My experience at the #Wausau #Business Expo Had a great time chatting with everyone and looking forward to connecting beyond your booths #Networking #BizRelationships #FridayFeeling (at Central Wisconsin Convention & Expo Center)

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7 Tips to Build an Audience for Your Writing

I got a great Ask about this a little bit ago about how to establish an audience for your writing. Here’s my answer!

(I’m not an expert on building an audience, but I’ll do my best to share advice based on my personal experience, and perhaps a few other writers will chime in, too.)

My situation: I myself have a very small audience for my creative writing, as I tend to focus more on writing than on promoting myself (for the most part). The biggest success I’ve had in this department is with my latest zine Pigtail Girls. I was able to raise $2,000 on Kickstarter to create it, held a local release party that drew a crowd of 70 or so folks and have sold about 150 zines so far (with almost no post-release promotion).

I don’t make my full-time living as a fiction writer, but I have a solid enough audience of readers that it feels satisfying when I come out with something new, and I’ve been traditionally published a few times as well. I have also placed in a few contests and gotten some awards and stuff. But still my audience is very small. That being said, here’s my advice. I hope it helps :)

#1 Start small… with people you already know

When you’re just starting out, many of your fans or supporters will be the people who already know you. Your friends, family, co-workers, peers, acquaintances, etc. Share and talk about your writing with these people, and pluck up the courage to ask for their support! At least a few of them will genuinely like your writing, and you never know who might have a connection that can help get you more exposure.

#2 Don’t feel try to “sell” or “promote” yourself to these folks. Instead, make authentic, person-to-person connections

Sometimes writers fail to create an audience because they have a perception of what it means to “self promote” which leads them to plaster their social media with desperate pleas to buy their book, or feel pressured to “sell themselves” to new friends and contacts. It seems counter-intuitive, but the best thing you can do is to make genuine, authentic connections with people and be open about your writing with them.

That way, when your friend who works at a bookstore needs someone to open for a touring reader… they think of you. Or when you have a release party to celebrate your release, your co-worker will come (and maybe bring their friend who happens to be a newspaper writer… see where I’m going with this?). When you have authentic relationships with people, they will help you grow your base without having to beg or sell to them.

#3 Make friends with readers, other writers, editors, bookstore clerks… basically anyone in the literary world

Truth: There’s a lot of networking, nepotism, and hobnobbing going on in the literary world. Of course, we all know this stuff happens at the super-famous level. People network their way into recognition all the time. Celebrities get book deals. Keanu Reeves is allowed to be an actor. You might not be lucky enough to be bumping elbows with the elite, but your connections can help you no matter how small they are.

Example: As of March 2018, my writing has been traditionally published four times. The first three were open submissions. The other one was because my friend was the editor of a magazine, liked my work, and asked to publish it. At the time I made this friend, she was a writer but not an editor. We connected for other reasons, but by happy coincidence she was able to help promote my work a few years down the line.

#4 Write your social media posts like you’re talking to your friends, not the anonymous masses

This ties into #2. When you use social media to share about your writing, make it personal. A lot of writers feel like they have to sell themselves on social media, so they end up making promotional posts that are basically like “buy my book!” or “read my writing!”

But if you share something real, much like you would if you were talking to a friend, people are much more likely to respond. I know this from personal experience. My highest-performing posts about my writing are always the ones that make a connection and share something personal with my followers.

Additionally, if you’re using certain platforms (Facebook and Instagram for sure do this), your post will get buried by the algorithm if it’s overtly “promotional.” So in certain instances this becomes not just wise but absolutely necessary so that your posts get seen.

#4 Consider trying to get a story traditionally published

This can help in a few ways. First, you’ll have made a connection with the editor of that magazine. (Connections!) Second, your work will be seen by a new audience of readers. Third, it can give you credibility that makes people (editors, readers, etc.) more likely to give your work a second look further down the line.

