Finding the Right Artist, Part 2: Pay

This is the second installment in my "Finding and Hiring the Right Artist" series where we cover Artist Pay. If you missed the introduction (or other posts in the series), please start here.

Assumptions:
  • You ARE NOT a well known writer
  • You want to produce a comic book, manga, or graphic novel (there are different rules for books outside of those types, e.g., children's books, etc.)
  • You want high quality artwork
  • You don't have a high quality artist friend who is rich and will work for free

Increase your chance of success

By hiring a high quality artist, you increase the chance your comic will sell.

From my experience (you can verify this too by thinking back through writers/artists you continue to support), here is a ranking of what sells best to what doesn't:
  1. Amazing writing & amazing art
  2. Mediocre writing & amazing art
  3. Amazing writing & mediocre art
  4. Mediocre writing & mediocre art
In other words, if you story is just "okay",  you will still fall inside the top two categories which might make a real difference in your book succeeding.

If you skimp on an artist (and you probably won't get a great one), there is a good chance you will be at spot #3 (at best) and that would be if your writing is amazing.

Writing well takes time and experience (blog post), so there is a good chance your first published work will not be your best.

Go with a professional, it will help you succeed more than you realize.

Save and Pay

You have to pay an artist a decent rate to get quality work. 

I know, I know, there are blogs out there that say you can get away with paying them close to nothing (or nothing at all), but even if you are lucky enough coerce them into drawing your story for a low rate (very hard and unlikely), they will bail on you first chance they get when a paying gig comes along. Then you have to coerce someone else into doing it again.

It takes a lot of work to draw/ink/color/letter one page, and most likely, your comic won't make a lot (if any) money. You are new to this after all and you have to build up a reputation. 

There is a tiny chance your first comic will sell well, but you shouldn't expect that to happen. I like to think of this stage as investing in your small business. You hope it will start paying back down the line in a couple years as you add more work.

Telling an artist to work for free and take royalties later is the equivalent of saying"do this for free and statistically speaking, you won't get paid later."

Not very appealing for hours of work on a single page, right? 

Artist won't take this deal unless you are already a proven commodity, i.e., you already sell books.

Good artists improve your story in ways you can't imagine.

I hope that has convinced you to save up a little cash towards your dream. Let's cover some terms before we jump into rates.

What will it costs?

First, let's cover some terms you may not know yet that will help you calculate your page rate.

Terms

  • Pencils (sketches)
    • Simple: Pencil drawings; first step in rendering the story in visual format.
  • Inks
    • Simple: Ink drawings; improve and finalize pencils (sometimes same artist as above).
      • Wikipedia: The penciller creates the initial drawing or sketch. Using a pen or a brush, the inker, adds depth and shading to give the image more definition. Only then does the image take shape.[2] Inking was necessary in the traditional printing process as presses could not reproduce pencilled drawings. "Inking" of text is usually handled by another specialist, the letterer, the application of colors by the colorist.[3]
  • Colors
    • Simple: Adds color to inks (sometimes same artist as above).
      • Wikipedia: In comics, a colorist (colourist in British English) is responsible for adding color to black-and-white line art. For most of the 20th century this was done using brushes and dyes which were then used as guides to produce the printing plates. Since the late 20th century it is most often done using digital media, with printing separations produced electronically.
  • Letters
    • Simple: Adds words, dialogue (word bubbles), etc. to final art (sometimes same artist as above).

Rates

Ok, now that you understand the terminology, let's jump into the rates. This will help you calculate how much you should save for your first issue.

I found a lot of interesting articles that outline why and how much you should pay (links below).

However, the best article was "What do comics artists get paid?" by writer Alex De Campi. Below is a nice chart she included that breaks it down in USD (USA Dollars):


Total

Line art covers both pencils and inks and most comic issues are between 20-30 pages.

So, if you wrote the script yourself (free), then an issue in black/white (cover + line art + letters) will cost you between $2,400-$3,500 USD at the low end of the indie spectrum.

That doesn't include color, but there are lots of successful manga and other popular graphic novels that only use black and white for their main pages. As you get more successful, you can worry about color.

The other important note is this is in USA dollars, i.e., decent pay for an artist living in the USA. If you hire someone outside the USA, this might be viewed as significantly more based on exchange rates and cost of living. In those cases, you might be able to work out a deal on colors based on a guarantee of a certain amount of issues in the contract.

Still though... YIKES! That seems like a lot of money and it is, but remember my earlier post where I outlined the need to write at least 10 scripts before you have a script that is any good? Now you have time. :D

What do you mean? You have to save up that money to invest in your little company... err... story, so you can pitch it to a publisher or publish it online.

In the mean time, you can improve your writing as you get closer to saving the full amount.

Why just one issue?

You probably wrote out a whole series of comics, not just one, so you are thinking, "I have to save forever just for one issue, how in the world will I do more? This is pointless."

Don't worry! This is just the start and it is where pitching comes in. You really only need one issue, your team (author, artist, letterer), and a pitch to submit your story to publishers.

Jim Zub writes some very good articles on the pitch process (successful author with Image). If any of the publishers like your idea, then you can figure out ways to keep the series going.

At the very worst, you can submit to contests on platforms like Taptastic and Webtoons. Webtoons is even known to pay you monthly if you win a contest or become popular on their platform (more future posts on this).

The main point is this is just the start for the options with your series.

Finding the Right Artist

Now that the pay question is out of the way, check out Part 3: Finding the Right Artist. Thanks for reading!

-Jeremy

P.S. - If this helped, please support me by reading my free webcomic halfwing, thanks!


Additional links
Updates


  • 12/13/2016 - Updated with information about USA dollar vs. other currencies.
  • 11/7/16 - Originally published



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