you're not going to see MySpace type crap on there. (Don't like MySpace do ya?) It's a necessary evil, and we'll come to it in a moment. LinkedIn gives you access to people you may not have had access to before. You can be introduced to all kinds of people, or be sought out by people who are looking for your particular talents.

    After you join up, I recommend joining a few discussion lists. Do a search for them. You'll decide which ones are best for you. Simple.

    Okay, let's talk about MySpace, and we're going to throw Facebook in there as well. You need these. There are no two ways about it. I wouldn't worry so much about Twitter. Wait until you have some sort of following. But MySpace and Facebook are things that are needed. (Where's your MySpace page then, huh?) I have it, I just barely use it. Personally, I think there's too much crap on MySpace, and you can get lost in it. Extremely customizable so that it takes a bazillion years to load with all the graphics and music, and then you're searching for “friends.” Eh. It's like a contest to see who can gather the most “friends” to them. No, I'm not a fan. Facebook is a little more honest. Not much, but a little. At least you're not bombarded by other's musical tastes and flashy customizations. So, find me on Facebook, if you want. [And then join my Mob, dammit!]

    Okay, so you've got your e-mail addy that will NEVER GO AWAY, you've got your card, and you're ready to hit the streets, right?

    Almost.

    Let's talk about your appearance for just a little bit.

    You're going out in public, and you're trying to get work. You're going to do a few things in order to prepare for this outing. The first is you're going to shower. (Steven...) I don't want to hear it. I wouldn't say it if I didn't have to. (But still...) Hey, don't blame me. Blame the guy you decided not to sit next to because of the pizza stains and stench from his pits. He's the reason I have to say this. Ladies, in general, you're more hygenically inclined than some guys. [There is a small population of you that aren't though. I was in the Marine Corps for eight years. I've met some of you.] So, bathing with soap and water, and while you're at it, proper grooming is also needed. A haircut and possibly a shave. At least trim it, make it look presentable. Next, you have clean, stain- and dinge-free clothes to dig out of the closet. I recommend a collared shirt, jeans that are in good repair, and comfortable shoes. No, not tennis shoes. This is what is known as looking presentable. No cologne. Your au du smell-good is someone else's au du crap. [Ladies, I'm not excluding you. You just generally know better than we do. This will be one of the rare times I assume.]

    Now, add a little self-confidence, and you're ready to rock!

    Imagine you're at home, and writing. Or doing research, or on the phone, or something. You're home, minding your own business, not harming anyone. Your doorbell rings. It's a salesman, and he has a pitch for a rock he wants to sell you. You say no thanks, but he goes on and on about the uses of the rock: paperweight, doorstop, home security, and the like. He will not shut up about the damned rock that you don't want! You agree to take his card, just to get him out of the house [how'd he get in, anyway?].

    That's you, up in someone's face, trying to pass off your card, trying to get a job. Don't do that. Don't be that person.

    How do you network?

    By talking to people. You talk to people about other things that are not work related. You build something of a relationship. This. Takes. Time. I know the press of time you feel, and you want to get things done now, but it doesn't work that way. You need to be patient. You need to talk to people.

    If you had the money right now, how many of you would hire me right now? I mean, right this very second? I'm thinking [hoping] that a decent amount of you would. And I haven't talked to many of you, either. Why would you hire me, then?

    Because you know something of how I think. These columns give you a lot of insight as to who I am. The Proving Grounds shows you exactly how I edit. Based on that, you know what you're getting. Now, without either one of those, without knowing something of me from the Digital Webbing boards, how many of you would hire me if you were looking for an editor? More than likely, there would be less of you. Why? Because you don't know much about me.

    And this is what I'm talking about.

    You have to do this when you're looking for work. You have to let people know who you are. You have to let people know what you can do. Every time you make a post under Kremator-9, you're not helping yourself to be memorable. If you make it as Kletus Jerkovitch, and you stand behind your words, you're going to be better remembered. [See how your real name comes in handy?]

    Now, the NYCC is right around the corner, and that's why this topic is very apropos. Most of you don't have cards, but that's okay. You'll know better for the next convention. Convention season is decently long, and I advocate everyone hitting at least a local show, and one big show. Everyone reading this should hit SDCC at least once in their lifetime. If you want to feel small and insignificant, that's the show to hit. Don't even worry about networking too much at SDCC. It's huge, and unless you have something to sell, you're not going to get much networking done there, because there's too much to look at.

