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What is the Structure of Independent Comic Book Publishing?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

The structure I came up with is largely borrowed from the production and distribution of the most complex and expensive narrative art forms, namely film, television and video games. The overall structure has three stages, each stage has several elements within it, and several of the elements can happen at the same time. The structure has several moving parts, but each one is set up to maximize the commercial potential of your comic.

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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.



Your Career in Comics: What Are You Trying to Do?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

By Gamal Hennessy

I’m in the process of writing a book about the business and legal aspects of making independent comics (See Your Career in Comics). As the book develops, I plan to share parts of it here for your reaction and feedback.

Since this is the first post, I’m going to start with an existential question:

Why do you want to make comics?

Before you start thinking about drawing, sales or social media, it is important to figure out exactly what you’re trying to accomplish and why. Making comics, like any artistic or business endeavor, involves substantial sacrifice and investment. If you’re going to make comics a part of your life beyond the Wednesday ritual of picking up your pull box, it makes sense to take a step back and look at the big picture.

To answer this question, I suggest you take yourself out for a cup of coffee or a cocktail (if you’re old enough, of course) and figure out the answers to the following questions. Keep in mind that the answers can and will change over time, so don’t be afraid to revisit these questions as your circumstances and the industry changes.

Goals (or What Do You Want to Do in Comics?): “I want to make comics” is a start, but there are different aspects to the industry, and figuring out where you want to be will help you make decisions on which opportunities to pursue and which ones to avoid. Maybe you want to make your own books and sell them at cons. Maybe you want to work for the Big Two. Maybe you want to be the next Stan Lee or Todd McFarlane. Maybe you want it all. You can have any goals you want. The purpose of goals isn’t to limit you. They just guide you on your path.

Reasons (or Why Do You Want a Career in Comics?): It’s one thing to know what you want to do. Knowing why is a different type of insight. Are you doing this because you have a story to tell, because you want to be a part of the comics community, or because you want more money than Tony Stark?

Like your goals, your reasons are personal. They don’t have to define you, but keeping them in mind can motivate you to overcome the inevitable setbacks and pitfalls. You can have any reason or motivation you want for getting into comics. There are opportunities for artistry, creativity, and profit at almost every level of the industry, but at the end of the day, a love of the art form will keep you going.  

Plan (or How Are You Going to Get into Comics?) After you understand your goals and your reasons for wanting those goals, you need to develop a plan to help you get from where you are to where you want to go. As you follow along with this blog and hopefully read my book, you can begin to figure out which path you want to adopt for your own purposes and take the appropriate steps.

Of course, no plan survives contact with reality. The industry is in a state of constant flux. The impact of changing trends will often be outside of your control. You’re going to need to modify your plan to adapt to new conditions, so the plan you make might not be the path you ultimately take. But you have to start somewhere and making your own comic is a good place to begin, no matter where you ultimately want to go.

Resources (or What Do You Have to Offer the Industry?) The secret to success in the comics business involves making consistent ritual sacrifices on the altar of the industry. What you get from comics is based in large part on what you put in. Your offering might be a creative vision, artistic skill, a network of eager professionals, or an investment of time and finances. In many cases, the creators who came before you had to offer all these things and more. Now is the time to figure out what you bring to the table and what you need to find in the community to make your goals real.

Milestones (or How Will You Track the Progress of Your Plan?) No one goes to sleep wanting a career in comics and wakes up where they want to be. Your development as a creator will grow in stages. You get to determine what those stages are and to a large extent, in what order you want them to happen. You can start with putting your first team together, getting your first issue online, or any other basis that’s right for you. You can decide whether your goals are books created, copies sold, or views on your website. Milestones give your goals concrete structure you can use to measure your efforts.

Motivation (or What Gets You Started and Keeps You Going?) Despite the view from the outside, the art and business of comics are not easy. It can be a long road from your initial inspiration to holding your book in your hands and the road isn’t a straight line. There will be obstacles and pressures to stop. This isn’t just true in comics. It’s true in life.

Even if you get your vision into the world, success (whatever your definition of it is) may not come quickly. It is not hyperbole to say some creators did not live long enough to see the characters they created become a fixture in mainstream culture.

So what is it about your comic that’s going to bring you back to the project month after month and year after year? What is going to pick you up when life knocks you down? What drives you might be very personal or it could be the universal desire for fame and fortune.

Yes, they’re movies, merchandise, and money to be made. Yes, comics are one of the driving forces in 21st-century pop culture. But the comics business is not a get rich quick industry. For every Walking Dead, there are thousands of other titles that lose money or never get off the ground. If you don’t love comics, it might not make sense to spend the time and effort of getting into the business.

In the next installment of Your Career in Comics, I plan to talk about the framework for an independent comics company and break down the process into manageable parts. If you’d like to read more about the business and legal aspects of making comics, like my Facebook page or sign up for my free newsletter.

Have fun with your comic...



Top 10 Professional Panels for New York Comic Con 2016

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

As one of the major pop culture gatherings in America, New York Comic Con (NYCC) is a great place for fans to connect, companies to promote their franchises and media to be consumed.  But it is also a good place for creators of all levels to connect, learn and network.

There are going to be hundreds of panels at this year’s NYCC. I’ve tried to spotlight five per day that will offer you the advice, ideas and tips that can enhance your professional career.

