B&N Week 56: Paying People

| January 17, 2012 | 1 Comment

It’s Tuesday once more! Weren’t we just here like, two minutes ago? Time flies when you’re having fun! And I’ve been having loads of it, let me tell you! Anyway, time for some Bolts & Nuts! This week, I thought I’d talk about that thing everyone has to do in comics: pay people.

There are lots of ways to do this, and some people believe in different things when it comes to paying people that all mighty dollar. [Hey! I’m American. We deal in dollars. Thanks.] So, let’s take a look at it, shall we?

Alright. You’ve done the studying, you’ve done your listening, and you’ve been saving your money. You made a post in order to get samples of work sent to you, and you weeded through the crap and the ones who are way above what you’re able to pay [but totally worth every penny they’re asking], and you’ve finally found Graeme McFreelancer.

Graeme is willing to do everything you need him to do, and for the price. Actually, he may have lowballed himself, but that’s okay. You’ll take it. He’ll find out about it later. Or better yet, you’ll surprise him and make it up to him when Pen-Man becomes a hit! Extra checks are always nice, and you’re magnanimous enough to do that.

So here’s what happens: Graeme is going to ask for half up front, and half upon completion.

Now, some people have problems with this. Here’s a great example: would you pay your mechanic half up front to work on your car? How about your plumber? No? Then why should you pay Graeme half up front? That’s how some people feel. They feel Graeme is performing a service, and should be paid as such.

The problem is that this half now/half later is something of an industry standard within the indies. It gets perpetrated and perpetuated by others, so it becomes something of the norm.

I’m going to be hypocritical in a little while, but here’s my stance on paying the artist: mitigate. The more you’re able to mitigate, the less of a risk you’re taking with an artist possibly flaking on you.

I’ll definitely admit that I’ve lost money on art. I’ve paid half up front for a few pages, and then the artist disappeared on me. That’s happened to me a couple of times. I’m only out a few hundred dollars, but that’s money no longer in my pocket. There are horror stories of creators being out for much bigger money than that. If I had mitigated, I wouldn’t have been out of much money at all.

What do I mean by mitigate? Try this, or a variation thereof. [The caveat is that this is the first time you and the artist are working together.]

Pay page by page. Half gets you a low-res page, and the second half gets you a print-worthy page. What does this do for you? This saves you from possibly losing a lot of money, and it keeps the artist honest. If they want the money, they have to produce the work.

Here’s another variation: pay in batches. The batch can be however large or small you want. You pay half for the low res, and the rest to get the hi-res. If the artist flakes, you haven’t lost much, have you?

Mitigate. It will save you money.

Does this go for every step of the process? That depends on you. However, if a creator asks for the entire thing up front, no matter who they are, no matter how big of a name they are, unless you can verify they are in dire straits from a third party, never pay it. (Never?) Never.

Steve Rude was recently jailed and needed some money. So a fundraiser/art selling deal was set up for him. Before that, he needed money in order to not lose his house. These are verifiable by third parties, so this would be safe to pay Steve up front, because it would have been for a good cause and you know you would get your goods or services. But if it is someone who has a lower profile than Steve and is asking for payment in full for some reason or the other, go the other way. Fast.

(And how are you a hypocrite?) Well, I ask for half up front, and half upon completion. (HA!) There’s a reason for it.

My reasoning is this: as an editor, I have a LOT of work to do. If I’m managing a project, I’ll have as much work to do as the artist. How would you mitigate that? It is very difficult, because the script can move a lot from the first draft to the last, and there’s no real way to say how many drafts it will take to get to a place where the script can go to an artist. Half up front compensates me for the work I’m about to undertake, and it puts some control into the hands of the creator. (Really? I’m not seeing it.) The creator can take their time in getting the changes back to me, especially if I say we’re close to the end. This gives them time to get their second half together if they don’t already have it.

There isn’t a very fair way to mitigate for editorial. If you know of one, let me know. I’d love to hear it.

So you’ve agreed on a payment method. Graeme asked for half up front, half upon completion, and you said no. You’ll pay half for the low-res, and half for the high-res, on a five-page batch basis. You explain to Graeme that you’ve been burned before, and this protects both of you: there isn’t much you can do with a low-res file, and he gets paid for work performed. Win-win.

How are you actually going to get him the money?

A lot of creators have a PayPal account of some type. [If you don’t have one, go set one up right now! It’s free. Go! I’ll wait.] If you’re working with someone who doesn’t have PayPal, they may have Xoom, which is a little more complicated. Most of the creators you deal with will have one of these two. Some creators may need to use Western Union or something like that.

Western Union has a fee associated with it. It will cost to either send or to receive [I haven’t needed to send Western Union in a very long time]. Xoom should also have a fee associated with it. I know for a fact that PayPal does, but that fee can be mitigated. [Send the money as a personal gift. There’s no fee attached to that.]

If the creator doesn’t have a PayPal or Xoom account, and if they don’t want to use Western Union because of the fees, there’s always the good old check. This is a slower way, of course, because the check has to be made, then mailed, then received, then deposited. If the creator asks for a cashiers check, or a money order, then that means you have to go to your bank or local convenience store to get them what they want/need, and then mail it, etc. Slow, like I said. Look into setting up that PayPal account. It will save you a LOT of time and heartache in the long run.

Here’s a tip: PayPal links to your bank account. You have to verify the bank, and that can take a few days. [The instructions are simple to follow.] Once you’ve gotten paid, MOVE YOUR MONEY. Don’t leave it sitting in the PayPal account if you don’t have to. Transfer the money to your bank. Yes, this transfer can take up to a week, but strange things can happen. The creator may want to have their money refunded for whatever reason, and if they money is in there, then things can get squirrelly. Transfer the money. There is no fee associated with this. [See about getting a PayPal debit card, too. This means you’ll only be able to spend what’s on the card, and you will be emailed a receipt for every purchase made with it.]

Here’s another tip: want to see how much you’ve made or spent on comics? PayPal can keep track of that for you. It can also help you with your taxes. [This is also free.] Do some poking around the site. It’ll be enlightening.

Again, the above is for creators you’ve never worked with before. Once you’ve got a relationship with a team or two, then things will change. Or, once you’ve set up the status quo with another creator, then things should go much more smoothly for the next issue or the next project. The first one is always a getting to know you type of deal, and you get closer the longer you work together.

And that’s all I have. Homework: decide which method of payment makes the most sense for you and why, and then set up your PayPal account if you don’t already have one. You’re going to need it eventually.

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Category: Bolts & Nuts

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 stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

Comments (1)

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  1. I’ve had success paying artists a percentage for thumbnails, a percentage for tight roughs, and a percentage for finished pencils.

    Likewise for writers, a percentage for treatment, a percentage for plotting, and a percentage for final dialogue.

    For editors/project managers I agree half upfront/half upon completion of project.

    Work up a contract for everything and communicate. It is important that you know when materials will be delivered and what the pay will be and when it will be paid. Also, throw in a clause about what happens when it all goes south and nobody’s happy. I usually have a “kill fee” where the project stop–if for whatever reason, I’m not happy with their performance, or they are not happy with mine. We can both leave.

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