#5 Get off the internet

My biggest base of supporters are the folks in my town. That’s because they see me and interact with me regularly. It’s way easier to keep the attention of people IRL than it is online, in my experience. Here are some ideas of how to make friends in the real world who can be supporters of your writing:

  • Attend or give a public reading
  • Start or join a writing group
  • Hang out at the bookstore
  • Go to any and all literary events in your town
  • Make friends with other creative people: musicians, artists, photographers.
  • Seek out collaborative projects with other writers and creatives

#6 Accept that, yes, it takes time

Building an audience doesn’t happen overnight. But there can be a cumulative, exponential effect over the long run. Take Tumblr for example. Most people who have a blog can probably remember how it took forever to get those first 10 followers. But once you have the first 10, it’s a little easier to get the second 10, and so on. It’s the same with an audience.

There may be huge surges in your popularity that leave you feeling awesome, then after that you may find your growth starts to lag a bit. That’s totally normal. Which leads me to my last tip:

#7 Remember that it’s quality, not quantity, that counts

Especially in the age of social media, we can get totally hooked on numbers. How many followers, how many email subscribers, how many patrons, etc. But in my experience it’s the quality of your audience, not the quantity, that counts. Focus on building real relationships and delivering something great to just a few loyal readers rather than trying to please everyone. Those people will be the ones to help promote you and have your back when it’s really important.

For example, when I ran my Kickstarter project for my latest zine, about half of the $2,000 I raised came from big donations. That means that just a few of my really loyal readers kicked down most of my goal. As I mentioned earlier, one of my publications came from an editor friend who is a really big fan of my work. Most of my successes have been because of the dedication of a handful of people, not because I have some enormous following. (This phenomenon has actually been studied and officially named. It’s called the Pareto principle or the 80/20 rule. I totally recommend looking it up and reading more about it.)

Ok, that’s all I’ve got for now. I hope this helped!

For the sake of being clickbaity, I’ll call this conversation:

You Can Skip College if You Want to Work in Animation.

Part 1

Honestly, and this is just my opinion, but of every school I know people from (with the exception of Calarts), the only career benefit I’ve seen form any of them is occasional classmate connections. And that’s luck of the draw, it require you to have super-successful, breakout industry talent in your graduating class. I’ve known that to happen to artists from places like RISD and SVA and Art Center every couple of years. Someone that just graduated gets a show, and all their friends from college get to look beneath their chairs, because job-Oprah just delivered. I have also known of a few situations were maybe a Showrunner went somewhere like RISD or SVA or Art Center 20 years before, and decided to staff mostly young people from their college.  But those situations are too few and far between to hope for as a career-aiding connection.

I went to what most would consider a pretty good school, Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. And although I’ve heard of a few successful Animation-Industry related alumni, none of them are remotely accessible to me. I have none of their emails, no way to contact them, and often no real way to confirm whether or not they actually graduated from Pratt. Some are just rumors, some are people that left the school and got jobs, and all of them are impossible to reach. If there’s an alumni database of any kind, no one I know uses it or knows anything about it. And so it goes. I don’t fully blame Pratt.  They never promised to connect me to famous entertainment industry people that could help my career. They promised to connect me to older graduates of the school, and  they did. They promised to teach me about art and give me access to other artist in exchange for my money. So they did, for the most part. (I mean, I learned there, but it was so expensive that it’s easy to feel a little cheated compared to what you can learn out in LA for a fraction of the price.) So after those promises from Pratt fulfilled, I had to take what I knew and  got out into the world on my own to find somebody to pay me to do it professionally. It’s an expectation that schools provide us contacts to get jobs after graduation, and while I agree that I’d be nice, now that I have a few years distance from school, i don’t think  that’s a feasible for animation. I can’t speak to other industries.

