Signing: $25 a sketch

In a recent Jiminy Christmas I had a nice heartfelt memory of store appearances by comic creators, meeting the fans and sharing in the comic spirit.  With eager anticipation I went to a store signing recently where two local artists were appearing, Jeff Lemire and Scott Chantler.

Here’s a nice picture of both creators working away at sketches.  Jeff Lemire is sketching for free while Scott Chantler has a sign that says “sketches $25”. What?

I stood in awe and wonder as I stared at the sign.  Is it possible that an artist appearing at a store signing would be charging for sketches?  I had a nice Lemire Dr. Fate sketch from a previous store appearance he made in Hamilton so I didn’t want to take any of his time away from fans that were seeing him for the first time.  You can probably guess if I approached Chantler for anything.

Since then I’ve been contemplating the whole episode.  Are creators compensated for making a store appearance?  Perhaps, but it’s more of a goodwill “give back to the fanbase” kind of move.  There’s a big difference between a convention appearance and a store appearance: the con lasts for days and the creator is rarely paid to be there so they make up for it selling goods and services, like stacks of their books and sketches. Store appearances are usually for a few hours at a local comic shop, either the creator’s local shop or someplace not too far.

I can see where Chantler’s coming from: he’s not a big name and like the rest of us needs to put food on the table.  To be honest I’m not sure if he charged anyone that day, but the sign was there and that made me stop in my tracks.  This is a dangerous precedent: am I crazy or should signatures and sketches be free at a store appearance?  Chime in below.

Default image
Scott VanderPloeg
Scott works in I.T. but lives to eat and read. His other ramblings can be found at AE Index and eBabble. Art collection at Comic Art Fans.
Articles: 1230

12 Comments

  1. Hey Scott, charging for sketches at a store appearance is nothing new. A long time ago, Bill Sienkiewicz came to the Silver Snail in Hamilton to promote Stray Toasters. A guy ahead of me asked for a sketch from Bill. Bill asked him how much he was willing to pay and eventually they settled on a $20 sketch. I believe you were at the back of the line so you probably did not see that exchange.

  2. At least with charging for a sketch, the artist knows he is doing it for a fan, not just someone standing in line to get something for free.

    I don’t see an issue with this, as long as they are willing to sign their books for free.

  3. That’s not what I meant by my comment. People will stand in line to get anything for free. If he is charging, he knows he is working on a piece that the fan really wants. The fan (presumably) will ask for a sketch that will mean something to them, instead of asking for a generic Spider-Man or Power Girl sketch.

    If the store is paying the creator to show up, then he’s double dipping. But if he is there for free, why not make a couple bucks off of people willing to hand over their money.

  4. I don’t generally respond to online criticism, but being called out so publicly about something so inane demands a bit of clarification.

    First of all, I’m usually happy to sketch for free for children. It’s also not uncommon for me to do quick (free) sketches inside of books while signing. Aside from that, though, I don’t draw for free. Period. The reasons have nothing to do with who’s a “big name” or where I happen to be appearing, but simply the fact that this is what I do FOR A LIVING. Many artists (like Jeff) are happy to sketch for free. I am not one of them. I feel, and have always felt, that doing so devalues the work, which is bad for everybody.

    I started out sketching for $10, and have gradually increased my fee as my career gained momentum. But I also found that as the price went up, SO DID THE QUALITY OF THE SKETCHES, which is important to me. Some artists may have the time and focus at a signing to do wonderful sketches for free, but personally I don’t want a bunch of crappy free sketches out there with my name on them, so charging a little bit of money is my way of sort of tricking myself into doing a good job.

    Last but not least is the fact that what I choose to charge for my work is my own damn business, and nobody else’s. Not the store’s, not Jeff Lemire’s, not “standard practice”‘s, and certainly not yours. If twenty minutes of my time and skill isn’t worth $25 to you, then by all means move along (as you seem to have that day at The Dragon) but writing a blog post questioning my integrity in charging for my work at all makes me want to crawl under a rock out of embarassment for comics fandom. As a commercial illustrator, my rate is $100 an hour. So while I’m always willing to appear at a store to support sales of my books, it’s costing me money just to BE there.

    Hopefully this helps explain my sketch fee, for which I make absolutely no apologies. It’s either paid sketches or NO sketches, though I feel like neither one would likely make you happy.

  5. Thank you for taking the time to respond. I wouldn’t say you were being “called out” since as you stated you can charge whatever you like for your services; it was less than what you were charging at TCAF.

    I hadn’t seen anyone charge at a store signing before and thought it would make for a good discussion.

  6. Sorry to come down on you so hard, but the shocked tone of the post comes off fairly accusatory.

    I should also say that I don’t generally get paid for store appearances. Especially ones that are in my own backyard, like at The Dragon.

  7. I always thought that charging for sketches at a store signing was pretty common and accepted. I paid for an X-Men sketch from Paul Smith almost 25 years ago.

    I, personally, always charged for sketches when I’ve done store signings (including store tours I did in California and New York and the East Coast). Now, my own personal policy is that I’ll do Lethargic Lad sketches for free, and since working for LEGO, I’ll do simple LEGO sketches for free. But if you want something detailed, I’m gonna charge. I don’t get paid for store appearances and a store signing for an artist can be often more work/tiring than a regular day at your drawing desk.

    Autographs, on the other hand, should ALWAYS be free.

  8. The issue of charging for sketches has been topical on this site, due in part to opportunistic fans flipping sketches for more money on eBay. I’ve debated this topic ad nauseum but we live in a democratic society so I say live and let live… as long as we are also willing to be accountable for our own actions.

    Whether it’s comic art or a sketch, whether it’s sold at a store or at a con… it’s all semantics because the underlying principle is the same. To live in a democratic society is to live with choice.

  9. Short answer is they’re not difficult to do.

    If someone wants you to sign a comic that’s yours or you worked on, it should be free. I mean, they already bought your comic. I feel sad every time someone asks me how much I charge to sign my comics. I know they’re asking because someone else IS charging. Now if you’re someone like John Byrne or John Romita Jr. who has done a lot of work, I don’ t think its unreasonable to set limits… like 8-10 autographs at a time, to prevent someone bringing your entire run of Spider-Man, or whatever, up to you.

    Then all those “celebrities” you see at FanExpo, or just about every con, that bugs me. Those guys have appearance fees and all their expenses covered (if I’m not mistaken). Maybe charge $10 at the most, but if I have a book or picture, you should sign it for free (or cheap). When I see these people charging upwards of $75 (or maybe more… $75 is the most I’ve personally seen) then I feel you’re taking advantage of your fans. Want to discourage the “scalpers,” then limit one or two items to be signed, or insist on personalizing the item.

  10. The times I’ve had people ever ask me to sign something, I always gladly do it for free. I have to completely agree with Scott’s stance as being an independent comic artist/writer myself, I find that anytime that people will give something away for free, there is a hell of an uphill battle to get people to understand the worth of art. I understand those that do not charge for sketches, and honestly, if people buy some issues of my work or other things I have, I’ve been keen to throw in a sketch for them. I make my living by freelance work and comic convention appearances, so I have no choice but to charge for something that I create.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: