‘The Business of Freelance Comic Book Publishing’ Author Gamal Hennessy: The Conskipper Interview

When most people dream of a career in the comics industry, legal concerns are not usually a consideration, or even an after thought. However, if you were to ever speak to attorney, author, and business consultant Gamal Hennessy about breaking into the field, he would certainly encourage you to consider the legal ramifications of your work and intellectual property.

Since most of us won’t be fortunate enough to speak to Hennessy in person, his new book, The Business of Freelance Comic Book Publishing, is a suitable substitute, and one worth reading for the insight it can provide to novice or veteran creators.

The Business of Freelance Comic Book Publishing (with a foreword by Andy Schmidt and edited by Joseph Illidge) is currently available to back on Kickstarter, similar to Hennessy’s successful campaign for his first book The Business of Independent Comic Book Publishing and we got a preview of the helpful guide and some other answers in this exclusive interview.

Why did you decide to write this book about the business of freelance comic publishing?

Gamal Hennessy: In my practice of comic book law, I meet a lot of people who need both business and legal help for their comics. That’s why I wrote the first book and the professional comic book community gave it an amazing level of support. That Kickstarter was funded 600% above our initial goal, and the book continued to sell well on Amazon. It also inspired me to create the online education community of Comics Connection. But since freelance comic book publishing is a completely different business model from independent publishing, with different legal, financial, and creative goals, a follow-up book just made sense.

How did your love of comics and the legal field come together?

Hennessy: I read comics since I was 5, and I continued reading them during law school. That helped me get a referral that led to my first job as in-house counsel for an anime and manga company. My interest in comics inspired me to learn more about the business side and connected me to the creators in a way that made it easy to want to help them succeed in their careers.

Is it more difficult to get published in 2023 vs. the original independent boom of the mid-80s?

Hennessy: I think it was far more difficult in the 80s because of the opportunities that come with high-speed internet. In the 80s, creators had a much harder time collaborating with talent around the world, building marketing, production, distribution, advertising, and sales models, or any of the other aspects of business that are just a website or app away now. There is a lot more competition now, both in the comic book industry and for consumer attention in general, but most of the books you see today would never have been published in the 80s.

How does a new creator walk the fine line between getting published and protecting their original ideas/characters?

Hennessy: The key is understanding what kind of publishing you want to get into and what kind of deal you want to get. If you want to own all your ideas and keep all the revenue, then you need to launch an independent comic book company. If you want to create stories for someone else’s characters, then you need to work freelance. If you want to focus on the creative side, then you need a creator-owned deal. Every type of publishing has benefits and challenges, but the opportunities are out there.

Thoughts on the intricacies of a Kickstarter campaign and getting this info out to the masses?

Hennessy: Crowdfunding has become more complex, but the core principle remains the same. If you don’t have a crowd, then it’s hard to get funding. I think if you engage your audience consistently before, during, and after the campaign, the details will work themselves out.

If there is one piece of advice that you could offer to those trying to break into the comic business, what would it be? 

Hennessy: Start small. Don’t try to make your first comic a huge graphic novel and don’t try to make it perfect. Produce and publish a five-page story. Then try working on a ten-page story, then try publishing a single issue. Use these stories to understand the process, learn about the business, and build your network. Your first book will not be Watchmen. You’re not going to be Raina Telgemeier overnight. A career in comics takes years to build. You just have to get started.

The Business of Freelance Comic Book Publishing is available to back on Kickstarter until October 19.

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