 One thing schools really don’t prepare you for in general is, that working in animation is a hustle. You never stop keeping up with people and making sure you have your next job lined up. You’re never “there”. Even after major success, nothing is guaranteed. I’ve known big directors having to take crappy jobs for a while when they let themselves get too distant. I saved up my money to take a few months off to take writing classes, which I don’t regret. But even just not working for 6 months, and even with a much improved portfolio, I’m having a damn near impossible time locking down another full-time  union job. I’ll probably lock it down in the next few weeks, but it’s been a ton more work than if I had jumped from one job to the next. You just loose threads in subtle ways. You hear about things too late, you aren’t given the benefit of you entire staff’s extra eyes as your co-workers line up their next jobs when your current project’s wrapping. I don’t say it to scare you, it should actually be comforting. Most people who never stop working and move from job to job stay plugged in pretty much forever and always find new work. I prioritize my personal art when I can afford to, so it makes working in the industry more work.

So, if you can do something up front, something at the start of your career to give you a DLC bonus download of contacts and networking. I highly recommend it. Which brings me to–

CALARTS, a favorite topic of aspiring animation artist and students around the world. From what I’ve seen, CalArts graduates have legitimate and helpful connections. It’s the only school where I’ve consistently seen people get access to job opportunities through:

1. Friends from school
2. Professors
3. Older alumni
4. Their Senior Show
5. Job fairs
6. Mentorships
7. School networking events
8. The schools reputation on their resume alone

And yes, the students that get in are very, very good artists that go on to become even better professionals. Not everyone has reached the level required to get in when they’re that young. Some artist develop later. Some started much later, and are still catching up. Some artist have the capacity to be good enough to get into a school like CalArts, but their work suffers because they are insulated from other artist somewhere remote when they’re young. Then, the second these people get around talented artists and competitors in the industry, they grow like weeds. For a BUNCH of us out there, Calarts isn’t an option for financial reasons. It wasn’t for me. Pratt’s comparable in price, but gives out a lot more scholarships, financial aid, grants, and loans than CalArts. But  like I said, it seems worth every penny for the opportunities available there.

For everyone with me in the couldn’t do CalArts boat, I’d say just skip the whole thing college thing and learn while getting your career started in LA.

Skipping college sounds crazy and irresponsible, but I think it’s just a tradition that makes us feel comfortable. It’s a set of promises vague enough to put your mind at ease about the future long enough to focus on perfecting the shade of blue to use for the show on your nude figure painting’s ass-cheek. Somewhere in the back of your mind, you think they must have promised you a job of some kind, even though they haven’t. So why is taking out hundreds of thousands of dollars of loans to move alone from Texas to Brooklyn at 18 not the same as taking less money and moving to LA? Because I’m walking from my apartment to a place where all my classes in one building in Brooklyn, verses driving from my apartment to classes around the city in LA? They’re the same thing. Except the LA one has cheaper housing than school (if you live with roommates), the classes are better, and you’ll probably meet people that can give you jobs while learning. College in general, but ESPECIALLY art college, is often just a magic potion we buy ourselves to pretend like the degree will help us structure an otherwise directionless art career. All the work I did to get Cartoon Network and Sony type jobs, ALL of it, I did in LA after school. And it was all stuff I could have done without having to go to art school. The only advantage I had from Pratt was more artistic experience than if I had just come straight out. But the level of instruction is such much better here for industry animators that I would have grown more in a year taking classes around LA than I did at four years of Art School.

Whether you start the day you graduate high school or college, you’re probably going to be like I was, starting at ground zero as far as where to go to look for jobs. I had done a lot of studio work while in school, but all of that was stuff in NYC I googled, then cold-submitted to. And none of it  has ever led to a single thing in LA. So like everyone else, I had to just google studios, submit endless resumes and portfolios, call places to ask to submit my work, did around and ask around for emails, go to portfolio reviews, go local animation community stuff where you can meet people like Loop De Loop and gallery shows, trying out drawing clubs around the city, meeting people in local classes, going to cons, etc. You’ll probably be working a day job at a Petco or a Coffee Shop while you land that first animation gig at a small studio. And this is stuff you’d most likely have to do whether  you come out to LA straight after high school, or show up out of college four years later with $200,000 in debt like I did.

