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Thread: Comics Cultures, Part 2

  1. Rain Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by LeeNordling View Post
    Let's tackle it at the core: why do comics creators insist on thinking in terms of page rate?

    This sounds lame, but is the simplest explanation that pops to mind: Because that's the way they've traditionally been paid.

    Doesn't make it THE right way to do things, but it's ingrained in the comics culture.

    And, jumping back to my first reply: It allows a writer/artist to quantify the work they've put in, and be compensated accordingly.

    Rain



  2. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by Rain View Post
    This sounds lame, but is the simplest explanation that pops to mind: Because that's the way they've traditionally been paid.

    Doesn't make it THE right way to do things, but it's ingrained in the comics culture.

    And, jumping back to my first reply: It allows a writer/artist to quantify the work they've put in, and be compensated accordingly.

    Rain
    That's exactly correct, Rain, historically, and for why creators still use it as a measuring stick.

    "Anybody know where the page rate came from?" I ask rhetorically.

    When comics started, they were reprint magazines for comic strips.

    The comics magazines paid newspaper syndicates $5/per page for the reprints.

    When new magazines started shifting over to new material, the publishers didn't want to loose ONE percent of their profit margin, so they'd pay the same $5 per page rate to creators for all-new material; that's for writing, pencils, inks, color, and lettering, (though their process was writing, pencils, lettering, inks, color).

    That's the legacy of the comic book payment structure.

    Our payment system was designed so that publishers would know EXACTLY how much the content would cost them.

    For better or for worse, this is piecemeal work.

    Sew on five buttons at a cent a button, you make five cents.

    Now, there are advantages and disadvantages to this kind of system.

    What are they?

    Rain writes, "It allows a writer/artist to quantify the work they've put in, and be compensated accordingly."

    That means a creator knows exactly how much he/she will be paid for x-amount of work.

    Write five pages per day for DC at $100 per page, make $500 per day.

    Why is this better than a system involving advances?

    Why is this better than a system involving royalties? This last one isn't a trick question, but remember we're discussing ALL the comics industries, not just the direct market, so before anybody shoots off their stock answer to this question, go back to last week's column and look at all the different types of comics cultures there are, and then come back with an answer that takes them into account.

    What do I mean? Well, for example, it would be silly to suggest Charles Schulz didn't profit well from a variation of the royalty system.

    So, mull this one over, and consider what are and aren't the relevant variables.

    --Lee
    Last edited by LeeNordling; Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 03:59 PM.



  3. RonaldMontgomery Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by LeeNordling View Post

    Let's tackle it at the core: why do comics creators insist on thinking in terms of page rate?

    I look forward to reading your thoughts, folks.

    --Lee
    OK. I'll try again.

    The completed page is how work is measured. When taking on a new assignment, a creator will logically say to themselves, "I can do X number of pages a day."

    The next step in that internal calculating: what's your labor worth? You're not paid by the hour, you need some way to measure your daily wage.

    The page rate is an easy and convenient yardstick to use. It can be multiplied by your daily (or whatever time unit) output to tell you how much money you will make. It helps you assign value to your labor.



  4. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by RonaldMontgomery View Post
    OK. I'll try again.

    The completed page is how work is measured. When taking on a new assignment, a creator will logically say to themselves, "I can do X number of pages a day."

    The next step in that internal calculating: what's your labor worth? You're not paid by the hour, you need some way to measure your daily wage.

    The page rate is an easy and convenient yardstick to use. It can be multiplied by your daily (or whatever time unit) output to tell you how much money you will make. It helps you assign value to your labor.
    Okay. I'll try again.

    Why can't a creator do this with an advance...or with royalties?

    Charles Schulz could have thought, "Okay, I'm in two thousand newspapers, paying on average $15 per paper per week. That's $30,000 per week. The syndicate gets half, so I get $15,000 per week, not counting merchandising. $15,000 per week is just over $2,000 per day, which also happens to be a $2,000 page/strip rate. At eight hours per day, that's about $250 per hour, give or take."

    Does anybody think Schulz did this?

    Does anybody think Schulz cared that he made $250 per hour?

    Even where creators aren't Charles Schulz, what's to stop them from figuring out any calculation they want to from an advance?

    Didn't creators learn to do division in grade school, at least simple division? I think they CAN do division, and do figure something out.

    But what are they REALLY trying to figure out?

    Ronald mentions a rate per hour. Fair enough. That's presumably so the artist will know what he/she has to pay bills.

    But that can be calculated from an advance, too, right?

    So, let's get to the heart of the matter: why is a page rate still important?

    There is a different answer here, folks.

    It begins with, "It's not. The important thing is _____________________."

    Fill in the blank, and we're getting somewhere.

    --Lee
    Last edited by LeeNordling; Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 07:58 PM.



  5. RonaldMontgomery Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by LeeNordling View Post
    Okay. I'll try again.

    Why can't a creator do this with an advance...or with royalties?

    Charles Schulz could have thought, "Okay, I'm in two thousand newspapers, paying on average $15 per paper per week. That's $30,000 per week. The syndicate gets half, so I get $15,000 per week, not counting merchandising. $15,000 per week is just over $2,000 per day, which also happens to be a $2,000 page/strip rate. At eight hours per day, that's about $250 per hour, give or take."

