Creative: Breaking Down The Benefits Of Making Comics [@hannibaltabu]

Komplicated: Escapism

The following is a first person editorial.

I saw an article referencing comments by writer Jim Zubkavich, who writes the largely entertaining comic Skullkickers (among other credits): Creator says creator-owned comics pay as little as $31.25 a page—if you’re lucky.

On a print run of 5000 comics (and many, many creator-owned titles sell less than that in the current market), it means $1250 to $2500 remains for those 4 important categories. Guess how that breaks down?

If the advertising cost was ZERO and publisher expenses were ZERO, then the writer and artist of a 20 page comic would still only get $31.25 to $62.50 EACH PER PAGE. Oops, no money in there for the cover art, sorry. Add in more people (inker, colorist, letterer, etc) and the amount would get split even further, but this is a BOGUS number. The publisher has expenses/staff to pay.

*Hannibal taps on his calculator*

$687.50 per 22 page comic book. For writer and artist *each* he says. So $1,375 gross profit back from selling 5,000 individual floppy comic books at, I’m guessing $2.99 a pop (gross receipts of $14,950, and Image takes about $2,500 off the top for publishing costs, which is fair). These are his numbers, so I’m not gonna get all Price Waterhouse Cooper with it and try to figure out where all the specifics go.

Shave off a hundred for lettering (I believe that’s current) and say two hundred for colors. Arguably edit yourself. $1075.

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Spend, oh, I dunno, let’s call it $175 an issue on advertising. I’d use Project Wonderful and alternate between BlackNLA and a few others I know, I guess, plus whatever press releases and what not I could manage on my own. So down to $900, or a net profit of $20.45 per page.

I don’t know much about artists. I don’t know what their costs are, but I know that’s not a huge per page rate (as I know artists who get hundreds of bucks per page).

However, I do know writers. I would stab a nun through the bone and meat of her face to get paid $20 a page writing comics. Each page? Hell yeah.

When I was a freelance journalist, I got as high as making seventy five cents per word, and have worked as low as three cents a word. A page rate like this would have been manna from heaven, even in the wild days of the late 90s when I was working for no fewer than four outlets at once for pretty long stretches.

Do I just have the mentality of a poor person, since I’ve seen some hard times? Twenty bucks per page on something I own, where I can supplement it with snarky t-shirts and merchandise and licensing and what not … that sounds good. Especially if I can crank out maybe two of ‘em a month (with the way I write, not impossible) and work a day job that doesn’t tax me more than 40 hours a week …

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Am I seeing this wrong? Before I had a family to support, I could have kept my $405 a month apartment in the Los Angeles neighborhood known as The Jungles (best known for its appearance in the film Training Day) and lived on this kinda money, but in that I had a bunch of side hustles, I wouldn’t have had to. Even now, I could conceivably work my day job and, if I had a regular extra $450/month coming in from writing the things I’ve been reading since first grade, be freaking ecstatic.

Hm. Gonna start writing out some more of my work as comics scripts, I think. You know. Just in case.

I know it’s not that easy — five thousand comics sold is around the volume of (in October, at least) the brilliant The Darkness, TV-supported Bart Simpson Comics, Boom! Studios’ future superhero drama Hypernaturals and western book The Lone Ranger. Those are books put together by professional organizations with overhead and health benefits and annual reports, not lone indies squeezing the work in while standing in line at the supermarket or while they wait for the baby to fall asleep.

Still. No harm in being ready.

UPDATED: Mister Zubkavich was kind enough to update his piece and clarify, so best to do so here as well.

The number paid back to creatives assumed both no advertising costs AND no publisher costs, such as the $2,500 Image takes (which, again, is fair). With that cost, creative teams selling 5,000 copies often end up operating at a loss. Which, of course, sucks, and points a much bleaker picture.

All hope is not lost: Evil Twin Comics creator Ryan Dunlavey had a slightly different set of numbers, which posited a self-published profit of $90 per page selling far fewer copies. The range of possibilities are wide, but not being in the game guarantees no profits. Thanks to everybody for keeping this discussion both smart and civil.

[Source: The Beat with special thanks to David Gallaher for pointing out the Ryan Dunlavey stuff.]

K

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