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Creating a graphic novel without contracts

We eat our own dog food.

So how do we use Real Options in creating our graphic business novel? One of example of this is how we view and deal with legal contracts: we try to avoid them! Let us explain.

Real Options

"Never commit early unless you know why" is one of the rules of the Real Options process. But how does it apply to creating a graphic novel?
Using "Real Options" means the following:
1) Spot commitments.
2) Deal with them. Either turn them into options (remove them), push them back in time (defer them), create options so that the commitments are reversible or commit to them if that is to your benefit.

Creating a graphic novel normally involves at least two significant commitments from the authors which are bound in a legal agreement. The first is the commitment to a publisher. The second is the commitment to the creators of the graphic novel. We take a different look at both. Let's take a look at how we choose to avoid commitments.

Publishing contract

Traditionally, creators of a book have a contract with a publisher. The creator commits to many things, the publisher commits to very little other than printing the book. The publisher also gets almost all the rights over the material. Some of these rights they need in order to be able to print and distribute the book, however there are also many for the event that they fall out with the creators. In such a case the publisher can continue the book series and do with it what they please. The author however is left with nothing save for a few bucks.

When we were looking for a publisher, we had a very clear set of conditions for which we would give up our option to self publish. The first thing we would be interested in was a publisher that willing to acquire solely the distribution rights to our book for a few years. The other thing we would be interested in is distribution: we would commit to a publisher that would in turn commit to putting a copy of our book in the business section of every bookshop in the world (especially airports). We have not found one so we choose to retain the right to self publish, plus we have total control of the material.

Don't get us wrong: publishers are not the bad guys. They are businesses trying to make money in a declining market where margins are low. We just choose not to commit to a contract with a publisher unless there is a benefit to signing such a deal.

Contract with the artist

Traditionally, the creators of a graphic novel have a contract with the person commissioning the work. So it would be obvious for us to have a contract with Chris Geary, the artist. Having a graphic novel drawn is expensive. So one of our greatest risks as authors is a change of artist as the change in style could result in sections of the book having to be redrawn, possibly the whole work so far. To prevent this the contract would specify the commitments that Chris Geary would make, like "Do not leave the project until the book is done". On the other end to mitigate the risk of not being paid Chris Geary would include commitments in the contract that Olav and Chris would make like "We will pay within 30 days of an invoice". The contract would specify the penalties to those who did not honor their commitments "In the event of failure, you will need to sacrifice a goat in the temple of Mammon" or "We will charge interest of 5% on late payment of invoices".

No contract

For the "Commitment" book, we decided not to have a contract. But how does that work? By not making a commitment in the form of a legal contract, we have had to work in a manner where all parties are happy with the situation. All three have to treat each other with respect because otherwise the project would fall apart to the detriment of all involved. No one has been allowed to bully anyone else or force them to work on something they consider unreasonable. It has been necessary for all involved to explain the decisions they have made. Perhaps if we truly want to create better workplaces, we should ditch the contracts of employment.

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