If I had to do it over, and I still couldn’t do the CalArts route, I’d do exactly what I did, but do it sooner. I got jobs at small studios pretty much the day I got in LA. (they don’t like hiring people from afar). My friends I moved out with got day jobs and kept applying. So I rested a while, hoping If I did good work I’d get bumped up, and waiting for them to get jobs. But finally,I did what you should do in addition to all that networking stuff I mentioned: Take classes around the city. Live cheap. Use the money you would have spent on college, or if you don’t have it,  take community college classes to get student loans for extra living expenses so you can afford rent and classes. Between those loans and a steady day job, you’ll probably live more comfortably than you would in college. And you don’t have to be stressed about not getting an industry job for a year, or two, or four, because that’s when you would be graduating anyway. Just make sure you are always taking a ‘semester’ worth of classes. If you have hands-on parents, they can even sign up for your classes for you to make sure you aren’t slacking off. They are usually $400-800 for a ten week class, and there’s a ten week class every “semester.’ You can take Animation Guild figure drawing classes from a Disney master instructor on Thursdays, go to draw jam Wednesday nights, take story classes from Dreamworks board artists in Pasadena at the Concept Design Academy on Sundays,  take that 10 week plein air class from a Nick background painter on Saturday mornings. They might have just announced a one-time, ten week class on instagram, and only those near Burbank will be there to take it. CDA is my favorite, but I’d look at classes at Schoolism, Gnomon, and The Los Angeles Academy of Figerative Art. Then maybe go to the beach on Tuesdays or whatever, idk– 

The point being that unless you can do CalArts, pretty much everyone can get the big competitive jobs with hard work, but they’re gonna have to put in their time building the personal business that is “you” in LA. You might eventually get a gig at a small studio like I did by blind-submitting your portfolio. Most everyone you work with in a small studio is also gunning for one of those higher profile jobs. So eventually, they might test their way into a Cartoon Network or Disney TV show, and when another spot opens, they get you a test, which along with their recommendation, you pass. That’s a common way people get their first union jobs. The good news is that first union job is the hardest to get. Even with all the struggle I’ve had lately landing my next project after taking time off, I certainly have more access to recruiters, upcoming jobs, and the people on those jobs. It took me a little under three years to get my first union job. After taking the time off, I’ve only been looking for union work for 4 months, and I did a freelance Ben 10 episode in the middle of that.

I can’t say for sure how it works for the CalArts route. The cases common cases I know of for CalArts grads getting jobs through their school include:

1. They got hired right out of school off of their senior Film
2. A teacher was staffing a show and grabbed a few of their best students
3. A skilled friend got a test off their portfolio, and a job off a test, then they did the recommendation thing I mentioned earlier and hooked someone up

The last thing I’ll say, which I know a lot of people would be screaming at me f they were here is, you can get those jobs by posting online while living somewhere else…. If you’re really good. REALLY good. People say that with the internet, if you put good enough art up, it will gain attention and launch your career. I have known SEVERAL people that lived somewhere random in Kansas, or Florida, or Romania or wherever, that got contact by some recruiter and hired over the phone because their work was awesome.

But I think people that say that are just more talented than me. I tried that many times. I’ve been growing a small but healthy social media following for a long time, people in the industry recognize my work on occasion, and I’ve gotten a splash here and there when something hit it bigger than usual. But, in spite of my bets efforts, I’ve never managed to get any jobs, or even really street cred, from social media. I’m not yet one of these people that can gain a reputation throughout the industry as “that one amazing webcomic artist from Denver we all follow but have never met”. And that’s the level of people I see get recruited online. I’d say they’re often either “internet famous” or at least “internet respected” artists. It’s not really about numbers, some people have really tiny followings, but their work is strong enough to be well known by the right people. Often these people are also highly charismatic online even when they are awkward in real life.  They’re usually funny, like internet comedians. It seems to me they are doing the exact same networking skill I’ attempting in person, but they’re great on a screen. I wish I had both the talent and the written-charisma to gain people’s attention online. Personally, I think that option means waiting until you are an amazing, competition-shattering talent before you are allowed into your career. And I’d probably have been in my 40s before I was skilled enough to lap the competition like that. So, I advocate most people move to LA, and let the people here bring your skills up to speed. Being here is a lot more direct growth path than college, in exchange for the stress of facing less structure and slightly more adult responsibilities.

