Crossposted with minor edits from my Facebook page.
I just had an interesting exchange with a pro friend of mine that I wanted to share before I forgot.
First thing: Lots of people assume that the reason they can’t get hired is because publishing is some kind of closed circle. It’s really not.
Clients are always looking for new talent. Really. They are dying to hire the next JK Rowling, the next Jim Lee, the next James Patterson. Who doesn’t want another money-maker?
The truth is, almost everything that comes over the transom is not very good. When I write this, aspiring creators cringe thinking, “Oh, she means me.” No, I don’t. If you got a look at just how bad submissions are, you would be appalled. It is rare to see anything of quality. I don’t know anyone in publishing who enjoys going over submissions, because it’s depressing.
If you are good and if you’ve got something to show, DON’T GIVE UP. Trust me, clients are DYING to find you.
Second thing: a major reason clients don’t like to hire new people is they have a tendency to screw the pooch at an alarmingly high rate. The joy of creating for fun evaporates when you HAVE to create. Creating all the time: not so simple. And, especially in comics, the workload is awesome.
Almost everyone in graphic arts will try to steer you away from comics and toward advertising because comics pay is usually terrible and advertising is less work for more money.
Also, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve tried to hire up from fandom who have completely vapor-locked when they actually got that job they said they wanted, including people I’ve tried to hire from other areas of publishing.
A guy I tried to hire to archive my art seemed enthusiastic at first, but when faced with the daunting prospect of digitally archiving THOUSANDS of pages, he just looked at it all one day, put it in some boxes…and sat on it for two years, without archiving a page. He could not face me, he could not face the fact that he procrastinated me into a corner of having to beg him to give the job back. He just flaked out.
Everything in comics is labor intensive and often techy and boring these days, since artists have to do their own production work. You have to really know what you are doing. Most people don’t.
Even pros like me have had to learn today’s industry ass backwards because computers didn’t exist when we learned our skills; we’ve had to learn a whole new trade as production people in addition to being cartoonists. Not fun, really.
So, next time you think that publisher isn’t going to give you a chance, think of it from the publisher’s point of view. If your portfolio is good, and you show a real, steely willingness to produce, there’s a publisher looking for you. Really. Don’t give up.
Follow up from comments:
One person asked if they should encourage kids to start submitting portfolios at age twelve like I did to “get their name out there”.
No, not really. I recommend you send work to publishers when you have professional quality work to show. I have no doubt a kind editor was amused to get that package from me, but if every 12 year old did what I did, editors would be jumping out of the windows of every publishing house in NYC. These people are professionals, don’t waste their time with “get your name out there”. You may make them remember your name in a way you won’t like. You want to be a professional? Learn what that is and go do that.
Also, while it’s cute to tell the story of sending samples to an editor at Random House when I was twelve, I followed up the rejection letter with a phone call, and got a fairly icy response from the editor who was a lot nicer in print than she was when confronted with a goofy kid taking up her work time. Which is perfectly understandable.
Getting your name out there is worthless unless you’ve got something good to put your name on. So, work on your art.
After getting a taste of Real Publishing, I decided to do it like the grown ups do, and study Writers Digest and learn something about the business before I annoyed another potential client. It’s easy to find any number of these books at the library.
Delays are not denials. It may take awhile, but I swear to God, publishers are really, truly looking for talent, ALL THE TIME.
Don’t be shy if you think you’ve got chops. It seems like the people with the weakest chops have the biggest voices. I know rejection is hard, but that’s part of this business, and you have to face it. And please understand that the talent pool isn’t as wide and deep as you think it is. Most submissions are incredibly bad.
If you have ability, you will stand out. Maybe not now, but someday.
Hang in there.