First article on comics in darn near a year and what is the first thing I do? Dive into the Womanthology “controversy”. Screw it, I didn’t start this site to make friends anyway.
Relax, this won’t be some Captain Flame Arms rant.
A little background. Womanthology is a wonderful concept put together by Renae De Liz; being a platform where non published female creators from all over the globe can work with published female creators and produce a complete graphic novel. Knowing there isn’t a whole lot of money in comics, Renae turned to Kickstarter and put together a campaign to generate production funds. They were initially seeking $25,000 to cover production costs and ease some of the burden on IDW Publishing.
To say the comic community responded positively is a huge flarking understatement.
By the end of the Kickstarter campaign, Womanthology raised $109,301!
There was much rejoicing and celebrating by the women involved and by fans of the comic book medium. The final donation amount is truly a stunning accomplishment. As of this posting, it’s the 25th most successful Kickstarter campaign ever, and the single best comic book campaign. That right there is something to be proud of, for all those involved and those that supported the book. Comics are going through some rough times right now and to see something this positive was inspiring.
Of course, this is 2011. Nothing is ever crystal clear and the ability to spread information (and disinformation) in an instant kicked in.
“You guys raised all this money, when am I getting paid?”
Before the people involved even has a chance to read and reply, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr accounts gathered the pitchforks and lit the torches. Hell, I found out 10 minutes before sitting down to record our weekly podcast, Geek in the City Radio. Readers, listeners, and some Womanthology contributors were asking if I was going to call out Renae and everyone involved for “taking advantage” of their work.
For all my rambling and deserved reputation of having a big ass mouth, I try not to comment on events without looking for more information. I did what I had hoped those throwing accusations had done.
I talked to some published writers and artists working on the book.
I asked the women making the book.
The news was partially correct. Contributors are not receiving any form of financial compensation. A fact everyone was made aware of when they agreed to take part in the project. This lack of compensation isn’t limited to the non published contributors. No one involved in Womanthology is receiving payment for their work. That includes Renae De Liz, the architect of the book. That includes Laura Morley, the admin for the project. That includes the seasoned professionals that want to see the book succeed. No one is getting paid. And, from reviewing multiple sources and talking with multiple women involved, everyone knew they weren’t getting paid.
But they only needed $25,000, aren’t the women submitting work deserving of that extra $75,000?
Okay, maybe that isn’t fair. Yes, everyone deserves fair compensation for their hard work. However, everyone knew going in that they were doing this work for exposure and experience alone. That any and all profit garnered from Womanthology was going to the Global Giving Foundation charity. Some contributors were upset that they weren’t going to receive a complimentary copy of Womanthology once the book hit shelves. Again, from information gathered, that was also not part of the deal struck between creators and those behind the book. That isn’t all that surprising, I know people that write for the Big Two and even they have to pay for their own book. Womanthology has since said that book contributors will receive a complimentary copy of the book and are free to use it as they wish. Complimentary copies that will eat into the money raised on Kickstarter. For anyone still thinking, “come on Aaron, they raised over 100 thousand dollars, they can kick back some money to the ladies providing content.” Here is an estimated breakdown of that 100 grand from the Womanthology blog:
$109,000 Kickstarter Final
$6,000 Kickstarter “errors” such as bad card numbers, faulty pledges
$9,000 Fees (Kickstarter is %5, Amazon takes another %3 – %5)
$40,000 Printing for around 5,5000 Womanthology books (may change)
$20,000 Postage for 2,000 books (overestimate labor, postage is at least $5 a book/ may change)
$3,000 Printing/postage of 1000 Sketchbooks
$2,000 Postage of other rewards
$20,000 Taxes, for me, a self employed person, overestimate, may change
That alone is around $100,000 of the $109,000. But because of overestimating, I am guessing there may be $20,000 left over, if there are no refunds, or extra fees.
The original target print run of this book was only 1,500 books. That’s just about enough to cover the people that donated to the Kickstarter project thus earning a book, and maybe 1 or 2 copies for US comic book shops. Now they can produce more. Now they can get books into schools, into libraries.
Into the hands of the contributors.
I totally understand wanting your perceived fair cut of the pie when you see huge numbers like $109,301. Except no one was promised financial compensation, regardless of how successful the Kickstarter campaign turned out. Remember, if they hadn’t hit their goal, Kickstarter would have kept the whole dang thing. (EDIT – That isn’t true. The project simply would not have happened. Sorry for the error – AD). Maybe the people involved in Womanthology could have written a clause that allowed for payment should the campaign reach a certain level. They didn’t. They still aren’t making a dime off this endeavor either. Since the beginning Womanthology has been about showcasing wonderful new talent, and I think they’ve been pretty transparent in their attempt. Both creatively and financially.
Breaking into comics is hard. It is quite possibly one of the hardest of the creative industries to break into. Having the opportunity to present your work, if only a single page among hundreds, is wonderful. Hell, it’s one I wish I had a chance to participate in. I know this makes me sound like your grumpy grandpa, but be happy for what you’ll soon have…
That being the opportunity to work with, and learn from, some of the most successful female comic book writers and artists in the world.
Having the privilege to present your work to thousands of people from all over the world.
You’ll have the opportunity to inspire a whole new generation of girls and boys to write, draw, and tell their own story.
Which brings us back to Renae’s original idea and the very reason behind Womanthology
If you ask me, not a bad deal.