Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Business of the Comic Book Industry

I feel I've covered what you need to know about the business. If I missed something you want to know about. Please comment below and I'll get a blog post done for your answer.

Here's what I've covered:
Do You Want to Sell Merchandise With Celebrity Images?

How much do you get paid?

Top Ten Artistic Talent Scale

So You Want to Collaborate on a Comic Book or Graphic Novel?

Words and Art - Comic Book Readers and Creators

Pay the Talent!

Back-end Deal, My Ass!

So You Want to Self-Publish Your Comic Book or Graphic Novel

What are the Page Rates to do Comic Books?

Royalties and Profits in Comic Books and Graphic Novels - The Back End Deal

Comic Book Cog in the Wheel

No Money to Create your Comic Book or Graphic Novel?

Work For Hire - Good or Bad?

Where do I find an artist?

Writer Placing Ads for Comic Book Artists - What Works?

Starving Artists Will Do Anything for Cheap! - A Cautionary Tale

I'll leave you with this quote from an open letter to young freelancers by Mark Waid. I feel it's good information for everyone. You can read the entire letter here.

Be professional. Be a problem-solver. Be willing to compromise in the face of a solid argument.  Be willing to lose sometimes because you’ll learn more that way than you will by always winning. Ultimately, if a client is paying you for your services, he or she has every right to set the specifications, just as you have a right to your integrity. But when people jealous of how you make a living try to rag you with that old truism that every company employee has to eat shit now and then, remind them that you are not an employee. You’re a contractor. You do not receive health benefits, sick days, pensions, vacation time, or any of the other considerations traditional employees receive. Your clients have zero ethical or moral ground to lie to you, to denigrate you, to cheat you, to demand more from you than they’re paying for, to unapologetically walk back on promises or treat you maliciously, or to exploit your need to put food on the table. The good ones won’t. Never trust the bad ones.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Comic Con’s Clydene Nee Needs Your Help



Clydene Nee is one of the first people I met at San Diego Comic Con. She is one of the kindest people I have ever known. She is the heart and soul of Artist Alley and it’s most fervent defender. She has helped many artists.

Now she needs help. Clydene needs a new kidney to survive and is undergoing dialysis. Her medical bills are skyrocketing! Artist Mark Brooks and his wife took the initiative to set up an online fundraiser for Clydene. The creative community should thank them for doing so.

Here is the fund-raising link. http://www.gofundme.com/67bolc

Please repost. Spread the word.

#helpClydeneNee

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Starving Artists Will Do Anything for Cheap! - A Cautionary Tale

Don’t accept the “I have no money routine.” at face value.
Starving Artist © 2014 H. Simpson

Below I’m sharing a letter to a prospective client, after I responded to an ad to do a financial comic strip weekly (about 4 panels) and spoke to him on the phone.

Hi Edward,
        I have some concerns and reservations. 
        Something bothered me after our last phone call. I had already checked to find info about your company, to no avail. Not unusual for a start-up. I also used whois to see who owned the web-site. That normally shows me who owns it. Oddly that was a dead end also. Okay maybe they have a lot of sites and purchased domains in a group. 
        After we talked I dug some more and found out you and David Travers work for Rustic Canyon - a venture capital firm that invests in entrepreneurs and the company focuses on Internet and Digital Media.
        If I walked into the Rustic Canyon offices with a proposal/business plan for starting a web site featuring financial comics and my pitch included paying standard fees for PR and marketing, web development and printing. And paying the comic creators $10 for the content being provided. What would the reaction of any venture capital company be? I can imagine the questions; Why aren't you investing more in your product? This is the core of your business, why are you short changing yourself? If I answered, “Because the artists can be gotten cheaply.” If I wasn't laughed at outright, I'm sure my proposal would be denied for trying to shortcut the product among other reasons. What’s going to stop a monster financial company in your space from copying you? They can pay your artists  a living wage with merits and steal them right out from under you. 
        I don't mind cutting my rates for a start-up company and getting in on the ground floor of a project I can get excited about; which I thought was the case here, since I feel that they are working hard and struggling to bring the idea to market and reality.
But I feel you guys are getting paid to do this, you have no skin in the game. Rustic Canyon has the ability to fully fund this. I find it hard to believe you guys can't get Rustic to fully fund this. It's insulting knowing that you only want to offer the artist a rate below minimum wage for their time and talent when I feel you guys can pay a good rate upfront and include a merit structure.  Ask the PR and Marketing company to accept a pay rate of $10 a  campaign and they’ll get more later if the campaign is successful. I sure they would laugh at the idea. But nooooo, your business plans includes $20 million for PR and a pittance for the creators the content.   
        How can you ask me to take time out of my day to put towards this and you guys are sitting snug and secure because you do this everyday. I feel like you guys are taking advantage of artists because you can. Because we really will work for just the love of it and do our best job every time. 

        What is your response to the issues I've raised?

I never heard from him.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Writer Placing Ads for Comic Book Artists - What Works?

