Networking (a.k.a. Making Friends)
In the past, I have hated the word “networking” because I didn’t know what it really meant. Whenever I heard the word I conjured up the image of people fake smiling and fake laughing, drinking cosmos in little clique circles, brownnosing to make a buck. And yes, that is still the case in some situations but for the most part “networking” actually means, “making friends.”
Editors and publishers are people, and just like everybody else they want to hang out and work with people who make them laugh, who make their workday easier, who they can shoot the shit with, who they simply enjoy being around, etc. The same goes with artists, other writers, or anyone you could want to work with (agents, publishers, managers, designers, librarians, your next door neighbor, whomever). You may have the best damn story in the entire history of the world, but the door won’t open for you unless that story is built on a pre-established relationship. That relationship could be between you and the publisher, or through friends of friends, or even through a readership. Build a relationship with a big enough fan base and publishers will want to be your friend. What type of relationship are you forming?
Fortunately, there are so many ways to establish relationships right now: Facebook, first-person blogs, commenting on other people’s blogs, comics conventions, book conventions, etc.
In fact, if you really want to spread the word about your comics, visit a librarian convention. Visiting a comics convention is really good and you can make a bunch of friends, but they are already converted comics readers. What about those who are totally new to the game? Maybe you could be their point person as they experience comics for the first time, entering into a new paradigm. It’s more of a craps shoot in finding comics fans but librarians tend to spread the word about artists they like and they buy A LOT of books.
In Making a Literary Life, Carolyn See advocates writing what she calls a “charming note” to someone you admire everyday for the rest of your life. At first, I thought that was overkill and I made excuses not to do it:
It’s too big of a commitment. How would I find their addresses? I couldn’t possibly have 365+ letters in me. Who would I write 365+ letters to?
Well, after thirty minutes of brainstorming, I came up with over 100 names of people I could write, many of whom have publishers so I could send my fan mail to their publishing house and they’ll forward it along. If I send a note to each of them once every four months, that’s 365 letters. Done.
Plus, my wife, Katherine Roy, committed to writing one every workday for a month, which she succeeded in doing last month and she got responses from some pretty big children’s book illustrators. Now, I don’t have any excuses, so starting Monday I’ll write five a week for a month and I’ll report them here as a way of keeping my word. Plus, if there are any responses, I’ll report those, too.
So join me in making friends. At the very least, make acquaintances. Be on friendly terms with as many like-minded people as you can because, as simple as it sounds, that is the number way one of getting your stuff published in any market.
I hope that helps!