A few weeks ago, I introduced a new book I'm working on called Your Career in Comics (YCC) that will attempt to take a comprehensive look at the business and legal aspects of being in the comics industry. (See Your Career in Comics: An Introduction). I'd like to share aspects of the book while it's being written to get reactions and feedback from the community. This week I'd like to look at the first of the four major paths in modern comics: The Creator Owned Path.
It makes sense to start with Creator Owned comics (sometimes called Independent or DIY comics) because this is the point where an inspired comic book reader puts down their favorite story and picks up a blank piece of paper to begin their journey. At the most basic level, a creator owned publisher owns the property she produces, markets, and sells to the public.
General Concept: As a creator owned publisher, you have a stake in the intellectual property connected to a book. In a minority of cases, you might license the rights to someone else’s work (which often brings the concept of creator driven deals into play that I’ll talk about later) but most of the time, and creator owned publisher is trying to get their own characters and stories out into the world by taking control of the entire process.
Benefits: The main benefits of going creator owned are ownership and control. When it’s your story and your company, you get to decide what the books will be about, how they get sold, and what to do with the money. The freedom to control every aspect of the property can give rise to the great expressions of artistic creativity and business flexibility.
Challenges: The main challenges of being going creator owned are costs and market share. It takes a considerable amount of money to release a single comic, graphic novel and ongoing series by yourself. There is an even larger investment of time, since the great power you have to control every aspect of your book comes with the great responsibility of making sure it all gets done. On top of that, finding readers for your book probably won’t be easy, considering the number of titles already in the market and the domination the Big Two. Finding enough readers to turn a profit is even more difficult. Many books don’t turn a profit or break even from their initial investment. It is not unusual for an independent book to run at a loss.
Legal Considerations: There are legal aspects to the story being created, the process of creating those stories, and the person or people creating those stories. On a fundamental level, having the right documents and registrations in place from the beginning gives you the right to sell what you own. If you skip this step, you might create the World’s Greatest Comic Franchise, but you might not make any money from it. At a bare minimum you’re going to need:
- Collaboration or work for hire agreements for everyone working on the book
- Copyright (and possibly trademark) registrations for the book
- Distribution agreements to get the book out into the world
- Tax documentation to cover any profits or losses from the book
In addition, you may also need corporate formation documents, license agreements and other types of contracts, but that is a story for another day.
Next time, I'll talk a little bit about freelance comic creators and how they can thrive in the world of comics.
Success in the comics industry requires an understanding of the business, creative, and legal aspects of the medium.
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PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE A LICENSING OR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ISSUE, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT firstname.lastname@example.org FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.