You have an idea. You’ve sketched out the main characters of your story and you’re chomping at the bit to begin your comic. Fantastic!
Let’s slow down for just a second.
The most important thing, as we’ve covered in other articles, is just to start. Beyond that I want to give you some preventative medicine. If you’re new to this (and let’s be honest, we all are at some point) there are a few hidden landmines you might not have considered that could tank your comic.
How-To Create A Tumblr Comic
There aren’t as many ways as you would think to create and host a webcomic right now. Webcomics are updated frequently. They usually require a backlog or archive of content like blog posts, comics, and advertisements. This means that a webcomic website structure needs to be versatile. Tumblr.com entered into the blogging scene in 2006 with the hopes of capitalizing on the growing “microblogging” trend that was being popularized at the time. The concept of microblogging is different from traditional blogging in that microblogs are short snippets of information intended for quick consumption and sharing.
Missed the first installment of this article series? Read it here.
So what exactly are fair rates? This is the million dollar question. It’s very difficult to get a straight answer, and everyone will give you a different one. Here are page rates as determined by the Graphic Artists Guild from a few years back:
- Writers (plot and script) $75-120
- Painted art $150- 350
- Layouts/Breakdowns $35-100
- Penciled Art $55-200
- Background art $10-25
- Ink Art $45-150
- Lettering $18-35
- Lettering on overlay $20-35
- Coloring art $75-150
Those are some pretty wide ranges, but it gives you an idea. Depending on your abilities, some employers may offer more, some may offer less. If you’re new to professional illustrating, these rates may be a little bit lower for the first few years as you gain experience. After looking at these, I feel that my rates are are actually rather low in a lot of cases, but they do fluctuate a lot. I take different variables into account before submitting a quote: the time frame involved, the complexity of the art, what style of coloring is needed (digital vs watercolor), who keeps the original art, what my other commitments are at the time of production, and anything else that may be a factor. Don’t forget that communication can eat up a lot of time, too. Sending emails, making phone calls, creating invoices – these things will eat up your time faster than you can imagine! Sometimes my rates are higher, sometimes they are lower. But I always quote what is fair to me based on the needs of the project. And see, writers should be getting paid a fair wage, too. But that’s a story for another time…
What do you charge for your freelance illustration work? The answer – probably not enough! There seems to be a growing trend in the indie comics community in which freelancers are not getting paid fair rates for their work. It sickens me when I peruse Deviant Art and see countless artists offering their talents for a measly $5 per page. It’s infuriating when I look through job offers on Digital Webbing that offer a whopping $20 per page, yet come with a list of complicated demands. It drives me to the brink of insanity when I spend all day on Craigslist only to uncover ad after ad ending with “I can’t afford to pay you at this time, but you can add the work to your portfolio and we can split the profits (if there are any – which there almost never is).”
That is a word that evokes certain dread in webcomic readers. Updates that mention an impending hiatus often get more comments than usual, specifically in response to the hiatus rather than the actual page. Why? Because they fear what’s coming—death.
Webcomics get cancelled and abandoned more frequently than most any other type of literature. There is a veritable cemetery of forgotten stories that will never be completed wasting away in cyberspace. Sometimes a creator will reboot or hand the series off to someone else, but this is atypical and not always successful. Is any of this a surprise? Not really. Webcomics aren’t usually a lucrative business and with no deadline, contract, or material gain to look forward to, the motivation to continue making a webcomic has to come from within the creator. That alone is a rare discipline, but even the most motivated writers find themselves in a predicament where they cannot complete their work. Life gets in the way, there’s a dispute in the creative team, or perhaps the writer simply no longer has the resources to continue. There is a trove of unfortunate circumstances buried beneath the graves of dead webcomics. If these lost tales had epitaphs, what would they say and what lessons could both readers and creators take from them?
When I committed to creating a comic, I knew that publishing with one of the big companies anytime soon was not a reality. I was introduced to web comics as a serious avenue at Comic Con New Orleans 2010. I’ve since created two web comics. Comics have been in my life as long as I can remember. For me, comics are about story, art, and innovation. I rarely bought for the sake of collecting. Coming to terms with that, I had no problem with the web comic medium.
You may have a comic, but do you have a community? Support can be hard to come by when you’re a comic creator. You may not even be able to turn to your own family for advice or critique, let alone friends.
“Hey, mom – here’s my new page. What do you think?”
“I’m glad to see those years at that art institute are finally paying off. Wait – you…you are getting paid for this, right?”
At this point, you may find yourself turning to your readers for insight and advice. They are, after all, your demographic.
“Hi guys – I’m trying out a new coloring technique. Let me know what you think!”
That’s all the time I’m allowing myself to write this blog. Aaaand, my OCD just kicked in. There will be no note consultations, no pre-arranged outlines, no bullet points, no thesaurus checks. Just me, a keyboard, and a kitchen timer. Why am I doing this? Because I spent a lot of time this week coming up with an interesting blog topic, researching the subject, taking notes, and making a general outline of what I wanted to say – the problem is…I can’t say it. It’s as if my brain is so excited over the prospect of writing that it’s tripping over itself to get its thoughts out. “My” thoughts out. I used to be able to knock out essay after essay in high school with ease and enjoyment. What happened? Have my writing muscles atrophied? Is there so much information in my head that when I ask it to form a queue chaos and panic breaks loose?
Ten minutes. Oh boy.
What separates a good story from a great one? In many ways, less than what separates a great story from a terrible one. The greatest stories I’ve ever read, watched, or played in any mediums were the ones that took risks, that took their characters to new and dangerous places from where they couldn’t easily return. These were the stories that made me excited to follow the characters, because I couldn’t guess what would happen next, but the intensity of what the heroes endured made me eager to tune in. Even when I didn’t think the direction the story was going in was a good idea, or when I found faults with the writing, I was still interested because the story was so unique and compelling. And I learned this from Chris Claremont, the man who made the X-Men great.