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Thread: Week 42- Being Ready

  1. StevenForbes Guest

    Week 42- Being Ready

    It’s Tuesday! The sun is shining, there are birds singing, insects are buzzing…it’s spring! It’s all around us. Smell that Tuesday spring air! Delicious, unless you’re allergic. If you have allergies, then I’m sorry. Try to enjoy the Tuesday as much as possible.

    This week, I thought we’d have a discussion about Being Ready, what it means, and how to take advantage of it. So, let’s get into the Bolts & Nuts of that, shall we?

    Being ready means different things to different people, but if you’ve been following along with the topics from the beginning, doing the homework and the exercises, and really putting your nose to the grindstone, depending on your level of talent, you’ll be very prepared for things when opportunity knocks. But really, let’s talk about what you can do to be prepared.

    As always, I’m going to use a few examples.

    A friend of mine was contacted recently by a publisher who was interested in acquiring a story of theirs. It was the first time my friend had any publisher interest, and they were excited yet hesitant. This is a feeling that’s totally understandable. Who wouldn’t be excited about having someone foot your creation bill? But my friend was wary about being burned, and came to me asking for advice. Wrong person to ask, right? This same friend then went to a message board asking about industry standard rates. My thought is that the company said they’d pay the standard industry rate for their work, whatever that means.

    (Wait. There’s no industry standard for the work we do?)

    Well…there’s a guide you can go by, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say an industry standard.

    And this is what I mean about being prepared. There are TONS of things you should know or be able to find that, as a creator, you just don’t. This should be unacceptable. There are so many things that you just NEED to know that it’s not even funny, and when you find out that you don’t know it, you go into a little bit of a panic mode.

    And this is the ultimate reason I’ve been talking until I’m blue in the face every week. I’ve been trying to prepare you as best as I can for the myriad number of things that are going to come your way. There’s no real way I can go over every single permutation of every single situation, but I’m trying to give you as broad a base as possible so that you can have at least a little something to draw on.

    So, let’s talk about some of the things you should know in order to be ready when a publisher comes a’calling.

    Industry standard rates: This is newbie lingo for “I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, but want to sound like I’m with it.” Industry standard is like saying you’re going to get a lawyer to a lawyer, or telling a doctor about your sciatic nerve pain, and wondering what they can do about it. Lawyers and doctors specialize, and while they may be able to give you something within the ballpark (at least somewhere within the stadium, and not the actual playing field itself), they’re not going to be able to give you specifics. The term “industry standard” is a generalization that doesn’t mean much of anything, and whenever you hear the term, you should sit down and start to cultivate your patience, because you’re going to have to either learn something and then teach, or just teach.

    Here is a scale of “industry standards” that will get you something of a ballpark figure. It’s a starting point, nothing more. If you feel you can negotiate for more, then do so. It’s called negotiation for a reason, right?

    While this is a guide, it doesn’t really say that much about your skill level, does it? If you’re new, but are highly skilled, you may be able to command a higher rate than someone with the same level of experience but a lesser degree of skill. So, like I said, it’s just a guide.

    Another thing you want to be aware of are contracts. (This again?) Yep. It’s going to come up continually, and the things you want to know are going to be manifold. If someone, in this case, a publisher, offers you a contract, then you have to start asking questions.

    Screw the “industry standard” talk. How much are they offering to pay you? Ask for a number, if they don’t give one. MAKE THEM SAY FIRST, if possible. This gives you the advantage of a starting point. It also tells you what they think you’re worth, and roughly how much money they have. If they’re talking about paying you, then they have some money. It may not be a lot, but they have some.

    If you’re unable to make them say first, then you’ll have to say first. Do NOT lowball yourself. Do NOT pump up your number, either. Go middle of the road, and see what they say. They may accept, they may counter, they may say no thanks. If you’re near the realm of what they’re willing to pay, they may counter with a lower number. It’s up to you if you decide to take it or not.

    Next, when are they going to pay you? In these days of companies not paying talent left and right, having an idea of when you’re supposed to be getting a check is a good thing.

    Now, I’m going to say something that may be unpopular. You know what? That’s okay. Everything I say isn’t gospel. It’s just my view of things.

    Now, if a new publisher is offering to pay you money for your work as a writer, or offering to pay to publish your project [meaning they’re paying the entire creative team, to include you as the writer], I suggest you ask where the money’s coming from.

    Unpopular, I know. No one really wants to look in another person’s wallet. But there are more tales of fly-by-night publishers out there than a little bit, and if someone is saying they’re willing to shell out roughly six thousand dollars per issue [before advertising and printing], and you have a five issue mini, then I think you have a right to know where the money is coming from. You want to make sure you’re going to get paid for the work you’re being offered a contract for. Notice, I said a NEW PUBLISHER. (Yell much?) [Just trying to keep your attention.] If you get offered a contract from someplace like Dark Horse, then this isn’t something you need to worry about. However, Asshat Comics doesn’t have much of an internet presence, they’ve never published a book that you’ve heard of, and you can’t find much of anything on them—but they’re offering to publish your comic and foot the entire bill. Yes, I would look this gift horse in the mouth, and apologize later.

