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Silence May Not Be Golden for Freelance Comic Creators

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

Companies are trying to prevent freelancers who work for them from disclosing what they get paid. This creates an advantage for the publishers , but it is dangerous for freelancers who lack the information to negotiate their deals in a thoughtful manner

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How Much Do You Get Paid Per Page?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

 

By Gamal Hennessy, Esq.

When you first start out in comics, there’s a lot of details about the business you need to understand. Everything from how to find work, to what to look for in a contract, to making sure you get paid are all things you have to take care of in addition to making great art. Not only do you have to digest a lot of information, but aspects of the comics industry change from publisher to publisher and from month to month. One of the most important and the most fluid aspects of freelance comics work is how much each publisher pays per page. I’d like to make the process of determining your page rate a little easier by talking about what a page rate is, what the common rates are and how you can keep track of changing rates in the future.

What is a Page Rate?

Different professions get paid according to different measurements. Lawyers get paid by the hour. Sales people get paid based on commissions. Freelance comic book artists (and some creator driven artists) get paid a page rate. The basic idea is for every page you’re hired to work on, you get a set fee. So if you get $100 per page and the book is 32 pages, then you get $3,200.

A page rate is a base number. It doesn’t take into account incentives like royalty pools, recoupment, back end participation or anything else that could muddy the waters. It’s a straight forward transaction; one page for one price. As long as you know what the price is, everything else is based on that.

What Were the Current Page Rates for 2016?

The confusing question is ‘what is the right page rate for you?’ Your page rate can and will vary based on your experience, skill level, established fan base, prior projects and the publisher you’re working with. While several factors are subjective and based on you as an individual, there are some baselines you should keep in mind. Thomas Crowell, author of the excellent book Pocket Lawyer for Comics Creators recently offered this snapshot of the industry at the 2016 New York Comic Con:

  • Writers:                              $25-$220 per page
  • Cover Artist:                      $200-$750 per cover
  • Pencils:                             $100-$250 per page
  • Inks:                                  $75-$200 per page
  • Coloring:                            $35-$150 per page
  • Flatting:                             $8-$20 per page
  • Lettering:                           $10-$50 per page

This list is not a guarantee. You might be offered less than the numbers above. You can always ask for more. This should just serve as a guideline to what you can expect when you deal with a publisher. Other factors will play a role, but this gives you somewhere to start from.

How Can I Keep Track of Page Rates?

As a freelance artist, you’ll get a sense of where the market is in terms of page rates as you spend time in the industry working on different projects. Publishers can alter their rates at will, so it pays to keep in touch with other artists in the field, pay attention to message boards and discussions and talk to your editors and publishers on a regular basis to find out their individual positions. There are also ongoing resources you can use and participate in to make page rates more transparent. The list above was derived from a site called Fair Page Rates that isn't perfect by any means, but it attempts to track rates for various US publishers in a system that is inherently subjective.

Once you understand what a page rate is, how you can figure out your page rate and who pays what, you have a lot of information to help you chart your freelance comics career. If you know how many pages you can do a month, you can calculate your maximum potential income. If you know how much you need per year to work on comics full time, you can figure out what page rate you need and how many books you need to work on to make freelancing a viable job. Then you can spend some time actually practicing your craft and making great comics.

Have fun.

Gamal

Related Articles:

Your Career in Comics: Freelance Artist

Your Career in Comics: Creator Driven Artist

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 gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

Talking to Professionals on the Business of Comics

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

by Gamal Hennessy

The comic book industry is a confusing, chaotic and insane industry for everyone involved, especially the newcomer. Fledgling writers and artist often make mistakes on the business side of things that cost them tens of thousands of dollars, years of work or both.

The best way to avoid mistakes in the comics industry is to learn from professionals who already know what they're doing. Over the summer, Aaron Long of Comicosity asked dozens of established comics professionals what type of advice they would give to new creators. The insight they provided covered professionalism, marketing, accounting, time management and outlook, but one of the most consistent statements is the same thing I've preached on this site for years. 

