I’ll put this out there: I love helping out emerging creators and giving advice where I can. I’m by no means an expert in the field, but I certainly have career experience and have been through many parts of the process that newer creators have not. I’m very available — my email is public, my podcast has a voicemail line, I’m active on Twitter and Tumblr; the point is, it’s not hard to throw questions my way, and more often than not, you’ll get an answer in a timely fashion.
I think it’s imperative that we pay it forward as a community and help each other out whenever possible. I was helped — still am — by creator friends that have been down the path before me, and I feel comfortable reaching out to them for advice or to address concerns about something going on in my career (and sometimes: life).
But asking for advice and asking for favors are two very different things. I read friends’ comics all the time. I love it. I love reading things in their early stages and offering my input. And they do it for me. Like most writers (of any medium), I have friends and loved ones that I trust to read shit and give me honest feedback. It’s invaluable and something I recommend for anyone to have.
I’ve also introduced friends and collaborators to people that they should know, and have had the same done for me, but these are actual in-the-flesh friends and people that I have a positive working relationship with. That’s “networking.” That’s how these sorts of things go. Engage in the community, be a part of it, and get to know people on a level deeper than “who can do something for me?”
Over the weekend, I got an e-mail from someone who claimed that we had interacted on Twitter once and offered some pleasantries regarding Pawn Shop (still available for pre-order!). This was immediately followed by an elevator pitch for a comic he was working on and an inquiry if Pawn Shop’s publisher would be interested in it and, if it was okay, he’d send me pages.
I’m sorry, but no, it’s definitely not okay — for many reasons.
Forget the fact that I’d be taking time away from my own work, forget the fact that I also have a life and family that is far more important, forget the fact that editing is not work I do for free for randos on the Internet — forget all of that — and this is simply not how networking works. Sending your pitches blindly to a stranger you’ve maybe talked to once online — let alone asking them to pitch it FOR you to a publisher — is NOT okay, neither legally nor as a professional. A huge part of pitching is doing your research about the publisher (my pal Mike Moreci has a great piece on pitching over at his website), which includes getting to know the people that run the company.
When I suggested to this person that he go to shows and introduce himself, he seemed to reject the idea. Well, I’m sorry, but that’s the legwork. No matter who you’re introduced to or who your friends are, there’s no getting around doing the work. Even if we were best friends and I had all of the connections in the world to get you in wherever you wanted, the work is on you.
As a one time folly, this would be forgivable. Unfortunately, I did a quick search of my email archives and found that he’d actually emailed me once before a couple of years ago, with a full pitch document and asking if a publisher I was working with at the time would publish it. I don’t remember this interaction at all, but my response was the same as it was this weekend. To paraphrase: “I can’t help you and you’re going about this the wrong way.”
So, new creators, the point is: learn from your mistakes. When you ask someone for advice and they give it to you — even if it’s not what you expected or the favor you wanted — take it. Don’t try the same method and expect a different result. Isn’t that the definition of insanity?
Update 11/12/15: Another method that never works: spamming creators on social media. It’s not hard to see that you’re copying and pasting the same message to dozens of people. That’ll only get you blocked.