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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.



You Need Two Teams to Publish a Successful Comic

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.

About a month ago, I began the process by asking why you want to make comics in the first place (See What Are You Trying to Do?). Now I’d like to look at who you need to have on your team to have a successful publishing program.

One Book, Two Teams

Independent comic creators often put a lot of time and effort into building the team for their books. They reach out to friends in their circles who make comics. They visit artist’s alley in conventions, pour over Deviant Art pages, explore the overseas options, and ask for referrals on social media. Sometimes, it takes years for them to find the right artists for their project.

But too many creators start their book with only half a team.

If comics are a form of commercial art, then the development of the art requires both business and creative support. Focusing on only one side limits the potential of the project.

The Creative Team

            This side of the equation is basic to the creation of any comic. As with plays, films, and television shows, one or more individuals come together to turn a vision into a reality. Some roles overlap, but the common structure of a comic book creative team includes:

  1. The writer who creates the overall plot of the book and the script in both the caption boxes and the character dialogue.

  2. The artist creates the fundamental images on each page. They may also create the basic character designs, settings, logos and the cover for the overall book

  3. The inker enhances the images created by the artist, altering the tone and weight of the story by emphasizing some visual aspects over others.

  4. The letterer inserts all the words in the book including dialogue, captions and “sound effects” in a way that guides the reader’s eye in a natural progression from one image to another.

  5. The flatter prepares the inked images for the colorist to enhance the color rendering process.

  6. The colorist adds moods, energy, and texture to the images to give them more impact to the eye

  7. The editor oversees the entire process to ensure that the best possible finished product is created on time and under budget.

The Business Team

The creative side of comics is intense and time-consuming, but it is only part of the process. Professional comic creators publish books with one of the goals being the creation of profit. Without someone (and more often several people) running the business side of things, even the best comics will not sell. The elements of the business team vary from book to book, but every book needs to answer these questions as part of the process:

  1. Accounting: Who is collecting the money? Who is paying the bills?

  2. Advertising: Who is in charge of informing the public about the book?

  3. Distribution: Who is handling the relationships with Diamond and the direct market shops for the print book? Who is in charge of managing the online distribution on the website, Comixology, and the emerging distribution channels?

  4. Legal: Who is protecting the intellectual property of the book? Who is handling the internal and external contract negotiations?

  5. Management: Who is in charge of the overall creative and financial success of the book?

  6. Marketing: Who is in charge of creating the website, maintaining the social media presence, running the crowdfunding campaign, and handling the interactions with the comic book press,

  7. Printing: Who is in charge of managing the printing process? (If the book is being printed)

  8. Sales: Who is in charge of using the book to generate money?

Juggling Jobs

Every independent comic does not have fifteen people working on it. Some established publishing companies don’t have fifteen people working on the books. Creating independent comics is a startup experience. It means members of the creative team often take roles in the business team. It can mean members of the business team can fulfill multiple roles within that team. It also means that some jobs will not be done, or they won’t be done with the same time and attention as if someone only worked on that piece of the project. Some creators decide to give up some of their rights and sign up with creator-driven publishers like Image or AfterShock to take advantage of their pre-existing business teams.

As a comic creator, you have the power to decide which aspects of the process will and won’t get done. This power works better when you make conscious decisions at the outset of the project. It does you no good to spend two years making a book to sell and then realizing no one is prepared to sell it or collect the money.

The Cost of Teamwork

No matter how you decide to divide the tasks of publishing your comic, everyone who works on the book is going to have to be compensated at some point. Very few people are willing to work for free, even on something they love, so part of independent publishing is finding a way to pay everyone involved.

There are several different compensation methods available depending on the level of participation of each person, your resources, and the short and long-term interests of everyone involved. Increased involvement often includes increased compensation. Different compensation can be mixed and matched to give each person both a short and long-term stake in the project. Just don’t give away more than you have.

Compensation methods include:

  1. Upfront payment

  2. Revenue sharing based on units sold, ad revenue generated, sponsorships, etc.

  3. Ownership interests in the underlying property

  4. Credit on the underlying work

Better Odds

When creating a comic, the chances of success are greater if all jobs are assigned, everyone agrees on the terms, and the schedules for production, marketing, sales, and payment are established before making the book. All this preparation does not guarantee a hit book. The Big Two have dozens of people involved in each book and some of them still fail. But publishing comics involves a lot of individual tasks to make the machine run. If some tasks don’t get done on the business or creative side, then the machine breaks down fast.

Next month I’ll talk about creating a term sheet for the members of your team and the relationship between the term sheet and the contract.

Have fun with your comic...



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...



Get Your Comic Book Career Handbook for Free

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

The world of comics is chaotic, complex, and on a certain level, crazy. Few other industries transform fantasies and nightmares into a profitable business. Like many fans, you have probably imagined yourself working in the industry at one time or another. Many of us are insane enough to pursue our passion as a profession.

I’m offering something writing a book to help make your journey a little easier. It’s called Your Four Careers in Comics: A Business and Legal Framework for Professional Comic Creator (which I’m calling YFCC for short). My goal is to explore the various aspects of each position to help you maximize your professional creativity. With luck, this framework, combined with your talent and determination, will lead you to a fulfilling career in the complex world of comics.

YFCC is currently scheduled for release in Summer 2018, but I’m offering the roadmap for that book to everyone who signs up for my comic book industry newsletter The Professional Comics Creator. Sign up now and learn more about the different aspects of the comic book industry and how you can fit into it.


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.


Related Articles:

Your Career in Comics: Freelance Artist

Your Career in Comics: Creator Driven Artist


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.