To summarize. 3 ways to get a job at Cartoon Network,:

1. Get in to, pay for, survive, graduate, and be on good terms with your classmates at the hyper-competitive California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)  (PRETTY COMMON, BUT  NOWHERE NEAR THE MAJORITY OF CASES)

 2. Move to LA and meet people while taking local classes   (MOST COMMON)


3. Make art so good that you become internet famous  (LEAST COMMON BUT BECOMING MORE COMMON)   


So many people want to “stunt on” their peers that they fail to realize working with one another can be the foundation for everyones success. Feeding off of pure creative energies with people grinding just as hard as you is what’s going to not only get you further but also broaden your artistry. It’s more than one spot at the top, lose the crab in a barrel mentality.
So who’s tryna work?!

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10 Of The Most Effective High Level And Nitty Gritty Tips For Getting Rich

There are a million paths to getting rich. But there’s unlikely anyone out there successful who wouldn’t emphasize the value of people skills in succeeding. So back to your question, how do you get rich quickly:

1. Learn relentlessly.

2. Become a people person.

3. Work hard.

4. Take risks.

5. Get a job in a high growth industry.

6. Work for the best and most recognizable company you can work for.

7. Become an expert.

8. Create multiple income streams.

9. Be too busy to spend money.

10. Finally, start a company.

Here’s why these tips are so effective.

Networking: You’re Doing It Wrong

I see a lot of people saying, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” - and in part, that’s true. But I have yet to see a successful explanation of how to know the “right people.” So I’m going to try.

First, do good work, and be a good person. Like, this always holds true - anyone with a modicum of sense knows that.  

So I’m just going to cover how to get your good work seen.

The most common advice I see is “put yourself out there.” That means:

  • Make a website.
  • Get on social media.
  • Go to conventions.
  • Basically, stick your work in front of everyone possible, every place possible.

Right. That’s all important. But that’s only step one.

I’ve got a huge network, and I generally don’t have a problem finding opportunities. … but get this, I’m actually an introvert. It’s not that I hate people, it just that maintaining relationships requires energy (and about once a month, I hole up in my room for a weekend to recharge).

There are generally two approaches to all problem-solving, “go wide” and “go deep.” The common advice is to go wide - people will remember your work after seeing it 100,000 times.  If you’re lucky, someone will remember. If you’re not, you’ll sink into that cloud of online noise and people who draw just like you and like the same things as you.  

My advice is “go deep.” That’s where my energy goes.

The core of networking is getting people to remember you, so they think of you when a good opportunity comes up. Since people are generally empathetic, the easiest way to do that is to remember them back.  Give time and energy to your newly-formed relationships - or else your image will fade like a 30-second commercial on Hulu. Here are my tips:

Most importantly, take the time to remember faces, remember names, and remember what they need.  Just the core of getting to know someone, really, knowing them as a person.  If you’re not good at remembering things, practice with celebrity faces, do some memory games. Remember, people are people, not just job gatekeepers!  

