Thursday, May 05, 2011

How Not to Break into the Comics industry - Chapter 5

Prologue   Chapter 1 I Chapter 2 I Chapter 3 I 
Chapter 4 I Chapter 5 I

Wrong kind of breaking in...
My motto used to be: “If your chances are one in a million, you simply have to try a million times.” It sounded good, but I soon realized that trying something a million times can be quite tiring, daunting and probably impossible to achieve within one life time. If I sent in one pitch a day it would take me 2739 years to reach a million pitches. I don’t think I sent in more than 50 over the years so I still have 999,950 pitches to send.

There are two misleading facts that are used to encourage aspiring writers:

1.       Brace yourself for disappointment. Many great writers have faced rejection many times before someone finally recognized their talent.

2.          You are your own worst critic, so don’t dismiss your work right away.

Here is the cold hard truth: Sure, JK Rowlings was a working mom who toiled away at writing late at night and she worked very hard on her Harry Potter books only to be rejected again and again. Now she is one of the world's most famous and beloved writers and a very rich woman. But here is the thing: for every JK Rowling that was discovered there are thousands who were not. PK Douglas from Ireland who wrote a series of books about a boy who could talk to squirrels and MT Putalot from India who wrote a book about a little girl who could walk on thoughts both do not really exist, but even if they did you would have never heard of them because their books never got picked. These many writers, who will always outnumber by a thousandfold the published ones, will try and try again and eventually give up or die before they get published.

As for a writer being his own worst critic? Nonsense. If you think that what you wrote is rubbish, there is a very good chance it actually is (though it does not mean you can't polish your work and improve it). Sure, there is room for personal opinion and taste, but if you have been writing fantasy books for decades and submitted them to every fantasy literary agent and editor under the sun, there is a good chance these books are just not good enough. It may not necessary be the case, but it is possible, indeed probable. 

Then there is just plain luck.  That was where things got extra frustrating for me. Editors did like my stuff, it just that the timing was always crap and something popped up to get in the way.

Back in the summer of 2000 I flew from New York to Chicago in the hope that my first big American comics convention as an aspiring writer will also be my last. The next time I will be on the other side, talking on panels and signing books. Technically that might still be true as that convention was so far my only comics convention in the States. I attended a few more over the next few years, but on the other side of the Atlantic.

In New York I stayed with my aunt and uncle whom I knew fairly well. In Chicago I stayed with cousins of my mother's whom I had never met. It was convenient, but also a bit awkward. My mom’s cousin was very nice and I spent the first evening watching her daughter's extremely cheesy wedding video. I must say that both bride and groom looked good enough to be movie stars, so at least I could make some small talk about how attractive they were.

Back in the day I was a regular poster on the same Spider-Man message board I mentioned earlier and some of us have agreed to meet at the convention, maybe even get together for dinner. Unfortunately no proper meeting place or time were agreed, so I managed to meet only one fellow poster and we kinda sort of hang out together, but mostly did our own thing. So for the majority of the time I was walking around alone among the many booths and attractions. There was the usual cosplay nonsense of people dressed up as their favourite characters and embarassing stuff like a female wrestling arena with tons of fat dorky guys watching two hot babes wrestling. I sat down at a couple of panels with creators I liked, but for the most part I was focused on my goal.

My main target was Joe Quesada. It was just before he became Marvel’s Editor in Chief, but, heading Marvel Knights, he was still an important person. I had exchanged a couple of e-mails with him in the past and written a couple of entertaing letters for his books so I hoped my name might ring a bell when I introduced myself. Regardless I had a piece of paper with three pitches which I intended to give him in person. For that I needed to stand in line like a good boy and do that when I handed him over a book to sign. I had no comics with me yet, so I had to buy one book that Quesada worked on.

Joe Quesada
Here is when things got extremely frustrating and annoying. There were timetables for signings and they were announced, but every time there was a Joe Quesada signing, by the time I reached the end of the line they had already closed it off as it was too long. Three days of the convention and it kept happening. I only stood successfully in line for Mark Waid and Paul Jenkins.

It was the third day and I had to leave early. My cousin’s husband was to pick me up and drop me at the house of another cousin where I was to stay the final night before flying back to New York. The convention was a complete and utter failure and I didn’t even really enjoy it as I was flopping around on my own. I made my way to the exit and popped into the men’s room on the way out to empty my bladder. As I was washing my hands, Joe Quesada entered the men’s room and walked past me. I dried my hands and walked out. I stood outside with my heart racing. What should I do? I can’t just pounce on him like that, it is rude. On the other hand, this is my only chance. Also, it looked like a sign from Above: I try getting to talk to him for three days unsuccessfully and on my way out I run into him at the men’s room? At this point I realised that there was nothing to gain from being shy.

So I waited outside. At least I had the sense not to follow Joe to a urinal. When Joe walked out I walked over reaching out for his hand and introduced myself. He looked surprised for a second and quickly wiped his still wet hands on his shirt before shaking my hand. I said my name and gave him the page. He glanced at it and then folded and took it with him when we parted ways. He was so nice about it. I followed up by e-mail and was politely rejected, but I still appreciate his attitude and courtesy. It was not the last time we talked.

My mom’s other cousin was a hairdresser and he gave me an atrocious haircut for "free". When I flew back to New York my aunt opened the door for me and looked at me in shock.

“He gave me the same haircut twenty years ago!” She said.

The next day she took me to her gay hairdresser to fix it. That was the end of my summer of 2000 American comics adventure, but there were still many adventures awaiting me back home on the other side of the pond.


Prologue   Chapter 1 I Chapter 2 I Chapter 3 I 
Chapter 4 I Chapter 5 I


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