Friday, September 18, 2009

No free work, even in comics

If I could write anything and make a living at it, I'd choose comic books.

There's something about the form. It seems to match my style of writing well. Problem is, as difficult as it is to earn a living as a nonfiction freelance writer, it's even more of a challenge to do so as a comic book writer.

The reasons are many, but basically it boils down to this: A lot of writers want to be comic book writers. There aren't a whole lot of companies willing to pay writers to do this.

I've had some luck. An independent comics company last year published a four-issue comic book miniseries that I wrote. Another company hired me, and paid me $1,500, to write a comic-book adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. And this year, I've been working with an individual who's created a rock-and-roll comic. I've rewritten the first three books of his comic, the first of which he's already published. Two of my other short comic book scripts have made it into an anthology, and a third -- Halloween themed -- should be out this October in a different anthology.

So I've made a bit of progress. I'm nowhere near able to support myself on comic book writing, though.

Which leads me to the point of this post. There's a Web site out there called Digital Webbing, which is devoted to comic book writers, artists, inkers, editors and letterers. One of the members is creating an interesting anthology. The gimmick is that every story in the anthology must be a classic fairy tale set in the future.

Of course, writers were invited to submit their pitches. I toyed with the idea of coming up with an idea. It'd be nice exposure if I made it in the anthology. Unfortunately, there wasn't any guarantee of payment. The odds are good that the anthology will lose money. Most comics not published by Marvel, DC, Image, IDW or Darkhorse do. In fact, many comics published by those same big hitters lose money, too.

That means there'd be no profits to split among the creators. And these days, with me writing so many content stories, there seemed to be no time available for an endeavor that won't pay me money.

It's a shame. I am, of course, writing my own script for a graphic novel now. And there's no guarantee that it will ever make me any money. But that script is my own, not someone else's idea. These days, that's the only kind of free writing I can afford to do.

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