What does an independent comic book publishing deal ‘get’ you?
In every movie you’ve ever seen about a writer – whether they’re putting together a novel, a biography, or a laboriously-researched historical tome – the grand prize is a publishing contract. This single document guarantees not just that the work in question will be printed off and released into the hands of readers, but also that the author is awarded a handsome advance that will see them through the writing process.
One of the most common questions I’m asked when talking about the Kickstarter campaign for our Code 45 graphic novel project is ‘why isn’t the publisher paying for this?’ More specifically, friends and colleagues alike are curious as to why our publishing deal with Scout Comics isn’t fully funding the art and production costs that our Kickstarter campaign is aimed at.
What, exactly, are we getting from them?
It’s a reasonable ask, especially considering that most people are familiar with the traditional publishing model described above. The answer lies in the very different economics of independent comics publishing.
Our deal with Scout Comics offers us two guarantees. The first is that we (Joe Ng, Angela Hodge, and myself) as creators retain full ownership over our characters, story, and art.
This is no small thing. Many artists and writers working for major comic book publishers are engaged on projects where they don’t have any ownership stake whatsoever. That means the stories they tell, and the voice they give to the characters on the page, doesn’t belong to them – it belongs entirely to the publisher.
Logically, without any intellectual property rights, those same artists and writers don’t get any royalties based on how well their books sell, either. They are paid a certain rate per page completed, and that’s all.
In exchange for us keeping full ownership over Code 45, Scout Comics is not paying either the artist or the writer a ‘page rate.’ Instead, we’re compensated with a royalty based on sales, sharing profits with the publisher (which assumes the risk and cost of printing and distributing our book).
The second thing Scout Comics is offering us is the guarantee that our book will be published as we intended it, and distributed to comic book stores, mainstream bookstores, and online. Again, that’s important: we have control over the Code 45 story, a partner in getting it in front of an audience, and an ally when it comes to promoting it.
Scout Comics is shouldering a significant cost once it has printed our book. To get to that point, however, the rest of the investment is on our shoulders. As I mentioned in a previous post, the art costs of a graphic novel are substantial, and it’s here that we’ve decided to turn to Kickstarter to run a campaign to fund the remaining four issues of Code 45.