Monday, June 10, 2013


My friend, Doug Wagner, himself a fantastic writer, asked me if I was willing to share my journey to success with the students in the writing course he teaches in an effort to help them understand what it takes to be a creative for a living.

I put together some thoughts in the form of a letter from me to the students as if I was there in the room talking to them in person. With Doug’s kind permission, I am sharing my thoughts here as well. When I sat down to write this initially, I wasn’t expecting it to be very long, but once I started, the words just started to flow.

There is no road map to becoming a successful writer and the path is different for everyone. The first question you have to ask is what success means for you, but that’s a blog post for another day. So now, without further ado…

My journey (still in progress…)

The secret of my success.
When I was asked about my journey as a writer, I had to think hard on where it actually began. Did I start with my desire to be a comic book artist? Or was it later when I decided to focus on writing instead of art? Regardless of where it started, the path to where I am now has been a long and winding road. Not that I’m at the end. There’s still a ways to go and much more I want to accomplish.

My first sale was in 1992 when I started doing comic strips for a local kid’s magazine that ran once a month in one of the local newspapers. The magazine ran for 12 years and I had a strip in each issue. Later I bumped that up to two strips a month. There wasn’t much money there, but as a kid with no published work, it was a great experience. It was also where I learned the importance of deadlines.

From there I did a little work here and there, although nothing major and very little that garnered attention until I started as scripter on the comic book series, Demonslayer, for Avatar Press. I got the Demonslayer gig the old fashioned way-- by submitting. I had contacted several companies via email with an introduction letter and samples of my work. Only one company replied and that was to tell me “no thanks.” A year later, that same person emailed me back to try out for Demonslayer. I went on to script that book for 4 years. It still remains one of my better selling comic book works.

Using the printed comics to help get other work, I started building my professional contacts and with each subsequent job, I used it to get the next project. In 2004 I sold my first novel, Evil Ways, which debuted in 2005. Although this would not turn out to be a great experience in terms of the publisher, I had a novel in hand that I could sell, talk up, and use to show other publishers as I looked for work. One publisher picked it up from me at a con and offered me a writing assignment a few months later after reading it. That gave me another project to use when talking with publishers.

That brings me to today where I still use this same technique. Having a body of published work from multiple publishers shows publishers and editors that I pitch that I have a track record for completing the work. It also allows them to check with other publishers I’ve worked with to make sure I hit my deadlines, am not difficult to work with, and help promote the work once it is released. All of these things, in addition to writing ability, helps me sell myself and my work to publishers.
Bobby written by Bobby Nash

One of the pieces of advice I usually give when asked about writing advice is that, if you want to write as a career, then you have to treat it like a job. That means you hit your deadlines first and foremost. Sure, sometimes things happen, but that’s the exception. Sometimes this means sleepless nights or not going to the movies with your friends because you have to write. It can mean missing a family Christmas Eve party because you’ve fallen behind (this one happened to me) or passing on a fun activity. It happens, but once you learn to plan your work schedule, it becomes easier to plan these things. Persistence is important. For me, the hardest part is getting started. Once I finally put my butt in the chair and start typing then I’m good to go, but getting to that point is sometimes harder than it should be. There are distractions everywhere. As a full-time stay at home writer, the biggest obstacle is people knowing I’m home and thinking it is okay to stop by or call me up to help with some project or another (my parents are really bad about this). I have to remind them that just because I’m home doesn’t mean I’m not working.

The journey ala Neil Gaiman
Persistence pays off. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. You never know when opportunities will present themselves. I’ve gotten writing gigs by meeting editors at conventions, because an editor read something I’ve written and liked it, or because of people I know. If an editor finds his or herself short on talent, they sometimes ask writers they know and trust if they know someone and that recommendation happens. I was hired on a project at IDW because a friend recommended me when the editor asked if he knew any writers that would be a good fit. He helped me get the interview. I still had to do the work to get the job.

As a writer I have to sell myself as much as my work. That means keeping a professional demeanor on-line (we all know how tough that can be) and at conventions. I’ve had people buy books from me at cons because “I seem like a nice guy” and they appreciated me chatting with them.

Still, for all of that, I feel like I have a long way to go. It’s still work to get the books out there and to get
readers to pick them up. I promote daily over many different venues. It is a little easier now than it was in 1992. Having won a few awards this year helps, certainly. It is a great feeling to be honored by your fans and your peers with an award (I won the 2013 Pulp Ark Award for Best Author. Yeah, I can hardly believe it either. I also won a Pulp Ark Award along with Sean Taylor for co-creating 2013’s Best New Pulp character-- Rick Ruby) and that becomes another tool to help with finding or pitching the next project.

Is it easy? Not always, but it’s a great job and I still feel a rush of pride every time I receive comp copies of books I’ve worked on in the mail or get an offer from a publisher to work on a new project. I love being a part of the creative process.

The journey is far from over, however. Even though I’ve been a “professional” writer for 21 years now (WOW!) I feel like I’ve only taken a few baby steps. There is still a lot of walking (and probably running) ahead of me. I look forward to walking alongside you.


Doug Wagner
Thanks again, Doug.

If you’ve not read any of Doug’s work, you’re missing out. Check out his work at and tell him I said hi.



Mark said...

Thank you for sharing this Bobby, Especially the part about having a "professional demeanor." You did act like a true professional and gentleman after our rocky introduction. You taught me a lot and I must thank you.

Your friend,
Mark Holmes

Bobby Nash said...

Thanks, Mark. That means a lot, sir. I have witnessed... let's just call it "creators behaving badly" before and I made a conscious decision not to be "that guy" if and when I find myself in those situations. So far, I have been very lucky that the majority of my interactions have been pleasant compared to some creators. I mean, I've never received death threats based on something I've written and I know creators who have. All in all, I think I've been very lucky.

Disagreements happen and I'm glad you and I had a lively discussion about material we were-- and are-- passionate about. Writing, as you know, is such a solitary job. It was nice to have feedback that was more than just "this sucks" or "I hate this." Our first interaction could have gone a whole different direction had we not both treated one another with civility. We did and it was a great discussion. Plus, I made a friend in the process. That's always a nice bonus.