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Hi everyone,

This is not a beware but a general request for advice. I was recently contacted by someone on DeviantArt who wanted to know my prices for sequential art. While I have some experience making comics for my own enjoyment, I've never taken comic commissions before. I asked them how much work would be involved; the level of detail, whether they were expecting pencil/ink/color art, three-to-four panel comics or full-page illustrations etc.

They didn't reply for nearly a week, so I figured they may have already found somebody or forgotten the note. Today I got their reply, in which they replied with this: "Here's an answer to your questions: it's 42 pages, inked, full page illustrations, and simplistic style for characters, with backgrounds."

Having never done comic commissions before, I must admit the thought of 42 pages right off the bat sounds pretty daunting. It seems like a project that would keep me busy for quite a while, quite likely keeping me from taking on any other commissions for the duration. (I'm not sure yet if there is a deadline involved, but I plan on asking.) I would have to price it it such a way that it would be worth declining any other possible commissions.

I've looked around online for advice on pricing. I found a few discussions about sequential art even on this comm, but they tended to talk about covering the costs of physical materials like paper, pencils, etc. Google mostly brings up prices charged by professionals who work for big companies like Marvel and DC. I'm a digital artist, I do art for a hobby and I live outside the US. I don't know if this person plans on pitching this comic to a publishing company at a later date. In case they do, I'm assuming copyright issues should raise the prices somewhat, but I'm not sure how much.

Any advice, artists? How much should I charge per page when the art is digital (hence no material costs as such), the project is 42 full-page inked* illustrations and I'm not sure if the commissioner has plans to try and get the comic published eventually? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

* I'm assuming that by "inked" this person means I would be the one doing both the pencilling and the inking, not that he has two separate artists for the different tasks.

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( 33 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jan. 12th, 2011 09:46 pm (UTC)
My very first paid comic project (for a company) was the same number of b/w inked pages with simple characters and backgrounds, and they paid me about 140$ per page (with no royalties after it was published). I was using a computer for everything, btw. An individual probably doesn't have that level of resources but keep in mind how much time it will take you to read their script, do the pencils, do the inks, do revisions, etc. Not to mention that if you do your work traditionally, you will have material costs as well.

Anyways, if you do work something out with them, absolutely make sure you get a strong contract with them to work out specific art and payment delivery dates.
Jan. 12th, 2011 09:53 pm (UTC)
How long does it take you to do a page?
What is your time worth per hour? How much would you charge for smaller commissions per hour at about that size?

Multiply by 42.

It would cost me about $100 per page to do a comic to make it worth my time. So, that's how I'd charge.
Jan. 12th, 2011 11:18 pm (UTC)
I've never worked with hourly rates, all my previous commission work has been a pay-per-character base. And since all the comic work I've done prior to this has been for my own enjoyment, I've never kept tabs on how long it takes to finish one page. Definitely something to consider.

Thanks for the advice, I'll keep it in mind.
Jan. 12th, 2011 10:05 pm (UTC)
about £80 per page in the UK, ink and colour with simple shading ^^
Jan. 12th, 2011 10:12 pm (UTC)
42 pages sounds like quite a commitment, and I get the feeling it puts you off a little, especially as they didn't respond to your query for a week.

It may be a good idea to discuss with this person if you could divide the project up into sections, for example 5 pages at a time, if that would make it less stressful for you. It would also mean payments can be broken up and scheduled accordingly, and both parties would have less to lose if the arrangement doesn't work out.

You will need to discuss with them their plans for this comic- like if they intend to get it published or have anything else that can be profited from done with it. Before agreeing to anything or naming your price you may also want to know the content and themes for this comic, and specify exactly what level of quality "simplistic style for characters, with backgrounds" means.

As for pricing itself... I've never done such a thing and have no idea about that. Hopefully other comments can be more helpful with that.
Jan. 12th, 2011 11:26 pm (UTC)
"42 pages sounds like quite a commitment, and I get the feeling it puts you off a little, especially as they didn't respond to your query for a week."

