What Makes A Good Partner

Okay so you’ve sent out your solicitation and now the requests are flocking in by the millions. How do you pick the right team?

For each of your applications, you should be asking yourself the following questions:

Do they fit within your budget?

First off, if you haven’t figured out your budget for your project, now is the time to do it.

I’m sure you’d love to have a celebrity artist ink your comic but you probably don’t have the budget for that to happen. It’s important to be realistic and evaluate whether or not you can afford the total cost of hiring someone on.

Find out the page rate of the person and multiply that by the number of pages of your comic. I know this may seem obvious but a lot of people underestimate the cost of producing even a single issue comic. If you don’t know the length of your comic yet, just (over) estimate it. The average single issue floppy is 22-28 pages though they can vary even more if you self publish (More Than Men issue one is 32 pages).

For example, if the artist charges $100 per page and your comic is 28 pages, you’re looking at $2800. That’s a lot of money! (And also a totally reasonable page rate for an artist to ask for.)

If you’re going to be paying your team through PayPal or Transferwise, don’t forget to account for their service fees.

Also, make sure you know what currency the artist’s page rate is in! This got confusing for me when I was looking at both Canadian and US artists.

Remember that you get what you pay for. Don’t set any expectations if you only plan on paying someone $40 a page to ink and colour your comic. (Side note, that’s way too low of a page rate. Given the amount of time it takes to make just one page, that’s likely significantly less than minimum wage!)

Remember that artists are people too! They’ve spent years honing their skills, and it takes many, many, many hours to complete even a single page of a comic. Artists have bills to pay and mouths to feed just like everyone else so make sure they’re getting a fair wage.

If you can’t afford a decent wage for your artist, you might be better off simply hiring them to make an 8 page teaser to pitch to publishers with.

Do they have any samples or published work?

The easiest way to see if someone is a good fit for your project is to check out their previous work. This pretty much goes without saying but *before you hire someone, make sure to request samples of their work**. If they don’t have anything to show, they probably aren’t the best choice.

Also note that drawing/painting etc… experience, does NOT equal comic experience. While there are similarities between them, making comics requires an entirely different skill set than making illustrations does. Just because someone draws well, doesn’t mean they make good comics. Ask for samples of sequential art.

When checking out a creator’s work, ask yourself: Does their style fit with the style you want for your comic?

If you’re having trouble figuring out the exact style you want for your story, try browsing through some of your favourite comics and ask yourself what about the style of these pages makes them look interesting to you. As a bonus, you can gather a portfolio of these pages and send them to your applicants to give them an idea of what you’re looking for.

Are they skilled at what they do?

You put a lot of effort into writing your comic and so I’m sure you want it looking the best it can be.

Not only should you be looking at the overall quality of the art, but also the artist’s knowledge of comic making rules and techniques. Don’t know how to analyse the quality of a piece of work? Check out the chapters on drawing, coloring and lettering and see if it follows those tips.

Of course if you’re paying your team a below average rate, you should expect applications from less experienced creators. Again, if you want better quality work, you’ll have to pay a proper wage for your artists.

Do they seem reliable?

This one may take a few exchanges for you to figure out but there are some quick ways to tell whether or not someone is dependable for collaboration:

  • Do they respond to you in a timely manner? Good communication is really important when working collaboratively, and being able to rely on someone is key when you have project deadlines to hit. You don’t want a publisher getting mad at you because they needed your pages inked a week ago and your artist is still MIA. That said, things do come up, and sometimes delays are unavoidable. If someone tells me they need a week off to deal with family situations or burnout, I always try my best to be understanding. The only thing I don’t like is being suddenly ghosted for a month with no explanation. It makes working with that person very hard.

When I’m having an email exchange with someone, I try to at the very least acknowledge emails I get from them within two days after receiving it. If I don’t have time for a full reply, I’ll usually say something along the lines of “Thanks so much for the update, I’ll take a look at this by the end of the week.” A simple update like that keeps them from worrying whether or not you received the email, and lets them know a firm time when to expect your reply. Really it’s about respecting the other person’s time.

  • Are they professional? It’s good to have a friendly relationship with your art team (and I absolutely encourage you to do so), but if they can’t take the job seriously and professionally, it should raise some warning signs as to their legitimacy as a job partner.

Remember to be a good partner yourself!

If you’re going to hold your collaborators to a high standard, you should be willing to meet those same standards yourself. Besides, word spreads fast in the comics industry. If people hear you’re hard to work with, you’ll have trouble finding jobs in the future.

There are a few ways you can ensure you’re treating your collaborators fairly:

  • Be considerate of your fellow artist’s time. Like I said before, drawing comics is a very time consuming process and artists are already under paid for their work. Don’t do things like ask for multiple re-draws of every page in your book. It can really wear an artist down. Any changes you require should be addressed in the roughs stage, before the artist moves on to final art, otherwise you’re asking them to redo something you’ve already accepted, and that’s not fair to them.

  • Similarly, be transparent and clear in what you expect from your collaboration. How many edits is your team comfortable with doing per page before charging more? Does their price include character designs? What are your deadlines for receiving finished art? Sorting all this out in advance will help avoid conflicts that might arise during the process of making your story. The easiest way to establish all this is through contracts (see the next section).

  • Value the opinion of your team members. I understand the temptation to want to control every aspect of a project, especially if you have a clear vision of what you want your story to be. However, it’s important to remember that your team members are creators too, and they can provide valuable insight that you might not have considered yourself. Engaging with your team is also a way of enabling their creativity, which can make them more engaged in your project and willing to put more effort in. That said, some artists prefer to be told exactly what to do, and would rather just express themselves through the art directly. Just be open about it, and sort out what works best for your specific scenario.

  • If there’s something you like about a specific page or piece of art, don’t be afraid to point it out! It’s an easy way for artists to know what to keep doing on future pages. Plus who doesn’t appreciate the odd compliment? It can be very motivating and encouraging for people to hear they’re doing a good job.

Really it boils down to being a good person. I can’t emphasize enough how important the connections you make are to your success in the industry. Being a good partner will make it easier for you to find work and other collaborations in the future so encourage friendly and open communication, don’t take advantage of your artists, and be understanding of, and prepared for, any speed bumps that come up.