Finding help when you cannot offer payment?
September 18, 2006 7:11 AM   Subscribe

I have an graphic novel that I would like to publish online, however I've found it a little difficult looking for people who want or can help me with the project. Perhaps you might have some advice?

It's not a surprise that it is hard finding help, primarily because of two reasons. There is no payment included, and the graphic novel has been inspired by the Oddworld Universe.

The project is an idea I have been developing for a while now and I really want to get started on it. However I need talented artists that are willing to help bring the story to life. The benefit for the artist would be that their work would be showcased to a wide audience on a professional level.

I've thought about offering free hosting and domain names or even running a competition for a new iPod nano (but I'd lose out on the latter idea, unless someone donated/funded a prize).

Perhaps someone has some advice, or suggestions on what I can do to help me find help (that's talented)?

Thanks for your time.
posted by Sevenupcan to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
try the MeFi Jobs section. you can post pro bono work there.
posted by carsonb at 7:25 AM on September 18, 2006

How long is it? How well-developed is the script? Keep in mind that, if you're talking 40+ pages, any non-pro that draws it is going to be working on it for months, maybe a year. So you'll have to make a sweet, sweet lure to make it worth their while.

Have you thought at all about learning to draw? I was in your exact shoes-- wanted to write comics, had lengthy ideas, fretted about getting them drawn-- and in the end I decided that with a project of that length, it was just easier (and more personally enriching) to start to learn to draw myself. It took me a year to feel like I'd learned the basics, but I think it was worth it.
posted by COBRA! at 8:57 AM on September 18, 2006

I agree with Cobra. Unless you have a comic-drawing friend who loves your story, it's gonna be really hard for you to find someone who will

A) do it for free.
B) do it well.

Remember that just having their work "showcased to a wide audience" doesn't mean that much (anyone can grab a domain and self-publish on their own) unless you have major connections with a pre-existing publisher or something.

Also keep in mind that drawing a comic generally takes way more time than writing one. And if the story's based on Oddworld, doesn't that preclude the idea that you or the artist could make any kind of money off of it? Essentially, you'd be looking for someone to devote months of his/her life to illustrating fanfic.

So, yeah: if it's important to you to create this, the best option is probably gonna be to draw it yourself.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:18 AM on September 18, 2006

I regret to say it (because I am also not a good enough artist to make real comics but I think I could script well enough to write good comics) but I get the impression it's quite tough for a writer to find an artist to collaborate with. You can argue whether drawing is harder than writing, but there's no denying drawing takes longer and generally requires more specialized equipment, and I suspect (though I couldn't prove it) there are simply more aspiring writers than artists out there.

You already know your starting problems: it's unpaid and because it's based on a commercial universe it's more than usually likely to be forever labeled as fanart and relegated to an amateur (and consequently unpaid) effort. It's hard enough to get money for making comics: because of copyright and trademark issues it is near impossible to make money making comics about somebody else's speculative universe.

Though he's a bit of a controversial figure, I'll give you two links that are from David Sims (of Cerebus fame) old in-comic editorial "Notes From the President" section because I think they are quite relevant to your question -

1. Advice about whether a writer can realistically self-publish in comics. I think his advice about catering to an artists needs is very relevant. Do you have actual script examples you can show to artists so they can see whether the work they'd be doing would be any fun? If not, get to work: good ideas, frankly, are a dime a dozen (anybody got a dime? I'll even give you a baker's dozen), and yours isn't even set in an original universe. Unless you can display some really hot writing chops, what's the attraction for an artist signing on?

Although brief, I want to emphasize the point in the third to last paragraph of this editorial: Sims advice if you really want to use somebody else's character is change the name, change the appearance, and now it's your character. Consider thinking about what you really like about this alternate universe, coming up with original details to hang on that speculative armature, and creating something original. Better yet, think what it is about these ideas you've been developing that excite you, and develop an entirely original universe.

If you just want to create your fan fiction, you would probably have best luck recruiting in forums etc. catering specifically to fans of this universe, if such things exist. The general population of things like Mefi Projects/Jobs, Craigslist etc. are probably too dilute to be very likely places to find prospects. And you probably better resign yourself to pretty much getting what you're willing to pay for.
posted by nanojath at 9:40 AM on September 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

The benefit for the artist would be that their work would be showcased to a wide audience on a professional level.

