"7) Pay Better. And I don't mean a 10% increase. I'm talking 300% to 500%. When I signed on with Tokyopop four years ago, the average contract was $10,000 (I made just slightly more, but not much), but the average book was taking 9 months to a year. Many of these artists were living with parents or relatives at the time of signing their contract (myself included), but the majority of us have moved out by now and have a living, breathing human being to shelter, clothe, and feed. Eventually, we will have families of our own. $10,000 or even $15,000 isn't enough to live off of in most American cities. Tell me $20,000, I'll think about it. Give me $35,000, and we'll start talkin'. $55,000 plus, and I'm just about yours, plus I can hire a small staff to get this book out fast and efficiently, and I'll guarantee you a quality that will blow your brains out and will sweep art-inclined readers off their feet."
I feel that for the sake of clarity and the desire not to continue repeating myself for fear of sounding like a broken record, that I need to expound on this statement. The essay I wrote down below, that was a call to major publishers and established artists. In no way do I believe that the principals and pay that should be applied to a major, potentially global endeavor should be applied to the grassroots press or small publisher, and I want that to be absolutely clear.
For two years I helped run a publishing company putting out fiction novels from non-agented, beginning writers. We paid 10%-14% on gross sales (that's gross, not net), put no holds against returns, held no "costs" or "administration fees" against the writer, and paid bi-annually so that writers were getting paid within six months of publication with a thorough summary of what sold where for how much. And we had a damn good grassroots free marketing campaign.
Not once did we pay an advance.
But for us and our writers, it worked, and we turned a slight but fair and steady profit, and I can proudly and definitively say that we made our authors happy. None of them were able to quit their jobs, but it was enough extra in pocket to have made it worth it.
Even though I am no longer a publisher (the call to create my own works turned out to be too strong), I still uphold and cherish the values of one. Small publishers work at the grassroots level to spread ideas and methods of entertainment that typically would not be accepted by the mainstream media. Small publishers offer an outlet for beginner writers and artists to get a foot in the industry, to build a name for themselves, and to discover what it's like to be published . . . and decide whether or not they wish to continue along that path. It's no secret that most major publishers require authors to be published before they'll pick them up nor that many writers use the small press to kick-start or further their careers, but it's an understanding that brings small publishers new talent with a fresh and exciting voice and the hopes that if some authors do well, that success will eventually trickle back down in the form of increased sales for their previous works (or a buyout of titles from their new publisher).
The small publisher (and yes, the self-published as well) are what keeps any medium vibrant and alive with diversity and the passion of the young-at-heart.
So when I pitched out ballpark figures in that previous post, I was in no way referencing small or even mid-sized publishers. It was a direct challenge to the guys (and gals) with the money in their pocketbooks and the means of pulling off such an endeavor. For a 250+ page book (the minimum length I believe would be required for most YA and older self-contained GN) a $35,000 advance is roughly $140 a page. The "big two" (marvel and DC) pay many of their artists that for pencils alone. And this would be for the writing, the layouts, the pencils, the inks, the tone/colors, and potentially the lettering. If you ask me, $35,000 for a 250+ GN is a steal.
But again, some clarity. This is in reference to established, previously published creators. Nobody in their right mind would pay that much to a beginning writer/artist, and I still, to this day, believe that the advance I got from Tokyopop was more than sufficient for somebody who hadn't written or drawn a single book in her life. (My gripes with them were in other areas I'd prefer not to mention here.) An advance for a first-time author is exceedingly rare and the amount that I received rarer still.
But, if you're an author who has produced books on a deadline, been published, and proven yourself to be reliable and sellable, then DAMN RIGHT I believe you have the right to negotiate for more! But that means earning that right as well: by producing the script and sample pages that get a publisher excited and salivating to see more. There aren't many people who can pull that off. But I firmly believe, and will argue until I'm blue in the face with those who disagree, that they deserve it and more.