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Symson
11-01-2016, 11:23 PM
That’s the question you need to ask before you can think about the page rate. Can I make a living doing print comics? If you can't produce comic books pages at the speed listed below, you are not going to be able to make a living at this.

Writer - 4 books a month
Penciler - 1 page in 8 hours
Inker - 2 pages in 8 hours
Colorist - 2 to 5 pages a day average
Letterer - 1 to 2 days to do a full comic book

Here are the various scenarios talent can find themselves positioned in the comic book industry and the page rates. That is corporate, small press. self-publisher and independent publisher.

Here are the average starting rates per page:
Minimum rates per page:
writing - $13
pencils - $58
inks - $29
colors - $11 to $29
letters - $3

Starting rates per page (these do go higher):
writing - $35
pencils - $125
inks - $90
colors - $50
letters - $20

Pro rates per page (these do go higher):
writing - $75 to $100
pencils - $155 to $200
inks - $100 to $175
colors - $75 to $100
letters - $35 to 50

Everyone deserves to make at least minimum wage for their services; writer, artist, colorist, letterer and any other job in America. Not only deserves, it's the law. Regardless of skill level.
http://abbadabba.com/forums/comics/page-rates.png

Steven Forbes
11-02-2016, 12:00 AM
Very apropos of nothing.

Also, this is going to cause a firestorm. I'm going to tell everyone right now: keep it civil, or I'll shut it down.

Thanks in advance.

-Steven

Lee Nordling
11-02-2016, 02:06 AM
Ignoring the page-rates chart, which has a use as a reference point, the answer to the initial question is "yes."

But there are a TON of ways to do it that extend beyond the traditional page-rate payment for comics, so many ways that to list them would avoid getting to the heart of the more IMPORTANT question: for those of you who WANT to make a living doing comics--because not everybody does want to--within the context of your talent, expertise, style and editorial interest and approach to making comics, what are YOUR best options for YOU to reach that goal?

For example, if you're a manga-style artist, does it really make sense to target Marvel and DC? Of course not.

Does it make MORE sense to create a trade bookstore graphic novel that is intended to reach a teen readership? Of course it does. If so, do you do superheroes? Probably not, unless you've got a spin that will reach a mainstream teen readership in a way that current superhero comics do not.

Many of you just want to do what you want to do, and that's fine.

Many of US understand enough about the different facets of the publishing industries to spend our time working on those projects we love that ALSO fit a niche that publishers will consider.

It isn't a coincidence that I'm producing wordless sequential art books for a young readership, temporarily setting aside the dozen or so older-skewing projects I'd LOVE LOVE LOVE to be working on.

The reality is that I saw a big gaping hole of potential for what COULD be successfully published, a hole that very few others are trying to fill...and I'd much rather have less competition than more for a publisher's money.

It is important to work on what you LOVE, but you also need to learn what does and doesn't get published well enough to not waste time and energy on producing something that isn't LIKELY to sell.

It is perfectly okay and good to work on something that you KNOW probably won't sell, as long as your expectations are realistic.

And, in either approach, we hope for the best book possible and good fortune that it will reach whom we'd like it to reach.

Are there other ways to make a living producing comics?

As I wrote, there are a ton of them.

A number of years ago, a pal produced a daily strip that was free online. He stuck with it for a long time, promoted it and built a readership, and sold collected editions and product with his characters on it.

He was pulling in nearly $100,000/year.

And he isn't THAT good an artist, but he's a pretty good cartoonist.

We have our talents, our skills, our level of experience, and a world out there in which to apply them, but we need to be smart about how we do that, too.

And that includes understanding how the publishing and promotion worlds work.

It's not the fun stuff, but it's important.

Stewart Vernon
11-02-2016, 03:56 PM
That data confuses me... something is missing.

The Starting rates and the Pro rates are both well above those in the Minimum rates... So, how does that work?

I'm not saying it is wrong... I'm just saying those three columns alone leave a gaping hole. Something is missing.

Steven Forbes
11-02-2016, 06:24 PM
Why is it that whenever someone starts listing what creators "should" be making, editors are somehow left off?

Lee Nordling
11-02-2016, 06:25 PM
There's nothing missing; it's just not clear/concise/complete accurate.

First, there's no such thing as a minimum page rate; it's whatever a company pays or a creator agrees to receive.

