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). So far, I’ve introduced the Creator Owned (See The Creator Owned Path) and Work for Hire (See The Work for Hire Path) aspects of the industry. This week I'd like to look at the third of the four major paths in modern comics: The Creator Driven Path.
Description: A creator driven work allows the artist to own a property and license a portion of the publishing rights to a publisher who will then produce, market and sell the book to the public. A creator driven (CD) deal can benefit both you and your publishing partner. There are several variations to the CD model, but most of them combine aspects of the independent publishing and work for hire models. The combination of traits varies wildly from publisher to publisher, depending on the relationship they have with their creators. Most CO deals come from small to midsized publishers, but there have been examples of CD publishing at all levels of comics over the years.
Benefits: The main benefits of doing creator driven deals are an ownership stake, the payment of many up front costs by a third party and wider distribution. In a perfect world, a CD deal is a joint venture. You provide the creative ideas and artistic skill in your original story. They provide the business support and economies of scale to to turn your vision into a product. In return, both parties share in the revenue generated by the collaboration.
Challenges: The two main challenges of CD deals are loss of ownership control and loss of revenue. Many CO deals are collaborations in name only. In the most extreme cases, creators transfer all control and ownership to a publisher for little or no payment of any kind. Even in the more moderate CD arrangement, it can be difficult to figure out when and if your book will ever make a profit.
Legal Considerations: CD deals require multiple contracts to protect every party involved, including
Collaboration (if you’re sharing the rights) and/or work for hire agreements for everyone working on the book
Copyright (and possibly trademark) registrations for the book
A Creator Driven Publishing Agreement between the creator and the publisher
Tax documentation to cover any profits or losses from the book
Next time, I'll talk a little bit about the final and in some cases the highest role for comics creators, the transmedia artist.
Success in the comics industry requires an understanding of the business, creative, and legal aspects of the medium.
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