Guest Strip Etiquette
Submitted by Terrence Marks on February 21, 2007 - 02:59
Now, I don't draw. My comics haven't run a guest strip since 2004. But my comics used to be drawn by a rotating gallery of artists, so I know what I'm talking about. There's a right and a wrong way to do things. I did most things the wrong way the first time around, because I didn't know any better.
Firstly, thank them immediately. As soon as you get the strip in, just send out a short note. "I got the comic. Thank you very much". Do this within 24 hours. Let them know you got it. Even if you don't like it. Even if you know you're not going to run it. Even if you're not sure if you're going to run it or not. At least acknowledge their effort. If you're pressed for time, there's nothing wrong with mentioning that you owe them a second, more thorough e-mail.
Secondly, e-mail everyone whose strip will be running. Let them know when. You can choose which comics to run and their order using whatever method you like. Once you tell people, don't change it without a good reason. Like if you accidentally scheduled two people for the same day, for instance. If you get more guest strips than you need, let the artists know what you're doing - keeping them in reserve, putting them in the guest strip section, or such. But if you run a strip, let the artist know in advance.
Thirdly, do not critique the piece unless the sender directly asks for it. It's a gift. Don't complain about gifts. Contrarily, if you send me something, do not ask for a brutally honest opinion unless you want it.
Fourthly, if you put the comic in your archive, make sure that there's clear credit and a link back to the artist's site. Don't just mention it on your main page, in the news that gets erased on a weekly basis. If I'm reading through your archives for the first time a year or two later (and with any luck, you will have new readers do that with regularity), I don't want to have to go through eighty pages of news/blog archives to find out who drew that comic in March of 2005. If you can't do that when you're on hiatus, that's fine. Just do it when you get back. If you don't keep guest comics in your regular archive, that's fine. But put them somewhere that they can be easily found.
Conversely, if you draw a guest comic, I strongly suggest putting your name, your URL, and the fact that it's a guest comic in the image itself. Nothing wrong with putting "A Spare Parts guest comic by Hans van Eijck" in the image itself, above or below the comic. There will, if either of you have any luck, be at least one brand new reader who comes to the site while your comic is there and they should know what's up.
Fifthly, is it acceptable to ask for changes? Yes, it can be. If it can be easily done. If you specify exactly what you want. For instance, like asking for actual profanity to be replaced with profanity symbols. If, of course, you've avoided actual profanity in your strip. Rewriting the strip is out. Asking for a redraw is out. It's also acceptable for the giver to refuse to make the changes. And it's rude to ask for changes but not run a strip. Should you make the changes yourself? If you do, run it by the artist before putting it online.
If you're drawing a guest comic, know you're audience. If you're not sure if something is appropriate, ask. Or send in two versions.
Anyhow, just be civil. If people enjoy your comic enough to give you something, then be polite. It bothers me when cartoonists do this to each other because we know that respect is hard to come by and that comics take time and effort.