Any professional artist will tell you that this is bullshit, and is in no way a proper or valuable alternative to actually getting paid for the work. Artists/illustrators/cartoonists are professionals, so treat them as such.

An iPod Nano costs what, $200? I charge at least that amount for a single page of comic work. It's hardly incentive to illustrate an entire book -- especially when you're suggesting that you'd only offer up an iPod if someone else donated it to you.

My advice to you is simple: don't be a cheapskate.

See this thread for more on the topic.
posted by Robot Johnny at 10:00 AM on September 18, 2006

Well, I'd put it this way:

If you, the writer, aim to have sole creative control, direction, and most of the credit for the work, you get art by paying the artist. ($200 is a reasonable base amount per-page for comic art, and that's not even that profitable for the artist; IME it works out to about $20-$30/hour, which is pretty funny given the previous thread Robot Johnny linked to... but then lots of people want to draw comics, so it depresses the prices even though decent comic pages are labor-intensive things.)

If you want to enter into a partnership with an (aspiring) artist you'll have to cede a significant amount of those things. The artist is your partner, after all. This is much harder at this point, because you've already defined what you want, and you have to find an artist who shares your passions. (You'd probably have to look somewhere in the Oddworld fan community. Surely there is one.) Usually working partnerships grow organically: you're a writer, she's an artist, you're friends, you're familiar with each others' mindsets, then you both conceive of the big project and work on it together from the outset. That would be a joint venture.
posted by furiousthought at 10:27 AM on September 18, 2006

I totally second Robot Johnny's comment. A comic takes a lot of time; a graphic novel is a HUGE committment for an artist, and because you're basing it on a pre-existing look and feel, you've stripped much of the creative delight out of it. I take it you don't have a publisher? So collage existing Oddworld stuff into a format that will make your ideas tenable, use that to pitch to publishers, and when you get one (no sure thing, either) let them hook you up with and pay for your artists.

By the way, your Oddworld wiki link is rather pointless.
posted by DenOfSizer at 12:12 PM on September 18, 2006

Thank you for everyone's comments and advice. The points you made have allowed me to visualise this from artists' point of view much clearer.

Thank you for your input Robot Johnny, I would never dream of being a cheapskate. I couldn't be content with myself if the artists didn't feel the enthusiasm and the worthwhile nature of working on this project as I do. A part of me would like to see something of this so much that I am willing to pay artists respectable money for their time, however it wouldn't be the smartest idea as I wouldn't be able to commercialise it and I would see little return on it.

What I would like to do in return is anything I can to help them. My main profession is web design and any skills and/or resources I could offer would be theirs. Would an aspiring artist/illustrator/cartoonist find this fair, providing they enjoyed working on the comic with me?

As for the scripting and storyline, there is room for a lot of play despite the already speculative universe. While I have already decided on some of the key events and the direction I would like to see the novel go in, I would still like to expand it with the artists own ideas. I would not take full credit for the work as I would like each artist to contribute their own ideas to both the story and artistic direction. They would receive as much credit for the work as I would, if not more, after all I only have the ideas.

I would create an original graphic novel that is based on my own ideas and creations (in fact I do have an idea) if it wasn't for that fact that this project was initially thought of because I love the Oddworld universe and see so much potential and wanted to give the community more of it. Thank you nanojath for your comments, the links were really valuable to me thank you.

But as I think about it more and more, I realise that have very few options.

1. I make a commitment to myself to learn how to draw and create the novel myself.

2. Really simplify the scope of the script/project, so that less time is taken up from the artist.

3. Put it on the shelf for now until I have the skills to illustrate the novel myself, or find a way of drawing some money from this endeavour.

4. And finally, improve my pitch whatever I do.

My apologise for the Oddworld wiki link, I didn't mean to link to that wiki. Here is the correct one Oddworld Wiki. Again thanks for everyone's comments, I have been away for the last two nights and have only just been able to reply. If you would like to view a small snippet of the project in progress you can view the site, and some of the artwork.
posted by Sevenupcan at 2:00 PM on September 20, 2006

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