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B&N Week 189: What Is The Value Of Your Name?

| August 5, 2014

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It’s another glorious Tuesday! The sun is shining, but it isn’t overly hot yet. It’s monsoon season, and we’ve been getting our share of rain and temperatures that people can actually live in.

Enough about the weather! This week’s question: what is the value of your name?

It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? As a new creator, your name doesn’t hold much cachet. Your work could be great and be near or at professional level, but without having some projects to back you up, some published work, then your name is only as good as the work you put in it.

You can begin to create value in your name by getting work done and getting it seen. These are two very important keys to creating value. You have to do the work, and you have to get the work seen. Just because you done the first doesn’t mean you’ve followed through with the second.

I have a friend who’s thinking about writing a book. They have a day job that they absolutely love, and have private clients who pay them to do the same thing. They also want to write a book about what they do, but they’ve been sitting on the idea for years [basically a lack of motivation]. If they write the book, and the book sells well, they have raised the value of their name, and can then charge appropriately for services.

Stephen King. He’s written a comic book here and there. Think he’s got some cachet to his name? Think he has the same cachet now that he had thirty years ago? My point exactly.

How can you gauge the value of your name? Quite simply, you charge for your services, even if you think that you don’t yet deserve anything for them. Then you’ll see whether or not people will bite at the prices you’ve set.

There’s a trick to it, though, and while the trick is the same, finding the point where you can actually turn the trick will be different for everyone. You ready for the trick? It’s simple, really. You have to really be ready for paying work. That’s it. That’s the trick.

And I say this because it’s true, and only you will know if you’re really ready for paying work or not. If you’re not ready for paying work, don’t try to turn the trick. Notice the language I’m using. I said to see if you can turn the trick, even if you don’t think you deserve it, but that you also have to be ready for paying work. There’s an ocean of space between being deserving and being ready.

Now, if no one bites, you’ve done one of two things—you’ve either set your prices too high, or you aren’t ready for paying work.

I’ve seen a lot of creators either advertise their skills or tried to get paying work, and their work just isn’t good enough to pay for. [Remember, though, I have decently high standards.] Ever put up an ad, and get responses from creators whose work is only about as good as your young child? Those creators obviously aren’t ready, are attempting to turn the trick, and failing.

You, and only you, can do the work. Very often, that is the only part of comics that is in your control.  Getting the work seen is quite often another thing entirely.

In the beginning, a lot of creators work on projects that are never going to see the light of day, for a variety of reasons. The biggest of those reasons is usually because the writer has no concrete plans for publishing, hoping the “five pages and a cover” pitching routine will get them in at Image or somesuch. That goes on for a few years, until creators either aim lower, or self-publish. But here’s what happens if they aim lower:

Sometimes, the book gets accepted! And because the book is accepted, you’re now a published creator! You can now say that you have a book that has been on the shelves, either traditional or digital, and can often parlay that into other work or into getting another project accepted. You do this enough times, you can then start just showing up, and creators will be happy that you did.

You can then start to see the value of your name.

Also, please don’t think that I’m just talking about monetary value. While that is all well and good because we need money to survive, and there is a correlation to how well you do the work and how in demand you are to how much money you can make, it’s not always about money. Sometimes, its in the power of the name itself. If you got Rob Liefeld’s name on your book, you’ve instantly polarized the readership, and done so violently. If you got Brian K. Vaughn on your book, people will flock. Even if you got them to do the work for free, your sales and the buzz around the book will be reflective of the names on it. So it isn’t just about monetary value. Monetary value is just the easiest to talk about.

Now, just because you’ve got some books on the shelves doesn’t mean you’re immune to having to do the work, and it also doesn’t mean that you are immune to having your name lose value. Once you get some books on the shelves, once you’ve reached that level, you then have to become somewhat conservative—even if there is an offer of money on the table.

In order to keep and build on the value of your name, you have to keep getting books on the shelves. This means you have to choose your projects more wisely. You have to choose projects that will actually make it to the shelves.

A few years ago, I approached an artist about working on a project. While they were interested, they wanted to know what my publishing plan was, because they wanted to make sure that the work they would do would be seen. I didn’t have a publishing plan at the time, so they said sorry and kept it moving. They understood the value of their name.

Not staying on the shelves is one way to hurt your value. Not completing work is another, as is being difficult to work with. I was working with an artist once whose work I admired, and thought we would do well together. I approached them with an offer, which they then accepted. Then the bad dream began: they were pushy to get the work done, fragile in their ego about their work, were reluctant to make changes to characters, and then finally wanted to argue with me about a fight during a panel. This was early in the drawing phase of the script. When I asked that they just trust me about what we were discussing in the script and do it as I suggested, I was basically threatened. I don’t take well to that. So, they were let go, and I’ll never work with that person again. With me, at least, they hurt the value of their name.

Can you regain the value of your name once you’ve hurt it? Of course you can. But you have to work even harder. Hurting the value of your name is like breaking a trust. You can rebuild the trust, but it will never be as strong as it once was. You can rebuild the value of your name, and it’ll be a process. Hopefully, when you hurt it, it wasn’t so bad that you can’t recover from it. Justiniano may never really recover from what he did to his name. Not in comic circles.

What is the value of your name? Only you will know. You’ll have to do the work, and you’ll have to do it well, and when you’re ready, you’ll have to charge for it. Money is always a hard thing to discuss, especially in the beginning. But the more you do it, the easier it will become.

That’s all I’ve got. See you in seven.

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Category: Bolts & Nuts, Columns

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at [email protected] for rate inquiries.

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