    That’s only if they’re talking about paying you as the work goes, using something akin to a voucher system or half up front and half upon completion. If they’re promising you back-end riches, that’s another thing entirely.

    If the new publisher is promising to pay you on the back end, then you have to wonder if what they can do for you is worth the cut they’re going to take out of the profits of your book. Unless they’re Image [and thus, not new], you’d probably be better served by self-publishing. [But that’s just me.]

    Above all else, when it comes to the contract, no matter who’s offering it, you want to make sure you understand what they’re asking, and see if what you’re giving up is comparable to what you’re getting out of it. With every contract, you’re giving up something. The sooner you understand that, they better off you’ll be. You’re giving up something, and just about every contract you’ll run across is going to be skewed to the person or company that wrote it. If you can live with what you’re giving up, then go for it. [One of the most odious clauses I’ve ever heard of was from Crossgen. They had a non-compete clause in their contract, saying that you couldn’t go work for another company for something like three months. That’s three months or more of being out of work and not being able to pay bills, folks. You can do without cable, but can you do without water, gas and electricity? Neither can I.]

    What else would have you prepared? Knowing something of pre-press. If you’re self-publishing, you ‘re going to have to learn to do it, anyway, or suffer the consequences of having a book without a professional look. Pre-press, as a simple definition, means getting the files ready for the press.

    I’m always on the lookout for new information. Even old information can be useful, because even if the info has changed, you can still glean useful information from it. It gives you a starting place. Never discount old information. At the very least, it’s a history lesson, and can give you insight as to why things are the way they are today. With that being said, Kevin Tinsley has a book called Digital Prepress for Comic Books. Not the most interesting of subject matter, and sometimes the information is as dry as an overdone turkey, but it’s the only book of its kind [at the moment] that speaks directly to getting a comic book ready for the press. It covers a LOT of information, and although the book is old, a good portion of the information is viable. And, like I said, even the stuff you don’t need, it’s good info to have to see how it used to be done.

    (So you’re saying to get the book?) I’m saying to get the book. Abebooks.com is a great resource for used books. This one is out of print, so if you look for it on Amazon, it may be a little hard to find. Abebooks.com is a great resource. I got my copy relatively fast, and in very good condition. It’s money well spent, trust me.

    Just like learning to letter, learning prepress is something that I recommend everyone learns. It’ll save you a lot of headache and heartache later. As a writer in the indies, you have very little reason for NOT learning to do things yourself. The more you learn, the better off you’ll be. [Then people will be coming to you for information and advice.]

    Another thing to be prepared for is to have a set of stories ready to go. When I say a set of stories, I mean just that: a set of stories. Short ones, no longer than five pages, in every genre you can possibly imagine. Romance, horror, adventure, sci-fi, drama, action, thriller, fantasy, noir, comedy, camp…as many as you can prepare. And when I say ready, I mean READY: have them be complete in themselves, edited [or at least proofread], and ready to go to an artist or editor. These are samples of your abilities, and if they’re ready to go at any time [and updated regularly as your skills grow], then you’ll never be caught unprepared when someone asks to see a sample of your work. Because it’s going to happen. Then you’re going to slap yourself in the forehead, say that I told you to be ready, and that you should have listened. And really, I won’t be able to help you then. Do it now, so you won’t be caught out there later.

    I suggest that you learn as much about everything as you can. I want you to be the Batman of comic creation. Always prepared. Hell, if I had it my way, you’d all be overprepared for every eventuality. I truly believe that you cannot be overprepared for your job of creating comics. The more you know, the different paths you can take to reach the same goal, the easier your job will be.

    If you do not already have a library of reference material for creating comics, you are WAY behind the curve. WAY and EXTREMELY. Whenever I run across an article on something I think will be important or gives great information or insight, I do one of three things, if not all three: I bookmark the page, I copy and paste the page into Word and put it in a folder, and I print out the page and put it in a binder.

    Bookmarking the page is great, but pages can disappear, and there are times when The Wayback Machine doesn’t work. That’s why I copy and paste the page, and/or print the page and put it in a binder. When I print the pages, I make sure that I highlight the sections that are exceptionally pertinent. My own personal library is full of an array of different tidbits of information, basically from the time I decided to start creating comics. If you haven’t started doing this already, I highly suggest you start. Highly.

    All of this is just the start of Being Ready. There’s a ton more to it. This barely scratches the surface, and in order to be proficient, you have to do it for years. And really, you’re going to be learning forever. [As am I. The day I stop learning is the day I quit.] But if you don’t even begin to prepare for the eventualities that are coming your way, you’re not going to be prepared to take advantage of the opportunities or walk through the doors that will become available to you.

