The Garcia Method: Contracts Are Fun! (No really!)

Garcia-Method

With his crack team of artistic Avengers and an all-powerful editor at his beck and call, Ryan Garcia is about to embark on a journey to turn his epic idea into the next essential digital comic read. However to avoid ending up a bitter old hack counting his pennies while others profit from his idea, he’s going to get this team to sign a contract. But don’t be scared it’s a nice contract! Ryan talks us through the easy way to set up a creative team contract in The Garcia Method: Contracts Are Fun! (No really!)

Ryan Garcia.jpgOnce you’ve picked out your perfect creative team who are going to make your idea into the next Action Comics, then it’s time to talk contracts, so none of you end up like Shuster and Siegel, signing your million dollar ideas away for pocket change. But don’t worry, we’re here to guide you through the whole process because, believe it or not, contracts are fun!

That’s not a joke.  Contracts really are fun.  I do them for a living.  Or rather, they can be fun.  And they should be fun for a project like a comic book.  While contracts are typically written in dry, hard to understand forms that we all call Legalese, there is no requirement for contracts to be difficult to read or understand.  Contracts are supposed to document a meeting of the minds; the business relationship that both sides are entering into.  I’m a huge proponent of contracts written in plain English that anyone can understand.

When it was time for me to sign up my creative team I looked at a few comic book contract templates out there and thought they were hideous.  So I wrote my own and I’m going to give you the template.  Naturally you’ll need to customize it for your needs and depending on where you live you may want to consult with an attorney as well since I’m not your lawyer.  But I can see this template working for many people.  Next week I’ll provide a link to the full template but for now I wanted to run down the sections with you so you can understand every word that goes into this contract.

I’d hope it’s obvious, but just in case you’ve decided to be literal like Drax the Destroyer, when I put something like [PUT YOUR NAME HERE] in the contract that means you should replace it with your name.  Got it?  Good.

This is a contract

You know what’s fun?  Comic books.  You know what isn’t fun?  Reading contracts.  Which really sucks when you need a contract for making a comic book.  That’s where this document comes in.  Contracts are just a place for people to record their agreement–there’s no need for Latin or Legalese or semi-colons.  So let’s get this done and then proceed to the fun part.

If your creative team has worked professionally before then they’ve probably signed a contract or two in their lifetimes.  I like to call out that this is a contract even though it looks like no other contract they’ve signed before.

The Comic.  This contract is for the comic book [PUT YOUR COMIC PROJECT NAME HERE].  Just to make things simple, we’ll call it the Comic from now on.  Sometimes we’ll call it the Awesome Comic.  Sometimes we’ll call it Al.  But we won’t call it late for dinner (just in case we have any Catskills comedians from the 1950s reading this).

Since you’ll probably refer to your comic a few times throughout the contract I always find it easier to describe the project up front and then just call it the Comic for the rest of the contract.

The Cool People Working on the Comic.  This contract is between [PUT YOUR NAME HERE] and [PUT THE NAME OF THE CREATIVE TEAM MEMBER HERE].  We’ll use first names from now on.  Sometimes we’ll refer to both people as the Parties.  Because ain’t no party like a comic book party.

This section of the contract identifies who is signing it.  After this section you can just use first names to refer to any individual or you can use “the Parties” to mention something for both people.  Because that sounds festive.

If you have formed a company that will be publishing your comic book, or your creative team member is being hired as a company rather than an individual (it happens) then you can also put “in their capacity as representative of [COMPANY NAME]” after their names.  Or something similar.

The Amazing Work Being Done on the Comic.  This contract covers [CREATIVE TEAM MEMBER’S FIRST NAME]’s work on the Comic as [DESCRIBE THEIR ROLE].  [HE/SHE] will be responsible for [LIST RESPONSIBILITIES. YOU MAY ALSO LIST THINGS THEY ARE NOT DOING, LIKE AN ARTIST DOING FINISHED PENCILS BUT NOT COLORS]

This section is for describing the work that will be done by the creative team member.  In addition to mentioning the overall responsibilities (pencils, colors, lettering, etc.) you should also include what expectations you have for the format of the finished product and any timing requirements you have.

The Money, the Fame, and the Credit.  [CREATIVE TEAM MEMBER] will be paid on a per-page basis.  Since the Comic is a [PAGE COUNT OF COMIC] page comic and [CREATIVE TEAM MEMBER] has agreed to a per-page rate of [PAGE RATE] then (let’s see, carry the one) [CREATIVE TEAM MEMBER] will earn [TOTAL TO BE PAID] for working on the Comic.  [CREATIVE TEAM MEMBER] will receive [HALF OF THE TOTAL AMOUNT]–that’s half, in case you can’t do math–when both Parties sign this contract and they will receive the remainder when all the work is completed and approved by both Parties.

Since this section is a bit long and has some important parts I’ve cut it in half for the discussion.  The first paragraph covers The Money.  I’ve written the template to be used for a page rate but you could easily change it to cover a flat fee as well.  I’ve also written it for half to be paid when the contract is signed and half upon completion but you can make the timing whatever you want.  I’ve seen contracts that do groups of pages (four or six or ten) or just a single payment as well.

One important note: when working with money it’s always a good idea to write out the amount and then follow it up with the number just like you’re writing a check (sorry, cheque for you in the UK).  That’s because it’s easy to make a typo when using numbers.  If your contract has a line that reads “one hundred dollars ($190)” then it’s obvious that everyone intended it to be $100 and not 90% higher.  Just like Frankenstein’s monster said: words good, fire bad.

[CREATIVE TEAM MEMBER] will receive credit for [HIS/HER] work on the Comic on the cover and any other pages in which the creative team is listed.  [CREATIVE TEAM MEMBER] will also be listed in any press release or other marketing materials surrounding the Comic as needed.  [CREATIVE TEAM MEMBER] also gives permission for [HIS/HER] name and a flattering photo of [HIMSELF/HERSELF] (as judged by others because, let’s face it, we all think we look bad in most photos) to be used in marketing materials for the Comic as needed.

Additionally, [CREATIVE] will receive [PERCENTAGE] of net profits received from this project.

The second part of this section deals with publicity.  I prefer to connect publicity with compensation because this is part of what you’re paying for–not just the creative team member’s work but also how you will market their work (and possibly the artists themselves) once you’re ready to sell.  You can add to this section or completely remove it if you don’t care.

The last part, profit sharing, is also optional and may depend on how much you are paying in terms of page rate or flat fee.  You may also want to dive into what net profits will mean for your project.  In Hollywood this definition is so complicated that almost no movie makes a profit after all the deductions made by the studio before calculating a profit.  For your project, you can leave it as simple as this or spell out what items you will deduct from your revenues before determining if you’ve made a profit.

Next week we’ll cover the remaining sections of the contract and I’ll give you a link for the whole document to use for your own project.

Ryan Garcia (@SoMeDellLawyer) is a social media lawyer and professor.  In his podcast, Gabbing Geek, he has been told he uses his radio voice so you should read this entire column like a radio announcer.

Author: Ryan Garcia