(imagine what trouble the Magical Cartooning Elf would get into if he didn’t tell people he was just showing up to help them make comics!)
We frequently go to industry events — conventions and book parties and art openings and panels and lectures and classes and workshops. While we’re there, we frequently have conversations that go like this:
Person: I’m Alex.
Gina @ First Second: Hello!
Person: So . . . First Second. Tell me about that.
Gina @ First Second: First Second is a graphic novel publisher; we publish books for readers of all ages. We strive for high editorial and production quality, and publish comics for readers of every age. We’re an imprint of Macmillan, which means that we’re wholly owned by one of the major NYC publishers, and they do a great job getting our books out really broadly around the United States. Distribution is really one of the major factors in the market right now, and (etc.).
Person: Oh, interesting.
Gina @ First Second: Yes! We have some exciting books coming up; I can tell you about them. Let’s go through our upcoming winter season (etc.).
Person: Thanks. Thank you; that was really interesting to learn about.
Gina @ First Second: Is there anything else I can tell you about First Second?
Person: Well, I’m actually a printer, and I’d like to know where you get your paper supplies and what you look for when acquiring paper. We’d really like to supply your company; we’re based in New Jersey and offer really competitive rates on printing.
Gina @ First Second: So what you mean is, all of the things I’ve told you about First Second for the past ten minutes are completely irrelevant to you?
Person: More or less, yes.
Gina @ First Second: !
This kind of exchange is something that happens all the time. Seriously, you guys. It happens all the time. And it’s super-frustrating.
Whether the Mysterious!Person involved is a teacher, a librarian, an author or aspiring author, a printer, a designer or editor or publisher hoping to get a job, it’s frustrating.
It’s frustrating for us because all of those different people probably are interested in a different facet of our company. And we have lots of facets that are different from each other, so when we’re asked for a general overview, we don’t give the two-hour version ‘All About First Second’ with singing and dancing and musical hats. Instead, we try to give the most general information possible, assuming the person asking is someone who isn’t at all familiar with the company and is in need of that general information.
(And when I say ‘two hour,’ I’m being conservative; I have an hour-long talk about marketing that I give to authors whose books we’re publishing when we start on the marketing part of things. I’m sure that the editorial and publishing and design and production and sub rights parts take at least an hour! Possibly each!)
And I should think that it would be frustrating from the other end of things — having to sit through ten minutes of overview when all you really want to do is ask about our paper stock, or our submissions policy, or whether we distribute our books to libraries, or our desk copy policy.
Therefore! We advise that if you’re at a professional event, and you’re trying to engage a fellow professional to talk about professional things, it’s best to let the person you’re talking with know who you are and what you want to talk about in the first or second exchange.
Because, how frustrating for you to sit through that whole overview and then get, ‘our parent company makes all our paper purchasing decisions and they are also all super-hyper environmental, which you’re probably not equipped to handle anyways.’
If you’re genuine and passionate and excited about your topical professional commitments/affiliations, people will be glad to talk to you, as long as you’re not interrupting them in the middle of something. Professional events are designed for meeting people and talking to them about your various interrelated jobs.
Not mentioning your professional affiliation when you’re asking about a professional matter (possibly, I guess, to trick people into conversing with you?) just makes things confusing!