When I was growing up it seemed to me that there weren’t that many interesting books to read. Looking back, I know I was wrong. Obviously. However, at the time, I read fairly the fantasy genre and I went through pretty much everything I could find. Now I now read across several genres and non-fiction too, but if I just read fantasy novels there is no way I could keep up with the number being published. For starters I’m not a fast reader and although I love fantasy books and love reading, I do want to do other things with my spare time. So, now more than ever, whether it’s novels or comics or TV, it’s important to find your voice and stand out from the crowd.
Last week I read this tumblr article by comic book writer Gail Simone about brutal tips on breaking into the comics industry. It contains a lot of hard lessons, and some might whinge and say she’s just being mean, or she wants to discourage people from even trying. Yes, you have to be utterly realistic, but to be honest, if mean words and a harsh dose of the truth puts you off then maybe you should try something else. Or maybe you’re just not hungry enough. The most thought provoking part for me was her Step Three: Find Your Voice, Dammit. What do you bring to the table? What is unique about you and your view of the world? It’s something I’ll come back to in another post at some point.
For the longest time my parents have known I’ve wanted to be a writer, but even from a young age my dad impressed upon me the importance of a good education and good skills to get a good job. Writing was the passion, the dream, but it wouldn’t pay the bills and I had to be realistic. It didn’t kill my dreams, but it kept my feet firmly on the ground. I have those business skills now, and a good job and nice home, and although the road to get here has been a lot bumpier than I ever anticipated, my head is now in a good place and I can spend more time contemplating the creative. But, as Gail Simone mentioned, you need to be a sales person, so once again, and now it’s happening more times than I can count, I’m using my business and marketing skills as part of my creative endeavours. It’s something I honestly never thought would be needed. The article mentions being a good sales person, and you really need to be. You need to be able to talk convincingly and with passion about your work, about what it means to you, and what it is all about. See a previous post (Ok, but what is it about?) for more info on that!
As well as being a positive sales person you also need to be quite outgoing and approachable, because no one wants to work with or be associated with an arsehole. Ever. Find the worst or most obnoxious person on the train, or in your office, or on the street, and imagine that person wrote a book, comic or TV show you really loved. Now try and read it again with the same passion. I’m not saying you have to become someone else, but a friend of mine, Barry Nugent, is actually quite a shy guy, but in public you would never know it. He’s been podcasting longer than me, he’s written novels, hosted panels at events, and now he is running his own comics empire. He’s grown a thicker skin and the nerves that previously required liquid lubrication before being in public have faded. He’s a professional and he gets it done.
Whether you’re an author, comic book writer or any other type of creative person, you need to be able to navigate the online channels, be tech-savvy enough to know the difference between Facebook and Twitter, attend industry relevant events, get yourself interviewed, post articles on a blog or website, and basically create as much noise as possible about your work. Because although there are people that will help, and many more that work behind the scenes that most people don’t know about, you will have to do a lot of it for yourself. The work doesn’t stop when the novel, comic, or TV show is written. You need to make a splash, you need to stand out, you need to make your voice heard. There are exceptions to the rule, very successful authors, celebs and comic book writers even that never go near social media, don’t have a blog or a website. Good for them I say. But they’re pretty uncommon. For the rest of us, it’s necessary and very important. I saw some grumbling last week about people self promoting. Of course you have to do it and you should be. End of story.
If you’ve built up any kind of online following then those people are there for a reason. They like something about you and not telling them about your work is shooting yourself in the foot. Equally if you only fill your social media streams with self promotion posts and nothing else, then that is also shooting yourself in the foot.
In today’s crowded world, where there are more distractions than ever before across a multitude of different media, a creative person needs to be seen and heard, and you must be both business minded and bursting with imagination.