Back in 2020, I started contacting folks trying to put some ducks in a row to get back into the creator owned comic gig.
I wasn’t ready to pull the trigger until just before 2021.
What I found in my journey trying to assemble a team(s) was that the freelance creative market for comics book had gone lost its mind.
2021 was absolutely ridiculous.
A true comedy of errors in trying to get a number of comic projects going. It became so laughable I joked on social media I was going to write a book about it… well here’s the short version. 🙂
Why is this important?
If you’re a creator or thinking about being a creator this post will give you some insights into the current state of the indie market. And show you first hand some of the pitfalls you will encounter in this industry.
Not throwing anyone under the bus.
I’m big on keeping relationships with clients private and professional.
On the rare occasion they go horribly wrong, even if I’m burned, I don’t air dirty laundry. It’s not professional and bad mouthing someone in the permanent record on the internet, without the other party able to give their side of it, just isn’t cool.
So, all the people I’m about to throw under the bus are done so without actual names, or any underhanded implications for folks to figure it out.
This article isn’t to lay blame, it’s to help creators get their ship in shape for the rough waters ahead.
There’s no time for games in business.
If you’re a trust fund baby or had some sort of monetary windfall, maybe the world is different for you. But for me, I have to fight and work for every dollar I have. Which means when it comes to spending my money on projects I hope to sell and get a return on that money, there’s no time for games.
If you run the traditional method of producing a comic, that is to say, a team of creatives working together to complete the book; for the creator/owner this is very much like juggling.
As you throw your five balls around, if one of those balls doesn’t come through you can probably recover and keep all those balls going… but when multiple artists start giving you excuses and missing deadlines, your entire performance quickly comes crashing down.
And by performance I mean your personal sanity, your money, and your opportunity to gain momentum in the market. This last point is key.
It’s the old adage;
You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Both with your fans and with the industry professionals… and believe me, Indie comics is smaller than you think.
OK, let’s get into it.
Crazy Eddie-His Prices went Insane
I had lined up a great Manga artist to begin work on Robo Kids back in 2020, about 8 months to a year later I was excited to finally begin. Now, it’s certainly reasonable for any service provider to raise their rates over a 8 month to 1 year time span, unless you pay them some sort of retainer and hash it out–which I didn’t do. My agreement with Eddie was a loose verbal agreement.
However, wasn’t I surprised when Eddie, who started off at a respectable page rate, told me his rates went up… 300%. That’s 3 x, his original quote.
That shit was insane.
I feel obliged to share that about a week after we parted ways, Crazy Eddie was posting on his twitter account that he was jammed up. Unexpected bills hit him and he was looking for work.
LOL it still makes me laugh.
Igor’s Broken Promises
I had another artist signed on to one of my sci-fi IPs. He read the outline, the script, everything was aces.
I sent the contract over, he reviewed, and said it looked great.
But strangely, he never sent the signed contract back.
I emailed him a couple of times over the course of a week or two, telling him I wanted to send the deposit for the project, but needed the signed contract (and an invoice for the deposit, though he could send the invoice after receiving the money, no problem).
Still no signed contract.
Eventually, Igor promised to email the contract back, not once, but on two specific occasions. And simply never sent it.
Three strikes you’re out.
Amazingly, when I told Igor I was canceling the project and moving on with a different artist, because he never sent the contract, he was both surprised and angry.
Neil agreed to produce a certain number of penciled/inked pages by a certain date.
He totally flubbed the deadline, only producing 25% of what was promised. He said he came down with nosebleeds, aka: some medical condition that had him laid up.
What was worse was that he kept promising he would catch up, that his condition was improving. He kept promising he COULD catch up… but never did.
What was really, really worse, was that because Neil was doing pencils AND inks, I said, Bro, let me get someone to ink just 3-5 pages, to take some pressure off so you can catch up. We knew it would suck to have a slight discrepancy in the quality for those three pages, but it was a desperate situation.