    Does anybody think Schulz did this?

    Does anybody think Schulz cared that he made $250 per hour?

    Even where creators aren't Charles Schulz, what's to stop them from figuring out any calculation they want to from an advance?

    Didn't creators learn to do division in grade school, at least simple division? I think they CAN do division, and do figure something out.

    But what are they REALLY trying to figure out?

    Ronald mentions a rate per hour. Fair enough. That's presumably so the artist will know what he/she has to pay bills.

    But that can be calculated from an advance, too, right?

    So, let's get to the heart of the matter: why is a page rate still important?

    --Lee
    Assuming a page rate is still important, it serves an economic interest of one or both of the players; either the creator or the employer. Since the power relationship is asymmetric, I will assume it better serves the economic interest of the employer.
    I will venture a guess that the employer assigns relative value to a creator through a page rate; Charles Schulz will make more than Ronald Montgomery.
    BUT... this argument isn't unique to page rates, either. So, can it be how certain industries do business and are themselves paid?

    P.S. Sorry, started this post early and let it sit...didn't realize this had already been discussed.
    Last edited by RonaldMontgomery; Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 08:26 PM.



  6. Rain Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by LeeNordling View Post
    There is a different answer here, folks.

    It begins with, "It's not. The important thing is _____________________."
    It's not. The important thing is getting paid.

    It's not. The important thing is having financial incentive to complete the work.

    Rain



  7. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by RonaldMontgomery View Post
    Assuming a page rate is still important, it serves an economic interest of one or both of the players; either the creator or the employer. Since the power relationship is asymmetric, I will assume it better serves the economic interest of the employer.
    I will venture a guess that the employer assigns relative value to a creator through a page rate; Charles Schulz will make more than Ronald Montgomery.
    BUT... this argument isn't unique to page rates, either. So, can it be how certain industries do business and are themselves paid?

    P.S. Sorry, started this post early and let it sit...didn't realize this had already been discussed.
    Forget what value the publisher (who may or may not be an employer) places on the creator's work. It's not relevant to what the creator is interested in (unless the two values don't match up).

    What's important, still, is WHY the page rate determination is so VITAL to creators.

    Maybe it should be and there's a reason.

    Maybe it shouldn't be, even though it is, and the bigger point of what's REALLY important is being lost on the creator, and because it might be lost on the creator, the creator doesn't know how to make an adjustment to a way that can be as good or better. Is this possible?

    If so, what could be as good or better?

    Doing long division and figuring out that a $7,000 advance for a 32-page sequential art picture book might be better than a $100 per page rate? Is that better? If so, why is anybody still demanding page rate as the method for payment?

    Is it STILL better to have stuck with page rate, when you realized that when you were discussing payment with a trade book publisher they became confused because they didn't know what "page rate" meant, or worse, annoyed because you didn't know how trade book publishing pays?

    If any of this is so, is page rate important?

    If not, what IS important in place of page rate?

    What specific variables are involved?

    --Lee
    Last edited by LeeNordling; Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 03:12 PM.



  8. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by Rain View Post
    It's not. The important thing is getting paid.

    It's not. The important thing is having financial incentive to complete the work.

    Rain
    I think you're getting closer, Rain, but do all creators need financial incentive to complete the work?

    If not, what variables could be involved?

    Oh, and does anybody yet agree that page rates are not THE way to pay all creators, even if some do prefer to get paid that way?

    Again, we're looking for the variables that can help determine PERSONAL payment preferences and needs...

    ...preferences that go beyond habitual piecemeal labor payment processes and needs that are identified well enough so that payment processes can be flexible enough to industry demands and still be met.

    --Lee

    PS. Did anybody think this was going to be easy?
    Last edited by LeeNordling; Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 09:29 PM.



  9. LeeNordling Guest

    With no answers this morning from last afternoon's question, I'll try another tack.

    1. Is the page rate system of payment simply the common denominator direct market comic book creators use as a measure of payment, either as a result of culture (see how this might be relevant to our topic?) or habit?

    Yes or no.

    2. If "yes," how MIGHT a creator's strict adherence to this system affect their ability to expand outside the direct market?

    3. If "no," what distinguishes the page rate from other methods of payment that makes it so valuable that it's worth passing on potential projects from publishers that don't use this system of payment?

    I still have parallel questions floating from yesterday; let's see if we can tackle both today.

    --Lee



  10. WilliamStormeSmith Guest

    1. Culture, yes. I'd think it is engrained because of the teamwork aspects of the direct market, inkers, letterers, artists, writers, and editors. It's just a good way to keep everyone on the same page and measure progress.

    2. As you said if a writer wishes to step into new sandboxes or cultures, certain publishers might not understand this payment system. And nothing creates more hiccups in a business deal than price, money, and payments.

    These are tough questions, and I can see why few people answered the question on variables. I do not have a clue. And variables are so important to know and take into account, after all you don't go into a swamp without taking into account there are gators, snakes, and skeeters.



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