The Writer’s Quest At ECCC, Days 2 And 3: “Be Canadian”

Matt Funk wrote, and took photographs, for Bleeding Cool at ECCC

In my first piece here on Bleeding Cool, I outlined my first day strategy at Emerald City Comic Con. It was all about meeting people and making connections. Getting my face and my work in front of as many professional eyeballs as possible. Day 2 was all about learning.

There was a whole array of educational panels on every aspect of the comics business at ECCC, far more than I would have been able to attend. Room 201 had something worthy of attending almost all weekend, whether it was iPad Photoshop lessons, Kickstarter strategies, help with writing sci-fi and fantasy, tips on being a freelancer, creative habits, editing, and a bunch more. If I didn’t have other things to do, I could’ve spent the entire weekend in that room. Unfortunately I had to be more sparing with my time. I chose to attend the “Writers Unite! Pitching Your Creator-Owned Comics” and “How to Market Your Own Comic” panels.

The first of the two featured Kurtis J. Wiebe (Peter Panzerfaust), Jim Zubkavich (Skullkickers), Charles Soule (27), Ray Fawkes (One Soul) and Joe Keatinge (Hell Yeah). It was quite a combination of writers at the front of the room, and they all had their own opinions and breaking-in stories that were as different from each other as the books they write.

A point they did agree on was to avoid making straight pitches at cons. Make connections instead and get business cards from everyone. Treat conventions like the social events and job fairs that they are. There are no overnight successes in comics. One thing almost everyone has in common is that it took the several years of trying before they could get in. Don’t be above doing other work in the industry, even if it seems like grunt work, because it can always lead to something bigger. A log-line (or elevator pitch) is very important, even though everyone on the panel hated them. Don’t try to pitch the same project to an editor more than once unless it is completely reworked. Finally, webcomics are legitimate, as one of the panelists pointed out, more people read Penny Arcade than Justice League.

Individual tips they touched on:

Fawkes said that if you believe in a project, but can’t get publishers to, just do it yourself. Get halfway through the book and then show them again.

Wiebe said that every convention, he spends his Sunday in artist alley, making connections and meeting potential collaborators.

Keatinge encouraged everyone in the audience to read Eric Stephenson’s keynote speech from the Image Expo, as it’s a treasure trove of information on the industry.

Zubkavich said the easiest way to break in as a writer was to be Canadian.

Soule outlined a pitch structure that he called a pyramid, where you start with a log line, then you have a couple of sentences on themes and content, then a paragraph summary of the story.

Charles Soule encouraged audience members to read his blog at charlessoule.wordpress.com for tips on how to craft a legal agreement between co-creators, or writers and artists, and Kurtis Wiebe plugged his podcast, The Process, which is all about comics writing.

The second panel, How to Market Your Own Comic, featured Anthony Del Col, co-creator of Kill Shakespeare. Del Col told the story of the Kill Shakespeare series, which he co-created with Connor McCreery, telling the audience in room 201 to approach the pitch not just as a story, but also as a business venture. You need to show the company you’re approaching that your idea can make them money. He outlined the Kill Shakespeare “pitch package” which contained a standard comic book pitch with a pitch, story and issue outline, character designs, sample pages, etc., but also featured non-standard content, such as target audiences, and cross-marketing ideas. His biggest point that he said he wanted to convey was to brand. Brand your product and brand yourself. Make both a known and recognizable quantity that is different and unique. He encouraged audience members to talk to retailers early on, as they are your primary market. If you can’t convince them to buy it, then no one else will be able to buy it.

And with those two panels done, I took to the floor again to talk with creators again. I talked briefly with Kelly Sue DeConnick, and was happily surprised to find that she recognized me from the Marvel: Breaking in to Comics panel from the day before, as I’d asked a couple of questions. She was gracious enough to glance at my work and complimented my panel layouts and storytelling, saying that “if your dialogue is as good as your layouts then you’re way ahead of the game.” That was probably my favorite moment of the whole convention.

Day 3 was my day as a fan. I got a bunch of books signed and stopped by tables I’d been to before to talk to people and cement connections. I attended a panel, got some prints and hardcovers, got a picture with Robert Kirkman without having to stand in a line, and called it a day before the 6 hour drive back to Bend.

It was a long and tiring weekend, but it was a huge learning experience and very encouraging moving forward. I hope I have provided some helpful tips and insight that you can apply in your own writer’s quest, wherever that may take place.

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