    So, I'm going to pass on some advice that was given to me when talking about networking. You go up and introduce yourself to an editor, and you talk about work. That's fine. After the work day is done, you go to one of the bars, and see the editor. Buy them a drink, and DON'T TALK ABOUT WORK. Chit chat, talk about their family, talk about whatever. If they bring up work, great. If not, leave it be. Let them lead the conversation. They've had to glad-hand people all day. A drink to relax after that is always nice. The next day [yes, this is a two-day operation, at the least], you see the editor again, and ask how their day is going. Converse. Steer the conversation back to work a little. And then, the only thing you give them is a short pitch and your card.

    That's it. Just your card. That's the only physical thing you give away.

    (Steven, I have an entire PITCH I wanna give them, and my 105 billion page epic about Pen-Man! You know, what we've been working on all this time! I've done my homework. Why do you think I keep coming back week after week? And now, you're telling me just to hand him my card?!)

    Yep. Because you're going to get lost in the shuffle, otherwise.

    You're going to be one of a billion people trying to hand an editor a gazillion page package—a package that they weren't looking for to begin with. The editors are there for a few reasons: getting to see old friends in the business [making comics is a lonely pursuit], hawking their wares, seeing their public, and looking for artists. Did I say anything about writers in there? (…) Well? (...no...) Because we're a dime a dozen, and it takes too long to read a script and see if there's merit in the work. It can't be done at a convention. So everyone has a packet ready, and it gets round-filed.

    So, you give your card and hope to be contacted. If they ask for your card [which is infinitely better], ask for a timeframe to contact them if you don't hear from them. They'll usually say a couple of weeks. LISTEN TO THEIR TIMEFRAME. Don't pester them before then. They've shown some interest by asking for your card, don't blow it by being on them like white on rice. If you haven't heard from them by their timeframe, contact them by whatever method they've given you for a gentle reminder of who you are, they told you to contact them, where you met, and what you'd like to talk about.

    I'm going to tell you right now, don't lie. (First, you stepped over the line by telling me to bathe. Now you're calling me a liar?) Nope. I'm telling you what not to do. Don't misrepresent yourself in any way. If you didn't meet with the editor to talk about Pen-Man, and you tell them you did, hoping they won't remember, one of two things is going to happen: they'll remember that they've never heard of you and you'll never get work there for as long as that editor works for that company, or they'll ask you to send stuff over, and then eventually remember that they don't remember you, and you'll never work for that company for as long as the editor works for that company.

    It's the same boat either way, with you losing. Oh, and it gets worse.

    Editors talk to one another. Comics is a small pond. [Seems like I've said that before somewhere...] You've used your real name. So, they'll talk, and start to reminisce about the putz that lied, trying to pass off their work through a back channel. Then Kletus Jerkovitch gets known as a liar, and possible work starts drying up, and it gets that much harder for you to get your break.

    Because you decided to be a damned dirty liar. So don't do it. And if you do, don't come crying to me because of the consequences. I don't want to hear it. You've been informed.

    Okay, I said to leave one side of your card blank. You thought I forgot, didn't you? Anyway, why leave one side blank? Because people keep cards, and then pull them out to write on the back of. This makes them keep them even longer! This gives them more looks at your name and what you do. This keeps you in their mind. It's all a game, and the card, used effectively, is an important tool in winning it. See? Told you the card was important.

    Yes, networking takes time. Networking isn't something you do for work now. Networking is something you do to have work in the future. Networking is something you do to stay in work. It's something that you have to keep doing. You keep forging those relationships. Networking will eventually pay off. Think of it as your pension. You pay into it now, so it will pay you back later.

    And that's really about it. For homework, I want you to get your e-mail addy that will NEVER GO AWAY, and start thinking about what you want to put on your card. Start designing it. See how much it'll cost you. Search out others' cards for ideas. Be as happy as you can be with the design, because it's something that someone else will be keeping for years. Striking, eye catching, and as free of inaccurate information as possible.

    And there's the bell. See you all next week!
    ______________________________________________________
    Any specific questions, ask them in this thread, and I'll answer them. If it's something of a more delicate nature, e-mail me. I check my e-mail constantly, and will do my best to get back to you within twenty-four hours, depending on the number of you who decide to flood my inbox. No attachments, please. They'll be deleted without being opened. (I know, I know, but blame the virus-makers.)