The next column, which is labeled "independents" is a pretty accurate NOT-TOP-TIER COMICS COMPANY rates, which also vary from publisher to publisher.

The next one labelled "professional," a BS term, because, in concept, the other two are professional, too, but it suggests Marvel and DC rates, and it's roughly accurate, though there are a lot of page rates in each category that are higher than this.

Don't waste time trying to figure this out.

Worry more about what you want to do, who will want it, what they'll pay (traditionally), and whether or not that's acceptable.

Lee Nordling
11-02-2016, 06:26 PM
Answer to Steven: because if it's a traditional publisher the editors are on staff and get a salary.

vartemis
11-02-2016, 08:57 PM
I would like to know where those numbers were gotten from. They aren't remotely close to correct, independent or pro.

ayalpinkus
11-03-2016, 03:25 AM
In his comments he mentions that everyone is legally entitled to at least a minimum wage and I do believe that would be a good guideline to follow. If you think one creator's work isn't even worth that, you can't believe it is worth publishing either.

I think a day rate, instead of a page rate, would be better for creators. Comic takes more time? Creator makes more money.

The financial risk should be on the one who is doing the hiring, the one whose vision is being implemented.

Having said that, not all rewards are monetary and a creator may be seeking to get something different out of it.

Like Lee says, it is about what the publisher can afford and the creator is willing to accept. So a guideline like this may be dangerous. The minimum page rate looks very low for example.

Scribbly
11-03-2016, 07:16 AM
Not even a minimum wage for comics artists. Officially, it didn't exist.
What about Benefits? Health care, vacations, 401K or retirement for comics artists?
Very sad. It seems all comics creators are living in Cro-Magnon era to this, labor related, basic issues.

Lee Nordling
11-03-2016, 10:01 AM
I was hoping this conversation, a potentially good one, based on the title question, wouldn't go down this rabbit hole (again, as it always seems to).

Wrong again.

To anybody asking about page rates, the numbers I read on the chart are vaguely consistent with rates I've seen paid in the industry. More importantly, the ratio between what a penciller gets paid, which is usually the highest, and the others is consistently accurate. The THINKING, which I'm hope won't devolve, is that the rate is being paid for how much time somebody spends on a page. So, for those of you wondering why the pages rates differ, that's the reason, like it or not...that's the reason.

Re. the question about a minimum, there is no minimum page rate, a minimum page rate is not required by law anywhere in this country. Nowhere. Working for a page rate is an independent contractor business.

The ONLY way a minimum (not a page rate) is set by law is if the creator is an employee of a company, and that's (in the U.S.) a federally mandated can't-make-a-living-at-it standard.

I would LOVE it if comics creators started a guild, because then there is the possibility (in the U.S.) of getting lower insurance rates for being a member of a large group. It's been tried in the past, too many creators don't want to pay dues and don't see the value in doing so. (It's probably better if we don't pursue THIS part of the conversation, because it takes us farther from the initial better question.)

Can you make a living doing comics?

Yes.

But it's up to you to figure out HOW to do it.

Luckily there are a lot of options, but if you're NOT a prospective Marvel or DC creator (and most of us aren't) then it's up to you to become ENOUGH OF A BUSINESS PERSON to figure out how to do it.

For those of you who just want the page-rate cookie cutter paradigm to make it simple, then working at DC or Marvel is pretty much your ONLY option...and that's way too limiting.

The OTHER option is to get a job on staff at a publisher; I've been there and done that a few times, too.

I've been scrambling in different aspects of this business for over forty years. (Whew--how time flies when you're having fun!)

My first thoughts on this topic remain my best advice to anybody wanting to make a living in comics, and if you choose to take your chances in swinging for the moon with unlikely long shots, just remember: Darwinism works.

Scribbly
11-03-2016, 10:10 AM
Yes. Darwinism exist in comics. Joe Quesada said so.

Scribbly
11-05-2016, 10:57 AM
I was hoping this conversation, a potentially good one, based on the title question, wouldn't go down this rabbit hole (again, as it always seems to).
Re. the question about a minimum, there is no minimum page rate, a minimum page rate is not required by law anywhere in this country. Nowhere. Working for a page rate is an independent contractor business.

