Five tips for breaking into comics

Want to make a career in comic books? Then, here's how to get started!

Five tips for breaking into comics

Every Tuesday, I write about creativity or offer behind-the-scenes glimpses of my work. Today, I tackle a question I hear a lot: ‘How do I break into comics?’

There’s no one way, but here are some tips for getting started…

1. Don’t wait to get published

The great thing about comics is that you don’t have to wait for your big break — you can start right now. Writers, team up with artists. Artists, team up with writers. Make up your own characters, create your own stories, print them yourself, or post them online.

The key is proving that you can finish a job. Editors want to hire people who a) show up and b) see things through to the end. Publishing your own comic proves you can do both.

2. Be flexible

Want to write for Marvel or DC? Great! Want to write the next Walking Dead or Hellboy? Even better! It’s important to know what you want to write and, despite the common misconception, comics don’t always mean superheroes. There are comics for everyone in every genre, from romance to horror and true crime to fantasy.

But remember, it’s best to be as flexible as possible when you’re first starting out. One of my first pro gigs was a comic strip in a lesser-known gaming magazine, the madcap adventures of the publication’s comedy mascot. Was it high profile? No. My dream job? Definitely not, but it was a credit and, more importantly, proof that I could tell story after story after story!

3. Make connections

Comic conventions are the lifeblood of the industry, but what if you’ve never set foot in a convention hall before?

Honestly, going to a convention can be daunting — I was petrified going to my first San Diego Comic Con — especially if you don’t know anyone. But the good news is that nine-times-out-of-ten comic creators are the friendliest folk around.

Most conventions have artist alleys where, as the name suggests, you can chat with artists as well as pick up their latest stuff. Even if you’re nervous, go up and say hi. You already have something in common; you both love comics.

If you’re an artist yourself, ask if they’d like to see some of your work. You may get some helpful tips but don’t immediately jump in and ask to be introduced to their publisher. Remember, they’re a person, not a stepping stone!

4. Be the best you can be

I’m not talking about being the best writer, or the best artist, but the best human being!

Comics are a small world, and news travels fast if you make a nuisance of yourself! It’s also a highly pressurised world, especially for the editors who hire and fire. If you meet an editor at a convention, be polite. Don’t demand that they look at your stuff there and then. Strike up a conversation and ask for their email address so you can send them something after con madness has passed.

And if they say yes, don’t bombard them. Send in your samples but remember that they might not be able to reply immediately, which leads me to my last piece of advice…

5. Be patient

Breaking into comics is a long game. It’s about putting the work in, making those connections, and then doing it all over again. There’s no such thing as an overnight success. That all-star creator headlining the biggest book on the shelves has spent years working in the background, picking up gigs, and making a name for themselves.

Yes, there’s always a certain amount of luck involved, but the more you get out there — and the more work you put in — the more chance you have that it’ll happen to you!

Of course, all that’s just for starters. I’m happy to answer more questions about creating comics or building a career in the industry. Just leave a comment below. If it’s a quick answer, I’ll reply in the thread, or — if it’s a little more complicated — your question might form the basis of a new article here on the Cavletter!