Hiring a letterer for your comic, manga, or graphic novel

Hiring a Letterer

I wrote a whole series on finding and hiring the right artist to ink and color my comic, so I thought it would make sense to cover how I hired a letterer.

Hiring an artist to do the inks/colors took much more time/effort than hiring a letterer.

What is a letterer?

The artist responsible for drawing the comic book's text (word balloons and sound effects). The letterer's use of typefaces, calligraphy, letter size, and layout all contribute to the impact of the comic (wiki).

Why hire a letterer?

If you talk to any great comic artist/writer, they all emphasize the importance of good lettering. The letterer will improve your comic by optimizing the flow of readers' eyes through the panes via placement of word balloons and sound effects.

In other words, it is more than just slapping the dialogue in a bubble and placing it over text. There is an art to it.

If you still want to do it yourself, make sure you read up on it. I recommend Jason Brubaker's lettering post where he breaks down best practices and also outlines everything he was initially doing wrong.

How did I find my letterer?

I noticed several of my favorite writers/inkers often used the same letterers for all their work. I identified a couple who really shined and reached out to them.

If you are interested it was Marshall Dillon (GLITTERBOMB, HEADHUNTER, WAYWARD, etc.) and Clayton Cowles (Star Wars, Batman, JLA, #WicDiv, Bitch Planet, Redlands, Generation Gone, Iron Man, Daredevil, Black Bolt, etc.). You should check out their great work if you get the chance!

Unfortunately, they were book fully booked, but they did give me a list of letterers who might be available for work (list below in no particular order).

I went through that list and reached out to a couple and finally found one who's work looked good and was available.

Letterer List

How long does it take to letter an issue of roughly 25 pages?

It should take about 3 business days (less if you are in a pinch and the letterer is free/open to do it). Generally, you will notice a couple things you want to change and those additional edits shouldn't take more than 1-2 business days.

Most contracts include two revisions before the final version of the art is sent. (During the review phase, you usually get smaller sized JPEGs but then send over the final TIFF files after payment.)

How much does it cost?

For indie rates, you are looking at $10-$20 USD per page. Mainstream rates run $20-$25 USD per page.

I broke down pay in my Finding an Artist series. Below is the snapshot from writer Alex De Campi's article, "What do comics artists get paid?".



What do I send them?

  • Script in RTF (Rich Text Format)
    • I write in Final Draft and you can export to RTF right from there. I believe you can export to RTF from almost any other document writing software, so it shouldn't be a big deal for whatever you are using now.

Letterer for Life

The nice thing about finding a good letterer is you can now use them for all your projects. Because art takes 1-2 months and lettering can be done in a couple days, you can send them other projects as they come in.

Gotchas

  • Timely Communication
    • If you are emailing your letterer and they are consistently not getting back to you or ignoring your emails, move on as soon as possible!

      There are too many good letterers out there that do great work on time. I had this come up myself, and I just moved on after one issue and it saved me a lot of headache.
  • Consolidate all your edits
    • You may see a couple corrections in your first preview from the letterer and want to send a quick email to get them fixed right away. Don't do it!

      Most contracts specify only 2 sets of edits. Instead, take some time to do a thorough review before sending the changes back to your letterer. This will make his/her and your life easier.

      Also, make sure the letterer has done all your corrections before paying. If not, they may never finish your corrections.

      Note: This doesn't mean you hold the letterer ransom for 50 rounds of edits. It just means if he still hasn't done your second round of corrections and is asking for payment, wait and make him/her finish their end of the bargain.
  • First time takes longer
    • Just like your first issue of inks/colors (wrote whole article on it here), the first issue the letterer does for you will take a little longer and require more back-and-forth on email while you figure out workflow. It should be faster each issue after that, just be patient the first round.
I hope that helps you find a good letterer for your own comic. Thanks for reading!

-Jeremy

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

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