The ONLY way a minimum (not a page rate) is set by law is if the creator is an employee of a company, and that's (in the U.S.) a federally mandated can't-make-a-living-at-it standard.

I would LOVE it if comics creators started a guild, because then there is the possibility (in the U.S.) of getting lower insurance rates for being a member of a large group. It's been tried in the past, too many creators don't want to pay dues and don't see the value in doing so. (It's probably better if we don't pursue THIS part of the conversation, because it takes us farther from the initial better question.)
My first thoughts on this topic remain my best advice to anybody wanting to make a living in comics, and if you choose to take your chances in swinging for the moon with unlikely long shots, just remember: Darwinism works.

Actually a Comics creators Guild did exist back in the day. The best and talented, star artists and comics writers were in command. But it never worked well neither lasted. But what we learn of it is that if this was important for them in order to make a fair living from comics, it should be important for us as well. To establish minimum page rates and working conditions. It didn't work and probably this intent will never be repeated.
The article:

http://comicsalliance.com/comic-creators-rates-1978/
Comic Book Creators Guild Asked For Rates In 1978 That People Still Don’t Get Today

by Janelle Asselin May 11, 2015 4:30 PM

In 1978, a group of A-list comics creators calling themselves the Comic Book Creators Guild gathered together to attempt to unionize. Members of this group included Paul Levitz, Neal Adams, Jim Shooter, Frank Miller, Walt Simonson, Chris Claremont, and more. One of the things the group did was put together a list of recommended rates for publishers, which CosmicBookNews posted last week. The union ultimately didn’t work out, and the saddest thing is that the very reasonable rates they posted still aren’t hit today by many publishers, even adjusted for inflation.

The recommended rates also included very generous payments for foreign rights and reprints, which creators are not always paid for today. Here’s the list:
http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p214/yeyed/comic-creators-guil-1978_zpsz5refpge.jpg
BTW, In America, comics artists working as independent contractor (freelancer) we must pay full taxes, 30% from whichever our paycheck make.
In opposite to share the burden of taxes with the employer, The Publisher, paying only 15% for taxes each one as in any other everyday job, included temporary jobs.
And I been there as artist who pay his taxes. But is very unfair. Example: if I make $3000, I will get $2100 after taxes. On top of that no authors rights whatsoever for artists. Best thing is to put on our blinkers and the head in the hole and keep drawing, or writing while we have some job to do.

Kay
11-05-2016, 03:14 PM
BTW, In America, comics artists working as independent contractor (freelancer) we must pay full taxes, 30% from whichever our paycheck make.
In opposite to share the burden of taxes with the employer, The Publisher, paying only 15% for taxes each one as in any other everyday job, included temporary jobs.
And I been there as artist who pay his taxes. But is very unfair. Example: if I make $3000, I will get $2100 after taxes. On top of that no authors rights whatsoever for artists. Best thing is to put on our blinkers and the head in the hole and keep drawing, or writing while we have some job to do.no tax refunds?

Scribbly
11-06-2016, 04:45 AM
no tax refunds?


Self-Employment

By law, businesses and individuals must file an income tax return every year to determine whether they owe any taxes or are eligible for a tax refund.
If you work as a freelancer, or don't receive a regular paycheck from your employer, you're not subject to federal withholding. Instead, you pay estimated taxes in quarterly installments in April, June, September and January. If your estimated payments are higher than the tax you owe, then you will receive a refund of the difference after filing a return.

BTW, how this work and how do you manage these issues living overseas, in Slovenia, when working for American Publishers?
Can you make good money value with the difference in currency conversion?

Kay
11-06-2016, 01:12 PM
BTW, how this work and how do you manage these issues living overseas, in Slovenia, when working for American Publishers?
Can you make good money value with the difference in currency conversion?The average salary in my country is $500 a month ($6,000 per year) so... yeah.

Symson
11-06-2016, 01:12 PM
The minimum pages rates listed below are based on the minimum hourly wage. If you are working for an individual or a very small company then these are the absolute minimum rates you should accept in my opinion. Yes, this is not a standard, just my own opinion

For example, the lowest page rate for pencil art today should be $58 a page. How did I arrive at that? The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. An artist should take 8 hours to draw one page. 8 x $7.25 works out to $58 for a page. This a baseline formula that everyone can follow. Minimum wage is not a living wage. This would barely pay rent and utilities in some states, if at all. Well forget about food, hence the term "starving artist". As long as we have a place to draw, we can do without food. (just joking)

A good letterer can do one 22 to 24 page comic in 8 hours, so the per page rates should be adjusted accordingly based on $7.25 an hour.

