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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.

 

The Five Major (and one minor) Business Trend in Comics

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

By Gamal Hennessy

Last year saw significant changes in the comics market. While the general public focused on transmedia events like Batman v. Superman, Civil War and X-men Apocalypse, the underlying business has shifted financially and creatively.Milton Griepp of ICV2 listed these five events as the most important for comics in the last year:

  1. North American Sales Surpassed One Billion Dollars

  2. DC Takes the Top Market Share with the Launch of Rebirth

  3. Hastings Declares Bankruptcy

  4. March Wins a National Book Award

  5. Lion Forge Pushes Its Way Into the Middle Tier

In addition to all these moves, I’ve noticed a growing trend in my small corner of the comics industry. More and more artists are taking the proactive step to lock in collaboration agreements for their independent comics. As more creative teams are turning to crowdfunding and publishing books on their own, they are also making sure to define all the rights and responsibilities in writing before the book is released (See: All for One and One for All: Collaboration Agreements in Comics). This is the best way to go, since an undefined deal is a recipe for disaster and it’s much harder to hammer out a deal after a book is released and tensions are high.

What comic industry trends have you seen in 2016? What are you expecting in 2017? Share your thoughts in the comments and let us know before you go back to your masterpiece.

Have fun.

Gamal

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.

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: Transmedia Development

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). So far, I’ve introduced the Creator Owned (See The Creator Owned Path), Work for Hire (See The Work for Hire Path) and Creator Driven aspects of the industry (See The Creator Driven Path). This week I'd like to look at the fourth and final role in modern comics: The Transmedia Producer

  • Description: A transmedia artist owns a property and licenses a portions of that property across various media for production, marketing and sales to the public. A comic or graphic novel is a story. The story contain characters and ideas. Your stories can find a home in many different media, depending on its structure. Your ideas can escape the confines of the story and migrate to merchandise or other promotional material.

  • Benefits: The two main benefits of being a transmedia artist are revenue and mainstream distribution. In many ways, the transmedia creator is seen as the greatest commercial success of a comic artist. A commercially successful comic might generate tens of thousands of dollars. A successful comics based movie might generate tens of millions of dollars. The merchandise program associated with a television, cable or film also has the potential to generate millions. Opportunities for interactive and new media spinoffs are increasing. Competition with other forms of entertainment has reduced the number of people reading comics, but the popularity of comics characters has never been higher. The transmedia creator takes advantage of this shift by moving his work to where it will be enjoyed by the most people.

  • Challenges: The two main challenges of being an independent are loss of creative control and lack of knowledge. Transmedia deals can be seen as similar to Creator Driven deals based on the what each side brings to the table. You have the intellectual property, your potential partners have the production and distribution systems to make the most of it. But there are major differences in both the nature of the industries you might be entering and the scale of the enterprise. Making a movie is exponentially more expensive than making a comic and requires dozens more people in every aspect of the project. The same goes for any large scale merchandise or media endeavor. As the cost and complexity of transmedia endeavors increase, the less the comics creator usually understands about what’s going on. Many comics creators don’t know everything that goes into making a single episode of TV or what it takes to ship thousands of toys from China. When the increased scope combines with that natural lack of knowledge it often leads to a loss of creative and financial control.

  • Legal Considerations:  Transmedia deals cannot move forward unless everyone who owns a legal stake in the property has agreed to let the project move forward. Dozens of comics are trapped in development hell for years because of disputes and lawsuits over the ownership of a particular character. If your goal is transmedia, then you have to maintain a meticulous chain of title (documents showing who owns what aspect of the character) from day one. A small sample of the required documents include:

  1. Work for Hire Agreements for everyone who worked on the development of the property who isn’t part of the deal

  2. Collaboration Agreements for every creator who worked on the development of the property who is a part of the deal.

  3. Copyright and Trademark registrations for all major elements of the work

  4. License Agreements for each type of deal you are entering into

  5. Insurance Agreements to protect against potential issues (including IP infringement, defamation, etc.)

  6. Participation Agreements with any third party who might have an interest in the property

  7. Corporate documents for your business entity

  8. Tax documents for your business entity

The amount and cost of covering your bases from a legal standpoint are highest in the transmedia aspect of comics, but the potential rewards and losses are far higher than any legal costs you might pay upfront to avoid lawsuits in the future.

I hope you have enjoyed this introduction into the different comic industry roles. While this doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the complex business of comics, I hope it forms a basis for you to think about where you are and where you’d like to go as a professional.

In the coming weeks and months, I plan to use my blog to update everyone on the progress of my book. I’m going to share the interviews, research and development of the manuscript so you can learn as I learn. If you’d like to follow along, please sign up for the Professional Comic Creator Newsletter.

Until next time, keep making comics and have fun.

Gamal

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 Driven 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). 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.

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: 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.

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.
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 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.