    Mark Millar. He was approached by Hollywood when he was deep into his Marvel work. He showed them the things he had done for Marvel and Wildstorm, but when they asked what he had on his own…you could hear how loud the silence was. After what had to be an embarrassing meeting, Mark went on a tear of creator-owned material, and now has Wanted and Kick-Ass under his belt as movies. An extreme case, to be sure, but it illustrates my point beautifully.

    Be ready, folks. You’re the only one who can do it for you.

    Homework: put together a list of things you need to do in order to be prepared, and give yourself a timeframe to start traveling that road. Yes, I think you need to travel all the roads in order to be well rounded, but take it one or two at a time. Once you’ve got a reasonable handle on one, start another. It’ll be fine.

    There’s the bell. See you next week.



  2. MartinBrandt Guest

    I just want to point out the link used for an example on "industry standard" is based off a book from 1997.

    All the advice you gave is solid, it is just hard to find good data on what passes for standards. Of course that is typical in a field reliant on creative talent.



  3. Sliverbane Guest

    I need more stories!!?

    Aaaah!
    I'm okay. *pant-pant*

    Well, at least I am on the right track in hoarding info. I've been printing this column and adding to a file of cool info. Along with other tools for writers - authors, if you will. Still trying to bridge to gap of Novelist and Writer [for comics].



  4. MartinBrandt Guest

    We always need more stories. Stock pile them, drawer them, they are lock stocks & bonds of this trade.

    You can never have too many, at least that is what I tell myself as I file yet another story in the drawer. Oh, and organize it all. LOL Before my wife I couldn't honestly tell you were all my stories were. Spread between laptops, computers, thumb drives, dvd/cds, notebooks and misc papers. It was a nightmare.



  5. tylerjames Guest

    Great column, Steven. I love the 3 ways of saving suggestion. As I've started doing comics creating classes locally for adults and kids, I'm always looking for info to ad to the syllabus, and as more and more often great stuff shows up on the Net, sometimes I take for granted that links disappear.

    I think you make a good point about having many stories ready to go, as well. Sometimes when it looks like a project isn't going to get off the ground because a particular artist flakes or I get onto something else, I'll leave a project in a less than polished state. But as you say, part of being ready is being able to answer the question, "What else you got?" enthusiastically. There's a reason Hollywood agents don't take screenwriters who've only written one script. Being ready is having some "shovel ready" projects ready to go once one of your ideas gets you a foot in the door.



  6. StevenForbes Guest

    Yes, Were-lock, I know the "industry standard" link is old, but like I said, it's a starting point. It gives you a point of reference for things you're going to be paying for as a creator, so you can get some preliminary numbers together. It also gives you some insight into your own worth.

    But like I said, even old information is useful.

    Yes, Silverbane, you need more stories. Personally, I think that if you don't have three scripts ready to go at all times, then you're not ready. I have scripts that I need to update myself, but I have about eight that are ready to go, right now. (We all know I'm something of an over-achiever.)

    Tyler: sometimes it's the little things we take for granted that come back to bite us. I have things from all over the net on my computer, put into files and backed up. Other things I have needed to be printed and highlighted, so I did that, too. There is a LOT of important information out there, and even if it's not relevant now, it will be in the future.

    It takes a lot of time and energy to be prepared, but all it takes is one opportunity that you get to take advantage of in order for it to be worthwhile.



  7. MartinBrandt Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenForbes View Post
    Yes, Were-lock, I know the "industry standard" link is old, but like I said, it's a starting point. It gives you a point of reference for things you're going to be paying for as a creator, so you can get some preliminary numbers together. It also gives you some insight into your own worth.

    But like I said, even old information is useful.

    Yes, Silverbane, you need more stories. Personally, I think that if you don't have three scripts ready to go at all times, then you're not ready. I have scripts that I need to update myself, but I have about eight that are ready to go, right now. (We all know I'm something of an over-achiever.)

    Tyler: sometimes it's the little things we take for granted that come back to bite us. I have things from all over the net on my computer, put into files and backed up. Other things I have needed to be printed and highlighted, so I did that, too. There is a LOT of important information out there, and even if it's not relevant now, it will be in the future.

    It takes a lot of time and energy to be prepared, but all it takes is one opportunity that you get to take advantage of in order for it to be worthwhile.
    I am sure you knew. That was more for others, some people don't dig, so I like to share.

    Your advice is sound and full of quality man.



  8. Join Date
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    Another installment chock full of informative goodness.

    Sure, being me, I'll be stuck with a mental image of Forby singing Scar's "BE PREPARED" song from Disney's LION KING, in my head all day.

    What? You mean I'm the only one?

    :cool:
    "Living Robert Venditti's Plan B!"

    CAT. 5



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