Not Getting Screwed By Publishers

At least a hundred times a year, I see a variation of this post on social media. It starts with a “company” logo and link to a Facebook page or bare bones website. It reads like this;

“He guys, Super Cool Comics is now launching! We’ve got the idea for 5 monthly comic titles, the premiere characters in our new extended super hero universe. We’re looking for writers to take the lead and help develop these properties. These comics are going to make a killing!

“Since we’re a new company we have no money. But we’re really serious about being the next Marvel comics. Since we’re just starting, there is unfortunately no upfront pay for writers. Instead we offer writers 7.5% of all profits, including both digital and hard copy sales, as well as well as two comp copies per hard copy book in which your work appears.

“Blah, Blah, Blah.”

Amazingly, these posts are always inundated with replies of interest. Every time I see that, it’s like watching a group of children approach a clown holding a balloon in a sewer drain.

Not too long ago, I responded to just one such post with the following (updated and revised here):

 

Posts like these reveal someone positioned 100% completely the wrong way to enter indie comics.

Before we get into it, let me start off by saying most of the time, the people behind these posts aren’t being deliberately deceitful and malevolent. (Though once in a while, people do surface who are really trying to snatch work and run.)

This unto itself should be a big red flag that you’re about to get into bed with someone who has no standards when it comes to their sleeping partners. A sure fire way to catch cooties and have life-long regrets.

 

1) Creating something, from nothing, costs money. Period.

Comics aren’t new. They are a well established industry. You don’t get into a well established industry, free of charge. And thinking there are no costs beyond what you can “convince” people to produce for free, is an extremely narrow vision.

Anyone trying to create a publishing presence with zero budget to start with is almost guaranteed to fail.

* Can you name one successful comic publishing company started within the last 30 years, where the company hired on a group of strangers (not friends) @ no pay?

And if you have a budget, but funnel your money into everything but the production team… you’re also on the path to disaster… (plus, kind of an ass in my book.)

2) “As we are a new company, we have no money.”

Actually, when legit new companies are formed, they form with money.

I’d say, most commonly, small businesses launch by leveraging personal savings… but there’s also personal investors, bank loans, etc. The bottom line is that every legitimate business intent on making money, knows money is required to start.

3) Writer compensation will come at 7.5% of profits.

Profits?

Immediately, notice net or gross profits are not specified. This shows a lack of basic financial understanding, deliberate deception, or a total lack of respect to the writer (which we’ll talk about more in a second).

Not to mention, anyone who knows business, knows you expense out profits to avoid taxes-especially the first year.

Further, giving a percentage of profits is only “half of the equation” only part of the necessary discussion. The other half is projected profits and minimums. Here are two different people:

“Hey, I’m gonna give you 7.5% of profits from this book. Based on extensive research and our marketing campaign, we expect a 2000 book run, bringing in $5000 of “profit” making your payment $375 8 months from now.”

“Hey, I’m gonna give you 7.5% of profits from this book. Based on extensive research and our marketing campaign, we expect a 20,000 book run, bringing in $50,000 of “profit” making your payment $3,750 8 months from now.”

One of these guys is being really, really, optimistic, the other guy is just totally off his noodle. Do you know who you’re signing on with?

Profits…

Sadly, regardless how the profits are discussed, anyone who knows indie comics knows PROFITS are like, hairy nosed wombatsextremely rare.

This is a plain truth to anyone who does even basic research on the internet.

It is an even plainer truth to those who have been in the indie comic community for some time.

Indie comics are a marathon. The rewards are long term. Anyone who gets into indie comics for the “profits” is in the wrong industry.

4) 2 comp books.

So what’s the cost of a standard 22 page comic these days. Depends on the print run, but let’s go high, I haven’t priced a book lately, but I’ll guesstimate $2. So Night Comics just threw you an extra $4 for your hard work, dedication and patience.

Here’s a good place to talk about respect.

There’s two types of people you’ll work with in your career. People who respect what you bring to the table and people who don’t.

You may not always have the luxury to work only with people who respect you… but you damn well better get paid, and paid well, working for the people who don’t.

Like writing good dialogue in a comic script, folks rarely come out and say exactly what they mean. In other words, people who don’t respect you, won’t just come right out and say it… but really, they actually do… if you pay attention to the subtext of their words (and actions).

Offering 2 comp books at a value of $4, to me speaks volumes of not respecting who you’re working with.

Not providing adequate information and not being fully transparent when  soliciting contractors for backend pay is another clear example of disrespect in my book.

Pay attention. Read between the lines. Read articles like this. And see people (and their “opportuntities”) for what they really are.

5) Multiple Series in an extended universe.

Saying your going to be an indie comic publisher, focused on not one ongoing series, but additional bi-monthly serials, all with no compensation for the writers, no money as a startup company while at the same time other indie comic publishers are mortgaging their houses, leveraging their life savings, doing extensive crowdfunding campaigns to keep their properties afloat, reveals a total lack of respect.

‘Hey you guys wasting alllll that money… I can do this for free and TAKE your market share out from under you.”

6) Crappy opportunities attract garbage flies not butterflies.

Exceptional Talent is required to be successful in today’s indie comic market.

Exceptional talent gets paid for their services, they do not work for free and they usually work for the client paying the highest rate.

When you can not properly pay your production crew, you start from a huge disadvantage.

On a solid quality book, it’s difficult to pull a profit… on an average or subpar book, it’s pretty much Mission Impossible.

7) Ideas are easy.

Everyone has ideas. They’re everywhere.

Success comes in properly executing ideas.

Incredible success comes in properly executing great ideas.

When someone says hey, I’m a publisher give me your work to produce, what commitment are they making to YOU?

What risks are they taking for YOU?

What guarantees are they making to YOU?

True ground floor, collaborative opportunities are never a one way street.

Again, back to respect, a legitimate deferred pay production acknowledges the value you bring to the table from the very start.

People who don’t know what they’re doing, try to figure out how to create books as cheap as possible. Real fledgling companies try to figure out how they can pay their people exactly (or even more) than they’re worth.

*** The approach to comics showcased in these posts shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the industry. ***

  • When you decide to go into comics, focus on one IP.
  • A single shot book, 4 issue mini at most.
  • Don’t put the cart before the horse. Forget about your extended universe.
  • Put something out, develop a fanbase, prove your ability before you plan to knock Marvel and DC off their high horses.
  • Recognize and respect that your production crew makes or breaks your book…
  • and for the love of God, find a way to properly pay them.

For those of you who don’t think I know what I’m talkin’ bout, here’s an article from Blacklist discussing the back-end pay in screenplay land. It’s worth reading.

I know some of you newer writers dying to write, dying to get yourself published, are looking at this article thinking I’m too focused on “profit” and “pay.”

That there’s other value to being part of a production then the bottom line.

There may be.

But you won’t find gold at the end of a goose’s ass, no matter how many feathers you ruffle. This is a discussion for another article, in the meantime, always look for the genuine opportunities and people who have the intelligence, passion and respect to actually know what they’re doing.


About the Author —
Nick Macari is a full-time freelance story consultant, developmental editor and writer, working primarily in the independent gaming and comic markets. His first published comic appeared on shelves via Diamond in the late 90’s. Today you can find his comic work on comixology, amazon and in select stores around the U.S.  Visit NickMacari.com for social media contacts and news on his latest releases.

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