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May 27, 2011
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Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a few queries for work as a comic book artist. Some from private individuals and some from professional companies and as always the sticky issue of costs comes up.

I personally like to be very frank and upfront about cost to people. My time is quite limited so I can’t afford to dance around the subject on tip toes hoping to lure them in for a bite. The result so far has been I haven’t heard back. For me, that’s okay cos like they say ‘time is money’ and for me that’s especially true. Plus, I don’t want to put out for less than my time is worth. I may not be a big name (yet), but it doesn’t mean I’m going to sell myself short.

The result of all these queries though has been a closer look into what I should be charging. I don’t want to charge for more than my name is worth (is stress the word ‘name’) and take advantage, but on what planet am I going to charge a measly $25 (£15.44) per page? Certainly not this one. So I turn, as I’m sure many of you do, to the internet and the result just leads to more confusion on the subject.

The range seems to be $25 - $100 for those still forging a name for themselves. But I also note that some people today are still being paid the same $25 rate of many decades ago it seems. For me based in the UK, that translates to £15.21. now if it takes me 4 hrs to pencil and ink an A4 page that’s £3.80/hr – less than minimum wage for anyone over the age of 18! Now that’s basic, cos we haven’t considered what it would cost to pencil and ink an A3 page with good quality detail, not to mention the cost of materials. I recently asked a professional here on DA how long it took him to pencil (not ink) this page Thunderbolts 146 pg 20 sample by VASS-comics . His reply – 20hrs! So that then would amount to £0.76/hr. Yeah right! That people are being paid £25 in this day and age is slavery. I’m guessing this guy is getting more than $100 for this page.

The most helpful document I’ve found that I’ve been using as a guide is from the ASA (Australian Society of Authors) which you can view here www.asauthors.org/lib/ASA_Pape… and also from www.graphicartistsguild.org/ha… (My copy is in the post so I can’t comment on this particular one yet).

The question is how to solve a problem like comic fees? Why does there seem to be a lack of standards on the subject? For people starting out, it’s an absolute mine-field! I would say, work out a base rate which should be calculated on rate/hr and materials and translate it into a page rate.

For example, if I work out my time is worth £15/hr with an average of 4hrs per page, then we have £60/page.

Now looking at material costs, let say you spend £10 on materials for every 20pages, then per page you’re looking at £0.50. Added to your page rate you’re standard is £60.50/page.

Overall, I’m guessing this rate would be for a more simple style or art and not the detailed example shown above. But then you have your formula: so £15 x 20hr = £300/page. Material cost would go up considerably cos you have to consider if £10 worth got you as far as 20pages, then with heavy usage if may only take you as far as 5 giving you £2/page.

I guess that’s the best way to figure it out. According to the ASA my minimum should be AUD$100 which is £64.91. Not far off from our estimate.

For anyone starting out or puzzling over what they should charge, hopefully this has helped.

The question of comic artist fees will, I foresee, continue to be asked for many years to come and I guess it will always be left to the discretion of the artist. There are many up and coming creators who are individuals and won’t be able to pay such hefty sums and I think it is this fact that will prevent there from being a definitive answer. Art is an industry unlike any other (save perhaps music) and comics probably the least recognised form of both art and literature (another topic for another day).
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:iconrolandmann:
rolandmann Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2013  Professional Artist
Some things to consider:
Starting rate at the bigs is about $60 per page for pencils, $40 for inks.
Taking 20 hours to pencil a page is crazy. Sure, it's "art," but it's a business. In MOST other businesses, tasks are allotted a certain amount of clock time (I had 1 hour to stock the beer cooler when I worked at a stop&rob, more on fridays and saturdays). While times DO differ, most companies will tell you that you should plan to pencil a single page in 4 hours. That turns an 8 hour work day into 2 pages. 5 days per week will get you 10 pages, etc.
Obviously, not every artist is equal...but spending 20 hours on EVERY page is a sure path to no money (UNLESS, of course, you have that marquee name and then time is nearly irrelevant).
Small PUBLISHERS should be willing to pay you SOMETHING, even if it is small. As a writer, some of my early work paid $200 for the entire issue (24 pages--you do the math). I was okay with that because I was still trying to "make a name" and move up to the bigger companies.
Working for/with an INDIVIDUAL is different, at least in my mind. I know it isn't unusual for me to approach an artist (one of the things I'm pretty proud of for editorial stint was "finding" new talent) and ask them to do work for free in order to PITCH. Now, what that generally consists of is character designs and 6-10 pages (I think 6 is a minimum for a good pitch--and I've had lots of successful pitches DOING just that). I know that at that point "I" have received no money--but HOPE to. I'm in the same boat as the other creatives. The idea is that we put effort into the PITCH--for free--in the hopes that a publisher will pick it up and pay a page rate for it. If it doesn't sell, then we decide--together--how or even IF we move forward in a different direction (meaning, do we look at royalty only publishers or even consider self-publishing).
Obviously, everyone would like to make Marvel/DC top dollar. The truth is that the comic industry is mostly chump change and sales are terrible--even Marvel/DC sales aren't what they used to be and, truthfully, if you crunch the numbers you'll see that the bigs are LOSING money on more than half of the work they publish. They can afford SOME loss because of their corporate pockets. Nearly all of the others cannot afford to take that kind of hit.
It is what it is. We can complain all we want, but it is what it is.
I very much appreciate your stand and am in no way trying to suggest it is the wrong thing to do, but you have to be realistic to know you're probably not going to get that job making as much as you want to make. Not until you can prove yourself to the people who do the hiring AND who have a budget. It's a decision only YOU can make. I know lots of artists who do just fine on internet commissions and don't even worry about trying to get sequential art work from companies anymore. There are certainly more ways than just working for Marvel/DC to earn a living...it's all in what your end goal is.
Whew...I didn't mean to type this much. Sorry.
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:icontheinkpages:
TheInkPages Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2013  Professional General Artist
A very long response!!!