Yes, this. The fact that they would throw such a big number out there immediately without even asking for samples (to know if my style meshes with what they have in mind) makes me think they might be expecting some kind of art-on-demand machine. On the other hand, it could just be that they wanted me to know the scope of the project from the get-go.
The fact that they didn't respond for a week makes me question their commitment somewhat, I'm wondering if they would be more or less reliable to respond when the project was already underway. I would hate to be kept hanging for days on end to get approval for each page.

If I were to take on this project, I intend to suggest to them that we start off with 5-10 pages, just to get a feel for the whole thing.

That's a good point about the content and themes, I didn't even think of that. I definitely wouldn't want to find out halfway the story's going to turn into hentai porn or something like that. ;/

Thanks for the comments, they're very helpful!
Jan. 12th, 2011 10:15 pm (UTC)
I agree that the pricing should be based on what your hourly rate is. Also consider how much time it will realistically to do that kind of a job (Think worst case and best case and split the difference). Figure out how much potential income this might cost you.

That all being said. I would be veeeery careful about this. If they offer a contract, check it over carefully and make sure that you are not signing away all rights with payment. If you create the contract, make sure you carefully spell out how this will proceed and how many changes that they can make and where changes can't be made anymore. Make sure that THEY understand that these are not guidelines but how it is gonna go.

If they hem and haw then give it some serious thought about whether you want to continue or even start with them.

I am sure others can add more about what to watch out for on this.
Jan. 12th, 2011 11:34 pm (UTC)
I don't usually work with hourly rates, all my previous commissions have been on a pay-per-character basis. As of this moment, I have no income at all (lost my job just before Christmas), so apart from having to turn down other possible commissioners in favor of the comic project, I doubt it would cost me anything.

I appreciate the advice about getting a water-tight contract. What mostly worries me is the difference between the US and Europe. I haven't asked yet, but I'm assuming this person is from the US where different copyright laws might apply. I always feel a bit iffy when it comes to making deals that could eventually lead to the material being published overseas. I have no way to control how the material ends up being used and whether the other person stays true to their word, even if we did have a contract. If the material was published in the US and they ended up breaching the contract, I don't know how much of a chance I would have of suing them, being a non-US citizen.
Jan. 12th, 2011 10:25 pm (UTC)
I may be reading it wrong, but when he says "full page illustrations" that makes me think one image per page. Either way, I wouldn't charge anything less than $100 per page. You may not have "physical costs", but you still have the wear and tear on your tablet nibs, the time you need to set up each page, and any back and forth you need to make with him.
Jan. 12th, 2011 11:43 pm (UTC)
I looked around their gallery where they had sample pages from a comic they had been working on for some time with (from what I understood) another artist. It was a comic with simplistic character designs and some minor background details, so I'm guessing the project the person is suggesting would be at least similar in style to this one, if not a direct continuation. That comic consisted of multiple panels on each page, so I assume that is what he is after. But for clarity's sake, it's definitely something I should bring up with him, to avoid misunderstandings.

I definitely don't want to be selling myself short with a project this big. $100 seems a little high to me, considering I'm not a pro and the fact that I'm working digitally. But that could just be because I'm so used to the super-low prices people set up for themselves on DeviantArt. Thanks for the advice, I appreciate it.
(no subject) - celestinaketzia - Jan. 13th, 2011 12:00 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - raeraesama - Jan. 13th, 2011 04:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 12th, 2011 10:25 pm (UTC)
You're assuming that by "inked," this person means (everything you said in the footnote).

Assume nothing.

Given how long it took the client to get back to you, it is best to proceed with everything laid out beforehand, so no surprises come up mid- or late-project. "But I thought you mean this, not that, because you said this other thing, here." Avoid that.

Get as many ducks in a row beforehand, to avoid hassle, misunderstanding and possible anger, later.

Jan. 12th, 2011 11:15 pm (UTC)
This is good advice, and definitely something I should keep in mind. Thanks!
Jan. 12th, 2011 10:36 pm (UTC)
looks like the appropriate price is sitting at around $4000-$5000

With that kind of money involved, make sure they are taking the whole thing extremely seriously before you make any commitments.
Jan. 12th, 2011 10:49 pm (UTC)
Do. Not. Do. This. Without. A. Signed. Contract.
One that clearly states the scope of your work, number of changes you're willing to make before charging extra, and that you reserve all rights not explicitly given to the commissioner. Also, include in the contract your per-page cost, and sum total for the whole project. Make sure you get the contract signed and mailed to you, not scanned and emailed. You need the original signature.

