Archives for : Business

Convention tips

While I’m thinking about conventions, let me offer some tips:

1) If you aren’t good at talking to people, you’ll need to bring someone that is
2) Best opening is “hello” or “would you like a free ______”
3) Best sales are always in the final hour of the day so don’t leave early
4) Ask people what they like to read, let them tell you which of your books they’d be more interested in (what kind of movies do you like can be good too).
5) Have 10 second and 60 second pitches for each book. With the 60 second know which key pages of art to show.
6) Have a cheap entry level thing they can buy to try (or give for free)
7) Have expensive quality items for your hardcore fans
8) Have a variety of things. Some people like to choose.
9) When you leave your table leave a sign saying when you’ll be back. I do this and every time someone is waiting for me when I get back (at the time I indicate so don’t be late!)
10) Take credit cards. With the square register there is no reason not to. You’re missing out on sales when you don’t.
11) Hand a person talking to you a book to flip through
12) Smile
13) Make positive comments about their cosplay, kid, t-shirt and follow it up with a question. Where’d you get the shirt?
14) Plan your calories. You need to eat to keep your energy level up
15) Have a clear display with your name, best known property (ies), even a single banner behind you is enough.
16) Have something visible with your social media. I have a “fan card” I give out that has my name and social media on it. Also good to give people who ask for your business card that you don’t want having your email or phone #
17) Bring a small water bottle you can refill at the water fountain.
18) If you’re getting angry, annoyed or are dead on your feet…take a break. Go walk around a bit. Bring a sheet or something to cover your table and as said earlier put a sign, be back at 3:30 or whatever
19) Try and make people laugh. Try different things. Practice and come up with one liners that will make people smile.
20) Don’t be pushy. People come to comic conventions to chill. You can actively sell them without coming across as a used car salesman. And yes you have to “sell” most comic books don’t sell themselves.

How hard is it to be a comic writer?

How many working comic book writers are there in English? By “working” I mean being PAID to write comics regularly…300? 500?
 
There were 62,000 English novel writers published in print in 2015 who received some kind of advance.
 
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jan/02/books-2015-calendar-year-kazuo-ishiguro-jonathan-franzen-toni-morrison
 
Some interesting statistics on TV and film writers here:
http://www.wga.org/subpage_whoweare.aspx?id=922
 
Basically says there are roughly 3,000 regularly paid TV writers. I couldn’t find the stat for film writers, but there are also a LOT of films written and paid for that never come out (we’ve had many).
 
800 films released theatrically a year on average, most by unique writers or combination of writers. Plus what at least that many made and not released theatrically. I’d guess another multiple of 2 of films paid to be written that don’t ever get made. Let’s say 3,000, but I bet it’s closer to 5,000.
 
http://www.the-numbers.com/movies/year/2015
http://www.mpaa.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/MPAA-Theatrical-Market-Statistics-2014.pdf
 
Let all this sink in for a minute.
 
Summary for paid writers (in English):
 
Comic writers 300 (500)
Novel writers 62,000
TV writers 3,000
Film writers 3,000
 
These numbers aren’t exact, I’m just trying to make a point. There are also 1,696 players in the NFL. Two things amaze me:
 
1) That some people think it should be easy to be a writer in comics and
2) I can’t believe I’m 1 of 300 (or whatever it is).
 
One way to be guaranteed to NEVER write a comic for someone you’re talking to is telling them that “I can do a better job than the hack you have on it.”
 
It’s not impossible, but it is hard. You can read my free pitching advice here:
 
http://matttalks.com/2014/04/some-pitching-advice/
 
One thing NOT in there I said in a recent interview that I stick by is be prepared to NOT make money for 5 years before you do. If you can’t commit to that, you might want to rethink it. Yes there are people that get in and get work immediately, but the vast majority (and I’ve been doing this for 23 years now) I’ve seen are in it for awhile before they get paid to write. And being a writer in another field first and transitioning over isn’t the same.
 
Food for thought eh?

Some pitching advice

1) understand that no one will be that excited to read your pitch. This is because we read so many bad ones that the expectation is that it won’t be good. If we’re excited after we read it that’s a good thing.

2) it may take a year for someone to read your pitch. Editors, writers, publishers, agents and managers are busy people. Proper follow up is once a month check in unless the person tells you differently. If they tell you check back in August and it’s May then check back in August. Best thing is to use the same email thread. When I see I told someone something already there’s a guilt factor to push it to the top of the list.

3) everything matters. Punctuation, grammar, spelling my name right…we get that you’re sending it out broad but what you need to get is that when reading these things we’re looking for a reason to say no. For this reason I encourage people NOT to use dialects in samples or pitches sent out.

4) keep it short. No one wants to read your 10,000 page story bible. Most places have submissions guidelines on what they want to see. These may differ from company to company. You should modify your pitches to target companies and give them what they’re asking for. Again, as mentioned above we’re looking for a reason to say no. The more you give, more likely find a reason.

5) know who’s reading it. If you send me your children’s super-hero romance story set in the Stone Age you clearly never researched what I’m interested in. Look at the companies that do material similar to what you’re pitching.

6) have a logline. If you can’t pitch your story idea in a couple sentences you’re not cut out for this business. You have to be able to pitch your idea in less than a minute or two tops. Why? Because you need to grab people’s interest. Think Tank is the story of a slacker genius who designs weapons for the military but doesn’t want to do it anymore…but they won’t let him quit because he’s too valuable. It’s okay to use other existing franchises to explain your concept.

7) understand that no you’re not the only one with that idea. It is so common to receive multiple very similar pitches. Why? Zeitgeist. You got the idea because you saw X movie, read Y book, saw Z internet meme and x+y+z = the high concept core of your idea. This is fine, btw. Just execute better.

8) less plot, more character. Convoluted plots are bad and don’t make your story smarter. Twists are great, but don’t overcomplicate. Every great existing movie out there can be pitched in less than a minute and you get the basic idea. Try pitching Alien then try Prometheus. Alien = simple plot, great characters and execution. Prometheus less so. When you pitch, pitch the character, who they are and why we care. That’s more important than your beat be beat plot.

9) be prepared to “hurry up and wait”. If someone responds asking you to tweak your pitch with some notes you get to do this. Just because you turn something back around in 24 hours the person reading it might take months to get back to you. Variety of reasons, low priority, busy, whatever. In this situation when someone engages you at all, ask them how you should follow up.

10) be courteous and understand that you don’t really matter to the person on the other end (yet). Hard pill to swallow, but humble goes a long way. If you get angry, that’s understandable. Happens to me every week. Go work out, walk around the block, yell in your car…whatever. Taking that out even partially on whoever is reading your thing just gives them a reason to ignore you.

11) pitch verbally to friends and family. If they get lost or ask questions that’s YOUR fault not theirs. Even if you answered the question they have already, it wasn’t clear enough. You should listen to these and adjust. If you feel like you did answer that question, answer it twice in two different ways If you see people tune out, remember where it is and try and adjust. Again, keep it short. Movie pitches are usually 10-15 minutes long. Don’t do voices in verbal pitches.

12) thank the people that “pass” on your project. Most people don’t respond at all, they’re giving you the courtesy of a no. It is okay to ask why, but if they don’t respond to that don’t follow up, let it go. If they give you a reason ask them if you can adjust and resubmit.

This is not a complete list just some things I think about.