What does a comic cost? Part 2: Artwork
A version of this post was published on 2/22/2020 on my blog at https://www.andrastecomic.com
In this post I'll talk about how I found the artists I'm working with on the series, why I handled payments like I did, and what the different stages of panel art looks like, from script to final letters.
What I won’t do here is share everyone's page rates by breaking down how much each artist charged. Every collaboration is different, and it’s everyone’s right to negotiate as they see fit.
Here’s the total for producing Issue 1, not including promotion, which hasn’t happened yet.
The artwork total is the amount I paid for layouts and inks, colors, lettering, and two covers for 23 pages of interior art and 2 covers:
Issue 1 total: $7,915
Getting started: $1,655
Printing (estimate; 500 copies): $1,100
As I mentioned in my first post, I didn’t know any comic artists when I re-started production on the book in late 2018. I went to New York Comic Con that year hoping to meet some folks (and did!), but I found everyone I collaborated with on Andraste on… Facebook. I know! Weird.
(For the record, I still think Facebook is something of a hellscape; I just found a teeny oasis within it.)
Anyway, I joined a wonderful group called Connecting Comic Book Writers and Artists, run by James Lynch. I started off by going through old posts to find folks with an art style I liked. There was *a lot* of great work floating around, but luckily the first person I reached out to was Unai Ortiz de Zarate. I expected his rate to be at the top of or out of my budget, given the quality his work, but it worked out! After we signed a contract, he mentioned that his friend and frequent collaborator DC Alonso was a great colorist who might be interested in the book. When Unai got sick, DC introduced me to Luis Aramburu, who runs a comic artist agency. in Spain. Luis put me in touch with Abel Cicero, the artist who’s now doing the inks for the series. I was lucky to find Unai first! I didn’t have a network, but he did.
Page rates vs. ownership
Because I had never written a comic before, I didn’t think it was fair or advisable to ask anyone to work for free on the book in exchange for partial ownership or future profits. I also wanted to work with folks who had experience, so that was even more of a no-go. So I paid everyone their page rates, and kept ownership of the book. There’s a possibility this will change in the future if the book goes on to make a lot of money and the artists opt for it, which is why each issue gets a shiny new contract.
(If you're interested in a work-for-hire template for hiring collaborators, check out The Pocket Lawyer for Comic Creators!)
Not all indie agreements work this way: some people share ownership and profits rather than pay up front; others pay a lower page rate and give a smaller ownership/profit share to the folks they work with. It depends on you and your team! I don’t think there’s a correct or incorrect way to structure that kind of partnership, so long as you have a contract you’re both satisfied with.
Page rates vary a lot, and depend where the artist lives, how much experience they have, how much other work they've got going on, etc. Many other folks have collected rates over the years, if you want to compare:
* Alex de Campi shared numbers at Special Edition (RIP! That was a really good con) in 2015.
* Creator Resource's most recent survey was in 2017. They break down rates by publisher (small sample size).
* Fair Page Rates published survey results in 2015 and 2016 (small sample size).
What happens after everything is signed?
Cool, my favorite part! So, you have assembled a team, you've sent them your script and your notes and your folders of assets and reference images, and you've paid them. This might be what the process looks like after that, using Page 3, Panel 1 of Andraste #1 as an example.
Here's the script:
After I waited eagerly at my computer for a little bit, I received a few character studies! Here's Aithne as drawn by Unai, with colors by DC.
I may or may not have hyperventilated and/or cried. I can say for sure that I was very excited, and not in a quiet, dignified sort of way. In any case, I scarcely had time to compose myself before I got a layout:
Then, after I let Unai know that the layout looked a-ok, he followed up with inks (Boudicca was our first working title).
Andraste #1 has two covers. I wanted them to convey two things: the fear that Aithne and Gwyn, our leading sisters, felt on meeting the Romans for the first time and the idea that this family cares about one another a lot.
Here's Abel Cicero's take (colors by DC), with Boudicca shielding Aithne:
And here's Ariel Colon's take, with sad dad Prasutagus with Gwyn and Aithne: