The Freelance Creative

The Incredible Networker: How Comic Book Pros Use Social Media to Score Gigs

Creating a comic book is an incredibly complex creative challenge. It needs to be written, edited, drawn, inked, and lettered. If it’s a full-color comic, well, it’s going to need to be colored too. Spiderman doesn’t just wake up in the morning and start kicking the Green Goblin’s ass. It’s a process.

Sometimes, it only takes a few people to get the job done, and occasionally, an entire comic book can be a one-person show. But for the most part, creating a comic book is a complex collaboration between many moving human parts.

There will always be value in going to conventions and networking in person, yet these days, indie comic book creators lean heavily on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks to connect with talent. Not only that, but social media has become a key tool for helping indie comic book creators learn the ins and outs of the business.

Alex Thompson has been a professional comic book writer since 2002. But until he started his own company, Approbation Comics, two years ago, it was only a side gig. He quickly learned his publishing company, which publishes just about any type of comic book except for the superhero genre, could benefit from social media on multiple levels.

“I’ve been a member of LinkedIn for years, but it was pretty much useless to me until I went freelance full-time,” Thompson said. “Then the many uses of the site clicked with me. So through LinkedIn, I’ve met a lot of cool people and participated in a lot of great opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise known about … things like discounted ad space in a major publisher’s comic series, connections on how to find book agents, and interviews, including this one.”

For John Pence, a writer from Georgia who has two books under contract with different publishers, the network of choice has been Facebook. He’s had a lot of success using Facebook communities such as Comic Book Creator U to find collaborators, which was vital with his first comic book script, Flowery Flag Devils, in development.

“I found [Comic Book Creator U] after posting a fairly run-of-the-mill ad in a much bigger, more chaotic comics-centered Facebook group,” Pence said. “The admin suggested I join, and it was a great fit. At the time, there were only about 100 pros, and I mean pros, in it. All I had to do was mention that I had a contracted script and needed art help, and I got a lot of good responses right away. I found the whole art team for FFD that way.”

Pence noted he has found a lot more success with social media than he has with other means of connecting with creators online. “The contrast with good old-fashioned message boards like Digital Webbing or Penciljack is that these sites allow you to post an ad, but it’s full or writers looking for artists,” he added. “A lot of these writers aren’t offering page rates, don’t have contracted work and might not have a lot of business experience. So communication isn’t clear, artists get frustrated, and nothing happens.”

Facebook is also the preferred platform for Austin-based indie publisher Park Cooper, who started Wickerman Studios with his wife as an umbrella organization for their many creative projects. “Everyone hates Facebook, but everyone’s on it,” he said. “So it’s the easiest thing to use until something else comes along that everyone switches to.”

Over the years Cooper has relied heavily on social media to complete projects such as Swipe, a cyberpunk graphic novel that was published by Angry Viking Press. He has had particular luck with a Facebook group called Work in Comics. “I don’t live near any of [the people I collaborate] with,” he said. “And there’s art that has to pass back and forth. That was a nightmare before Dropbox and a double nightmare before Gmail. Just the other day I needed to get in touch with the head of Angry Viking Press in a hurry, and I just messaged him on Facebook.”

The flip side of meeting collaborators online is that without meeting face to face, it can be hard to gauge what kind of person you’re really dealing with. Thompson offered one analogy to explain the process of using social media to find trustworthy collaborators in the comic book world:

“Meeting and doing business online is a lot like dating,” he said. “You can strike up a conversation at a bar, the grocery store, bookstore, coffee shop, whatever. You’re still strangers. But through conversation you get a feel for the person and if you might click. So you give it a shot and go on a date or more. From there, you learn more about the person and how you gel. Doing business online is very similar. Whether you make contact first, or they do, you feel each other out. You both share credentials and preview each others’ work. If you can come to an agreement, you give the pairing a shot. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, sometimes it works fine, and other times you are amazed at the magic you make.”

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