Making a comic can be hard, especially when you’re new to it, or starting a new project.
This article is about working with a team, such as if you are a writer needing an artist, or an artist working with a writer.
For this article, we have neilak20 helping out. She is an experienced artist and has done many comic projects for others. I asked her to share some insight on an artists’ perspective on working for a writer on a comic.
She has some very helpful advice, but wants me to remind you that this is just her experience, and it can differ from person to person. I suggest writers listen to the horror stories she shares about a particularly bad situation, so that you don’t make these mistakes when working with artists.
And artists seeking to work to make some comics, she has some fantastic information.
neilak20 reminds us not to pass on the “low pay” jobs. Especially if you are starting out, looking to get your name out there, or are just seeking to help someone. Low paying jobs do not equal a bad story. Consider how many independent artists and musicians and such there are out there who rock harder than those with corporate sponsors do, and are often more dedicated.
$10 a page jobs have lead neilak20 to greater and grander things. Seek a writer who attends conventions already, they may have a limit they can pay per page, but they can make up for it in the amount of marketing work they do. Your skill may be fantastic, but unless people know about you, you won’t be making the money you deserve. Making a living off your art may never happen, but earning enough for a vacation, or to help with other things is very possible. If you want a deviantart subscription, find a writer willing to offer you that. “I've noticed lots of artists are reluctant to share how much/little they make, which made it really hard for me to figure out page rates and stuff to charge people when I was starting out. I think it also contributes to the assumption by some outside of comics that there's actually money in comics. lol It's a lot of work, costs a lot, doesn't return much except that you've made something to share with others and hopefully touched them.” -:devneilack20: Taxes are another issue when you start looking for higher paying jobs; make sure you keep track of the laws on being self-employed. “I think it might be easier if you get a real contract and work for someone for a longer length of time and can use them on a job application” -neilak20 So seek those who have long-term goals for a comic, and who has a plotline figured out that will last a while.
Now, just because you take a job either free or for a low amount does not mean you should be pushed around. The goal is to benefit from every job you accomplish, not become a doormat just to have some money. Get a contact, as we have stated before, and stick to it! If you want a specific perk, ask for it! Do you want a full page in any printed material to use as advertisement for your own work? Ask. The same goes for if you want them to sell things for you at conventions, or if you want to be supplied with materials for your own table. If you have a table at a convention the writer is not attending, you may want to request a few copies of the printed comic, or marketing materials for it so that your table has additional content showing off your skill, or even some financial gain. Very low budget projects can still offer you benefits. Regardless where the comic is posted or printed, you can request your work be advertised. If the page number is an issue for expense in printing, have the bottom of one page list your name and website. That doesn’t increase the page count at all. Make sure you get your name and information out there.
If you are a writer, before even seeking an artist, consider what you can offer them. Do you attend conventions or plan to? Will the comic have a website? Can you afford the printing? If it is your story, you’re responsible for all the financial requirements. If your artist is willing to work for a low pay, or even free, please do everything you can to make it worth their wild. You’re doing them no favors otherwise, nor are you doing yourself any favors. Artists may abandon projects if they feel they’re being taken advantage of… so write up a contract, and stick to it. If they are local, see if you can help with the expense of any art supplies they need, but also see if you cannot convince some local small book stores or comic book stores to allow your artist to present or have a signing, see if you cannot get them a panel at a local convention, and if they have their own comic? See if you cannot talk to those same places about stocking the book. Even mom and pop shops that sell miscellaneous items may be interested in selling comics, so go around and ask. If you’re unable to, see if you have any friends who are more socially outgoing and able to contact people. Even spending $10 on some google ads for your artist can go a long way! Use whatever skills you have to make this a more fair trade.
I’ve mentioned contracts many times, but there’s one specific point that neilak20: informed me about that I hadn’t thought of… if you’re printing a book, or posting on a site, let your artist know ahead of time the full content that’s involved. neilak20: worked on a project where she specified her restrictions were that she had issues with sexual content, and did not want to be around it. Regardless your feelings on certain subjects, you must be respectful for your teammates, employees, whoever is working on the comic. The writer she was working with did not inform her that part of the printed volume would contain content that was essentially soft-core porn… This is very far from being okay. The artist/writer you are working with has a certain comfort zone, which you must respect. They do not want people coming to them about content they are uncomfortable about, because it was in the same book as their artwork. If you are an artist working with someone who has an aversion to sexualized content, realize their audience might as well… So determine what sort of content you want the readers to see. Perhaps set up a separate area with artwork similar to the theme and style of the comic, and link to that. This will also increase your commissions, as those who see your art in the comic will be looking for similar.
Speaking of contracts, get a revision policy in order. Small, minor defects that were forgotten, such as a character’s glasses missing, or a scar on the wrong side that are just mistakes shouldn’t be charged for, but if you are constantly having your artist re-draw a page you are making the project take longer and are making it so they can become frustrated. If possible, use a program to make examples of what you want the page to be like. I myself use Sims 2 and animation boxes (www.jd-movies.com/apartmentbox…) to create example pages when possible. 3D poser programs and other such art creation programs can be helpful! Use tektek.org to create characters via the dream avatar creator, or other such avatar creators, and use them to make out a very basic scene to show the artist. There are programs out there, which can do this, and the quality may not be good enough for your specific comic, but they can make basics. Now, if you’re an artist asking a writer for help, the same goes with the revisions, make out a document that states how many revisions are free/allowed/etc. before the project begins. Perhaps make an “exception clause” so that if more changes absolutely must be made, on rare occasions, they can be.
