WRITE OR WRONG #52: Save Your Drinks

Write or Wrong: Interesting Times

Before I turned my focus to writing comics (and writing comics) I spent several years as a freelance music journalist.

By the mid 1990’s I felt my skills were to the point where I was ready to start venturing into professional publication, but since I didn’t feel I was quite ready to throw my (top) hat into the ring regarding writing comics yet – nor was I even ready to let my name be known as a comic journalist for any of the “major” new sites – working for some local newspapers and music ’zines allowed to the freedom I wanted to get my feet wet in regards being a “professional writer.”

Oh… and as an added bonus it meant that I could not only get some much-needed press for some deserving regional bands in my area, but that I would also get paid to attend concerts and interview then up-and-coming “underground” bands such as Marilyn Manson, Kid Rock, Korn, No Doubt, I.C.P. and the like.

What more could a music fan/aspiring professional writer ask for as a moonlighting gig, eh?

While I’ve always been an avid music fan ever since my mom first played me my first Black Sabbath album (that probably explains a lot, huh?), I never seriously considered joining a band myself.

While the glitz and glamor of being in a band – even a local one – offered its own tempting incentives, my heart has always belonged to the much less glorious field of writing.

However, that being said, I was quick to bond with many of the local/regional unsigned bands I worked with on my “beat” since – although our forms of art were different – I had the same dream they did: To land a gig with a major (or at least established) company in the hopes that such a relationship would result in the opportunity to showcase art for the masses… and perhaps even profit.

While in the comic industry the idea of self-publishing was gaining a lot of noteriety and plausibility at the time due to the recent formation of Image Comics, to my band-based bretheren landing a spot on a major record label was largely seen as the only way to “make it” as a musician.

Nowadays this is clearly not the case, as many previously-established and never-signed musicians alike are now discovering that it’s entirely possible (not to mention plausible) to make a considerable profit by signing with a major record label who will still – in an arciac hubiristic fashion – ask for massive cuts of sales revenues, ticket prices, merchandising rights and more.

Instead, many modern bands are now actually foresaking and snubbing major record labels, taking a (very appropriate) “What can you do for me?” attitude when they can now utilize the internet and some old-fashioned elbow-grease to make names for themselves nationwide.

Back in the mid 1990’s, though, the Internet/Social Networking revolution had not yet taken place yet (remember the days Myspace became a household name?), and as a result local/unsigned bands would do everything in their power to woo record label scouts, executives and even established “rock stars” with everything from alcohol to free swag in attempts to convince them that that they, too, were worthy of being signed to whatever major label they represented or were affiliated with.

You know, just like to many hopeful/aspiring comic creators now do at comic conventions… but more on that in a bit.

As a mere music journalist with no aspirations of landing a major record deal (heck, I was just happy to get into as many shows as I did for free!) I was an outsider looking in at so many desperate unsigned band members – many of whom I considered close personal friends – devolving into babbling or schmoozing groupies who were trying to buy their way into the good graces of the major label reps and rockers alike via free shots and unsolicited CDs.

As the unsigned rockers tried to woo those who already “made it” I’d see those who were the objects of their attention smile, nod, take the free drinks and the free CDs, say thanks and engage in some limited small talk before politely – but definitively – severing themselves from my pandering friends just as they surely did night after night in every town with dozens upon dozens of other wannabe rockers looking to schmooze their way into their big break.

Back then I couldn’t help but wonder if the unsigned band members – be them my friends or not – thought buying drinks and foisting their unsolicited work on the professionals would help them land their big break…

In fact, it was sad for me to see these guys and gals – again, many of them who I considered not only good friends but also very talented musicians to boot – reduce themselves to…

I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to grab them, shake them and yell

And now, all these years later, I suffer through the same silent struggle concerning so many of my aspiring comic-creating bretheren when I see them doing the same thing with their favorite comicbook writers, artists and editors at the bar scene after comic conventions.

The more things change the more they stay the same, eh?

Make no mistake – I know what it’s like to desperately want that one “big break” if for no other reason than so you can than to show what you’ve got and what you can do.

Heck, for years I would tell anyone who would listen that my then self-published online comic <a href=http://www.NightmareWorld.com>NIGHTMARE WORLD</a> was a great cutting-edge spin on the classic horror anthology model and that all I needed was a chance to get it on a large enough stage to prove that comic readers – and </u> just horror fans – would genuinely enjoy it if they could just be convinced to read it.

You know… just like all those unsigned band members I used to hang out with who would say the same thing about their music.

I know your pain, my friends, and although you may not take a lot of comfort in hearing this, please know that, for what it’s worth, this is the very struggle that who creates art – be it music, comics, pottery or hand-woven baskets – suffers through.

All artists struggle just to get noticed… and none of us will ever feel like we’ve truly been noticed until we meet our own criteria for success.

For me it was landing <a href=http://www.NightmareWorld.com>NIGHTMARE WORLD</a> at Image Comics. Despite getting millions of hits over the years when we self-published online… despite winning awards and praise across the web… despite selling-out of our self-published books at comic conventions… despite landing a few noteworthy smaller publishing contracts over the years… I still never felt that we “made it” until we were picked-up by Jim Valentino as part of the Shadowline imprint at Image Comics because – dang it all – that was my goal from the day I started creating the series back in 2002.

And make no mistake, my friends… because I formatted and marketed <a href=http://www.NightmareWorld.com>NIGHTMARE WORLD</a> as an anthology it was an uphill battle from Day One to get to where we are today. If I had a dime for every publisher and established creator I’d probably have more money in my account from that than I’ve yet to make from the comic itself!

(To be fair, though, if I was doing this for the money I’d be a fool, as there are a lot easier ways to make a lot more money than by creating comics.)

