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Success in Comics seminar notes: Amy Lago

Amy Lago from the Washington Post Writers Group was the second speaker in the Success in Comics seminar in Las Vegas. She gave a very frank presentation on the advantages and disadvantages of syndicating and self-syndication along with things to think about when submitting to a syndicate.

As to things to think about when submitting, she mentioned that since there are more comic strips slots available there is greater opportunity for a strip to gain more clients. HOWEVER, if the cartoonist’s writing better lends to a panel, then they should pursue a panel because one would always want their best efforts being put forward. She also preached about simplifying the strip artwork – especially the backgrounds as papers keep shrinking the strip – even down to 4.5 inches wide in the case of one paper.

As to the pros and cons with going the self syndication, she acknowledged that if the cartoonist is self-determined and motivated to do a lot of the promotion, sales and distribution, then it doesn’t make sense to use a syndicate. Syndicates are great for having an editor and having someone to bounce ideas around with. They also provide legal services such as clearing trademarks before the launch of the feature. She strongly urged cartoonists to file their copyright with the copyright office to that allows the creator to pursue treble damages if their work has been infringed.

Community Comments

#1 josh shalek
September/26/2009
@ 6:25 pm

Very informative – thank you for all of these notes.

However, when I was filing my comic strip with the Copyright Office they informed me that you cannot copyright a comic strip. You can copyright a collection of comics in a particular sequence, but not the strip itself. So, unless you want to pay the fee for each individual strip you produce, it’s best to send them in as a book or booklet.

#2 Jason Nocera
September/26/2009
@ 7:07 pm

Josh – I’ve been filing my strips yearly as a sequence. I simply say Comic Strips # 1 – # 52 (it’s weekly) and pay one fee. Then the next year I file # 53-# 104. I only provided printouts of each strip. Not bound as a book. They’ve always accepted it.

#3 Alan Gardner
September/26/2009
@ 7:13 pm

I’m not an attorney, but my understanding is that if you copyright the characters, than any future use of them falls under derivitive works. I’d be surprised that you have to file for each usage of your own characters.

#4 Mike Cope
September/26/2009
@ 7:26 pm

A suggestion similar to what Alan just wrote … Make a model sheet for each of your characters and then just re-register their designs as-needed if/when your drawing style evolves.

If you have a stockpile of strips already drawn, you can simply cut and paste various expressions and full-body poses onto a single sheet.

#5 josh shalek
September/27/2009
@ 12:56 pm

Jason, that’s a good idea. Less expensive than printing a book, too.

Alan, I hadn’t heard that. Good to know.

#6 Rich Diesslin
September/30/2009
@ 12:05 am

Amy’s talk was very good and I learned a lot from it (and all of them), and then she offered to review our comics after the session … and choose sit out in the 93 degree heat while a rather long line went through. I thought, “what is she really going to be able to tell me in 10 minutes” … I was, in the words of Grady Nutt, “slack-jaw amazed” at what she told me! I think that was everyone’s experience as well. Everything from fonts and layouts to what seemed to be working and not working! Extremely helpful!

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