I often hear artists given the advice to “never work for free”…and it’s awful advice. For one thing, nobody ever worries about writers working for free. There seems to be this general air of suspicion amongst comic artists that writers are out to take advantage of them and rip them off. But this is a partnership! In comics, writers can’t write without an artist, and artists can’t draw without a writer.
There seems to be this perception that the writing bit is easy, it doesn’t take any time or money, so it’s only right that an artist should demand a page rate, which the writer is, apparently, undeserving of. Not only that, but the writer should pay that page rate…because who else do you think is paying? If you can find a publisher that’s willing to pay a page rate…then that’ll be a work for hire job…and we’re talking about creator owned indie books here.
Also…who do you think is paying for tables at conventions? Hotels? Travel costs? Printing? Production? I could go on. Yep, that’ll be the writer. The writer is often the one who is travelling the country…and maybe even the world…trying to promote the book, sell the book, build an audience…and, yes, promote the artist and their work.
Last month I flew to Chicago, at my own expense, and had a table at C2E2, which I paid for, to promote a book that the artist had not finished yet. Yes, the trip was great, I think I got a lot out of it, but when it was booked it was booked assuming that Hero: 9 to 5 - Quietus would have long since been finished and out. I have to adsorb the cost of that. The writer. Not the artist. And that’s ok. Why? Because the artist is making a huge investment of time and effort too.
But, see, this is what I’m talking about…in indie, creator owned comics…the writer/artist relationship is a partnership. You work together on a project that you are mutually invested in. You both put time, effort and money into the project in the hope of a return…be that financial or otherwise.
So, this is why I react a little defensively when people say, “How dare you not offer a page rate? Don’t you value what the artist does?” I value what all of my artists do immensely…but how dare you devalue what I do? The time, effort and money I invest into each and every project I work on. This is my life. I barely sleep. I barely take a day off. I work…all…the…time. I put in just as much to every project I work on as the artist does. And nobody, but nobody, ever suggest that I get paid a page rate for what I do.