Apr 22 2010

If you want a good artist for your comic book script, paying on-spec is not realistic

Published by at 10:43 am under Comic Book Art,Comic Book Teams

I saw this today on a comic book forum: “searching 4 artists who want to draw my comics’ covers. its NOT be a paid Job, but ur name will be mentioned with the artwork, and yes, it will commence our long term professional relationship.”

Artist: “Umm, how about you commence our long-term professional relationship by paying me? Also, why would I want to work with a writer that writes worse than I do?”


Sorry, writers, but it’s unrealistic to hope that we can find talented artists that will work on-spec (for possible money down the road rather than money prior to publication). The obstacles to getting published are steep — ahem, over 99% of submissions get rejected.  It’d be crazy for an artist with options to put in tens of hours in the hopes that the book gets published some day.     And the artists without better options than betting on an unpublished author are probably not yet talented enough to get published, anyway.

The good news is that paying upfront won’t take you thousands of dollars.  You can get by at most comic book publishers with 5 inked pages, which can be done pretty well for $300-400. (If you want color, maybe $450-600).  I’m very familiar with the lifestyle of a starving writer, but $300-400 is less than a minimum wage paycheck.

If several hundred dollars is totally implausible, your best option is probably submitting to Dark Horse. They don’t require art as part of the submission.  That said, a script without art is at a significant handicap versus scripts with good art*.  If you submit to DH and get rejected, then I’d recommend waiting until you can come up with the money to have the art done well.   In the meantime, continue working on your script.

*”A script without art is at a significant handicap versus scripts with good art.”  Good art makes the proposal more credible and helps grab an editor’s attention.    Having no art raises questions, and questions are usually dangerous for unpublished authors.  Editors publish proposals because they think “this will work,” NOT “this could work.” Uncertainty terrifies editors.   Remember, 99% of what the editors see is not good enough to publish.  It’s very unlikely the editor will give you the benefit of the doubt that your prospective art will be good enough to make the cut.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “If you want a good artist for your comic book script, paying on-spec is not realistic”

  1. Taliaon 20 May 2010 at 9:03 am

    Hello, someone recently recommended your site to me and said I should ask you for advice. The comic I’m working on is probably more along the lines of an indie project, being comedy/realistic fiction, but the questions I have apply to anything so I figured I’d give it a shot.

    I do the writing, penciling, and inking myself. The only thing that I can’t do quickly and efficiently is coloring. I tried looking for someone to work full time on the comic with me, but have since realized that that is a lose/lose situation if we never get published. So here are my thoughts:

    1. If I am sending in a sample of my comic, does it have to be colored?

    2. If I am hand-lettering, is that going to look really bad? (My art style is very simple and I think cleaned up fonts make it look sloppy by comparison, but I could buy a handwriting-style font if you think it would help.)

    3. If I do need a colorist, how do I advertise for one without insulting them? I can’t afford to pay much, and I want to make that obvious enough that I don’t waste anyone’s time, but I also don’t want to disrespect anyone with a bad offer.

    4. If I engage a colorist and/or start sending my work around, how do I protect it? I know that seems silly coming from someone who is an amateur and whose work might very well be crap no one will ever be interested in, but I really think it has potential. If someone took some of my ideas and used them elsewhere I would be absolutely crushed.

    I just want to say that I know the comics industry is insanely difficult to break into and doesn’t pay well, but writing comics is my passion and I don’t plan to stop. All I want is some good advice so I don’t royally screw it up.

    Thank you!

  2. B. Macon 20 May 2010 at 10:01 am

    1. I think most publishers don’t require color. For example, Image Comics explicitly says color is optional and Dark Horse doesn’t require any art. At the smaller publishers, I’d recommend checking the submission guidelines. If they don’t explicitly require color, I think it’d be worthwhile to send the inks– the worst case scenario is that they say no.

    2. “If I am hand-lettering, is that going to look really bad?” Probably. I haven’t seen any of your work, so I don’t know how good you are at it, but unless you’re very good I think that hand-lettering is more likely to feel dodgy and slapped-together. I’m not sure whether you need to buy a font, though–Blambot has a lot of free fonts available for download. (When you get published, you may have to change fonts or pay for its font but it’ll work fine for a placeholder for the submission). Also, please note that only some of Blambot’s fonts are free.

    3. If you decide that you need colored pages prior to getting published (and good art is always a plus), I’d recommend advertising on the DeviantArt job forum for a colorist that can do five pages now and will be available for additional work if/when you get published. For just coloring 5 pages that you ink yourself, I think $200-300 is respectable. However, I would HIGHLY recommend finishing/polishing the script and getting the inks dead-on–otherwise you’ll waste the money because you’ll have to recolor later on. I blew several hundred dollars by going for an illustrator too early.

    4. If you’re dealing with large and medium-sized publishers, I wouldn’t worry at all about your ideas being stolen through the submissions process. If a company like Dark Horse wants your story/characters/plot/whatever, they’d hire you to bring out the story. (After all, you have more ideas where they came from). And hiring a talented newcomer is cheaper than passing on stolen ideas to veterans. 😉 With really small publishers, I think that theft is still rather rare but I think there’d be a bit more temptation to cut corners.

    “If someone took some of my ideas and used them elsewhere I would be absolutely crushed.” I can definitely relate to that, particularly given that my (nonfiction) work has been plagiarized before (by content farms). However, if somebody steals just your ideas (rather than actual passages of the work), it probably wouldn’t affect your ability to publish the story and/or sell it. If 20 people wrote a book about an accountant and a mutant alligator, chances are that none of them would directly compete with The Taxman Must Die, even though the characters share some uncanny demographic similarities.

    If somebody does steal passages of the text with only minor revisions, then I would recommend clearing that up before trying to publish your own work. I’d recommend starting by writing a letter to the editor(s) involved, letting them know that they’ve been duped. If all else fails, you can hire a lawyer, but I’d recommend doing that as a last resort because it’s rather expensive.

    PS: Welcome!

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply