Author Topic: Portfolio Review Area  (Read 1989 times)

Offline Pyramid

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Portfolio Review Area
« on: June 22, 2015, 09:31:56 PM »
Last year, I took my portfolio to Comic Con in the hopes of switching careers.  I received several business cards, positive comments, but no job ... even though I was offered them.  The two offers however were back end deals, something most of the pros in the comic book industry will tell you usually ends up being a scam.  How do I know?  It's all over the place.   One site talks about it quite a bit, gutterzombie.com (founded by Craig McCloud who colors several books for DC and Marvel).  So, what is a back end deal?  A back end deal is when the artist basically works for free and if the book turns a profit they'll pay you for your work.  Better hope the writing, coloring, editing and marketing is up to snuff or your three months of work ends up basically being free and you don't keep the copyright.  When I was offered this, I was shocked that this would be allowed at Comic Con.  Providing avenues for potential talent to be expressed is a FANTASTIC thing to do at comic conventions but some publishers, especially new ones, are there to just take advantage of naive talent.  For me, I'm lucky I have 20+ experience in the graphic arts and friends who are pros with sound advice.  I hope someone from Comic Con tells all the publishers who do review portfolios that on site job offers cannot be back end deals or perhaps at the very least provide all the young pencilers, inkers and colorists a posted warning to deter the abuse of talent.  Allowing this to continue definitely does not support the comic arts.
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Offline citizenmilton

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Re: Portfolio Review Area
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2015, 09:23:35 AM »
Pyramid,

I definitely have sympathy for the feeling of being taken advantage of in terms of establishing oneself in the comics industry. Congratulations on receiving some offers, even if they aren't appealing offers, it's a sign you're on the right track.

But I wouldn't say that back-end deals are inherently a sign that a publisher or collaborator seeking to work on those terms is motivated solely on the idea of "taking advantage of" naive talent. It's simply the brutal economics of the lower end of the comics marketplace. Sales figures aren't that high. To break in, there's unfortunately got to be some sacrifice to get your work seen at first.

I'm on the other side of the same challenge, as a new comics writer. The challenge from my end is having to pay out-of-pocket for artwork. Some pro writers have advised me against doing this. However, when I place advertisements on the popular sites (Digital Webbing, Penciljack, etc.), I find that the quality level of the artists willing to work for back-end versus those who charge a page rate is pretty significant. It's a choice I'm making. I'd rather pay the price and be associated with a higher quality product. But, the terrain is very difficult to navigate. I've found that many artists can be fantastic and incredible and deliver brilliant work on schedule, but I've also found that many artists can disappear, be extremely late, and sometimes even fraudulent. I've had to learn some tough lessons, and at times I've felt taken advantage of. But I'm afraid it's just the reality of the marketplace at this point in time.

The one place I'd somewhat disagree is the statement "hope the writing, coloring, editing, and marketing is up to snuff" - those of us at the low end of the hierarchy cannot afford to simply "hope" those things are good - we need to take some level of ownership of those things, even if they aren't the things we're directly responsible for. We need to exercise good judgement in finding quality collaborators and when working with them find ways to push everyone's capabilities to their highest limits. Writers need to be able to have a good eye for art, and artists need to have an appreciation of the writing side.

Best of luck.

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Re: Portfolio Review Area
« Reply #2 on: Today at 02:56:53 AM »

Offline Pyramid

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Re: Portfolio Review Area
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2015, 03:31:20 PM »
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Pyramid,

I definitely have sympathy for the feeling of being taken advantage of in terms of establishing oneself in the comics industry. Congratulations on receiving some offers, even if they aren't appealing offers, it's a sign you're on the right track.

But I wouldn't say that back-end deals are inherently a sign that a publisher or collaborator seeking to work on those terms is motivated solely on the idea of "taking advantage of" naive talent. It's simply the brutal economics of the lower end of the comics marketplace. Sales figures aren't that high. To break in, there's unfortunately got to be some sacrifice to get your work seen at first.

I'm on the other side of the same challenge, as a new comics writer. The challenge from my end is having to pay out-of-pocket for artwork. Some pro writers have advised me against doing this. However, when I place advertisements on the popular sites (Digital Webbing, Penciljack, etc.), I find that the quality level of the artists willing to work for back-end versus those who charge a page rate is pretty significant. It's a choice I'm making. I'd rather pay the price and be associated with a higher quality product. But, the terrain is very difficult to navigate. I've found that many artists can be fantastic and incredible and deliver brilliant work on schedule, but I've also found that many artists can disappear, be extremely late, and sometimes even fraudulent. I've had to learn some tough lessons, and at times I've felt taken advantage of. But I'm afraid it's just the reality of the marketplace at this point in time.

