Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Off-Topic: Problems in the Industry

I'm not sure if I'm ever going to make this viewable to the public, but I need to write this myself.

About a year ago, I met a creator. I don't know how he found me, but he sent me a friend request on Facebook. Since I accept most creator requests, I accepted his. He seemed nice at first. Friendly, wanting to learn about the industry.

He asked if I'd edit/proof a story for one of his upcoming comics. At that point, I was building up my business and was happy to do it for him. I misunderstood what he was asking and only ended up charging him $10 for the piece. I did attempt to tell him that wasn't my normal rate, but he pointed out where I said it, so I did the piece for that amount.

As soon as he sent it to me, the barrage of when will it be done started. I gave him a date and the head's up that I would be going out of town, but was taking my laptop with me so there wouldn't be any delay in making the deadline that I had set. Then, while I was gone, I went quiet for a couple of days. I was driving and then spending time with my partner. I logged into Facebook one day, actually to send him the file, to find messages from him demanding that I give him a refund and that this just wasn't going to work out. I pointed out to him that my terms clearly state that half of my fee is nonrefundable if the client cancels. These were terms that he had agreed to. I also told him that I wasn't going to argue with him over $5 and he had the choice, accept the file or be out the funds. I wasn't playing games. He accepted the file, apologized for his behavior, and I thought that was that. I should have known better.

After that, he contacted me almost daily. He talked about other projects that he wanted me to work on. He sent me daily memes, selfies, and other pictures. It was a lot, but I figured he was just someone who was lacking a social life and needed some attention. I'm online a lot so it's not a big deal. Then, he bought a silver tea set at a garage sale and offered to sell it to me for the $4 that he had paid for it. I was interested and suggest that we meet up halfway since he only lives two hours from me. I think that's when the sexual harassment started. At least, that's the first incident that I remember. He told me that for it to be worth him driving an hour, we'd need to get a hotel room and stay the night together. I was shocked. He acted like it was some sort of done deal.

At some point, I gave him my phone number. I can't remember why and now I question my sanity. The phone calls started and would last an hour to two hours. The conversations, if you want to call them that, were very one sided. They were all about him, his life, his comics...with suggestions that we table together at a convention. He suggested how we could split the costs and share a bed at a hotel. I put him off at first by reminding him that I didn't have anything to table with. Then, he asked about a show that's about an hour from my house. I usually just drive in for that one versus getting a hotel. I told him that. He made it very clear that he thought he could stay at my house, share my bed and my body, and then we could drive in together. I told him that there are 2 bedrooms in this house, mine and my children's, so there'd be nowhere for him to sleep.

There were other conversations where he'd made comments like this...Well, when we get together, I'm going to show you just how good I am...and things like that. Eventually, he got the hint that I wasn't interested but the damage was done. I was completely skeeved out. (Is that a word still?)

During all of this, he asked me repeatedly to take a look at another series that he was writing. I told him repeatedly that people usually pay me for my work. In the end, I agreed to look over issue 1. I was running a deal for indie creators that I'd look over one issue for free (early covid). He sent me five issues. He also told me that he'd give me $100 out of his stimulus check if I'd look them over. I told him that I'd do an initial go over, but that was it. I usually charge more than that per issue. He agreed but then the harassment started again. When was I going to do them? How soon? This was a daily occurrence. I finally gave him a date and told him not to ask me again. He apologized and agreed. The next day he asked me again. Once I sent them back, I thought it would stop. It didn't. He looked over my notes, made some changes, and sent me the files again.  I asked him why. He said because he wanted me to be the editor all the way through. I reminded him that he'd have to pay me. He said he didn't have the money, but we could work something out. He could cover a con table for the both of us, he could give me ad space in his book, or he could work it out in the bedroom (I'm prettying up what he said). I refused to work any further on his books.

I should mention that this creator has wild mood swings. I more than once suggested that he see a doctor or a therapist. He told me that he'd never lasted more than six months with any therapist, that they'd kicked him to the curb after that long and that they all told him the same thing. Again, red flag, but being me, I wanted to be nice and kind so I just did what I could to try to help him. Except, that never worked. Whenever he'd come to me, upset with someone, or threatening to kill himself, he'd get "attacky" the second I said anything. He'd come after me. He was aggressive and mean. He'd never apologize, just come back later (sometimes an hour, sometimes a day) and act as if nothing had happened. I called him out on it. I told him I wasn't going to be his personal whipping post. The last time it happened, I told him if it happened again, I wouldn't talk to him for at least 30 days. It didn't matter.