How to create a successful ad to get an artist to draw a comic



Direct the artist to your online writing portfolio. Put pages of past comics you’ve done along with the script. Editorials and reviews you’ve written don’t count.

Write how much you are offering for the pages to be done. Don’t ask what the artist’s page rate is unless you have an unlimited budget. It just wastes time for the artist to tell you the rate and then you respond with, “Well, I don’t have that much to spend.” or “Can you do for this lower rate I can afford?” A bad ad asks the artist to give them a reasonable rate. However, this means reasonable for the person placing the ad and is code for. “Give me a cheap rate, not your normal rate.” A reasonable rate is adequate payment for the artist, not a cheap rate. You know your budget, so just say what you can afford.

If you have no money to give, then offer a full collaboration with the two of you crafting a story together. A nice way to bond as co-creators. Both of you will share the copyright and trademark in the project.

Explain you story idea. Provide a synopsis, not a full script. Maybe two or three different ideas for an artist to pick which they have an affinity towards drawing.

It’s best to start small, with a 5 or 8 page story for an anthology or contest. It helps to  build your reputation, portfolio and you learn how to work with an artist while having less of a time commitment. A history of paying your artists separates you from writers who don't offer pay. How much you are able to pay will determine the quality and dedication of the artist you get.

State the deadline. If you are not going to pay the requested page rate, very low rate or not at all; then you have to be flexible with the deadline.

Don’t offer credit like it’s payment. Credit should be given anyway. Don’t say it’ll make a great portfolio piece. That’s for the artist to decide. An artist doesn’t need your story to create a sequential portfolio. Don’t ask for sample art, if you are not going to pay for it.

Agree on payment terms for the job. A deposit to begin, progressive payments, upon delivery, how many days after delivery, using Paypal, check, etc.

Specify the type of file you want for delivery.

As an option, rather than placing an ad, email an artist directly. It can’t hurt.

Some advice from writer Brandon Easton about hiring an artist.

Does anyone have anything to ad to composing a good ad to get an artist?

to be continued…

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Where do I find an artist?

How to find an artist to draw your comic book, comic strip, web comic or graphic novel.



In the real world, go to your local comic book stores, conventions, comic book clubs, and local Drink & Draw groups.

In the on-line world, you can email an artist who’s work you like and ask. It never hurts to ask. Ask them to take a look at your synopsis and see if it interests them.

Join online communities such as Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. This includes the various forums such as:

Deviant Art
Penciljack Forum
Digital Webbing Forums
Outcast Studios Comic Art Message Board 
GUTTER ZOMBIE

Build a rapport, build your reputation. Don’t be pushy or a cry baby. What’s a cry baby? “Wahhhh, I can’t find an artist to read my script/work with me/draw my great idea.” “Wahhh, artists think they are more important.” “Wahhhh, why won’t they do it free, for the experience/their portfolio?”

Having a history of completing projects, publishing on-line or real world and paying the other talent (artist, letterer and colorist) goes a long way. It separates you from writers who only offer dreams and little else.

to be continued…

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Work For Hire - Good or Bad?

Should you do a work made for hire?


Puss in Boots

The Works Made For Hire law was made to stop employers from wrongly classifying employees and independent contractors for tax purposes. It was not made to be the ax that it has become to separate a creator from their legal rights.

Although the general rule is that the person who creates the work is its author, there is an exception to that principle; the exception is a work made for hire, which is a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or a work specially ordered or commissioned in certain specified circumstances. When a work qualifies as a work made for hire, the employer, or commissioning party, is considered to be the author. 

Most of the time you can't possibly have a work for hire situation.

You are not their employee.

They are not paying for any of your supplies.

They are not paying your taxes.

You are not working at their location.

Below are highlights from Circular 9, from the US copyright site, which you can view in it’s entirety here.



"In the case of works made for hire, the employer and not the employee is considered to be the author. Section 101 of the copyright law defines a “work made for hire” as:
1. a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; OR
2. a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as:
a contribution to a collective work
a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work
a translation
a supplementary work
a compilation
an instructional text
a test
answer material for a test
an atlas
IF the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire."
I’ve added some emphasis, but that is the law word for word. So what have we learned?

Part One only applies if you are an employee.

Part Two only applies if it falls in one of the nine categories above AND a written agreement is signed. Both things have to happen. It’s not the automatic slam dunk  that some would have you to believe. Don’t take my word for it. Let’s look again at the exact wording in the law.

"A work created by an independent contractor can be a
work made for hire only if (a) it falls within one of the nine
categories of works listed in part 2 above and (b) there is a
written agreement between parties specifying that the work
is a work made for hire."

Comic books and graphic novels pretty much fall into the the first category; a contribution to a collective work. Guess what? One person can copyright the text and another the art to the collective work. Or both can share the copyright as co-creators. Just because you're hired doesn't mean you are not a co-creator.

You should always have a contract that spells out who owns what. It doesn't have to be a work for hire contract.