Have the artist/writer familiarize themselves with the characters/setting. If hiring an artist, have them draw expression sheets for each main character, do so until you look at the sheet and are happy with all of it! Then, when they’re creating a page, they know how the character should look. Making changes when a page is halfway done is difficult! And time consuming… so try to get to a comfortable level where you trust your artist knows what they’re doing, knows the character, knows the setting… so you have less worry and less revision expenses. If you’re hiring a writer, chat about the story a lot! Get to the point where the both of you know exactly what you want it to be.
Artists, if possible, consider using Manga Studio's story mode, as it allows you to flip back and forth between pages rapidly to check for consistency and such.
If there are errors, be polite! Do not let things sit and get angry about them, do not go to friends and discuss all the errors and problems, talk them other with the people directly involved. neilak20 had a 2 page long, angry email sent to her. That doesn’t help this relationship work, it just causes stress on both sides. Talk over any issues immediately and don’t let it build up. Realize mistakes happen, and we’re all human (presumably). Be polite. If you find yourself getting upset with your artist/writer… find someone else. A stressful relationship does not help the comic. If issues cannot be resolved, discuss it with the other person and consider letting the contract lapse, or alter the arrangement. If you decide the arrangement is not working, realize that you both must agree to the contract ending. Being polite, civil, and giving instances can help out, point out what is upsetting you… and how it’s going against the contract, and see if that cannot be fixed.
Realize that you can leave people heartbroken by leaving the project, or having them leave it. Do not take firing someone lightly, and if you are involved in the comic, do not leave it unless there is no way around it, and even then be sure to complete the chapter/book you are working on. It is best to write up a contract before beginning because this assures no one leaves, and so no one gets put off and hurt by the whole thing.
“It got to the point where if I had continued my old job (flatting comic pages for Zenescope, Marvel and DC colorists for $10 a page) I would have made more money and been far less stressed out.” Says neilak20 This can happen frequently, and is another reason not to cast aside the jobs that aren’t as high paying as you may want, because even the low paying jobs are still an income source, benefit your career, and/or are less stressful than being paid well, but being abused. Regardless what the financial situation is, you should work hard to remember this is a partnership, and there is no reason to act unprofessional. Even if the other person is upsetting you, take the high road and try to solve the problems in a mature fashion. Only end the contract if there’s no way around it, and realize there may be penalties for doing so, so stay friends with the other person to hopefully make those penalties less.
Control your friends. neilak20 had a horrible time with some friends of the writer she was working with hassling her friends, who were tending to her table while she did panels. If you are allowing your artist/writer to sell books, tell your friends. Also, inform them that if they see someone else selling your work, to come and inform you rather than causing a scene. If there is a problem, alert the convention staff. There usually is someone in charge of the vendor hall, and if you inform them your personal rights are being violated, they will act! However, also keep in mind it is not illegal for someone to re-sell an item, specifically… it is illegal to do so only if they have no permission, the property in question has a not-for-resale notification on it, or they are claiming they created the content. If you are concerned with people re-selling your item, be sure to have your artist signing their work, and include your name and information in the book, preferably on the front and back cover.
neilak20 Has been a guest at conventions, and rubbed elbows with big timers like Vic Mignogna. This is something you should respect of your artist/writer. It is not something you should be angry or envious of them for. If they are able to hold their own or be memorable amongst well know stars, all the better! Be proud of them; help them out, as they are helping you.
If you get them a spot at a convention, or help them become a guest, or similar, do not be upset if they enjoy it. Realize, conventions aren’t a competition, there are no winners or losers as long as you are enjoying yourself. If the person you have helped become a guest manages to meet some big names, or sell more than you, do not be jealous! You came to them for their talent, after all, why fret to see they are good at this line of work? If they are happy, try to be happy for them, and perhaps look into yourself to determine why it upsets you. If you want acknowledgment that you helped them out, tell them. Preferably, tell them before the convention, and try to be friends with them so that they will want to help you, rather than seeing them as competition, or someone taking advantage of the work you have done. Make your needs and desires known… some people have personal issues, and some just want something that makes them feel special and conventions offer that—and that is fine! But let your partner know.
Respect your partner. That is the number one message to this.
Small job or large, you do not own them and even if you did, that doesn’t give you the right to forget they are people and have emotions. If your artist has to leave the project, make sure the penalties are lined out in a contract beforehand.
Also, make sure they are leaving. If the artist says they are unable to continue at this time, respond politely and ask when they think they may be able to. Also, ask why. Ask them to be honest, and do not take offense to their answer. Even if you believe they are wrong, realize it is how they feel and see if you can change that. If you can, and you’re sure you can, talk to them about continuing. If they have done a number of pages, but not enough to finish a chapter/book/volume, request they do the last few pages. It is wise to have it in the contract that if they need to leave, the volume being worked on at the time of this decision must be completed. You cannot insist they pay you for volumes that are already completed and you are selling! Marvel and DC, as well as many other comic book publishers switch artists frequently! I have read comics where the first chapter is one artist, the second chapter is another, so on and so forth… it happens. You can only insist they reimburse you if they are making it so you have un-publishable content, such as if the chapter isn’t finished and they cannot finish the rest, as it can disorient readers to have the artist change in the middle of a printed volume or similar.