Saturday, August 29, 2009

Amazon hosts contest to find new comic strip artists

I have mixed feelings about the Amazon.com/Andrews McMeel Publishing/UClick Universal "Comic Strip Superstar Contest."

Comic Strip SuperstarAre you the next Comic Strip Superstar? There's only one way to find out--enter an international search for the next popular comic strip artist, sponsored by Andrews McMeel Publishing and hosted by Amazon.com. The winner will receive a publishing contract from Andrews McMeel Publishing, a $5,000 advance from Universal Uclick, and a monthly stipend for the development of 20 comic strips that will be considered for syndication.

From the submissions, Universal Press Syndicate will narrow the entries down to 250 quarterfinalists. The quarterfinalists will then be narrowed down to 50 semifinalists by John Glynn and Lee Salem, seasoned Universal Press Syndicate editors. In the semifinal round, popular comic strip creators G.B. Trudeau (Doonesbury), Lynn Johnston (For Better or For Worse), Scott Hilburn (The Argyle Sweater), and Mark Tatulli (LiĆ³ and Heart of the City) will choose 10 finalists and post feedback for each on Amazon.com. Amazon.com customers will then have the opportunity to view the finalists' submissions and vote for the grand prize winner.

Sounds great. I LOVE that people are still encouraging the art of the comic strip, which is what really got me into comics in the first place (more so than comic books). But the fine print does make me more uneasy.

8. PRIZES. One Grand Prize will be awarded consisting of the following:

A. A full publishing contract with Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC to market and distribute a collection of the Grand Prize Winner's comic strips or comic panels as a published book. Upon the full execution of the publishing contract (and delivery by Grand Prize Winner of a minimum of 200 comic strips or comic panels approved by Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC editorial staff), Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC will pay the Grand Prize Winner US $5,000. The approximate retail value ("ARV") of the publishing contract is US $5,000 for the advance. This US $5,000 payment is an advance against the royalties to be earned by the Grand Prize Winner under the publishing contract. Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC will determine the royalty rates to be paid under the publishing contract, which will depend on the format in which the book is published. Publishing contract with Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC is not negotiable, and Grand Prize Winner must sign "as is" upon receipt of the executable contract as described in Section 9 below if he/she wishes to enter into the publishing contract being awarded.

B. A development contract with Universal Uclick to develop the Grand Prize winner’s comic strips or comic panels into a feature suitable for syndication. Universal Uclick will pay the Grand Prize Winner a monthly stipend of $300 for each month during the term that Grand Prize Winner submits 20 comics for feedback and evaluation by Universal Uclick. The maximum term of the development contract is 24 months, but it is cancelable by Universal Uclick prior to the stated maximum term in the event of a breach by the Grand Prize Winner, an election by Universal Uclick to discontinue development or an election by Universal Uclick to proceed with early launch of syndication. The ARV of the development contract is US $7,200 based on the maximum term of the stipend. Development contract with Universal Uclick is not negotiable, and Grand Prize Winner must sign "as is" upon receipt of the executable contract as described in Section 9 below if he/she wishes to enter into the development contract being awarded.

The Grand Prize Winner must also enter into a full "syndication" contract with Universal Uclick. The syndication contract is open for good faith negotiation, but if the Grand Prize Winner and Universal Uclick cannot timely come to terms on a syndication agreement, Universal Uclick retains the right to match any bona fide third party offer of syndication made to the Grand Prize Winner during the 24-month period following the start date of the development contract.

C. A "Feature" contract with Universal Uclick including distribution on GoComics.com desktop and mobile applications. The Grand Prize Winner’s comic strips or comic panels will appear on GoComics.com and will be advertised on the sites both web and mobile, featured in a daily email and promoted within mobile applications. Universal Uclick will determine the royalty rates to be paid under the Digital Rights Agreement. The agreement with Universal Uclick is not negotiable, and Grand Prize Winner must sign “as is” upon receipt of executable contract as described in Section 9 below if he/she wishes to enter into the publishing and syndication contracts being awarded.
Part B, to my mind, is quite good. Universal is willing to pay a minimal stipend (don't quit your day job, kiddos) during the development period—a 24-month stretch during which the creator will work out the kinks in his/her comic strip and try to satisfy Universal's editors that it's commercially viable—and will negotiate a syndication contract in good faith once they think you've got something.

Parts A and C are more troubling. Only a $5,000 advance on the book, and all terms of the contract are non-negotiable? The online feature is similarly non-negotiable?

I guess, really, this is comics school. If you're good enough to get syndicated (which would have to be very good in the current newspaper comics climate), you can probably do so through normal channels, and forget this contest. But if you're not quite good enough, you get two years of Universal Press Syndicate editors critiquing your work. And a book of some sort, for which you should be grateful.

Just make sure you get an agent to negotiate your second book contract.



EDITED TO ADD: The deadline is Saturday, September 12 to submit:
1. 10 daily comic strips
2. 2 Sunday comics
3. A title
4. A brief synopsis

1 comment:

Jeremy And Tim said...

My comic strip, "Jeremy And Tim", was one of the comic strips selected as a quarterfinalist of Amazon's "Comic Strip Superstar" contest (#116 in the list available at their site).

If you are interested in seeing more of the strips, they can be found at: http://www.jeremyandtim.com