All for One and One for All (Collaboration Agreements in Comics) (article) - Creative Contract Consulting

The Pocket Lawyer for Comic Book Creators (book) - Thomas A. Crowell Esq.

The Law for Comic Book Creators (book) - Joe Sergi

Publishers will almost certainly provide their own contracts (and if they don’t, that should set off some red flags), but if you’re self publishing, you’ll be handling it yourself.

If you’re collaborating with a team on a project, you’re going to want a contract, especially if it’s long term. You never know where things will go with your story so it’s good to hash everything out before you start. People will also naturally forget things that were agreed upon, so it’s a good idea to have written and signed information that you can reference when that happens. It also helps clear up any confusion between you and your team at the start of your project.

MANDATORY DISCLAIMER: I’m not a lawyer! As always, my suggestions here are just that: suggestions. When in doubt, talk to a professional.

With that said, I like to make sure my contract answers the following questions:

  • Who is responsible for creating each element of the property? Who’s doing the writing, the pencils, the inks etc…

  • What does the creation of each element entail? Specify the steps you expect to see before a page is deemed complete (thumbnails, pencils, inks). Make sure to include how many edit requests/revisions you’re entitled to at each step.

  • What is the amount of work to be done before the contract is complete? Generally this is the number of pages for your comic but it doesn’t have to be.

  • How is the copyright for the property going to be distributed between each creator? Decide who retains the rights to things like the original art, characters, the story…

  • How will the revenue be distributed between each creator? Indicate whether your collaborator will be receiving a percentage of sales or a fixed rate and what that amount is.

  • How often will payment be awarded? If you’re splitting profits, decide how many times per year you’ll be paying out to your collaborators. If you’re hiring someone at a fixed rate, are you paying 50% in advance, per x complete pages, one bulk sum at the end…

  • What is your method of payment? I’ve always used Paypal or Transferwise but there are other options out there.

  • What happens if payment is not granted? This is to reassure your team members that you won’t hang them out to dry. Usually they retain the complete rights to their work until payment is awarded.

  • Who has the right to sell the work? Decide if your team members will be able to sell their own copies or if you or someone else will be handling the sales.

  • What are your deadlines? When does the project have to be completed?

  • How will you show attribution for the work? This usually entails something like adding the artist’s name to any of their work you post online.

  • What countries’ laws apply to the contract? If your contract is between people of different countries you have to explicitly establish which countries laws you want to apply.

  • Who has decision making authority for the property? Someone has to have the final say on how the pages will look. Generally this is the one doing the hiring.

  • What are the means of terminating the contract? Explain what happens if the contract is not completed as agreed upon. How will payment be awarded? Who retains rights?

  • How will privacy be handled? If you want to avoid spoilers, add a non-disclosure section to make sure they don’t post certain work publicly.

Here are a few example templates for collaboration contracts:

It’s important to note that long-distance contracts, especially international ones, are hard to enforce. If your artist in Madagascar decides to take your art and run… there isn’t a whole lot you can do. Ultimately it’s important to remember that a contract is only as good as the people signing it. As long as you have a reliable, trustworthy team (check up on their previous projects!) then odds are you won’t have too large of a problem.

That said, things happen. People get sick, or overwhelmed with life, or any number of different things. How you handle those situations is up to you (consider adding a clause to your contract covering this), but like I mentioned previously, no matter what, it’s crucial that everyone is on the same page about what’s going on. Maintain a healthy, clear, and open communication with your team and they’ll be more open with you in return.