These rounds of naysaying and rejection are also things that anyone who chooses to put their work out there before the eyes of professionals will also go through – and oftentimes that’s the best case scenerio, as more often than not your work will be met with a deafening silence…

And it’s this silence – perhaps with some rejection scattered in here and there for flavor – that causes so many of us to get desperate for notice and recognition…

And never forget, my friends, that desperate people often make stupid decisions…

Like trying to bum-rush their favorite professionals at the bar after the convention – or worse, during the convention itself! – and then trying to pander their way into getting noticed.

Please, please, please: Save your drinks, folks, because you’re not going to “buy” your way into a gig in this industry.

There are way too many people gunning for way too few “spots” in this industry, and if you think spending even upwards of $100 a night at the bar buying drinks for your favorite professionals is going to make any of them call you and offer you work the following week… well… I’d argue that you’re focusing your energy – not to mention your finances – in the wrong direction.

As I’ve said in this column over and over again, when you attend conventions, treat it as a business trip rather than simply a weekend party. Don’t get me wrong – you should definitely take the time to have fun at the conventions… but also remember that if you enjoy your job you’ll never “work” a day in your life, ya’ dig?

If you’re going to a show, have a product to promote, get a table and then promote it there in a vigirous yet polite manner throughout the day. Then, as time allows, take some time to meetings with editors and publishers you would like to show your product to.

This is the strategy that will lead to a productive – and potentially even successful – convention… definitely moreso than bum-rushing creators, editors and publishers at the bar after the show when they’re trying to unwind and catch-up with their friends, co-workers and fellow industry professionals that they only get to see at conventions.

I know what it’s like to be hungry and desperate for that one big break, my friends, and you’re not alone in dreaming about that one meeting with that one comic professional that will result in your “big break” – whatever it may be in your mind – but you won’t get it by being a groupie, an uber-fan, or a hanger-on.

While there are no guarantees to success in this industry (or any other, for that matter), the best way to make a positive impact on editors and publishers alike is to create product that’s worthy of their attention… and we’ll talk about how to go about doing this in the next installment of this column.

In the meantime, though, as you make plans concerning what conventions you’re going to attend this Spring and Summer, save your drinks and instead start thinking about how to dedicate that money to something that will have a positive influence on your career…

You know, rather than make you look like a groupie.

Next Time: How to crush your enemies while making friends and impressing editors, publishers and other creators in the process.

Want to read from the beginning? Here ya’ go!

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=80711>WoW #1: Introduce Yourself</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=81482>WoW #2: Thematically Speaking</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=82252>WoW #3: How Badly Do You Want It?</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=83001>WoW #4: Meeting Bendis and Finding Artists</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=83804>WoW #5: Making First Contact</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=84678>WoW #6: Things Fall Apart</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=85494>WoW #7: Creation vs Dictation</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=86334>WoW #8: Kill the Buddha</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=87147>WoW #9: They’re Not Robots</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=87968>WoW #10: Dollars and Sense</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=88770>WoW #11: World Wide You</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=89531>WoW #12: Always Use Protection</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=90310>WoW #13: Contract Killers</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=91128>WoW #14: Take a Look in the Mirror</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=91867>WoW #15: Words Worth 1,000 Pictures</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=92505>WoW #16: Mid-Ohio Musings</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=93281>WoW #17: Seeking What the Masters Sought</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=95447>WoW #18: Means and Ends</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=96960>WoW #19: Likeable Characters</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=97820>WoW #20: “What’s My (Evil) Motivation?”</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=99625>WoW #21: It’s Not a Race</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=100542>WoW #22: How to Successfully Play God</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=101378>WoW #23: “Are you really THAT good?”</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=104959>WoW #24: Things Fall Apart, v2.0</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=105906>WoW #25: Climbing Out of the Hole</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=106748>WoW #26: “See all those people out there?”</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=110084>WoW #27: “Lose Yourself”</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=118242>WoW #28: The Tallest Midget in Shortsville</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=119336>WoW #29: Punisher Skrull Sex</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=123780>WoW #30: The Wrath of Con</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=125990>WoW #31: All We Have is Time</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=130574>WoW #32: Dishin’ with Dwight MacPherson</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=134779>WoW #33: The horror, the horror…</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=138588>WoW #34: The End is the Beginning</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=140559>WoW #35: The Weakest Link</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=143462>WoW #36: Wrestling with Spidey</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=147601>WoW #37: It Has To Be You</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=151457>WoW #38: Step Up</a>

<a href=http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=157861>WoW #39: Rage Against the (Pitch) Machine</a>

<a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/080626-WriteWrong40.html >WoW #40: Interesting Times</a>

<a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/080731-WrieorWrong.html>WoW #41: “Why So Serious?”</a>

<a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/090824-WoW.html>WoW #42: Defining Success</a>

<a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/100801-WriteorWrong.html>WoW #43: Define Yourself</a>

<a href= http://www.newsarama.com/comics/1000814-Write-or-wrong.html>WoW #44: The Power of “No”</a>

<a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/081030-write-or-wrong-45.html>WoW #45: Interview with the Editor</a>

<a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/110814-WriteorWrong.html>WoW #46: The Other Places</a>

<a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/030906-WoW-47.html>WoW #47: Quality Control is Not the Enemy</a>

<a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/040901-WoW48.html>WoW #48: The X-Men Analogy</a>

<a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/090909-manning-write-wrong.html>WoW #49: Self-Promotion, Hold the Spam</a>

<a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/091203-Write-or-Wrong-Secret.html>WoW #50: “The Secret”</a>

<a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/Write-Or-Wrong-Column-100201.html>WoW #51: Make Your Un-Resolutions</a>

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