Minimum pages rates should be used when client is individual or very small company.

Typos because I didnít go back and change my text after I made the chart:
Independent company should be for second list.

Corporate rates should be for Pro rates


I would prefer addressing my answers to questions in the original post, so they are in one place. And edit the above for more clarity and consistency based on some questions.

Yes, this is intended as a reference and guide, so that talent is not so easily taken advantage of when it comes to payment. I constantly meet new talent who want to know the answers to this question. The second most asked question is, ďWhat are the royalty rates?Ē

If you feel the opportunity to draw for $5 a page is something you want to do, then go for it. At least, be aware of what you should be getting. Lee Nordling shares some very wise words. In my freelance life, (which includes more than comics) I have accepted weird payments. I received clothing from a fashion designer, in lieu of monetary compensation. So compensation is really between the client and talent.

Iím only addressing working for pay, not self-publishing, web comics or any other alternatives to making money creating comics.

Answer to Steven Forbes: Editors arenít listed, because they usually are not freelancers and work on staff, 9 to 5 for a company.

Answer to vartemis (Josh Aitken): I added an explanation of my personal calculation of what a minimum acceptable page rate should be above. Iíve worked for many small and corporate companies over the years. See some, but not all of the companies Iíve worked for my Amazon Authorís Page (http://amazon.com/author/howardsimpson). I have received these rates and know others who have also.

I have listed typical starting rates. Since I canít list every companiesí starting rate, there is going to be variation. Also an editor can decide to start someone above the starting rate (when possible), if they really like the talent.

Answer to Scribbly: When talent signs a contract with a corporate company after they have worked a certain number of years, they are offered benefits.

Symson
11-06-2016, 02:45 PM
BTW, how this work and how do you manage these issues living overseas, in Slovenia, when working for American Publishers?
Can you make good money value with the difference in currency conversion?
You must pay taxes according to there laws of your country.

Currency exchange rates vary all the time, so there is no clear answer.

One thing you can do that applies to anyone in any country is figure out what your time is worth,

Add up all of your expenses:

Rent
Utilities
Phone
Internet
Food
Insurance
and whatever applies to you


Letís say that equals $2755 a month.

$2755 divided by 30 days = $92 a day (now you have a day rate)

$92 divided by 8 hours = $11.50 (now you have an hourly rate).

So you really should accept no job that doesnít cover your living expenses.

But weíre not done yet. Multiply $11.50 x 3 = 34.50 an hour. Why 3? For your education, talent , experience and because life happens! Besides who just wants to live to only pay bills?

So in this example, your time is worth between $11.50 and $34.50 an hour or between $92 and $276 a day.

SO if you accept a rate below your minimum, then you are not going to make a living, because bills will be unpaid.

Knowing the worth of your time gives you negotiation room, because you can ask for a high rate and you know what your bottom line is as you get negotiated down.

ayalpinkus
11-07-2016, 04:39 AM
^^ what he says, exactly! I'd do the calculations with 22 working days, not 30, work-life balance and all that. But I believe that's a very sound way of looking at it. Bills need to be paid. Figure out if your "business model" allows you to do that. I think that's sound advice.

I agree with what Lee says too. Figure out what your target audience is: who will want to read it and why? How much would they want to pay for it? But it is usually impossible to predict up-front whether a consumer product will do well in the market. The "selling hours" model is more predictable but has a lower maximum potential up-side: the fixed salary you get. With a consumer product, the potential upside is ... infinite! Well, almost, when you have a runaway success.

But those are the two "business models" I'd consider: 1) being paid well by the hour, so you know for sure you can pay your bills, or 2) on your own dime, create a new product, something no one else is making yet, for which you think there is a huge, massive potential market, and potentially become really rich, or at least have fun trying. It is important to make sure you remain the owner of that product. You're the one doing the investing, you should reap the benefits.

For me, I do both: I can make 120 USD an hour as a software engineer (the "paid by the hour" model), and I am trying to adapt theater plays to comics (the "create a consumer product no one else is making yet" model), trying to reach that audience of people who enjoy going to theater plays but who are too busy to see many.

