On Cultural Differences and Taking the Train

I've been spending much more of my time in the prose fiction community in the past six months or so, and it has been a strange experience. If nothing else, it's given me a much greater appreciation for how comfortable I've become in comics. As much as I worry about how best to promote my work, whether I'm a good fit for this Comic Arts Fest or another, how to manage the various stresses and responsibilities of my paying comics work, which publishers to approach with new projects and whether I'd be better off just posting them as webcomics...a LOT of things. I worry about so many things! But I never worry about whether or not I understand the landscape I'm navigating, or whether I belong here at all. I'm anxious about chatting to strangers at the SPX afterparty, but I always have a group of friends I can go chill with in the corner if (when) I chicken out. I haven't made as much progress with my career as I'd like, but I've been around long enough that I can make professional chitchat when needed.

But prose! PROSE!

Lucky me, between my connections with Clarion West and friends' connections with Viable Paradise -- two genre writing workshops, if you aren't familiar -- when I go to a SF/F convention I'm likely to know at least a handful of people there. But what to SAY? People always ask what I've done, and I end up just talking about my work in comics. This isn't entirely bad, as at least it helps me stand out. But it can also make me feel a little like a Curiosity, as opposed to an up-and-coming peer. I have a couple of "pro" publication credits now, at least, which will help with the small talk. But culturally I still barely know what I'm doing.

Writing this now, ugh, it's hard to even explain! I guess it's a little like the difference between how I feel on the New York subway system, as opposed to ridding the Tube in London. They're both pubtrans, and I'm perfectly capable of navigating the latter when I need to. But what are the norms? How much am I allowed to talk on the Tube? Is it okay to ask directions when I'm turned around? How much am I sticking out, and is it a problem? In New York, where I've lived for fifteen years, I get grumpy and frustrated and sometimes I get on the N instead of the D and end up down in Bay Ridge like an idiot. But I'm comfortable on the subway. I know how I fit into that particular system, even when it's being shitty. On the Tube? Every decision is something to worry about, regardless of how smoothly the trip is actually going.

So far, my trip through Prose is going about as smoothly as I could hope for. But boy, could I use some directions. And I sure do hope that I'm on the right train.

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Do prose people think self-publishing your work is something to be looked down on? I can't even imagine what a pain in the ass that must make it to get started.
It depends! In some circles ABSOLUTELY YES, self-publishing basically perceived as evidence that you're too much of a coward to put your work into the machine. Most of the comics I read would be thought of as vanity projects if they were prose.

Of course this varies a lot, depending on who you're talking to! But I'm comfortable in saying that, taken as a whole, the comics community is much more accepting of self pub and micro press comics than the prose community.

To be fair, I think that part of this stems from the fact that it's harder to tell at a glance whether a work of prose will be interesting or worthwhile to read. I can flip through a chapter of a webcomic in a few minutes and have a pretty good idea of what I'm getting into; prose is harder to evaluate in that particular way. It also generally takes much longer to read a prose book than a graphic novel, so a reader's chances of wasting a lot of time on something unsatisfying are higher with prose. I'm sure this is a large part of why "gatekeepers" are relied on so heavily in the latter case.

The upshot of this is that there are WAY MORE paying markets for short-form prose than there are for small comics.
Lol, how long did it take you to feel comfortable on MTA? (Post NYU, when you actually had to use it often.)

I assume if you stayed in London for a month or so, you'd get used to the Tube norms pretty quickly! With prose writing, it's still just the beginning. You'll stop being a "tourist" eventually.
I knooooooooow I just hope I don't make too much of an idiot of myself in the meantime >__>