COMIC CREATORS NEED TO UNDERSTAND AND NEGOTIATE THEIR CONTRACTS

When I worked at Marvel and Central Park Media, we often sent out contracts to talent saying "have your lawyer look over this before you sign it" knowing full well that person didn't have a a lawyer. I started C3 to change that and give writers and artists a chance to understand and benefit from the legal side of comics. The professionals already understand this. Read their comments and learn from their mistakes. 

Have fun.

Gamal

Success in the comics industry requires an understanding of the business, creative, and legal aspects of the medium.

Sign up forThe Professional Comics Creator to get monthly e-mail news, tips and advice on how to get the most from your characters and stories

PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE A LICENSEING OR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ISSUE, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

Get What You Give (Rights and Revenue in Comics)

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

by Gamal Hennessy

A contract is an agreement between one or more groups for the exchange of resources. The exchange could be time for money, goods for services, property for future gains or any combination of those things. The best agreements exchange roughly equal resources. The worst ones have one side trading large amounts of resources for little or nothing in return.

This is the problem that artists run into with many of the contracts that I see. The most important service I provide is showing my clients what they are giving up in comparison to what they are getting. I’d like to provide an overview of the different types of rights and revenue streams as a general overview for creators looking to get their projects into the market.

Types of Rights                               

Comics and publishing are governed by a branch of the law called intellectual property. Copyright law is a specific type of intellectual property. A copyright gives the creator of an original work (like a comic) the right to benefit from the sale and distribution of that work. There are various types of ways currently available for comic creators to benefit from their creativity. Some of the major distribution methods include:

  • Publishing (Traditional printing, digital printing, novels, audiobooks, etc.)
  • Public Display (gallery displays of artwork)
  • Theatrical (Movies whether live action or animated)
  • Television (including network, basic cable, premium cable, PPV whether live action or animated)
  • Home Video (including DVD, Blu-Ray, etc.)
  • Live Performance (including Broadway performances and theme park performances)
  • Interactive (including console computer or mobile video games)
  • Merchandise
  • Sponsorships or product placement

As new forms of media distribution are created, new rights are created for the artists. These rights are universal, but they can be divided or carved out by geographic area, time frame, distribution channel, language and other factors. (This division can be complicated, so I’m going to save that for another post)

Types of revenue

Just as there are different rights that creators can use to get their work into the world, there are various ways that they can be paid. Comic creators need to focus on four ideas:

  • A royalty is a percentage that the artist earns for every finished unit that is sold. For example, an artist might receive 30% of every one of their comics that is sold to the public.
  • An advance is paid before the work is finished. For example, a writer of a novel might receive money up for her novel based on the proposal not the finished product.
  • A minimum guarantee (MG) is money paid up before the work is finished, based on anticipated sales. For example, if a toy company plans to sell a new licensed toy for $10 and the creator gets 10% of that sale, then the creator gets $1 per unit sold. If the company expects to sell 100,000 units, then the MG that the artist gets for this deal is $100,000.
  • A page rate is a flat fee paid to the artist for every page accepted by the client or publisher. For example, a penciler with a $300 page rate deal gets $9,600 for a 32 page book, not counting the cover.
  • These are broad revenue concepts. They are often altered and refined by concepts like gross, net, recoupment, offsets and other variables. (This is another complicated subject that I’ll can talk about later.)

Choices that Artists Must Make

In certain comic deals, the types and amounts of revenue are fairly straight forward, like the work for hire page rate. There is more confusion for creators pursuing creator owned deals. There is often no advance, no MG, and a blanket royalty rate for all forms of distribution. This puts them creators in a dangerous position since the lack of upfront money and the uncertainty of any profitable sales in the future means that the creators are really working on spec while at the same time giving up all their rights to their property.

