Know Your Rights
Sure, writing is an art form, but (and thank goodness!) it does come along with some rights. As a writer, particularly as a comic book writer, you need to be aware of these rights.
What is intellectual property?
Intellectual property (IP) is the property that results from an original creative thought. IP includes patents, trademarks, and copyright material. That last one—copyright material—that’s what you as a writer care about. Everything you write is automatically copyrighted, although the U.S. government does give you the option to pay a fee.
Rights to Know—When Working with an Artist
If you need an artist but want to retain all rights to your story, find an artist who will “work for hire.” Work for hire means the artist does her work and you pay her immediately. She takes no rights to your story, so when (and I mean if) someone wants to buy the movie rights, you get all the cash (that is, of course, if you’re not working with a publisher). You can, however, give your artist the right to re-sell original copies of her work (this can really help an artist out!)
PRO: The writer doesn’t give up rights.
CON: Smaller publishers often prefer you submit your work as a creative team, not just as a writer. And teams are more fun, anyway!
If you don’t mind giving up some rights to the artist, you can find an artist who will be a member of your creative team. You and this artist will draft a contract whereby you decide on how rights are delineated.
PRO: Smaller publishers prefer you submit your work as a team. Finding an artist who is with you all the way through to publication means your writing and her art will grow to work better together. Collaboration is a beautiful thing.
CON: The writer gives up some rights to the artist.
Rights to Know—When Working with a Publisher
First Rights—The publisher has the right to be the first to publish your work. And that’s it. After a set period of time, all rights revert back to you the writer, and you’re free to do with your work as you see fit. More specific first rights include First English Rights, First North American Serial Rights, and First Electronic Rights. (Note, however, that many publishers don’t want to see previously published work, so be a bit wary here if you plan on re-publishing your work).
Nonexclusive Reprint Rights—This is a sweet deal for the writer. The publisher has the right to reprint your article even though it’s already been published. Since they bought the rights “nonexclusively,” another publisher can re-print your work.
All Rights—You sell all your rights. Yeah, all of them. That better be some helluva publisher!
Royalty—Okay, this isn’t a right, but it’s a good word to know. It’s your share (usually a percentage given to you after a number of books have sold) of the profits (net or not) of a book. You can also make royalties as a portion of the cover price.
Visit Ms.Comix next Wednesday for updates from Comic Book 101!