Get your game on for Comic Creator Connection

15 JUNE 2015

The chance to meet your creative soulmate is back.

For those of you who've never participated in Comic Creator Connection, this is like speed dating for artists and writers. You examine each other's creative style and skill and decide if you might have a collaborative future together. Unlike a novelist or a painter, who can take their projects from conception to completion all on their own, comic book creators generally need a partner - unless they're that rare bird who can write, draw and ink skillfully in equal measure. This can be hard-to-impossible for your average young writer or artist who isn't hooked into a thriving community of other comic creators.

Which is where Comic Creator Connection comes into play. One caveat, carried over from last year: artists can do both sessions but writers can only do one.

Where: Santa Rosa room at the Marriott.

When: Thursday, 9 July 7-9 pm and  Sunday, 12 July 1-3 pm. You must have a badge for that day, but that shouldn't be a problem given the days they picked.

How it works: You'll get 5 minutes with each prospective artist/writer to suss out ideas, chemistry and compatibility. You can exchange information if you want to continue the conversation later.

How many people you'll meet with: roughly 15-20.

How to sign up: Email and write "Comic-Con Comic Creator Connection" in the subject line. Indicate whether you're a writer or artist and which session you prefer.

Practical advice

Have business cards ready with links to your portfolios and social accounts. Having a photo on your card might seem like a car salesman move, but it will help others remember which one you were.

Conversely, write down a brief description of someone on their card after they hand it to you - just 1 or 2 keywords to jog your memory later as you sort through your cards. Also assign a numeric code or grade based on your interest level - F for someone you'd never work with, B for potential, A for someone who seems like a dream collaborator.

It can be really awkward when one person wants to follow up and the other doesn't. Just be graceful about it and take their card and say, "Sure, let me think about it and I'll follow up." If you're the one getting shot down, just thank them and wish them luck.

There's an "All Stars" panel on Thursday at 1:30 in room 8 where you can hear success stories from previous Connections. These people won't just talk about themselves - they'll also share tips on how to find the right partner.

If you don't already have a digital portfolio, create one. That goes for writers and artists. Make it as easy as possible for someone to evaluate you. If you feel like you need to be present to explain your work, that isn't a good sign - the story should be tangible within each piece.

Listen and ask questions. Don't launch into a long monologue all about you - 5 minutes goes fast. Ask how they feel about remote collaboration. Ask about past projects. If they have a history of projects that die of starvation 60% in, consider that a red flag. Amateurs start lots of projects but professionals finish them.

Don't skip out on the hard sample aspect of this, even if it seems old school and inconvenient. Showing your work on an iPad might seem the easiest thing to do, but it's also the easiest to forget. You want to leave them with something in their hands.

Be prepared for a range of skill levels and achievements. Have realistic expectations and be kind, even if you're appalled at some of the work you see.

What to bring

Fortune favors the prepared creative, to paraphrase Louie Pasteur. I'm going to stray slightly from CCI's recommendations here and say you should bring:

  • Two dozen copies of a 1-page writing or art sample. If you want to showcase 2 radically different styles (depending on the kind of project you're envisioning), bring 2 pages - say, a dialogue-heavy script and a more descriptive page for writers, or pages that show off a more cartoony style on one and a more illustrative one on the other. Include your contact information on these in case they lose your card. Organize all this in an attractive and secure way. 
  • Water.
  • Business cards.
  • A digital business card so you and your intended can beam each other right there at the table, rather than risking losing a piece of paper.
  • An excellent pitch that sells your project and your ability and focuses on credentials rather than adjectives.
  • A clear explanation of your availability - how many hours a week you can put in, your other jobs and gigs, etc. - and a list of your influences, goals, favorite creators.
  • Something to take notes on - an iPad, a legal pad, your phone. It will be hard to recall the salient details offered by 20 people when you get back to your room that night.

Events like this generally go best when you approach them as a positive networking opportunity rather than a pass/fail test. You may not meet that perfect collaborator in the Santa Rosa room at SDCC, but you will meet plenty of people who are part of your community. Be friendly, stay in touch, exchange helpful information. Too many young creatives (I say "young" as in career stage - you could be 82 and just embarking on your calling as a comic book writer) think that established pros hold all the answers when it's often people at their own level who can provide the best guidance on anything from submission calls to inexpensive art supplies.

If you approach Comic Creator Connection in that light, you're bound to make some valuable contacts and maybe some new friends. And even if you don't find your creative soulmate at SDCC, you will extend your creative network - a move that always increases the likelihood of finding the collaborators, agents, editors and publishers you dream of working with.

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