Ben Templesmith Talks Tip Jar Economics And Comic Book Creators

6a00d83451d01069e200e553b798488834-640wiBen Templesmith posted on Facebook,

There’s a fair bit of discussion these days about paying for autographs and such. I know a few pros have been making it pretty much mandatory at shows for a long time, some advocate others to do it, some are considering it, and some are adamantly against it.

I think I’m in that last camp.

Me signing books is a total “thank you” for supporting my work or me as an individual. So, it just wouldn’t feel right to me. But, at the same time, all the free sketches I do, and signing stacks of books or printouts of my art or what not, well…some of that is true, actual work I do. At the end of the day of a show I’m kinda exhausted!

I’ll never charge for it. Just don’t have it in me to demand that. Even if I’m struggling to pay the rent.

I also don’t come from a tipping culture. It’s pretty much not expected down in Australia ( But hey, look at our minimum wage vs the US, we simply pay people more )

BUT, since I’ve realised practically everyone expects tips these days, for remotely personalised services, would it be wrong to do the same? Have a tip jar on my table as an option if someone thought they liked the experience?

In the past, it’s actually worked exceptionally well for charity. I certainly don’t feel bad about asking folks to give a dollar or so for a good cause ( I do this for The Hero Initiative a great bunch of folks )

So, do you guys see this as a bad thing? Do you like the idea of paying for signatures at all, or just an optional tip or keep everything the way it is?

Ben’s readers responded (a few reproduced below…) but what do you think?

Kelly Tindall I know a few guys that will sign anything, but after five or ten books they’ll take a donation to Hero Initiative or CBLDF.

Danny Avison I think have it as a pay what you want, have the tip jar as a way to help you and as a way for fans to thank you in person

Josh Weisman Will you accept tips in the form of beer?

Sydney Hermione Lehman I’d tip you!

Dylan Canfield I like the fact that you see signing as a thank you and I respect you greatly for that…silly me, I have quite a few of your books and never have been present of mind enough to get them signed, but I really enjoyed your company the couple times I’ve encountered you at shows, you were also super nice to my son, who drew a squid for you at Emerald city probably 2011 or 12

Conor Sharkpuncher Querin I see no problem with tipping. Whiskey and rent doesn’t pay for itself!

Alastair Collins I would never begrudge someone the choice to charge or not, but it certainly grinds my gears when someone walks up to a creator who doesn’t charge and unpacks 20+ books onto their table with an expectant smile.

Given, often being one of the team members trying to make sure the line keeps moving may influence that peeve.

Personally, I would lean towards one or two items signed for free, but if you have more than that, I’m going to expect a contribution to the tip / charity jar for each extra thing (a gold coin donation, to go full Aussie Primary School about it).

Dylan Canfield A good way to play it maybe could be sell special prints specific to the show and sign those…you make a bit of money, they get a signature…make them affordable, but where you make something

Kristin Marie I think a tip jar is a great idea! I have a few signed comics and prints from you and I would have loved to have had the option to leave a little extra because I think we all (or most of us) recognize that it IS hard work to spend three days sketching, signing, interacting, and barely sleeping.

Heather Kenealy I think that there is a culture of entitlement amongst geeks that makes us think “I buy your books, you should give me free sketches and autographs as a reward” which is pretty silly in my opinion. At conventions, I am usually there to promote my own attempts to become a professional writer, so I usually don’t have the money to buy sketches or autographs, but I wouldn’t dare demand anything free from you or anyone else. That said, if you were to offer sketches at a reasonable price, and earmark the money to go to Hero Initiative or the CBLDF, I imagine that you’d find that not only would people gladly pay, but that they’d give a little extra.

Ben Templesmith “I buy your books, you should give me free sketches and autographs as a reward” That’s what kickstarters are for! Heh. I mean, actively helping me to make a book is a wonderful thing.

Heather Kenealy I have actually seen people at Cons get IRATE when a writer or artist with a line around the block only signs one or two items. The absolute arrogance of some people is dumbfounding

Ben Templesmith Sadly folks do try to give me alcohol. Not that I don’t drink, but at a show I’m trying to stay awake, and a beer during show hours is going to have the opposite effect usually. And it’s damn hard to travel with bottles of booze on the flights home. One breakage in the luggage and… but some fans are so amazing to bring me gifts of booze.

Ben Templesmith If I get folks with huge stacks of books, I just ask them to step to the side and I go through the stack as I deal with other folks who just need the quick one or two signatures. I mean it’s gonna take me awhile to sign them all anyway so they know it’ll take some time. And I don’t like making everyone behind that person wait that long for a chat and a signature.

Christopher Highland I just feel that whoever charges for autographs doesn’t want to be there.

Ben Templesmith I’m kinda with you on that. I don’t see absolutely everything as dollar signs. There’s also such a thing as goodwill. And that’s worth a lot more financially in the long run too.

Korry Smith Just as eBay hurt the true fan in the original art market, I think the “signature for pay” policy erected by some creators is a response to the CGC fad.

Christopher Highland When I go to an event, I can tell who wants to be there, and who doesn’t. They can never hide it from me.

Ben Templesmith Well, it does get a little tough if it’s the third show in 3 weeks, flew in on a shitty flight the night before, horrible jetlag/out of you natural sleep patterns and no coffee was within walking distance of the show. Man, sometimes it’s a bit brutal, regardless of wanting to be there for the fans. Which is why I’m probably cutting back a bit next year. My body is broken and I want to do more actual studio work so there’s a point to doing more shows the next time!

Minh Nguyen To be honest (my two cents and nothing more)…I am kinda weirded out when authors and comic artists “charge” for autographs, especially if it is for even just one item. Giving the first one or two away and charging for anything more than two is perfectly fine.
Asking for completely optional donations to Hero, CBLDF, or even your nightly beer run is perfectly legit also, and doesn’t discourage a fan who may be short on funds from meeting you.
I understand if the person asking is an obvious dealer, pulling out 50 copies of a single issue, then he has to pay up and they shouldn’t complain. But I’ve seen an artist’s “handler” turn away a teenaged kid with a beat up copy of comic that he did because he was charging for autographs.
Notable exceptions are artists and writers of “legendary” status (i.e. Stan Lee, Joe Kubert, etc)

Ben Templesmith I really, REALLY don ‘t like that Stan Lee should ever be an exception. He’s the most mercenary person in the industry and can certainly afford to give back. I would if I was 90 something. I don’t think most of the other greats of the Biz are anywhere near as financially well off as he is to make that deal though. Which is the sad story of the comics industry in general really!

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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