Okay, so I’m getting a bunch of questions thrown my way in response to my last post, so here is one more attempt to be helpful to those who are interested in making a living in comics. I’m sure it will infuriate at least seven internet folk who will then write impassioned blog posts about how I’m a poophead. ;)
"How do I break into comics?"
A bunch of people have been asking me this question over the past day and the answer is … I dunno! See, the problem with that question is that everyone who has ever worked in comics has broken in a different way. Some did portfolio reviews at comic conventions. Some self-published and the right people noticed. Some worked in other industries (animation, advertising, whatever) and met certain people and found their way in that way.
Me, I made comics put them on the internet, and the right people noticed.
Seriously, that’s it. I did several blog posts about how *I* broke into comics, and also how I make comics and other stuff on the Friends With Boys site, so I suggest you take a look over there for a more detailed explanation of exactly how it happened for me. I even have fun tips on making a successful graphic novel pitch.
Sometimes I’ve noticed people get mad at me for telling them that making comics for the internet was how I broke into comics. I think maybe they think that I have some Super Secret Method for breaking into comics, and I’m deliberately withholding that from them for whatever reason. I would like to stress this: all of my comments on making a living in comics come from my personal experiences. I do not speak for other cartoonists, I only speak for myself and what worked for me. If that’s offensive to you because I used a method to break in that you cannot do, well, sorry, but this is the only advice I have:
Make comics. Put ‘em online. Something will follow.
It’s all I got.
"I am really not an artist so your ‘draw your own comics’ suggestion is moot, but I’m a writer and I really want to do a comic project. How do I find an artist willing to work with me?"
Ah, the $64,000 question. Again, let me speak from personal experience: there was a time when I would have been thrilled to work with someone, anyone! Making comics is very lonely, and I made online comics for years and years by my lonesome, and I thought it would be very nice to have a collaborator.
So, a couple key things:
1) There was in a stage of my life when I was not doing comics full time, or trying to make a living from them, so I was more open to projects that would not pay initially. I think that’s pretty key. I cannot speak for other artists, but it makes sense that there are unpublished (but still decent) artists out there who would like the chance to collaborate with someone who had a good story. As for finding those artists, I can’t speak to that, but the internet is vast and wide and full of people, and if you look hard enough, I’m sure you’ll find the right people.
2) I wanted to COLLABORATE. I wanted to work with someone on a comic that could be ours. I didn’t want to be handed a script and told “shut up and draw,” I wanted to work WITH someone. I know for me, at that stage of my life, being approached by someone who liked my artwork, who knew what kind of comics I liked to draw (THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. Don’t pitch a horror comic to an artist who likes to draw cute & fluffy things), and who had a cool story that he/she was flexible on (he/she was willing to listen to my input on the story), would have been very exciting.
Want to know how many writers I had approaching me to collaborate during this time?
No one emailed, no one sent me a message, asking me if I was interested in working with them. It’s only since I’ve been published that I get the “I saw your comic and thought you would be perfect for my script!” emails. Many of ‘em, very regularly.
Anyway, back to the suggestions:
Do you have a friend who draws? Even if they don’t draw comics, why not try collaborating with them? We do many things for our friends that we wouldn’t normally do for Strangers From the Internet. I’d do free work for my friends, and I have some friends who’ve done free work for me. It’s awesome, and I’m happy to do it because they’re my friends and I love them.
This brings up another issue, and it’s the issue of Working with Strangers on the Internet. Some folks seemed pretty offended when I said I’d only work with published authors, and here’s why I do, and don’t work with people who randomly email me their scripts: I don’t know you.
I read every script a stranger mails to me, just because I feel it’s polite, but it doesn’t change the fact that I don’t know you. Your script might be amazing, but if you have no history of working in comics and nothing for me to go on besides that one script, what guarantee do I have that you are someone I can work with in a professional capacity? I’m sure you are a lovely person! But I don’t know you, and I don’t know what you’ll be like if I draw your script. At least someone with multiple publishing credits to their name, I have a sense of “oh, this person has worked with these people, and is still working. They must be okay.” It is a way of protecting myself and my work from becoming entangled in situations that could be … not good.
I feel this is a reasonable stance.
"I want to pay someone to draw my script, but I’m not published. What do I do to get an artist? What is a good page rate?"
First off, congrats! I applaud that you are willing to pay an artist for his/her time spent on your script. I’d say the same thing applies to these questions, that you should probably be approaching artists who are up-and-coming, and not yet published. You can bond together and create a pitch that will hopefully sell. Go forth and make comics!
I cannot comment on how you attract an artist to simply draw your script as you have written it, because I’ve never been that interested in being a straight artist. I would personally rather be a collaborator, because I enjoy writing.
However, I do know that there are artists out there who prefer the drawing part of comics, and have no interest in telling stories. They just wanna draw, so give ‘em something awesome! Maybe these artists can comment on this piece on what attracts them to a certain story?
As for page rates, it depends. I’d say $100/page for a black and white comic is very reasonable. Remember: you are paying someone to bring YOUR dream project to life.
"When did you know you were ready to be a full time cartoonist?"
Oh man, you never know! I freak out about it even now, and am really thrilled this is my job. It’s better and HARDER than I ever thought it would be.