Something that I hear a lot about from comic artists is that timelines for their projects are way too tight. They’re given an unrealistic deadline to complete XX number of pages for a project, with way too small of a page rate (the page rate issue is a separate matter entirely that I cover elsewhere).
What I’m looking to do is help creators, and more specifically, artists to build a standarized timeline to help manage the expectations all round.
Some creators don’t have an idea yet of what their standarized timeline is and they get put on a book and suddenly have a lot of work to complete in a short amount of time. What I’d really like to set in motion for creators is something that protects artists, and helps to manage the expectations of publishers, editors, and other hiring parties that may be bringing an artist on board for work.
Here’s the idea:
The current “standard” in comics for a single issue 22-page comic book is 6-weeks. It’s the only “standard” that I’ve ever really heard of, so we’re going to build a bit of a base off of that and go from there. The idea is to set a timeline that works for you, so this isn’t meant to be the be all, and end all. It’s meant to help set a base. For the sake of this post, we’re going to say that the 6-week “standard” is simply for the line art, and not inclusive of the colours and letters.
Let’s say that you’ve only done short stories for anthologies before and you haven’t turned in a 22-page comic yet; the most you’ve had to turn into an editor has been 10-pages. We’re just going to cut the number in half. Let’s say that it would take you 3 weeks to complete those pages, and then if you were asked to do 20-pages, you’re looking at 6 weeks.
And then adding to that, if you haven’t done a 22-page comic issue before, you’re probably not going to know how long it’ll take you to turn over a 200-page graphic novel. So being able to figure out how long it takes you work on smaller projects is a lot easier to start with.
To figure out how long it might take you to do a bigger project, you just have to utilize some good ol’ fashioned math.
If you’re being asked about completing a 200-page graphic novel, and you’re working off of this model, here’s the math:
- 3 weeks per 10 pages
- 200 pages (for the graphic novel) divided by 10 pages (per 3 weeks) = 20
- 20 x 3 = 60
So for someone working on a timeline like this, you would be looking at 60 weeks for completion of a 200 page graphic novel. Just under 14 months.
You need to also factor in time for things like holidays, and other things that may come up in your life, so you can build a timeline around that to give yourself a bit of a buffer to work from.
It’s very important to note that this is all a baseline that I’m building this off of. If you are slower or faster than any of the timelines listed, it’s not a competition. It is about creating realistic expectations for you as a comics creator. You need to figure out how long it sustainably takes you to create your art, and factor that into any work that you take on. This is all adjustable to what works best for you.
You want to get familiar with how long it takes you to work so that you don’t physically and emotionally exert yourself. You want to work with your publisher, editor, agent, co-creators, etc. to make sure that you’re not killing yourself to make a comic happen. Health care is not something offered to a lot of creators and freelancers, so taking care of your body so you can have a long and thriving career is extremely important.
I want to write out some examples that creators can utilize and begin integrating into their contracts when they sign onto a project. Get everything in writing, and make sure that whoever you’re working with understands what timelines you are comfortable with.
- For a single issue 22-page comic, I complete interior pages (line art* only) in 6 weeks.
- For a single issue 22-page comic, I complete interior pages (line art and colours) in 8 weeks.
- For a single issue 22-page comic, I complete interior pages (line art, colours, and letters) in 9 weeks.
*Line art is the layouts/thumbnails, pencils, and inks.
Set bars for yourself and make sure that up front you’re stating what you’re able to do and comfortable doing in a certain amount of time.
If a creator asks you if you can turn around 22 pages in 4 weeks (line art only), and you can do it but it’s not ideal, ask for additional compensation. Base your page rates around what is healthy for you.
I know it’s not always easy to advocate for what you feel is best for you. Artists are constantly undervaluing themselves as creators and getting taken advantage of.
But, if we work on creating standards that the whole industry can understand and get behind, we can help to make things healthier and happier for everyone.
It’s better to turn down work that will put too much stress and pressure on you than agreeing and being unable to deliver. Managing editorial expectations is as much about trying to change the industry’s perceptions as it is about helping the artists to establish their own reasonable workloads.
As stated, this isn’t meant to be the definitive list and guideline, but I’m hoping it acts as a base to help you better understand ways to protect yourself as a creator.
If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please email me at email@example.com.