Putting this here for myself and later thoughts, as much as anything, but here’s David Brothers writing about freelancing and not owning your work:
But, and I say this with no animosity or judgment whatsoever, I do realize that the pay wasn’t great and signing over my rights wasn’t wise. I became aware of it a couple years back, and if I was writing something that was too personal or important to me, I kept it for 4thletter! instead of donating it to AOL. I didn’t hold back on my AOL work, but the things I loved beyond belief or wanted to keep control of, like my Black History posts or the various Frank Miller explorations, I kept to myself.
I was surprised when I went to a mainstream outlet, The Atlantic, and they said their going rate was $100 per piece, plus you retain your rights after a certain amount of time has passed. I was paid well at CA, well enough to be happy with what I was doing. I’ve written for a few other non-comics outlets recently and been paid on a similar scale.
I don’t think I was not-smart when I first started getting paid to write about comics, but I am definitely smarter now. I didn’t have the experience then that I do now, but there still aren’t many — any? — resources for new writers-about-comics to check out to see what their peers in other fields are being paid. There’s also the rookie conundrum. Can I get away with asking to change a contract or will that sour the deal? Back then, my thought was “I need this job more than I need ownership.” From here on out, I know to ask the question first. Sometimes people say yes.