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Fighting the Demons of Independent Comics Publishing

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

Publishing your own comics, like any type of independent creative endeavor, can be an exciting journey of achievement. It can also be a descent into poor health, isolation, and financial stress. Creators who can balance the love for their book with their long term well being have a better chance of enjoying the experience

Jessica Bruder wrote a thoughtful piece in Inc. Magazine called "The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship." While publishing an independent comic isn't the same as launching a Fortune 500 company, there are simple lessons in this post creators can learn like:

  • Make time for friends and family

  • Ask for help if depression or hopelessness sets in

  • Take care of your body (sleep, exercise, etc.)

  • Don't bankrupt yourself to make your book

  • Don't define yourself only by your book

Publishing independent comics can feel like being a superhero with a secret identity. Both your passion project and your alter ego need to be protected. Neglecting either one can create an imbalance that destroys both.

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

 

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.

Your Career in Comics: The Creator Owned Path

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

by Gamal Hennessy

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.

Have fun.

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 LICENSING OR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ISSUE, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

Your Career in Comics: An Introduction

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

by Gamal Hennessy

The business of comics is chaotic, complex and on a certain level, crazy. Few other industries transform fantasies and nightmares into profitable communities. Almost every fan of comics has imagined themselves working in the industry. Some of us are insane enough to pursue our passion as a profession.

But having a career in comics isn’t like becoming a doctor or a lawyer. There is no license you can get or set path for you to take to superstardom. Everyone who works in comics has a unique story on how they got their position. Everyone in the industry used some combination of talent, perseverance, connections and luck. Everyone had to find their own way.

I’m planning to write a book to help finding your way a little easier. Your Career in Comics: A Business, Creative and Legal Framework for Professional Sequential Artists (which I’m calling YCC for short) will go into granular detail on the four major creative positions in modern comics. My goal is to explore aspects of each position to help you navigate your way between and within each step. With luck, this framework, added to your talent, determination and fortune, will lead you to a fulfilling career in the complex world of comics.

This is not going to be a book about comic book case law, creating professional artwork, or a book about pitching to an editor. There are several excellent books on all those subjects and I plan to reference them . This book is meant to be more of a comprehensive guide. I’m in a unique position because of my experience as a lawyer, business manager, and author. I’m going to use all those different perspectives to help you see your comic career as a whole, instead of focusing on one aspect.

YCC is going to be a journey that I'll write about in this blog in the coming weeks and months, As you read these posts, please keep three things in mind:

First, the four major roles in comics are broad conceptual categories and not rigid definitions. You don’t necessarily have to complete one position to move to the next. You could try and explore all of them at once, or you can bounce from one to another as your interests and circumstances dictate.

Second, understand that while I describe these positions in a specific order, I’m not suggesting a successful comic career is defined by moving from one position to the next. You can have a creative, exciting and profitable comic career by picking one position and staying there for decades. Comics allow you to go wide or deep. Your only limit is your talent, perseverance, connections and luck. A little bit of crazy will probably be helpful too.

Finally, and most importantly, a career in comics is based on selling what you own. A lot of what you “sell” will be intangible; time, skill, audience, intellectual property rights, etc., but the basic premise is the same You Can’t Sell What You Don’t Own. If you remember nothing else I say, you’ll still get the main point if you apply this simple concept to your work.

I hope you enjoy and get involved in the development of this book, If I’ve make the complex world of comics a little easier to understand, then I’ve done my job.

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.