(120 USD an hour as a software engineer also means I can make 2,000 USD as a software engineer, in the time it would take me to draw just one comics page, so that's why I don't even try to go down the route of being paid a page rate. That's called "opportunity cost": I can make far more through other, equally fun activities.)

In both instances, as a product, it follows, or tries to at least, the same rules, mechanisms:

Offer a product customers want (my coding skills) for a price they are willing to pay for it (120 USD is apparently the going rate for my skill level as a software engineer).

Or:

Offer a product customers (hopefully) want (theater plays adapted to comics) for a price they are willing to pay for it (need to figure that out still, but I am considering expensive coffee table books, it's a different market after all).

The business model is different in that my coding gigs have a fixed upside (the hourly pay) and an infinite downside (not getting gigs, not getting paid). For the "Theater Comics" book, the maximum downside is the fixed investment in time and money I make, and the upside is potentially infinite (for all intents and purposes), if the book ends up selling well.

You can essentially compete in two ways: 1) make more of the same for less, which leads to commoditization, the race to the bottom, as prizes come under pressure, as the price becomes the only thing you compete on. Replaceable artists who work for page rates fit into that. And 2) make something completely different, something no one else is making yet, and if there is demand for it, you have a lead start over your competition and you can charge a premium. An example I always think of is Apple and its Mac line. When PC's were ugly gray boxes, mutually exchangeable commodities, Apple started selling computers whose prime feature was that they looked good on your desk, and it turned out there was a market for that, even if those computers were more expensive.

CSA
11-21-2016, 02:21 AM
Check out this "Secrets of a Freelance Artist" course where I talk about how you can make a living doing freelance art and comics, including what I learned about what to charge, dealing with clients, and more!

https://www.udemy.com/secrets-of-a-freelance-artist

RoboTwin
12-01-2016, 06:02 PM
On the topic of cartoonist guilds and group rate insurance, maybe organizations like these will be helpful to someone:

Graphic Artists Guild (dues range from $75 to $200)
https://graphicartistsguild.org/Membership_Benefits/insurance

Freelancers Union (no dues)
https://www.freelancersunion.org/

Sully
12-02-2016, 05:26 PM
To me, the better question is, do you have the thousands of dollars necessary to have a good start in writing comics?


Good information in this thread though. Much appreciated.

RoboTwin
12-02-2016, 09:28 PM
Why do you need thousands, and how many thousands do you need? How would you budget it? Is there an optimal time & place factor per thousand (like 1 week in L.A. per thousand) to have a good start?

Sully
12-05-2016, 10:55 AM
That depends on your comic.

If it's just a one-shot and you manage to find a fairly affordable artist (Best I've found is $50 per page for something readable, though I am limited on who I can work with), then you may only need one to two thousand by the time it's lettered and printed.

If it's a GN, or you want to work with a more impressive artist, may need six to seven grand.

It's definitely a lot of money as a writer. But I shouldn't have been complaining about that. I had several new bills come up that basically shut down my chances of hiring an artist on anything anytime soon (aside from my one ongoing project, but the artist for it is very busy, so progress is pretty slow). I was pretty bitter about having to postpone making comics for (by my estimates) several years, and I should not have vented that here.

Sorry.

Scribbly
12-05-2016, 01:31 PM
On the topic of cartoonist guilds and group rate insurance, maybe organizations like these will be helpful to someone:

Graphic Artists Guild (dues range from $75 to $200)
https://graphicartistsguild.org/Membership_Benefits/insurance

Freelancers Union (no dues)
https://www.freelancersunion.org/

The only problem I see with this "Guild" is that is not official. Totally inoperative. Without real Legal power for make any of these estimates to be applicable and respected by Publishers.
These estimates are only good wishes. Nothing further than that.
Lets say that there is a real Union behind those wishes, as Journalists have and I am pretty sure that by tomorrow every artist would have these starting rates and more, including full benefits, health care and vacations. Even on these dreadful times of layoff in-between projects for the Artists at the Publishing house.
Why? Because after three (3) published issues the Artists should become and be considered part of the house staff. Part time staff, if not full timers, but with the same benefits that any other house employee that are not Artists already have. At that point to give away to Publishers all Artistic Rights, as is mandatory right now, would really make sense. It would be in exchange of something: Work Benefits.
Why? Because the Artists, writers and illustrators, with their talent are the engines, the labor force, moving the business for the Comic's Companies. Then, we can compare with equality comics with movies and Comics Artists with Movie Screen Actors.
Unfortunately, none of these "good wishes" are Legislated. Already. Probably never will. And be clear, this is not Publisher's fault, but the Artist's weakness who always are playing the individual game, jumping vine to vine, enjoying temporary and deserved good luck, not seeing the big Jungle that sooner or later could devour each of them. Laureate Comics Artists and wanna be comics Artists. One by one. IMHO.