  • Go out of the way to remember seemingly irrelevant things they’d told you (don’t pressure them) like where they are from, what they like to eat, if they have pets, and what their favorite shows are. Try to find common ground that’s not work.  Be humorous, be intelligent. If you have a conversation about something other than “get me a job,” you will be more likely to remember each other.
  • If you can, truly dedicate a chunk of your brain to the new person.  Don’t be afraid to make the first move to show you want to invest time in this relationship, especially if they’re new in town.  Take them to your favorite restaurant.  Invite them to your next house party.  Suggest seeing a new movie. Or simply say, “i really like how you did [such-and-such] and would love to be a part of it. if you need more help, e-mail me.” (Caveat: small group gatherings in public places are wiser, otherwise things can be misconstrued and go into weird and possible squicky romantic territory.)
  • Go ahead and follow fan pages, blogs, and public sites, but don’t cold-add people on personal social media (ie, a private Facebook) if you haven’t had a conversation with them. Relationships, even networking ones, are largely about privacy and trust. That “follow for follow” thing is bullshit, don’t even try.
  • If your name is super common, hard to spell, or otherwise hard to remember, you might want to make it easier for the other party to remember by coming up with an easily searchable handle.  Things such as puns and common words work well (people remember my friend “ProdigyBombay” years after she stopped posting).
  • Even if it’s been years, don’t forget people. It shows people you give a damn.  Social media is great for this.
  • Finally, remember the setting and space you’re in. And respect peoples’ privacy. Don’t assume someone exists simply so you can get something from them. Showing your portfolio is what’s expected during a review, but not a bar unless they ask to see it.  And if someone doesn’t want to give you information, don’t pry. You wouldn’t make your friends owe you anything, so why should you do that to someone you just met?

Great, so you kinda know a bunch of people, now what?

There are two economic theories I’d like to introduce to you: “Giver, Taker, Matcher” Theory and “Tit for Two Tats” Paradigm. Read these two links before continuing because I’m going to talk as if you know what they are.

  • Giver, Taker, Matcher suggests there are three kinds of people in the world: those who give, those who take, and those who match. Be a smart giver.  If you only take opportunities, no one will want to help you because you’ll be seen as a selfish ass.  Givers try to give opportunities to everyone. Most people are matchers who will “do unto others” - so they’ll take if you’re a taker but they’ll give if you’re a giver.  So if you are a giver surrounded by matchers and other givers, things will be given to you. Those so-called “impenetrable industry circles” are really groups of givers and matches who trust each other and therefore give to each other (you know, like groups of friends).
  • Tit for Two Tats is an iterated prisoner’s dilemma scenario which helps protect you as a giver. If you’re surrounded by takers, you’ll be well, taken advantage of. Be a giver in your first impression, because matchers and other givers will immediately give to you. But if you’re taken from, give once again - because hey, sometimes people are down on their luck and they simply can’t help you out. And a friend who only helps when you can help them back isn’t reliable.  However, if the pattern of taking repeats a lot, cut off your giving before that person hurts you.
  • So I’m saying, yes, sometimes you might actually want to work for exposure or for cheap. The world is full of takers who will leave you high and dry, but if you know someone is a matcher or a giver, it might just be worth it to do that discount job.  Good examples would be for a high-profile Kickstarter or charity, although most reliable for-profit businesses should offer to pay.  When doing small personal stuff for friends, I charge a nominal fee of about $10/hr. This works out pretty well by giving me motivation, and friends help keep friends fed. (Note, corporations who use your work for profit are not the same as your friends and for professional jobs the rate is the rate is the rate.)
  • Since we are all limited by physical and temporal resources, give your help when it’s needed most. Go out of you want to see the friend who’s in town for a only day.  Pick up that sad soul stranded at LAX (thank you, i love you, rollaine).  You don’t need to hang out every day to maintain a meaningful friendship, but a real friend is there when it counts.

Finally, once you’re comfortable with that person and have a reliable relationship, don’t be afraid to ask for work, especially when an opportunity really interests you and doubly especially if someone straight-up asks you to apply (this includes open calls for art).  Not everyone knows who needs work at what point in time, so making note of your status is totally allowable.  Your friends can’t help you if they don’t know you want help.  But if they do know already, don’t be bothersome.  You’re letting someone know your availability, not demanding they give you a job.

So yeah, that’s essentially the “going deep” part to networking - dedicate the same mental energy to whom you’ve met as you’d want dedicated to you!  And that includes not being a shitty, take-y person.

tl;dr - To network properly, don’t approach people like you want them to get your a job.  Approach them like you want to make a new friend. And don’t be a shitty friend.

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