Collaboration for Illustrated Books

I write cozy mystery fiction books and am looking for collaborators who can turn my stories into graphic novel versions or comic books that can be published on Amazon and elsewhere on a 50/50 royalty split basis.

I’d also like to find some German, Spanish, and French speakers who might be able to translate my books on a royalty split basis too.

And collaborations in general as it would be lovely to introduce my patrons to other creator’s work.

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Hi Sarah!

Do you have any sort of budget in mind and page count for a potential illustrator? Or is this one of those things where an artist only gets paid if the book does well?

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Hi Simrell,

the plan would be to work on a 50/50 royalty split for life, so you would get royalties for all formats that the book is published in. Meaning, you would create the artwork once, but get royalties for an Amazon print version, wider bookstore version, large print, hardback print version, and we could look to do translated versions with another creator if the book did well.

I’m going to be releasing a lot of books in the same genre (murder mystery) so as my backlist grows, there will be more royalties as people read through each series and see the book available in audio version, ebook verion, print, graphic, etc.

You would chose whichever books you wanted to create comic/graphic versions for, and then I’d publish them under my Limited company, and we’d use PubDrive Abacus to do the royalty split so you would receive something when I receive royalties at the end of each month (two months in arrears as that’s how I get paid). So the work could be fitted around any other work you have, and you’ll see on the Abacus page what earnings the book has each month, and your split. It takes five books for things to things to stick and start generating better royalties, but no one else in my genre is doing this kind of illustrated book yet, so there could be a really nice crossover. It is the second biggest genre after romance.

You’d be earning 50% of whatever the books makes, every month, forever.

Hm, well unfortunately, most artists would not be willing to put in a whole books worth of effort for no guarantee of pay. Pay via royalties is assuming the books make any money at all. Let’s say an artist draws a full 50 pages of fully illustrated graphic novel. Each page is probably anywhere from 5-10 hours of work. Now imagine only 10 books sell and the artist only gets 50% of the royalties. 50 pages of art with 5-10 hours of work for each page for… practically no money.

If you’re going to work with a professional artist to create a fully illustrated book/graphic novel you need to be able to pay them upfront. It seems like you’re very earnestly looking to connect with other creators here, but asking for that much work out of someone with no actual guarantee of a paycheck is a pretty tacky thing to do. Especially on a platform like this, where we’re all trying to make a living being creators.

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Like @simrell said, many illustrators are going to feel most comfortable with a contract that involves upfront payments before work is started. Flat fees per illustration are much, much more common than betting on royalties or success for payment, especially when working with small/independent publishing. Depending on the length of the book, it can often be months of work for an artist and a great deal of time taken away from other prospective work, so upfront pay is crucial.

I think there are instances where collaborations work well, but it tends to be within projects that already have a budget to ensure everyone contributing is compensated fairly for the work they put in. Anthologies and published works with smaller contributions from multiple creators also work well because it’s more of a community project and less of an unpaid commission.

I hope this perspective helps a little bit.

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Chiming in as someone who’s both a webcomic creator and a published (supernatural mystery) novelist - the other commenters are right that upfront pay is far more appropriate for your proposed arrangement than a royalty split. You could do upfront pay and royalties, but royalties aren’t a substitute for upfront pay, nor would a 50/50 split be appropriate when illustration is far more labor intensive than prose writing. A scene that takes me 15-30 minutes to write could take a full work week to illustrate. How does an artist pay bills during that time?

If you’re looking for a true collaboration with an artist, you’d be better off asking close friends or colleagues who are looking for a creative partnership with a shared vision, rather than looking for strangers to illustrate stories you’ve already written. If the creative vision, stake in future business planning, pay, and copyright ownership aren’t shared equitably between a writer and an artist, then it’s not a true collaboration, which means upfront pay is vital.

Bear in mind that page rates also vary based on art style and what degree of finish you need - pencils vs pencil+ink, grayscale vs color, etc. If you’re paying fairly, costs for a full length novel translated into a, say, 250-page graphic novel will be in the 5 digits.

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