Look up some of the suggestions that graphics designers or web designers use to guide their pricing and contract work. What you're doing is quite similar in scope to designing a website for someone.
Jan. 12th, 2011 11:48 pm (UTC)
I wasn't planning on going ahead with something like this without a contract, but I didn't think about having it physically signed and mailed to me. Seems like it would be important should the question of publication ever arise. Thanks a lot for the advice.
(no subject) - delphinios - Jan. 13th, 2011 12:00 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 12th, 2011 11:29 pm (UTC)
Personally, I'd want a sample of the scripts they write.

I don't know what you'd rather work with, but I think there's a difference between a detailed script describing each panel, and "five pages fight scene here".
Jan. 12th, 2011 11:45 pm (UTC)
Very true. I've worked with another comic script writer before (non-commissioned project) and they were very thorough with their descriptions. I hadn't even considered the idea that another writer might not be quite so easy to work with, so it's something I should keep in mind. Thanks for bringing this up.
Jan. 13th, 2011 12:04 am (UTC)
I charge $100 a page for inked B&W, but bear in mind the cost of the comic will also include doing the page breakdowns and layouts. Also, find out if you're expected to do the lettering as well, because that takes a lot of time too.

Ask to see the script and character designs first. A 42 page comic of people standing around talking would take a lot less effort than 42 pages of an extended battle scene with all the ships at sea.
Jan. 13th, 2011 12:16 am (UTC)
Digital art also has material costs, such as licenses for software and unavoidable upgrades.

You can try to offer taking the commission in batches, that way he doesn't have to pay everything in one go and it's less daunting for you. Be sure not to undercharge yourself and demand extra for the publishing/redistribution/editing rights.

$100 a page is not outrageous, especially if they're full A4-sized pages with 4+ frames per page.
Jan. 13th, 2011 12:50 am (UTC)
Without knowing details I'd say AT LEAST $50 per page, and $100 is reasonable too. It depends a lot on how complicated they want things and how comfortable you feel with the medium. I'm going down to $50 because I've seen some comics that are basically talking headshots with little-to-no background in a style the artist can rattle off pretty rapidly - that I miiiiight go as low as $50/page on if I liked the story, etc.

Whatever price you agree on, I would say to work on a smaller scale than 42 pages. If that's the whole project, fine, but for example get $$ for 1-5 pages (depending on what you're comfortable with) up front, and then go from there. Leave yourself room to adjust the price after this point. If that won't work then ask if they have any smaller "pilot" stories you can try out. 8 pages or less.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 13th, 2011 02:44 pm (UTC)
I gotta disagree with this...I don't think there's any red flags sent up by the page count in this case, beyond those inherent to any Big Project. In the absence of any other indicators that they plan to publish it without your name attached to it, there's no reason to jump immediately to potential theft.
Jan. 13th, 2011 03:30 am (UTC)
My opinion, a fair price for something like this depends on a lot of different factors. I'd definitely ask to see script and character designs before quoting; if it's some slice-of-lifey type thing with a bunch of fox chicks in tank tops standing around talking to each other, $100 a page is probably a bit high. If it's some sci fi epic with musclebound tank-men in full battle armor going to war against another planet in their complicated spaceship, $100 a page might be a bit LOW. It just depends.

I gotta say, though...a 42 page comic is a huge commitment either way. I'd make sure you're *really* in for something like this before agreeing to it, because it's going to be a huge amount of work. It'd suck for you if you got partway in and wound up hating yourself for even starting, and it'd suck for the buyer if you got partway through and then just couldn't do anymore because he then he has to part all over from square 1 with a new artist. I'd be really careful about taking on a project like this. Maybe do a couple of random "practice pages" first just to acquaint yourself with how long it's gonna take.

My .02 cents. Good luck, whatever you decide to do!
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