On Not Paying Creators

imageI’ve been a comics pro for thirty years now, and watched many companies come and go. A lot of the companies that went had one or both of these things in common: they either didn’t pay their bills, or they insisted that the road to respect was papered with a contract that required a creator give up most or all rights.

I’m writing about this today because of this story: “Billionaire” Trump Can’t Pay His Transition Team’s Salaries.”

Good ol’ Orange Dictator has a habit of not paying for things. He’s ripped off countless small businesses, refused to pay the caterer for one of his weddings, and so on. And he’s about to be president of the United States. (#notmypresident)

If one of the most visible people on the planet is crappy about paying his bills and treating small business owners like vending machines he can shake for a free soda, why would a comics company no one outside of comics has heard of worry about paying a creator or giving them a fair deal? OD’s transition team was well aware of his habit of not paying, they just thought he didn’t dare to not pay them.

Don’t kid yourself that you have the magic or the pull to get paid or get a good deal from a unscrupulous publisher. Don’t assume that yours will be the property a crum-bum executive won’t exploit.

While bad apples in comics aren’t easily identified by having orange skin and flapping yellow hairpiece, your gut should be a reasonable guide. If it sounds to good to be true, it is. If a company keeps going out of business and coming back, there’s trouble. If you find yourself casting about for a “second-best” idea to pitch to a company, you don’t trust them. Run away. Orange skin and bad feelings are how nature says Do Not Touch.

A Overpriced at $1 Course on Making Money with Your Art

I’m not going to link to it. I can tell you that it’s a course on how to set up an account on a marketplace where pricing is a race to the bottom. For example, character design with a 3-day turnaround and unlimited revisions for $20-ish.

The course tells you to start low. An artist with an unproven track record, developing skills, and no cachet is going to be waiting a long time if they price themselves like Stephen Silver. But $20 or even $50 or $100 for a character design where all rights are the buyer’s, or $5,000 for a 200-page comic with a cap on how much you can earn from it in royalties, is bull.

You and your art worth more than that. Doing nickel-and-dime jobs hurts your ability to earn a living in the future, and it hurts other creators, too. Ones you admire. Ones who could be future employers and allies.

Take a pass on working cheap. It’s not good business for anyone.