Four months into freelance editing, my daily life isn’t much like it used to be. Instead of commuting to Dark Horse, I work at a cleared-off desk in my apartment or, weather permitting, at one of the long tables with electrical outlets at the public library. Instead of chasing artists, I chase publishers. Instead of receiving invoices, I send them.
But I’ve done all that before, having freelanced in the legal field prior to breaking into comics. The biggest and most difficult adjustment in my new endeavor is the need to remain visible through active self-promotion, something which does not come naturally to me, to say the least. I’ve always preferred a behind-the-scenes role.
As a staff editor, that’s no problem, since you get paid every week whether or not the field at large knows who you are, and when attracting talent you trade on the reputation of your company at least as much as on your own. For the majority of my time at Dark Horse I made virtually no effort to be recognized by comics websites or fandom, though I worked hard to maintain relationships with talent, which is a separate matter. I pushed all my books on social media, but kept the focus off myself.
Recently the creative team of an upcoming title I’m editing offered to list my name along with everyone else’s on the series’ covers. I was flattered, and from a mercenary, self-promotional angle, I was tempted to take them up on it. Ultimately I declined, as it just didn’t feel right. Not immoral or anything, but simply in keeping with my belief that comics editors should be invisible, appreciated in some general sense but rarely if ever singled out publicly.
It is, as I understand it, an accident of history that comics editors are credited for each title they work on, while book editors are not. Though many book publishers today have their own comics imprints (often not including editorial credits in books), what we think of as the comics industry derives from the magazine business, where editors are known and credited. Even as comic books became graphic novels, the tradition remained.
Because editors are routinely credited, they end up getting a great deal of attention in online press as ambassadors of series and sometimes as members of creative teams or svengalis. This focus warps the audience’s understanding of editors’ roles and invites a level of ego that is at odds with the job of supporting someone else’s vision. I have worked with editors whose actual talents lay in finding new places to add their names rather than in their facility with story or their people skills, to the detriment of the books and the reputation of editors as a group.
But it’s hard to deny that those editors who court the spotlight become the ones people hear about, and the ones people hear about are the ones they think of when hiring. Now that I work for myself, I only work if I convince creators and publishers that they want me specifically to edit a project, which requires being visible on a regular basis, and therein lies the dilemma.
I am used to writing up books I’ve edited, pushing stuff out through social media, and contacting friends and colleagues to share. Knowing I would go freelance in 2015, I stepped up efforts to do the same for myself throughout the year—starting to tweet (@BrendanWasright), doing more interviews, and attending SDCC for the first time—but the actual announcement was the test. I think I swung it, scoring articles on a few sites and having congratulations come in all week through social media and e-mail, but it required going against my natural wiring.
I still briefly forget that it’s not enough to acquire a gig like editing comics for Starburns Industries; you also have to announce and promote it, because success breeds success. You get hired because potential clients see other people hire you. The same goes for periodically reminding Facebook and Twitter, as I did yesterday, that you are open for business when much of what you work on as a consultant goes uncredited (as it should).
It’s immensely gratifying every time someone wants to work with me on my own and not as a representative of a company, but it’s a strange feeling telling the world to look at me after spending the previous years of my career pushing all the attention at others. It still doesn’t quite feel like what an editor is supposed to be doing, but it’s the price of working for one’s self, and the benefits have been tremendous, so I’ll get better at telling people to look at me, and once they do, I’ll tell them to look at the people who hired me, because it’s really their show.
Say it with me: for all your comics editing needs, as well as pitch and crowdfunding consulting, write to email@example.com.