Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Up and Running part 3

Okay, At this point of the process there seems to be an incredibly large and invisible barrier. I have worked on 4 seperate projects where work had been completed by a creative team. These, all being independant, smaller press books, have each failed or atleast never progressed for various reasons. Some reasons for the lack of progress were due to issues I have already addressed. But each endeavor had been at a different stage of the publishing process.

The first project had actually been pretty far along when I came on board. The writer/creator had paid to have a creative team produce the book and then got the financial backing to self-publish the series. I drew issue #3 and part of #4, they have been published, but the print runs were so small and lack of finances prevented proper advertising for anyone to really know about the project. So this book, while published, is still only at issue 5 literally 4 years after I finished issue 3. They have plans to move forward, but such a ridiculous gap in solicitation prevents any continous readership.

Self publishing can be successful. There just needs to be alot of capitol to fund your project, and a determination to see it through. There are alot of examples of the successful self publisher, Mirage studios with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Jeff Smith with Bone, Mike Allred with Madman, and really Image comics started out that way aswell. But you need those key ingredients for it all to fall into place.

My second project took alittle longer to get off the ground. I completed the work for a preview to send as a sample to publishers. It had been rejected by image, but later in the year was accepted by Moonstone publishing. It was one of those deals where this guy knows that guy and there was an agreement. I dont know how solid the deal was, or the exact specifications of the deal. The most I really knew about it was Moonstone had a similar deal with the writer that Image usually offers. Basically back end percentages of profits. Unfortunantly for this project I was mostly through the first issue when I received work with a movie property and later my first GI JOE work and had to set the project aside. I had worked on it on and off for the next year but was unable to see it through.

This experience taught me that even if one publisher isn't interested in the property to begin with, another might be totally behind it. Also, if the creative team doesnt feel invested in the project, it is hard to keep them on task when higher profile and paying work comes along. I didnt feel like I was a part of the creative process, therefore without any real emotional ties to the work, it wasnt hard for me to leave for something that could pay me.

My third project had a publisher in place before I came on. Again the writer knew the publisher well, and he was an established and very well known writer in the industry. His name recognition carried the property to be picked up before I was on board. He was offering a page rate, but it was back end pay. This never set well with me, even though I signed the contracts to it. A mistake I definantly learned from. There are two ways to be paid for your work in comics. Either the writer or publisher owns the rights and pays you an "upfront" page rate. Meaning you get paid a set amount within a reasonable time after you complete the work. OR you are part creator and have part ownership of the creative rights to the property and are paid on the "back end". Meaning you get paid along with the writer after the book is published and has sold, after which you receive a percentage of the profits.

On this project the writer wanted the best of both worlds. He demanded 100% ownership, but didnt have to pay me until the book came out. Meaning he places all of the risk on the artist. I felt I was working a full-time job, hoping, maybe to get paid 6-9 months later. And if the book became incredibly successful, he would reap the benefits of that success. I left the project pretty soon into it. 6 months later the publisher folded and went bankrupt leaving all the books unpaid.

I learned from this, to be very careful reading your contracts. Understand what you are getting into, and only sign if you feel completely comfortable with the deal. Also before you sign with a publisher do your homework. What is their past history and sales like? Are they reliable? talk to other creators and professionals to get their opinion. Conventions are a wonderful place to interact with these people. Make sure as best you can, that the publisher is reliable and wont leave you out to dry. It will never be a guarantee, but you can atleast be informed.

My fourth project was again a backend deal. It had a publisher set, again the writer had his contacts and set the deal prior to me starting. I had to leave the project again to pursue more financially viable opportunities, but the writer found an artist willing to work on the backend, and the book was published this last year as a graphic novel. So the project was still very successful, though I was not a part of its end result.

I think I will revisit the publisher topic in my next installment and talk about the various publishers I know. The pros and cons of working for each, and how to present your property to them.

Catch ya later!