Posted By: R. Alan Brooks

If you’re a creator/artist in comics, you’ll find that you need to network with people. It’s not easy if you’re shy or introverted, and there are ways that networking can make you feel like you’re selling yourself out for the attention of people who you want something from. (Hence, my oh-so-clever pun title).

I get it. I was never taught how to network, and back when my focus was music, I paid the price for that.

So, 3 or 4 years ago, when I decided that I wanted to write comic books professionally, I realized that I needed to learn this skill. At a comic convention with Mason, my childhood friend (and a writer himself), I said, “Man, me and you are gonna learn this networking shit right now.”

Mason raised his eyebrows in question, but he was ready to roll with me. We’d just been talking with a very cool animation writer/producer at his table (I’ll call him “Brad”), and the convention floor was about to close for the night. So I decided I’d ask Brad if he wanted to join us for dinner.

Now, I don’t generally get nervous, but man, I felt like a skinny highschooler who’d just sucked on his inhaler right before asking the head cheerleader out in front of a bunch of hostile jocks. I could feel my heart jumping!

I walked over to Brad with Mason: “Uh, so hey, um, me and my friend here…we’re going to go get some dinner after the floor closes…and uh, hey, we wondered if you might possibly want to join us?”

(It was not smooth at all. And “smooth” is sort of my brand.) I expected him to decline, but he didn’t: “Oh, where are you guys going?”

I had no answer. I hadn’t thought of a place to go!

So after I stumbled over my response for a bit, he said, “You know, actually, I need to join my friend Jason, because he’s with his family, and it’d be harder for them to go where I want than for me to just join them. But I’ll be in the bar later tonight. If we cross paths, you guys are welcome to join me.”

Brad’s response was nice, but I felt a bit embarrassed; like I’d dropped the ball. Mason and I went to dinner, and eventually, that night, we made our way back to the hotel bar. We didn’t see Brad, but we ended up talking with others for a while.

A few hours later, we did run into Brad at the 2nd hotel bar, and he invited us to join him at his table. We ended up talking and laughing until 4am! By the end of the night, he’d asked the name of my comic book, and said he’d tweet it out when we release it.

So, some key things I learned from this were:

  1. I didn’t need to awkwardly beg him to help me with my career. I just needed to be a decent human being. That’s where the connection was made.
  2. If I lead with sincerity- something other than what I want from someone, it’s easier to be seen as a person, which makes others more interested in the work I’m doing.
  3. With networking, as in many other things, it’s more important that you present yourself rather than the product you’re creating. That’s what people connect with, and that’s what sets you apart from others.

I hope this is useful to you. I’ll share a little more in part two of this post.

Raised in Atlanta and now a Denver resident, R. Alan Brooks is a writer, musician and host of the popular “Mother F**ker In A Cape” comics podcast, which interviews marginalized members of the geek world. Alan writes educational children’s comics and is the writer and creator of “The Burning Metronome”, a supernatural murder mystery graphic novel.

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