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Thread: Co-Creator Contract Advice

  1. #1
    I am the stone that the builder refused... Logan's Avatar
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    Co-Creator Contract Advice

    Recently some friends of mine self-published their first comic book and hired me to create an alternate, exclusive cover for it, which I was more than happy to do. Turns out that the book flew off of the shelves for them and they received very positive feedback about the cover that I supplied to them. As a result, they would like me to start helping them with other aspects of their book.

    Here's where it gets sticky: They'd like me to visually design characters for them off of written descriptions. The newly designed character would then be drawn by them in their ongoing book.

    At this point in my short career I've gotten used to setting page rates for Illustrations (1/4 page, 1/2 page etc) where, by default, I'm designing the characters but the clients are basically only paying for the rights to reproduce my artwork. All other rights are mine to retain. So far this has gone pretty good for everyone involved, I get paid a flat fee, and if I like a design enough then it's mine to use later on if need be without any fuss. This new project would be different in that the creators of the book want to write and draw the characters in the comic themselves, they just need the visual design.

    After searching the web for hours I'm stumped. I can't seem to find any details about how other creators have made fair contracts for essentially co-creating characters which could then be further developed down the road. These guys are friends, and not exactly shitting out gold bricks from their artistic endeavors, but I want to avoid trouble down the road by having something agreeable in writing before doing any work or accepting any money.

    Any advice?

  2. #2
    Not Spoiling for a Fight Pencilero's Avatar
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    Legalzoom.com?

    Only partially joking here, trained professionals may be able to point you in the right direction.
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  3. #3
    I am the stone that the builder refused... Logan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pencilero View Post
    Legalzoom.com?

    Only partially joking here, trained professionals may be able to point you in the right direction.
    Yeah, I have been looking lots of places for help with this, including there. I think that this part of comics creation (the legal stuff) is super important, but no one wants to talk about it publicly, with very few exceptions (Sean G. Murphy comes to mind). But how are folks to figure it out on their own?

    Anyway, thanks for trying to help

  4. #4
    This is a good resource for legal information for creatives:

    http://www.workmadeforhire.net/

    And here are a couple other pricing and copyright resources good for freelance work:

    http://jessicahische.is/thinkingthoughtsaboutpricing
    http://mariabrophy.com/art-licensing...flat-fees.html


    That said, there are a few ways you can go - disclosure: I'm no legal expert, but I have researched this a ton in gathering information for pricing, licensing fees, and copyright ownership for freelance illustration jobs. I'm also not a comics professional that has created characters for the big publishers; I've only done indie comics, so I obviously own or co-own my own stuff. I've turned down small freelance jobs because the compensation either wasn't worth the time or worth giving up my rights to my work... or both.

    You can license the designs to your friends, either via royalties or a flat fee for whatever period of time you feel comfortable (limited, unlimited) and reproduced in specific or all media (print only, web only, print and web, unlimited, etc.).

    Or, you can do the work as work for hire and transfer the rights to your friends for a substantial fee and/or royalties - whatever you all want to agree to - since you'll no longer have the rights to the designs, won't need to be hired to make changes to those designs, and may or may not make any money off of future use of the designs, depending on the contract you work out.

    In the end, your contract will consist of whatever rights and compensation you and your friends think is fair for both the work you're doing and what they want from you. You can even put in a clause that you all revisit the contract at a later specified date.

    Last, but far, far, far from least, you may want to be up front with them about making sure you keep the personal and business aspects separate during these negotiations. If they can't do that, then it may not be worth doing the work if your friendship is important .
    Phillip Ginn
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  5. #5
    Straight Outta a Comic Book [SUPPORTER] Symson's Avatar
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    I think you're making this harder than it is.

    In the same situation, I didn't look for templates. I just asked for a percentage and got it. We signed and all were happy

    "Fair" is what both parties agree to do.

