Tuesday, December 1, 2009

This is scary Zoetrope-like stuff in the manga world...

Previously, I spoken about my exposure to how things work in Speculative short fiction market and have referred to a rather prestigious publication called Zoetrope All-story, the brainchild of Francis Ford Copolla, who is a pretty famous movie director and mogul. I’ve mentioned Zoetrope All-story because of their protocol of acquiring All Rights for the stories they publish.

Just for some background, for short stories you can sell First North American Rights, Reprint Rights, Anthology Rights, First British Rights, First European Rights, First Australian Rights, and First Electronic Rights, One-time Rights, Archival Rights, Excerpt Rights, Translation Rights, and Audio Rights to the same story to a publication at different times depending on the contracts used.*

Alternatively, you can sell (grant) First World English Rights, Reprint Rights, Anthology Rights, and First Electronic Rights, One-time Rights, Archival Rights, Excerpt Rights, Translation Rights, and Audio Rights to the same story to different publications at different times depending on the contracts a used.* [Here, selling First World English Rights implies that you cannot sell First North American Rights, First British Rights, First European Rights, or First Australian Rights.]

*Many of these rights may be granted on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis. Exclusive means that you guarantee that your story will not appear anywhere else while the publication that bought the exclusive rights are exercising their right to the story. Non-exclusive means that your story may appear elsewhere at the same time (or something like that).

In the example above, you could theoretically sell between nine and twelve different rights to the same story and I don’t think I covered all of the possible rights. Of course, some publications ask for more than one sort of right...But still, there is more than one sale/ rights licensing opportunity [read: pay day] for the writer.

Another option is to sell All Rights, which means that it no longer belongs to you. You can NEVER sell it EVER AGAIN. You will NEVER be paid any money for the work EVER AGAIN. The only thing you can do after selling All Rights is say that you’re the author. But what if Mister Copolla decides to make a movie out of your story? Too bad! You’ll have to buy a movie ticket or the dvd and sob quietly as it rakes in the box office gold. Okay, that’s the worst case scenario, but it could happen. So, I would never encourage anyone to sell All Rights.

An even worse abomination is the Work-for-hire contract. It’s like selling All Rights, except that you are not even considered the author. So, you lose your copyright to the story. Cue the same movie, only you have no right to cry. This is understandable when you are working on an established,  company-owned characters and you're not the creator of a property. But when you create  something? No way. Don't do it.

Rant ended.

What does this have to do with comics and Manga?

Well, as mentioned in other posts, I’m researching possible independent publishers for my comic book limited series. So I decided on a whim to do a search on Google, like so:

Google: “bad experiences” AND “independent comic publisher”

This is what Google delivered.

I think the contract referred to in the link should be reworded as a Work-for-hire or an All Rights contract to remove all confusion/ambiguity. Who came up with the language used in the contract? It comes off as a “if we could take it all from you, we would...You're welcome!” contract.

Just makes me determined to learn how comic book publishing contracts work and be wary of small print or friendly(?) legal double-speak.


  1. Yikes! This reminds me of the site...I can't remember the exact name..."Writers Beware" perhaps? Which warned fiction writers of bad agents, subsidy publishers, etc. I'm glad you're doing all this research before submitting. Lots of writers don't find out this kind of stuff until it's too late.

    Printing up a physical copy and handing it out at cons or selling it at a local comic/book shop and/or posting it online sounds like a viable option to generate buzz. After all, there's a slow trend in the fiction publishing world to self-publish, create buzz, and then get picked up by a legit publisher. There's got to be a comics-publishing equivalent to that.

  2. 1TrueGl, have you thought about lulu.com? You can self-publish your own ebook and print books. It just popped into my head.

  3. Yes, there is a "Writer Beware" as well as a "Predators & Editors" site. I don't know whether there is a specific comic book equivalent site for this topic, though.

    I think there are comic print-on-demand services like Ka-Blam and others, but my first prize would being picked up out of a slush pile by a publisher, second prize might be the webcomics (via webcomics nation, Comics Genesis, etc) route (although I don't much about the mechanics of this route), third option would be the limited print-on-demand, and fourth would be full self-publishing.

    I think I may be a member of lulu.com, but haven't really looked around there.

    QUESTION: Did you pencil, ink, and then colour (or paint) your icon? It makes sense if you have, since you mentioned drawing ballerinas before trying heroes.

  4. Predators and Editors--that was the name of it!

    The only reason I mentioned lulu is because some comic artists sell sketchbooks through there, so it seemed like a comic-friendly medium.

    I'm VERY flattered that you thought I painted my avatar. Actually it's by a not-so-famous painter named Edward Robert Hughes who painted in the Pre-Raphaelite style in the early 1900's. The name of the painting is "Night with her Train of Stars." I picked it because it kinda sorta looks a little bit like me, and I'm not really a fan of posting my picture on the internet so it serves as my "profile picture" for everything. The Pre-Raphaelites (along with Art Deco) are my favorite art movement.

    I really should get some motivation to scan some of my ballet drawings (if you're interested in seeing them, that is)...but they're too big to fit on my scanner and I haven't figured out a good way to get them online. (Probably I'll just wind up taking a picture of them with my camera.)

  5. Just so you know I'm clueless about art (painting, etc.) and only I know that I like to look at some surrealist stuff because it might inspire a story idea.

  6. I always found surrealism endlessly awesome. Can't go wrong with Salvador Dali. And for some reason, Craig Ferguson always puts a picture of Salvador Dali up on Late Night every now and then, much to my amusement. ^.^