  2. tylerjames Guest

    Solid, timely advice on networking, Steven.

    Got my business cards printed up at Staples on Saturday, and actually, there's still no excuse for you guys not to have cards ready for this weekend's con...Staples can do same-day printing, you can design your card with their free tools on their website, and arrange to pick up in any store near you. So get to it!



  3. JohnAlexopoulos Guest

    Thanks for the great advice Steven.



  4. StevenForbes Guest

    Thanks, guys. As always, just trying to help.



  5. Cary Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by tylerjames View Post
    Solid, timely advice on networking, Steven.

    Got my business cards printed up at Staples on Saturday, and actually, there's still no excuse for you guys not to have cards ready for this weekend's con...Staples can do same-day printing, you can design your card with their free tools on their website, and arrange to pick up in any store near you. So get to it!
    you don't even need Staples. every Office (Max or Depot) sells cardstock for printing your own. all you have to do is work up what you want them to say and look like and you're good to go. i print my own, and can change them as i need them changed, without having 350 cards printed with the wrong damn email or phone number. plus if i want to jazz up my graphic a bit...i can without tossing out several hundred cards that now bore me to death.



  6. Join Date
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    I used to mock friends who told me they used MYSPACE or FACEBOOK for networking. Then I got my accounts. I was (and still am) AMAZED by the ease with which people who once seemed so very much larger than life, are willing to reply and converse with you.
    Granted, they are often more than happy to speak to me because of my affiliation with PFB. Working here has been a godsend in the network department. The Indy and small press crowd are awesome. They love to talk about what they do, and they love it even more if you can post a review, press release, or interview, to help them, as well. The BIG-Two Pros are much more accessible than I thought they'd be, and are also very pleasant (usually, there HAVE been a few exceptions. No names, Forby taught me that!)

    That, and now that I've spoken with creators, publishers, editors, and promoters is a DEFINITE help. I can go to a con now, and instead of being unknown-wanna-be-writer # 9,999,999, I can be "Hi, I'm Seb, from Project Fanboy. It's nice to finally meet you face-to-face!"

    The only thing I do that goes against Forby's outline is that (with the exception of PFB) I don't usually use my full real name. My Myspace and Facebook accounts, for example, are in the name of my Comic Studio. As a teacher of 6-9th graders, putting my name on an internet site just invites a barrage of "Hey, Mr. P." comments that would fill the site (it's why I don't have my AIM account anymore) and render it useless as a networking tool.
    I DO have a few students who have tracked this site down, but they are OK, and are here more for their own purposes than to pester me. Dancin' Days, for example is an EXTREMELY talented artist. She even designed my all-ages characters for me! Freakin' fantastic!

    Anyway, good column, Forby. As per usual!
    "Living Robert Venditti's Plan B!"

    CAT. 5



  7. StevenForbes Guest

    Thanks, Seb.

    Yup, MySpace and Facebook are pretty good for networking. I just really dislike MySpace. I don't know if that'll change.



  8. Sliverbane Guest

    Wow, another great chunk of advice. I am certainly taking notes every week. If only there was a similar one for novel writers. I've found some forums for novice authors, but they're very stuffy and not so fun to read.



  9. StevenForbes Guest

    I'm fun to read?

    Really?

    I don't think I've ever been called that before. I know Warren Ellis is offensive and funny. I'm not funny. Well, I don't try to be. I'm actually very serious.

    Fun to read?

    Hmm. I guess I have something to think about.



  10. Join Date
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    Dude, you little asides and self-arguments are the best! Your articles are very fun to read. Especially when you consider that most HOW-TOs are either very text-book like or more this-how-I-did-it bio-documantaries than How-Tos, yours is truly unique.

    And, even when you berate us for thinking too small or dreaming too big, you do NOT condescend.

    So, yeah, you're pretty fun to read.

    You're like the Simon Cowell of comic editors, only without the unnecessary theatrics. You have no problem pointing out our failings, short-comings, or mistakes, but you don't feel the need to turn it into a personal attack to pump your ratings.

    Which, by the way, go up with each article you post, so that alone should tell you that this is an enjoyable read.
    "Living Robert Venditti's Plan B!"

    CAT. 5



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