    Just ask for what you want. Be willing to compromise, so ask for more than what you want, so there's room to haggle.
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  6. #6
    I am the stone that the builder refused... Logan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Symson View Post
    "Fair" is what both parties agree to do.
    Well yeah, but that's not very helpful to someone like myself who doesn't know what percentages are common or uncommon for this sort of thing.

  7. #7
    I am the stone that the builder refused... Logan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmginn View Post
    You can license the designs to your friends, either via royalties or a flat fee for whatever period of time you feel comfortable (limited, unlimited) and reproduced in specific or all media (print only, web only, print and web, unlimited, etc.)
    This is all great info, and I appreciate you taking the time to type it all out. I understand the options available, just trying to find out what those flat fees or percentages generally are. Any ideas what the norms are?

  8. #8
    There aren't any real norms for freelance pricing, unless you want to use other illustrators' pricing as a guide, or purchase the Graphic Artist's Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines (also available on Amazon).

    Here's another resource with some pricing examples included: http://laurawoodillustration.com/Pricing-resources

    You may also want to look up contract templates just to cover some other legal things. Drawn and Drafted has some simple contracts you can use as a basis for your own: http://www.drawnanddrafted.com/

    I have searched all over for other illustrators' prices and how they break down their own licensing tiers just to see what some current rates are. But remember, the problem with using their pricing as a barometer is that each illustrator is at a different stage of their career. Some can justify asking for more, while some are still trying to build a reputation and clientele and therefore have to ask for less.

    The easiest thing to do to start, I've found, is decide what you want to make hourly or daily right now or for this particular job (eg. $15/hour or $75 per day for a 5 hour work day, assuming you're doing this after your day job - if you have a day job); a day rate can be a little easier to calculate. Then estimate how long it might take you to complete one aspect of the job. Add the number of hours for all aspects of the job and calculate an estimated flat fee from there.

    Quick note: your commercial commission fees should be notably higher than your private commission fees.

    For licensing, you can decide what additional percentages based off your flat fee seems fair to you. If you've never done this before, maybe price it low. For example, a full buyout, where you give license to use your designs in all media with no time limit while you retain the copyright can be 50%-100% of your flat fee. Or, for limited essential media, like print and web comics, for a limited time, and you retain the copyright could be, say, an additional 25% of your flat fee. If you're okay with doing work for hire, which means transferring your rights to the client, your additional fee could be anywhere between 150%-500% of your flat fee.

    Or, you can go even lower. Or higher.

    As for royalties, if you guys want to do that, discuss a fair cut of the revenue to be paid during certain times of the year for a certain length of time.

    I wouldn't give out your hourly/day rates, nor the breakdown of how you came up with your additional fees. Calculate what you want, and give them a full flat quote; break the fees down per line item if they ask for it (design 1, design 2, licensing, etc). If they ask how you came up with the quote, just tell them you took time, materials, and experience into account.

    Ask for a reasonable amount more than you think might be an acceptable low price so that if they want to negotiate and come down in price, you hopefully don't go lower than your low-end acceptable price. And if they don't negotiate, you get more money.

    It seems complicated, but it's mostly unnerving because you're asking for money and there are several aspects of a job you want to price. Plus, these guys are your friends.

    I should note that the advice I've given is based on all the research I've done and is by no means the only way to do it. You just need to figure out how you want to start off your pricing and go from there.
    Phillip Ginn
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  9. #9
    Also, what really helped me was creating a spreadsheet so I can calculate time, extra expenses/fees, and different rate tiers. This helped me see the different amounts I could make and then pick a quote that would seem worth the work.
    Phillip Ginn
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  10. #10
    Straight Outta a Comic Book [SUPPORTER] Symson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Logan View Post
    Well yeah, but that's not very helpful to someone like myself who doesn't know what percentages are common or uncommon for this sort of thing.
    I didn't know what was common either. I asked for 10%. I just pulled it out of the air. I still don't know what is common. Situation comes up again, I will just ask for what I want. The worst that can happen next is negotiations. That is common.
    Inviting 100 artists to celebrate Kirby and Eisner Centennial Tribute Books

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