Thursday, October 6th                                            

1)     Writers Unite: Writing and Pitching Comic Stories with Charles Soule: 11:00 am in Room 1A18

2)     From Panel to Publisher: An In-Depth Look at Transactional Law for Comic Book Creators with Thomas Crowell, Esq. 12:15 pm in Room 1A02

3)     Using Tumblr to Sell Your Idea Panel: 5:30 PM in Room 1A24

4)     From Press to Social Media: Marketing Your Comic Book with Michael Molcher and Alex Segura 6:30 pm in Room 1B03

Friday, October 7th  

5)     How to Succeed in Self-Publishing Panel 11:00 am in Room 1A02

6)     Keeping Control of Your Comic Panel 11:15 am in Room 1A05

7)     Creator Connection: Facilitated Professional Networking Panel 2:30 pm in Room 1A18

8)     Breaking Into Comics with Andy Schmidt 7:45 pm in room 1B03

Saturday, October 8th

9)     Breaking In: How They Did It and How You Can Do It: 1:45 pm in Room 1A05

Sunday, October 9th

10)  From the Printed Page to the Silver Screen: Licensing Comics for Film and Television with Thomas Crowell 12:15 pm in Room 1A05

While I won’t be on any panels this year, I do plan to be in Artist’s Alley after 4:00 pm on Thursday October, 6th. If you’d like to meet me for a free consultation or just to say hello, please contact me and we can set something up.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed at an event like NYCC. I hope this list helps you find the information you need to understand the legal and business aspects of comics and make the most of your creativity.

Have fun.

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



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.


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


My Podcast Interview with Comics Pros and Cons

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

by Gamal Hennessy

Comics Pros and Cons is a podcast hosted by Derek Becker about the craft and creativity of comics. While most of his guests have been comics creators, he decided to bring me on to talk about the business and legal aspects of the industry. 

Our conversation covered a lot of ground, including a discussion of:

  • Copyrights and trademarks
  • The four types of comic book professional
  • The fan art controversy
  • When comics creators need to have a contract

We had a lot of fun recording the podcast and the topics will be of interest to anyone interested in the comic book industry. Feel free to click on the link below and subscribe to Comics Pros and Cons while you're there.

Gamal Hennessy interview with Comics Pros and Cons

Have fun.


How to Reject a Bad Contract

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

By Gamal Hennessy

An artist can spend years trying to land a deal with a publishing house or studio. They struggle to get exposure and often face waves of rejection before anyone is willing to even acknowledge their work. Unfortunately, this recognition can come at a price.

Many artists don’t read the contracts they sign. The ones who do, especially the ones who come to me for advice on contracts, find out they’ll be losing control of their art, giving up the potential to be paid for it or both (See How Artists Get Their Rights Stolen) Some of my clients sign those deals anyway for a lot of different reasons. Others decide to walk away and try to find a better deal.

Rejecting a bad contract makes good business sense, but there is a right way and a wrong way to turn down a deal. You can maintain your professional reputation and keep the lines of potential communication open if you follow these five steps:

  1. Articulate your intentions: It does you no good to get a contract from a publisher and then never respond to them when you decide you won’t sign it. You are better off notifying the other side that you appreciate their interest in your work, but you can’t move forward with the terms they propose.
  2. 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, Ebola and zombies with Ebola, 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. This is just one more reason it makes sense to get a lawyer. (See Why Artists Need Lawyers)
  3. Offer alternatives: Maybe you can’t sign their deal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do business with them. They might be open to changing some of the contract language to make you more comfortable. They might even be willing to use a contract you provide instead. (This is rare, especially when one party has much more leverage than the other. See Negotiating Power in Creative Contracts). You might be able to do some freelance work for them that doesn’t put your own property at risk, or you might be able to work out another type of business deal with them. Most 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.
  4. Leave with dignity: Entertainment is a fairly small business. The minor person you deal with today might be the head of Disney 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 use email to do 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.
  5. Go Back to Work: One bad contract 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.

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.


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.


Understanding Comics Law: Don't Wait Until It's Too Late

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

By Gamal Hennessy

The most insightful thing I learned at this year’s New York Comic Con wasn’t at a professional panel or lecture. It happened at a random conversation on the show floor.

I was talking to Andy Schmidt, a former colleague at Marvel and founder of the professional education and publishing company Comics Experience. We talked about the new six week course he’d developed with entertainment attorney Joe Sergi called Comic Book Law for Creators. The workshop sounded like an amazing resource that writers and artists would be dying to get into. But Andy told me he had a hard time getting creators signed up. “A lot of them tell me they’re not ready to learn that part of the business, which really doesn’t make sense.”

I could only shake my head in response. I’m familiar with the mentality because I’ve seen it in my own practice. Writers and artists often spend so much time developing their craft and fighting to get their name out there to get that big break. But when their hard work pays off with publisher interest or some other opportunity, many of them don’t know how to protect their rights. Their big break turns into a painful lesson in contracts, licensing and intellectual property law.

Last year, I conducted a survey with the modest title “The Great Independent Comics Survey”. In that experiment, I found out that one in four independent creators lost some or all of the rights to their work as a result of licensing deals.  How many of these artists could have benefited from a course on the legal aspect of comics?

The answer is probably 100%

Trying to get into comics while ignoring the legal aspects is like jumping out of an airplane in mid-air and then deciding you need a parachute. It’s like climbing into the UFC octagon for a championship match and then deciding to learn how to fight. It’s like trying to get insurance for your house after it’s already on fire. You need to know the relationship between your business needs and your legal options to make the most of your opportunities and you need to know before success knocks on your door, not after. (See Treat Your Art Like an Investment)

Books like Words for Pictures and courses like Comic Law for Creators won’t eliminate the need for writers and artists to get legal help with their contracts (See Why Creators Need Lawyers). It will make them better consumers of professional services and better equipped to make informed decisions about how to pursue their careers. Making comics is like skydiving. It can be fun, but you’re probably going to need that parachute.

Have fun.