Australian comikers have a long history of swapping their published works with those of their peers in order to support each other and build their respective libraries. Similarly, many comics creators have been known to barter services to bring a project to fruition. Some of these arrangements have worked out well and others have been abysmal, owing to the fact that the exchange was marred by a lack of equality, accountability, and a clash of core values.
So, what exactly is bartering and what are the bigger issues in a successful bartering proposition within the comics community?
Bartering is the act of exchanging goods and services – something you have for something you need or want – without using money. These arrangements are usually done face-to-face, although the internet is providing a platform for bartering directly with another person or via a third-party facilitated transaction.
In comics, the usual form of barter occurs with skills. For example, a comics editor might offer his or her proofreading talents to a graphic designer who in turn delivers a logo or masthead design in exchange. Similarly, a comics letterer might do some lettering for a comics artist in exchange for some character concept art. There are any number of possibilities to bartering services in comics.
The major goal of bartering is to create a win: win situation for both parties. It is particularly helpful in the start-up phase of a comiker’s professional career. Where both parties share the same core values of honesty and integrity then the alliance invariably succeeds. However, when one party delivers to expectation and promise, and the other party doesn’t and there are no mitigating circumstances that prevented the exchange from happening, then the consequences will invariably manifest as a profound lack of trust and long-term hostility and resentment from the injured party, and a relationship breakdown. One person is out of pocket in terms of the value assigned to their skillset and the time spent on realising the promise of the barter, whereas the second person walks away with a freebie.
What Can Be Bartered?
Any goods (comic books, graphic novels, zines, paints, paper, art equipment, etc) or services (proofreading, editing, graphic design, scriptwriting, art, etc) that is desired by another person in the comics community can be bartered.
What are the advantages to bartering?
What are the disadvantages to bartering?
How do you find somebody to barter with?
If you have something to trade and nobody to trade it with, then post a bartering request on one of the Australian Facebook comics groups of pages or via Twitter networks, telling potential parties what you have to offer and what want in exchange. You can also set up a specialised barter group on a social media (closed group) platform such as Facebook where you can trade services with other Aussie comics creators.
Bartering Best Practices
When a barter goes right then it can be a rewarding experience for both parties and can move them to accomplishing their goals. However, break your promises at your peril. Comics creators operate in informal networks and they share intel. If you do not deliver, word will get out and you will be invariably be perceived as unprofessional and others will avoid you or decline to work with you.
Remember that the reciprocal deal needs to be closed to mutual satisfaction for it to be a positive outcome.
© Julie Ditrich, 2019