The one place I'd somewhat disagree is the statement "hope the writing, coloring, editing, and marketing is up to snuff" - those of us at the low end of the hierarchy cannot afford to simply "hope" those things are good - we need to take some level of ownership of those things, even if they aren't the things we're directly responsible for. We need to exercise good judgement in finding quality collaborators and when working with them find ways to push everyone's capabilities to their highest limits. Writers need to be able to have a good eye for art, and artists need to have an appreciation of the writing side.

Best of luck.

Do not mistake good business/financial security with skirting responsibility.  Intent aside, there still remains a possibility that the artist will not get paid with a back end deal.  That's why pros are advocating page rates and paying up front.  The artist also does not have control over who writes, unless it's a collab project, colors, or markets, that's the editor's job and their responsibility.  That's why every company has them, it's a full time and then some profession.  As for me, I will continue to exercise good judgment and avoid the possibility of not getting paid.  I hope Comic Con does the same and posts no back end deals.
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Offline citizenmilton

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Re: Portfolio Review Area
« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2015, 11:11:27 AM »
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Intent aside, there still remains a possibility that the artist will not get paid with a back end deal. 

Oh, absolutely - it's not just a possibility - it's a statistical likelihood. For folks just starting out, back-end deals will likely get artists far less money than a page rate. But when managing a comics career, immediate page-rate compensation isn't necessarily the only thing aspiring artists should consider.

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That's why pros are advocating page rates and paying up front.

In general, I see where that's probably a best practice, but if I was on the artist side of the industry, I wouldn't close myself off completely to all back-end projects, it just depends on the project. If it was a back-end deal on a project with a publisher that has a track record of getting books in the top-300 sales, then, getting your work seen by a wider audience might have more value than the short-term impact of the page rate.

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The artist also does not have control over who writes, unless it's a collab project, colors, or markets, that's the editor's job and their responsibility.

The artist may not have control over who the writer is if they are seeking employment directly through a publisher who chooses to do business that way. But that's not the only avenue to finding work as an artist. Artists can pick and choose from writers by participating in several online communities where writers are posting advertisements on a daily basis, paying gigs. Artists can exercise judgement and discretion with whom to collaborate or not.

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  As for me, I will continue to exercise good judgment and avoid the possibility of not getting paid.
 

I'm definitely envious of that perspective; wish writers could enter the industry with the same commitment, but I'm afraid we writers not only begin without getting paid, we frequently have to invest our own money into projects when starting out. Short-term profitability is not my primary concern on every project as I'm starting out. For example, on one of my current projects, I could've found an artist who'd be willing to work solely for back-end, but their work likely would be much inferior to the art that's being produced by my collaborator currently getting a page-rate.

But if I had an artist friend, I'd strongly recommend to them to put the quality of the collaborator as important if not more important than the size of the paycheck - at least starting out. It just so happens, I've met a couple of brilliantly talented writers who are destined to be big names in the industry. If I had an artist friend, I'd tell them to work with them, regardless of cost, and I think in the medium-term, they'd be so much closer to their goals and be working with their dream publishers sooner than they would if they churned out 100 paid pages for some webcomic with good page rates but poor writing.

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I hope Comic Con does the same and posts no back end deals.

I think the real problem here is setting expectations. It seems to me like your experiences show that it's perfectly reasonable for an artist to participate in one of these portfolio reviews assuming they're interviewing for immediately-paying gigs. And that may be true of some of the folks providing portfolio reviews. I don't think it's Comic-Con's responsibility to police contracts and work arrangements. It's up to each individual - on some projects, a back-end deal makes the most sense for all parties, on others, not so much. What Comic-Con should do is empower the people bringing their portfolios with some resources to let their expectations be set. Publishers will not want to share their financial arrangements with a third party like the convention. But, Comic-Con could help artists - giving them some literature about common business arrangements, provide artists with some sample questions to ask, so that people don't walk away from a review session thinking they'd just landed a paying gig when in actuality that hadn't landed anything of the kind. That's got to be one heck of a disappointing experience and one the con could help minimize.

But, I don't think they should disqualify smaller publishers who work on back-end deals. Ultimately, it's the artist's responsibility to do the due diligence, check out prospects - and there's a lot of chatter on the Internet, so you can at least get a grasp of a publisher's reputation.


Offline Pyramid

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Re: Portfolio Review Area
« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2015, 11:12:56 PM »
Well, you're definitely a writer.
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