March 27, 2014
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes

Little Miss Shy

(This post is inspired by the person on tumblr who commented that doing all the stuff we talked about previously to get your work out there was difficult when you’re a person who is shy.  Thanks for your topic suggestion!)

We write a very aspirational blog.  What’s the best possible thing that you could be doing right now if you want to get a publisher to publish your comic?  We’ll tell you.  In great detail.

But we spend less time on ‘what’s the bare minimum that you have to do?’ (which is, as Tom Spurgeon usefully pointed out last week in response to our post, make excellent comics).

We’ve got a lot of thoughts about how you should be e-mailing publishers and putting your work online and going to conventions and sending mini-comics to publishers and approaching publishing employees you don’t even know at public events and befriending them.  But here’s a useful thing to know about all of that: it’s pretty intimidating, no matter how outgoing you are.

Honestly, going into any situation where the outcome can range from ‘we’re not interested in working with you; please never speak to us again’ to ‘here are several thousand dollars’ is going to be intimidating.  Add onto that the fact that your personal, creative projects are getting judged and you have a SUPER intimidating situation.  Honestly, if you’re going into a situation where you’re trying to get a book published and you’re not apprehensive, well, I envy your self-confidence.  I’d be shy and socially anxious in that sort of scenario.

All our aspirational thoughts about how you can be the MOST awesome at submitting projects and getting on our radar aside, here’s a secret: if you’re making comics and reading the First Second blog, you’re already doing extremely well at being a potential published author.

That probably sounds crazy.  We’ve talked about how we get multiple submissions every single day, and how we go do talks at art schools, and how many people send us mini-comics and art samples and we still don’t publish a lot of that work.  And that’s the truth.

But do you know what?  At least 90% of the people are sending us things that are completely out of our wheelhouse.  That 90% of people are sending us things that aren’t even graphic novels — business books!  how to code in C++!  poetry! etc.  I’m sure that they found us on a list of publishers somewhere, but what that means is that if you’re submitting to us a graphic novel, our response is something like, ‘someone is submitting this book to us on purpose — amazing!’

And if you send us an e-mail that has some clue that you know who we are as a publisher — if you name-check one of our other books, if you actually address the e-mail to one of the people who works here and not ‘Dear Editor/Publisher,’ if you say that you read our blog or follow us on twitter or tumblr — you’re doing better than the vast majority of people who submit books to us.  We really appreciate that.

If you’re reading this and you’re a shy person who’s dreading submitting a project to a publisher, that dread is probably just a sensible response to attempting to do something new and different that could be life-changing for you.  But if you do your research, make a great comic, and write a good submission letter, you’re going to be in the top 5% of submissions at any publisher.

And as for the shyness — it’s natural to be nervous at new and intimidating situations!  But if you aren’t so shy that you have difficulty talking to your friends or interacting with the internet, you probably don’t need to be too concerned.

So this is to say — if you’re aware enough of us as a publisher to comment on one of our posts on tumblr, don’t worry about your shyness.  You’re doing just fine.

6 Comments on “ Getting a Book Published Despite Being Shy ”

  • Jeff Manley | March 27th, 2014 6:39 pm

    If I comment on this, does that put me on your radar? Or do I have to try even harder than this?

  • Gina Gagliano | March 28th, 2014 8:47 am

    Technically yes!

    But if by ‘getting on your radar’ you mean ‘get a publishing contract from,’ it is important to remember that you need to submit a book proposal to us for that to be at all possible!

  • Jeff Manley | March 28th, 2014 10:15 am

    So close. I will get back to you in 6-8 months. 😉

  • karah | March 28th, 2014 6:33 pm

    This is a great article – and so in line with current marketing conversations I’m privy too, which line up with personal marketing strategies. The point about the shivering vulnerability of putting your work out there in general to be critiqued resonates with me. I am still amazed by how we seem to have forgotten that we actually need to authentically engage with others – whether publishers or other people in our communities (little ones for us shy folks, but still valuable). I would love to hear more about developing a thicker skin – what are some techniques people use or things they keep in mind to sustain them in the rejection periods. Thanks again for this article.

  • Helena Juhasz | April 8th, 2014 1:45 am

    Thank you for this thoughtful post. I echoe Karah’s remarks above and having been to the SCBWI Winter Conference in February – this article reminds me of the fact that I was a walking ball of sweat that whole weekend. It was reassuring to read that I *was* supposed to approach publishing employees that I don’t even know and befriend them. Did I? Not really. Maybe one or two. I ended up defaulting to fellow volunteers in matching lanyard colours. Next time, I will know to give it a better try. Thanks Gina!

  • Brian Russell | July 7th, 2014 11:44 am

    Something I found out about myself is that in situations like conventions, I’m more at home than if I was in a job interview. I’m terrible on the floor at a show (as an attender) swimming in a sea of people and feeling like I want to leave… but being behind a table gave a little distance and felt empowering. Regardless of being an introvert, I feel at home talking about my comics. Or is it just myself… hmm.

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