Writer Jeremy Holt sure got people talking—er, tweeting—on Wednesday when he tweeted "...I don't believe in upfront pay when producing creator-owned comics. Corrodes the team." Holt does believe in sharing revenues with the artist, but he is quite vehemently opposed to just paying the artists for their work. Here's more:
From my experience, artists mostly interested in pay don't truly care about the project.
It's not that I refuse to pay artists. I can't. If they want to work on spec, that's their prerogative.
Paying collaborators have never yielded the results I want.
Last time I did I was left with an incomplete project after spending $2500 as the artist went MIA. Paychecks can't be the goal.
Artists I've worked with that only want $$$ never spent the time to discuss/collaborate on the project.
They more often than not were juggling other paying gigs to make more $$, and our work suffered.
you're a good dude, but if an artist getting paid is killing their interest in your work, maybe the problem's with your work
And Paul Allor Tweeted
All I know is, if my doctor really cared about curing disease he'd stop charging me.
Perhaps the most impassioned response, however, came from a writer, Leia Weathington, whose Tweets were collected by Erica Moen at Storify. The whole thing is worth reading, but she really nails it at the end:
If you don't want to make your artists happy with some dough, copyright stake, or some creative control?
Then you don't want to be in comics, go write that shit as a novel.
I'm not a comics creator, but speaking as someone who has done freelance work of various types, including writing about comics and other things, for years, I think Holt has it exactly backwards. The first rule of freelancing is that paying work comes first. Love don't pay the rent.
Granted, Holt isn't talking about cutting out the artist entirely; he just doesn't want to pay up front because he believes this somehow makes the artist less enthusiastic about the project. Maybe he's just really bad at hiring people. I have supervised freelancers and I have supervised volunteers, and I think it's pretty consistent that you don't get the same level of commitment from people who aren't being paid. And I'm not sure getting a stake in a creator-owned comic counts as "getting paid" unless it's Saga or The Walking Dead.
The exception, of course, is when the writer and the artist are co-creators of the project and they are working with a shared vision (although Holt says that artist Kevin Zeigler pitched After Houdini to him—no mention of whether he refused payment so he would be more passionate about the project). But if you're bringing someone in to illustrate your story, you should acknowledge that making art is work and that people should be paid for the work they do for you. The attitude that emanates from Holt's Tweets is that artists should be doing it for love, not money, which seems like a poor grounding for a business relationship.
In summary, if you are concerned that your artist is only in it for the money, the solution is not to expect the artist to work for free. The solution is to get a better artist.