Then, my depression happened and I didn't speak to anyone for a week. He continued to send me messages that I never even opened. It wasn't just him. It was everyone. I was numb, I couldn't function. It was bad. When I finally started to pull out of it, I opened his messages. They were all memes and pictures of his nature walks. I replied that the one had made me chuckle. He replied that he had unfriended me, had no intention of talking about it, and eventually said something along the lines of how I'd been kind to him, so he was being kind to me. It made no sense then. It makes no sense now. He also told me that we weren't compatible to work with, even though I was a good editor. He assured me that I would get credit on the books that I had worked on.

I walked away. I honestly didn't care. I was happy to have that stress out of my life. Then, yesterday happened. I went to the mail box and pulled out a crumpled envelope that held a mangled comic. It was the copy that I had bought on his Kickstarter. I put pictures on my Facebook page (friends only of which he isn't one because he removed himself) asking creators to please take better care in their packaging. I sent the pictures to a friend of mine in the industry who has dealt with this creator. That night, I ended up on his show. My intent was again to ask creators to take better care. There were others on the panel that have had to deal with the creator, and they pretty much lambasted him. I could only speak to what I know and I can guarantee that I was never cruel or mean in anything that I said. Somehow though, this creator was in the audience even though he had unfriended and/or blocked all of us on the panel. He sent me a private message on Facebook:

"A normal person would have messaged the sender if the package was damaged. Guess your not a normal person are you? If you want a replacement all you have to do is ask. Sigh you truly do love the spotlight don't you?

I do look forward to hearing about these private messages being made public. I truly do appreciate all these free advertising you have given me."

I waited a couple of hours in the hopes that I would calm down, but the more I read it, the more annoyed that I got. This man had spent a year harassing me and then tried to make himself the victim in all of this. It was really par for the course with him, but I'd had enough and sent him back a message:

"Am I normal person? Fuck no. I'm a god damn amazing person. I work hard and it's paying off. I treat people with respect. I don't make little jabs or comments. I'm glad you're looking forward to things being made public because I have absolutely no reason to coddle you. It's time you grow the fuck up and take responsibility and act like a professional instead of burning bridges with every professional who tries to help you.

As for the book, send me a new copy. While you're at it, send me the comp copy that you owe me per our agreement. If you need to see the agreement again, it's on my website:

Now, I have nothing more to say to you because I told you before that I wasn't going to put up with your abuse. I know 5 year olds with more respect and manners than you have."

I was done. I'd had enough. I stood up for myself. He couldn't leave it alone though and came back:

"You talk of respect and then slander my name. It's you who need to grow up.

I'm done playing your childish games. I'm done giving in to your wanton demands for attention. Go on the warpath. Please. do. It will be fruitless for you and extreamly fruitful for you.

You wanna know what I will do? Absoultly nothing. I got comics to make.

Also, best of luck in your career. I hope it is long and fruitful."

I thought that was the end of it. I'd made it clear that I had nothing more to say on the topic and I didn't respond to his messages. Then, he did what he does. He waited 90 minutes until he thought I'd be asleep (I'd had to ask him numerous times not to message me at 2, 3, or 4 in the morning). Then, he sent me this:

"I'll send your single replacement book in the next few days. Per my statement.

Next time message a creator before choosing the nuclear option. It's like child having a tantrum when they do not get their way.

Also I agreed to any terms. Nothing was signed and you never mentioned it till now so good luck.

I never agreed to any of your terms. The above message was a typo."

He agreed to my terms. He agreed to them when I did his 10 page story. There isn't a single client that I have that I have not sent to that page and asked them to read it over. It actually states on the page that by hiring me, you agree to these terms. Is this a legal contract? Debatable. Do I care that he's not going to follow through? Honestly? No. I don't need his book in my house. I don't need to prove to anyone that I'm good at what I do. I have a client list full of happy people who recommend me to other people.

So is there a moral to this story? Sure...if someone is shooting up red flags and acting like a crazy person, don't back away. Move away as quickly as possible. I'm not going to lie. There is a tiny part of me that's nervous that he knows where I live.  After all, I had to give Kickstarter my shipping address and he sent the package here. I wonder now if watching me deal with this guy is why my son insisted on installing a door knob on my front door that actually locks. I know that both of my boys would ask me to ignore his calls because in their words, "he's annoying and nuts". I like to think that I'm one of the nicest people you'll ever meet, but even nice has its limits. This industry has too many problems with people thinking they can do whatever they want and there being no consequences. I've watched other women speak out. Maybe it's time that I do too. This creator is small. He's got one book out there, but that doesn't matter. He's going to be at shows. He's going to approach other women. I don't want them to have to deal with that.

Now, have I left things out? Probably, though not intentionally. Do I have screenshots of all of this? I could except my time is really better spent working on projects for clients who matter. I should mention that this man blocked me after his last petty volley. I have no intention of attempting to reach out to him. He's beyond help and I'm beyond done. Do you hear me, Nick Gibson? I'm done.


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