This is a modified excerpt from a book I’m working on called Independent Comic Book Publishing. It’s designed to walk you through the basics of rejecting a contract. The post is geared towards comic book creators, but the information is also applicable to independent entertainers and small business owners of all types. While this can’t be used as legal advice, I hope you’ll find it helpful.
Getting a contract signed for your independent comic book can be a complex process.
First, you need to understand what a contract is and what elements go into an agreement (See A Simple Guide to Understanding Creative Contracts).
Then, you have to figure out if the particular deal you’re working on requires an artist collaboration agreement (See A Simple Guide to Artist Collaboration Agreements), or a work for hire agreement (See A Simple Guide to Work for Hire Agreements).
Finally, you have to agree on the terms of the specific contract with each creator (See A Simple Guide to Contract Negotiation).
Even if you do everything professionally and negotiate in good faith, you may fail to reach an agreement with your potential business partner. As Jean-Luc Picard once said on Star Trek “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness. That is life.” If and when this occurs, you need to make a graceful exit. This post offers some tips on how to walk away with your reputation and your dignity intact.
Rejecting a bad contract makes good business sense, especially if your options are better than the deal on the table and there is no room or interest in further negotiations (See A Simple Guide to Contract Negotiation). But there is a right way and a wrong way to turn down a deal. Both sides can maintain their professional relationship and keep the lines of potential communication open if you follow these five steps:
Articulate your intentions: It does you no good to start working on a deal and then never respond to them if you decide you can’t sign it. You are better off notifying the other side that you appreciate their interest, but you can’t move forward with the terms they propose.
Blame your lawyer: In most instances, the person you’re dealing with will ask what the problem is with the contract. This is the perfect time to throw your lawyer under the bus. People hate lawyers more than zombies, spam, and zombie spam, so hiding behind us can’t make our reputation any worse. It can give both of you a convenient scapegoat so you can walk away from the deal without any negative feelings between you.
Try one last attempt at negotiations: Maybe you can’t sign the current deal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do business with them. They might be open to a different type of deal or alternative terms to the same deal. (See A Simple Guide to Contract Negotiation). Many of these proposed alternatives won’t pan out, but you’ll never be able to explore the possibilities if you don’t ask the question.
Leave with dignity: Comics is a small business. The minor person you deal with today might be the head of Marvel tomorrow. The hot new artist this year could find himself without a deal next year. Don’t have a fit, throw a tantrum or make threats just because you don’t want to sign a bad deal. Don’t do it in person. Don’t do it over the phone. Please don’t email it and for the love of everything don’t do it on Twitter. Just don’t do it. Thank them for their time, express your hopes for working with them in the future and walk away.
Go Back to Work: One failed deal isn’t the end of your career, especially if you didn’t sign it. You need to go back to your craft, keep pushing your work into the world and try and find the next deal. If one person was willing to take a chance on you, there could be others. But you can’t find them if you don’t look.
Signing the wrong deal can cost you thousands of dollars and control of your art. Rejecting the wrong deal the wrong way can cost you your reputation in the industry and the opportunity to work with someone else in the future. Stay friendly and professional and you can turn a bad contract into a learning experience.
Just remember to blame your lawyer for everything
Have fun with your comic.
If you have questions about the business or legal aspects of your comic book publishing and you'd like a free consultation, please contact me and we can set something up that fits in with your schedule.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE AN ISSUE WITH YOUR COMIC PROPERTY, DISCUSS IT WITH A QUALIFIED CONTRACT ATTORNEY OR CONTACT C3 FOR A FREE CONSULTATION