Most likely you're not going to own the art unless you've paid for the rights to it; in addition to paying for services rendered. That’s right, it’s two fees. One to get the art drawn and if the person wants to own the art or the rights to the art, then that is a separate fee.

Have I opened anyone’s eyes? Please comment below.

to be continued…

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

2014 Eisner Awards Call for Entries

Will Eisner Comic Industry Award




The 2014 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards is officially open! Creators and publishers can now submit work for consideration in the 2014 nominations, for work published in 2013.

Find out more here.

Monday, January 6, 2014

No Money to Create your Comic Book or Graphic Novel?

How can you get your comic book or graphic novel started with no money?


If you don’t have money to pay talent, then exchange services.

First, we have to again recognize that there are more writers looking for artists, than artists looking for writers. Here's what usually happens right or wrong:
  1. Writer pays artist their rate and keeps ownership of their creation.
  2. Writer pays artist and other talent below their rate and keeps ownership of their creation.
  3. Writer pays artist and other talent below their rate and and shares ownership of the creation.
  4. Writer pays nothing to artist and other talent and keeps ownership of their creation.
  5. Writer pays nothing to artist and other talent and shares ownership of the creation.


Here's my idea to break the logjam. I haven't seen this offered. (Just because I haven't seen it offered doesn't mean it hasn't been offered. I haven't been on every forum.)

How about an exchange of services? You work on my project and I'll work on yours.
So now we get a new set of options:
  1. Writer pays artist and other talent below their rate and keeps ownership of their creation and in exchange works for a similar reduced rate on talent's project on which talent retain ownership.
  2. Writer pays nothing to artist and other talent and keeps ownership of their creation and in exchange works on talent's project on which talent retains ownership.
  3. Writer pays nothing to artist and other talent and shares ownership of their creation and in exchange works on talent's project on which ownership is also shared.


So instead of placing an ad first, a writer or artist can approach someone they think would be a good fit for their project and offer to exchange services. 

(If I've missed a scenario, please let me know and I'll edit this.) 

to be continued…

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Friday, January 3, 2014

Comic Book Cog in the Wheel

A pair of hands or partner?


If a writer is going to hire an artist to be a pair of hands to just draw, then the rate should be just like any job and match Federal minimum wage, which would work out to $58 a page for pencils only.

If a writer wants to have an artist be a collaborator, then each should share in the risk, ownership, copyright and royalties and whatever else they agree upon. If any money changes hands, however little; that amount is between them as creative partners in a speculative venture.

I have dealt with writers who don't want/can't afford to pay my rate, but want to keep all the rights, even to my artwork! Some have even asked to keep the artwork! Obviously, I didn't do a deal with them, but there are other artists out there who will. I think everyone agrees on that point, someone will step up and say "I'll do it!"

They’ll do it because they don’t know any better or think this is their big break.

to be continued…

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year to Everyone!


May you be your creative best this year!


Royalties and Profits in Comic Books and Graphic Novels - The Back End Deal

What are Royalties?


Your slice of the pie. Royalties are money paid to a creator or participant in an artistic work based on sales of the work.

Royalties are not what they used to be in the 90s. Comic books sell far less than they did and the break even point is the same.

A writer, self-publisher or small indy publisher can pay a hired artist with an advance against royalties to get a chance to recoup their out of pocket money.

If the comic sells enough and there are royalties, then the advance is subtracted from that.

If the book doesn't sell, then artist keeps the fee as payment  for services rendered.

Concerning a back-end deal; in reality the back-end rarely happens. A small press, self-published or independently published comic book is not likely to make a profit, so there will be no royalties. Better to do a graphic novel that you can keep in print for a chance at profit.

Another reality check, if you're collaborating with an artist who has no investment (co-creator) in the comic, then as soon as a paying job comes along the artist will disappear and the writer is going to be left high and dry.

Check the various forums of writers saying the artist left them hanging. Take an informal poll and I'm sure you'll find the artist wasn't being paid more often then not. In other cases, it's a novice who got in over their head and just can't produce and reality set in on them. And then again, there really are flaky artists out there.

to be continued…

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

What are the Page Rates to do Comic Books?

Page Rates for Comic Book Talent

I’ve covered the various scenarios talent can find themselves positioned in the comic book industry and the page rates. That is corporate, small press. self-publisher and independent publisher.

So let’s review before we go further into the business of comic books and graphic novels.

Based on a 22 page comic book.
Minimum rates per page:
writing - $13
pencils - $58
inks - $29
colors - $11 to $29
letters - $3

Starting rates per page (these can go higher):
writing - $35
pencils - $125
inks - $90
colors - $50
letters - $20

Pro rates per page (these can go higher):
writing - $75 to $100
pencils - $155 to $200
inks - $100 to $175
colors - $75 to $100
letters - $35 to 50

Everyone deserves to make at least minimum wage for their services; writer, artist, colorist, letterer and any other job in America. Not only deserves, it's the law. Regardless of skill level.




to be continued…

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