You're quite right about time spent on a single piece. I think most people just go for a page rate anyway as hours can be tricky to clock. 

There was just so little information out there for people staring out I was trying to make sense of it.

I wrote this so long ago I forgot I'd written it :D

Thanks for your contribution to the subject.
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:iconmarkcdudley:
MarkCDudley Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012  Professional General Artist
If this guy did this page for Marvel and he isnt a huge name, 125 to 200 a page at most.
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:iconbabycandydusk:
babycandydusk Featured By Owner May 30, 2011  Professional Artist
*cough*moveto3rdworldcountry*cough*
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:iconarchsider:
Archsider Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
lolololol xDDDDDDD *cough*right decision*cough*
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:icontheinkpages:
TheInkPages Featured By Owner May 30, 2011  Professional General Artist
LoL!
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:iconargo602:
Argo602 Featured By Owner May 27, 2011
Aside from what you charge what about the publishing rights and royalties ?
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:icontheinkpages:
TheInkPages Featured By Owner May 30, 2011  Professional General Artist
This is an area I haven't looked into but it depends as well on your level of input or how much of the project you'd want to be involved in. it might be something you'd want to be involved with in the long term or just a quick something for the short term.

Some publishers may require you to give up any copyrights to the work in your contract, in which case i hear you can charge separately for that.

Some examples; one guy contacted me to work on his project, but he wanted me to come in as a partner and have creative input on the project. For this, I’m not charging anything to do the artwork but i will take a percentage of the rights and royalties up to 50%. Another example, my editor was approached years ago to create concept art and characters for a project. When things went sour and ended up in the courts, he won the rights to the characters based on various signed contracts and the fact that although the concept was not his originally, he put in all the design, concept and art work.

On my debut comic, i get a percentage of profits from the book.

As i said, i haven't explored this area but no doubt will have to at some point. One thing to watch out for though is royalties on what? you may sign a contract giving you royalties for any merchandise and then a film studio comes along to make a film or cartoon (does it get better than that?) only to find your royalties don't extend that far.
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:iconworkhorsecomics:
workhorsecomics Featured By Owner May 27, 2011  Professional Writer
New talent fails to recognize that a publisher is taking an economic risk on them, and for a multitude of reasons, fans may not like their work, and the publisher loses money. Some one with name-value, meaning they been published and have a following, should expect to be paid better than a beginner. The most important thing is that whatever an offer a publisher makes, the talent has the right to turn it down. If I offer you a gift card for 4 pizza hut pizzas, and I deliver on my part of the agreement, then no one has taken advantage of you. If I promise you $100 a page and disappeared after you submit the work to me, that is some thing completely different.

As a venturer trying to start a new business, not just publish a few comics, I have to work within the very small budget I have. Some times the talent is willing to work with me, some time they are not, but I always try to be honest about what I am offering. I am not sure about labor laws in other country, but in the USA, the talent does have to be 18 or older.
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:icontheinkpages:
TheInkPages Featured By Owner May 30, 2011  Professional General Artist
I appreciate your stance on this point but the risk is just as big for the new talent.

I have worked with a publisher which has had that exact problem; he'd sign up a new talent to work on a book. Half way through they got snapped up by the likes of DC and Marvel leaving him with a half-finished book having already paid them. As such, he has changed his strategy; artists get a percentage of profits from their book once published rather than paying them per page.

Sounds fair. only problem is that I’ve spent 9 months working on a comic for him that he failed to market properly and then messed up the distribution on so that retailers like Amazon.com didn't get their copies till 3 months after release. And after all that, I won't be getting a penny for 9 months hard work despite the comic selling well because at the end of the year, his company hasn't made a profit. Now where others may get sour about this, I’m not cos i understood right from the moment i decided to be a career comic artist that I’d probably not make any money to start with.

Like you say, it's about being upfront and everyone has the right to say 'no'. If people find my fees to high, then they too are entitled to say 'no' and I’m entitled to say I’ll do it for less - if i think the risk worth it.

On the whole, the issue of risk is i think another article for another day. What i wanted to highlight is the lack of clear guidance on the appropriate rate to charge. But rightly pointed out, all these things (royalties included) make it hard to set a standard fee cost to follow. There are so many variables.

Thanks for your point of view.
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