tim1961
12-06-2016, 11:50 PM
I've seen the flow from a surplus of writers go to a surplus of artists in the last 3 years or so.

What you REALLY should look at is what artists out there are willing to accept for payment, from pencils, inks, colors or the whole gambit.

I've seen threads on Digital Webbing here offer $30 to $50/page wanting everything and having the position filled within days if not the same day.

So then, the real question is where are all those artists coming from who will work for such low page rates, and how do you compete in that kind of a market?

Like, is it some guy or girl in Argentina or Romania who looks at $20 American as a lot of money? (Maybe they live with their parents).

You can make any kind of rules you want but it won't affect the stream of eager artists from all over the world willing to snap up any job for any price.

I've made a bit of a headway on this... slowly. By being patient and honest about pricing. Usually Craigslist has been more effective than DW or Deviant Art (Refrigerator Art) in getting an honest dialogue going with potential clients. Also having a stand-alone website helps too; something that focuses your art and what you've done in the past to support the page rate you think you deserve.

Even still... I average about 125 leads for each one that lands actual money. So it's a good habit (for me at least) to seek out the job postings wherever they may be and put my best foot forward. But then MOVE ON if nothing develops.

Each potential client in need of an artist gets hundreds of responses for each job offering, and of that about 20 or so artists that would be perfect for the job. Even if they respond positively to you remember you're still in the mix with dozens of other people, so don't take it too hard if they don't pick you.

On the other hand, new jobs pop up every day. If you can't get the right figure with the person you're working with now there's a chance you will with someone else in the near future. Writers seeking artists are still fairly common, and those with the money will always have the prime selection of talent. (Important to always be polite and civil in your transactions. The way you can tell the difference between a flaky loser vs. a quality lead who has the money is that YOU CAN'T, so don't jump to conclusions.)

-Tim.

Scribbly
12-07-2016, 06:33 AM
Living overseas, except European Union, and because money exchange rules, each dollar automatically multiplies for 5 to 10 or more. That is what makes great the value of American dollar. No bad $20. If these $20 are paid on time. No excuses for no paying and producing great indie comics with those overseas Artists then.

REDemption2017
12-20-2016, 10:25 AM
Actually a Comics creators Guild did exist back in the day. The best and talented, star artists and comics writers were in command. But it never worked well neither lasted. But what we learn of it is that if this was important for them in order to make a fair living from comics, it should be important for us as well. To establish minimum page rates and working conditions. It didn't work and probably this intent will never be repeated.
The article:

http://comicsalliance.com/comic-creators-rates-1978/

BTW, In America, comics artists working as independent contractor (freelancer) we must pay full taxes, 30% from whichever our paycheck make.
In opposite to share the burden of taxes with the employer, The Publisher, paying only 15% for taxes each one as in any other everyday job, included temporary jobs.
And I been there as artist who pay his taxes. But is very unfair. Example: if I make $3000, I will get $2100 after taxes. On top of that no authors rights whatsoever for artists. Best thing is to put on our blinkers and the head in the hole and keep drawing, or writing while we have some job to do.

Dang...$100 per script page. And here I am thinking most people would ask too much if I asked only what I earn at my day job. (I am not ashamed to say it out loud: $15/hour.) Talk about underselling yourself!

Then again, here is the question that always enters my mind and stumps me, and thus stops me from asking for higher: if I am just starting to offer my writing services out to people, and they have no way of knowing my quality of work (other than if I give them my own scripts), then how are they going to agree to something like even $50 per page? They might be thinking to themselves, "Who does this guy think he is? Did he write for Marvel or something?"

So I guess my question is: how does a newbie justify coming out of the gate with a "high" page rate?