This is a screen shot of my email inbox today:

inbox

I have always made a sincere effort to answer every single letter. However, I want to write and draw, and stories are not getting written and drawn when I am answering mail.

I appreciate every letter. More importantly, I appreciate the fact that many of you are coming to me for help. And I especially appreciate the fact that more and more people read this blog every day.

The best way to get me to help: DON’T write me a private email. DON’T send me a question via my Facebook box, either.

If you have a question about something you think is important about publishing, or contracts, or anything of that sort, please post that question publicly on this blog so everyone can read the answer. If the answer is important to you, it may be important to someone else.

There are no stupid questions. There are, however, some pretty silly ways of going about trying to get the answers to those questions.

Don’t come to a pro with basic questions about copyright, trademark, and contracts because many of these questions can be answered in moments with a quick web search on the official government copyright and trademark office websites.

Whenever you go to a pro, you have an opportunity to get an answer to something you can’t find on the web; some obscure contract matter, something tricky about accounting you won’t learn in the top three hits on Google. A pro is giving you their professional opinion, and they are performing this service for free. Please respect yourself and their time: do some research on your own first.

If you consider yourself a professional quality artist or writer, and you do not have basic contract knowledge, then you are not taking your work seriously. You are signaling that when you go to a pro and ask beginner questions.

Claiming you are a writer or artist while not knowing the basics of copyright and trademark law is like claiming you are a physicist who can’t do long division.

This is your job. You must know these things before you can pursue a career with any sense of professional devotion. And you should not expect professionals to take their time to act as career consultants for you when you will not make this basic effort.

I have spent hundreds of hours over the last couple of years helping out creators, writing articles, and volunteering for various organizations as an advocate. But my time is not unlimited, and I need to be able to do my own work. I also need to limit my attention to creators who are serious about their work. I could have finished several issues of my comic in the time I devoted to others over the past two years, and I just can’t do this on behalf of people who do not respect their work or my time.

This is about your self respect. This is about responsibility.

If you need someone to review your contract, here are resources where you can get pro bono or low cost legal aid. I am not a lawyer and cannot review your contract for you. Also, there is a long list of free online legal blogs at the right of this page. Any one of them will have hundreds of entries which will help you.

If you want to know about industry practices and standards, you should try the Graphic Artist Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines.

If you are a publisher or creator looking for contract templates and solid, basic advice, there are many books by Tad Crawford available.

Let me revise that: if you are a publisher coming to me asking for free advice for your company, please refrain. Seriously, you are not a real publisher. Get a lawyer. Do your research. I will not work as your unpaid consultant.

And if you can’t refrain, my rate is $250 an hour.

But do yourself a favor. Get those books by Tad Crawford and that Graphic Artist Guild Handbook and read them cover to cover before you come to me again. And if there’s something you can’t find there, my rate is still $250 an hour.

If you are a publisher, you can pay for my help. And if you can’t pay me, you can’t afford to be a publisher.

You’d be grumpy too if you had to get through my inbox.

I will help creators who show me that they are also willing to help themselves.

As opposed to “publishers” helping themselves to hours of free professional consultation services.