From the publisher’s perspective, it is understandable why they would do this in their contracts. Publishers protect themselves from risk by limiting exposure to projects that might not be financially viable. At the same time, they maximize their potential gain by securing as many rights as possible for projects that are financially viable. Artists need learn the same lesson. They need to counter the publisher’s position by attempting to limit the rights that a publisher gets for projects that are financially viable and maximizing revenue for every project they do.

I know negotiating power is often limited for artists. But having a clear understanding of the relationship between revenue and rights and clear goal of where they want to go can help maximize their limited negotiating power and increase their chances of success.

Best

Gamal

Success in the comics industry requires an understanding of the business, creative, and legal aspects of the medium.

Sign up for The Professional Comics Creator to get monthly e-mail news, tips and advice on how to get the most from your characters and stories

PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE A LICENSEING OR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ISSUE, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 ATgamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

David v.s. Goliath: Negotiating Power in Creative Contracts

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

By Gamal Hennessy

When I analyze contracts for my clients, I point out all the language in the agreement that has been written to favor the publisher. I point out all the ways that contract clauses are used to limit their control over their work and their ability to make money. I offer them suggestions on how to make the contracts more equal and level the playing field. But I am aware that the terms of most of these deals will never be changed. As a comic book creator, you often must deal with the reality that you have little or no negotiating power relative to a publisher. Taking this fact into account will help you make decisions about what deals you will or will not get into and help you understand how they will impact your career.

Scarcity Breeds Power         

Publishers have to take the financial risk of releasing an unknown and unproven book. In order to mitigate this loss and to give themselves the potential for substantial revenue and control on the back end, many of them incorporate biased language into their contracts. Many creators sign those contracts because of their lack of influence.

It is easy to understand why comic creators normally have very little negotiating power. It boils down to supply and demand and market scarcity.

The publishers currently corner the market on supply. They control the means of production (printing) and direct distribution (comic shops, bookstores, online and digital) and often control secondary distribution (merchandise and media licensing)

The number of comic creators who want to gain access to the publishers supply is massive compared to the number of publishers. Who knows how many potential artists and writers are out there dreaming of getting their books in print, movies and games?

The scarcity of publishers relative to the abundance of creators produces a situation where publishers can afford to offer one sided deals. Every unknown creator who demands a superior deal can be rejected by the publisher because there are ten or twenty other creators willing to accept an inferior deal. Since the publisher is primarily looking for books to fill their publishing plan, one unknown book is just as valuable as any other from their perspective.

Options for Creators

In light of the reduced negotiating power that undiscovered creators have, does it make sense to push for a bigger deal for a creator owned project or page rate? Yes and no. While you might not be able to wrestle a six figure advance out of Marvel, there are options you can pursue to make the most of your work.

  • Establish your reputation in the industry by taking on work for hire projects that will get you exposure for your skill without exposing the characters and story lines that you are saving for a creator owned work.
  • Find a more flexible small press that will offer more reasonable terms for new creators.
  • Explore self-publishing if only to increase your name recognition in the market.
  • Accept the biased deal as a means of name recognition.

While none of these methods is a quick road to fame and fortune, they can boost your negotiating power over time. An unknown creator has almost no leverage with a publisher. A creator with a following who represents tens of thousands of copies sold per month can command lucrative exclusive contracts, back end participation deals and creator owned contracts that give them considerable revenue and control potential. The best analogy is the contract situation in professional football. As a player, you may not make very much on your first deal but once you prove yourself as a marquee player, your subsequent contracts can be huge.

Need to Understand Your Agreements

Whether you make the choice to accept a one sided deal, negotiate better term or walk away, you need to understand what the terms are for the deal you are being given. It might make sense to take a bad deal now if it will boost your career later. The key is making an informed decision about what you are doing. Whether you decide to use a service like mine or not, knowing what you are signing and why is key to building and leveraging your negotiating power.

Best

Gamal Hennessy

Success in the comics industry requires an understanding of the business, creative, and legal aspects of the medium.

Sign up for The Professional Comics Creator to get monthly e-mail news, tips and advice on how to get the most from your characters and stories.

PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE A LICENSEING OR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ISSUE, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 at gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.