“Good approaches for finding comic artists to work with,” is a question in my skribit that has been staring at me for quite sometime. I have so many different answers and ideas, depending on the specific project and budget.
This is a very general start point and articulation of things I have found and seen to be useful. There are many fine smart people out there and I encourage your comments, questions, thoughts and corrections. I have further blog posts stewing that approach this question and related aspects from different angles. Mike Luoma wrote an interesting post recently on how to get an indy comicbook out into the world that includes a section on how to find an artist within a broader context. There was also an interesting discussion of Mike’s post in the Comic Book Business for Creators and Creations in LinkedIn, with many views worth taking in.
Future posts I have percolating include “the targeted approach” and “how to get an electrician to work on your house for ‘free'”.
How to find a comics artist 1 – the general callout approach
Recommended prep: go to comic creator hangout spaces. I recommend you find a few comics places you will enjoy participating in, there are lots of them. Participate in the forums and learn about the industry/community from a variety of places. Do not accept any one voice as gospel. If you do not have time to do this sort of thing you may need to hire an editor/project manager/comics consultant as going in blind could be very unpleasant. Industry knowledge is important.
1) Pitch your idea and ask for quotes. Digital Webbing is an interesting place to start, it has many job ads you can look at to inspire your own ad. Look at the ads you like and consider why. Look at the ads you dislike and consider why. Once you place your ad it is a bit like drinking from a firehose as you will be swamped by more applications than you can poke a stick at. Generally the more thoughtful your pitch, the more seasoned pros you will get in the mix.
The process of putting together a good ad is a valuable, clarifying experience. Think about what the important things are, the critical components (project must be completed by 1 April, or must be able to draw detailed backgrounds and convey subtle emotions), the things you like (eg artists or artistic styles you adore), the things you don’t want (eg if vector art gives you convulsions). I recommend you mention things that artists might not enjoy (eg detailed art direction and lots of revisions) it’s important to warn potential artists up front. Mention how how rights will be managed (or if you’re open to a number of scenarios). Be prepared to pay more if you are not sharing rights and be aware that asking for all rights in exchange for a small amount of money is offensive to some people. If you have a maximum amount you can spend make it clear in your pitch so you don’t waste people’s time.
Other places to put ads include LinkedIn and Ronin Studios, but there are many others (put your favourite places in the comments). All these places have interesting conversations in them and are good places for your prep work anyway. You may wish to ask for feedback on your proposal before placing the ad proper. Drawing on the knowledge of your peers can be a very useful thing.
I also have a small list of artists I can forward job ads to (paying gigs ONLY). Drop me a line if you want me to do that and we can discuss.
2) Go through the many applications you receive and put together a shortlist. Don’t be shocked that some people ask for real money. This is reasonable. A new creator might be happy to be paid less, but comics are a really difficult art-form and it might be worth paying more for experience. You need to weigh up what will work best for your project. Look through the range of applications to get a feel for what is out there and to help you decide what is the best match for your story and working style. If you are new to the game I highly recommend going with someone that is either supported by a studio or someone who has done commissioned/collaborative work before. Sometimes cheap costs you more in the long run as projects have to be ditched and restarted. Like anything where money is exchanged, expensive does not guarantee quality, but it does increase your chances of getting quality. Take time to look through samples, ask questions, look at previous work and poke around their website.
3) You have a shortlist, now it’s time pick someone. Advise people if they are shortlisted, advise people that they did not make the cut (this can be time consuming, but good to do if at all possible). Follow up questions to the people on the shortlist can be handy and help you get a feel for their voice, responsiveness and work style. Some people ask for test pages, if you have the budget to pay for that it sounds like a rockin’ thing to do. If you are asking people to do test pages for free you will probably discourage seasoned comic creators from working with you.
I also recommend running a search on the artist’s name. If you find lovely posts by them, interesting artwork, joyous clients you know you’re onto a winner. If you find angry interviews, unhappy clients and ditched projects you may wish to flee!
3) You’ve found your artist/studio. Talk to the artist in detail about how the process will work (for negotiation and communication tips check out Katie Lane’s Work Made for Hire). Discuss milestones, hopes, ambitions, expectations, rights, preferred communication styles, preferred methods of payment and so on. This is a great opportunity to get a stronger feel for who you are collaborating with and identify any problem areas before they become major issues.
4) After discussing the process write up an e-mail that articulates what you’ve agreed on and check in with the artist that this is ok. This e-mail will form a baseline to return to.