3-5 pages of imperfection, for a book out on time, is a fine trade off in the scheme of things.s
Neil said no way. Only he inked his work.
So, instead of HELPING ME find a solution to keep the book on track, even if it was not ideal, Neil compounded the problem he created and knocked the book off schedule.
A professional always sacrifices self for the project. Always.
Being professional is about so much more than being good at what you do… it’s about solving problems, because problems always pop up, and about, preventing problems before they arise.
Telephone Teddy is stuck in the rotary dial telephone era.
Teddy had been doing fairly well, providing work, but not final pages. He would send a file for review, get the edits, then move on to a new scene, before finalizing the previous pages.
Don’t do this. We hadn’t went too far along on the project, so I was allowing him to work at the pace/manner he wanted… but here’s where it went off the rails;
A few weeks in, I got a call, “Sorry, Nick, my computer just died on me and it looks like I’ve lost everything.”
ME: “Ok, Teddy. Let me know when you get your computer back up and you restore your backup files of the project so we can continue on.”
Yep, when it became clear that Teddy never bothered to back up the work, click. He disappeared.
So Teddy got paid for a bunch of pages, that I only have low-res, incomplete files of. Not a SINGLE final page ready for publication.
It’s the stupidest thing in the world.
Just back up your work files dude. Even if your computer blows up, you can tell your client, hey man sorry, you gotta take me out of the game until I get a new computer, but here is all the work to date.
Better yet, create solutions; “let me get my friends computer, finish these pages you paid for so at least you have a portion of the book done. I’ll let you know when I will be back up and running, if you don’t have the time to wait, let me suggest a colleague, I talked to him and he’s happy to throw down on the rest of the book. I hope you’ll consider me for the next issue…”
But remember, Teddy just ran away and disappeared.
I had one lady artist approve a contract and set a tentative date to begin work.
It was a few months out.
Well, when the time came and I excitedly contacted her, she said, “Sorry, I’m not taking any work, I just had a baby.”
Fuck lady, those things take 9 months to cook. You didn’t think to email me you were having a baby so I could make other arrangements.
It’s not like it was a surprise… to you.
When trying to secure the services of one colorist, after agreeing to his standard rate, and discussing the basics of the project, I asked for his production rate–that is how many pages he would produce a week.
I received a real strange email that totally dodged the question. What’s even more amazing was part of the response, I’m going to copy and paste, or else you won’t believe me;
“…I’ll always communicate with you, just in case something comes up. Such as, higher priorities come up, but you’ll never be in the dark.”
I’m hiring you for a job at your standard rate, BUT, I my work might get bumped for higher priority work while your doing my work…
Is higher priorities like, you need to hit Vegas for a few days… or like, Marvel might call and you like them better???
NO THANKS. I prefer to work with people, where MY WORK is the priority work.
Tax Trouble Timmy
Ok, real simple. If you’re an out of country contractor you need to fill out a W8BEN US tax form.
Literally, this is a one page document just listing your name and address and stating you are NOT a U.S. resident.
This form is not filed with the IRS, but kept on hand in case they ever ask, “hey, who is this guy, Wanadanadoloopi you sent $30,000 to?”
Ok, so I lined up an artist from Asia. Everything was great, then the minute I asked for this form, I got one of those weird emails;
“Hey, um, do I have to pay U.S. taxes if I take this job?”
Ok, first of all, I know this isn’t your first rodeo working with a U.S. based business… so that’s sketch right off the bat. ESPECIALLY, when you claim some MAJOR U.S. businesses in your portfolio.
second, NO, the U.S. only taxes U.S. citizens. I don’t know what you’re up to with your own taxes in your own country, and frankly, it’s not my business… You want to go all Al Capone, that’s on you.
OK, so shortly after requesting the form and being told I will receive it.
The artist gone and disappears.
Oh man, 2021 was totally crazy, I have more. ▪
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.