I’m a comic creator. I can’t draw, I can’t colour and I’ve learned the hard way I can’t even be trusted to edit my own work. So if I want to create something and put it in the hands of fans, I’ve got to crawl up a metaphorical mountain where every step can put me in very literal financial danger. This article is a frank financial discussion facing comic creators.
Let me begin by saying this isn’t me trying to scare anyone away from their dream of making comics, far from it. I just want people to be aware of the financial commitment that you need to make knowing there is no guarantee you’ll make it back. If you are financially secure enough, I envy you, and also, what are you waiting for? Get out there and create!
As well as creator, I am a writer. The two are not mutually exclusive but are often found hand in hand. So thankfully that is a cost I can afford, however, there are time costs relating to planning, researching, writing and perfecting each draft of the script (not to mention the hundreds spent on coffee in quiet cafés where I can focus undisturbed). So if you can write it yourself, then you are in a slightly better position. Honestly, writing costs would add another grand on easy.
Getting a good editor is crucial. It was one of the reasons I was able to turn things around with Issue #2 of Daughter of Titan. Kirsten Murray (soon to be a credible author in her own right) has a solid career working as an editor at both Titan Comics and D.C. Thompson so she has knows what’s she’s talking about. Because we studied together at University, I was able to tap her for a better rate as a once-off. But her rate is usually about £200 per script.
Editing = £200
Basically I landed an absolute gem of an artist in Monika, her cost per page is at least £136 per page which is broken down into £100 for the actual work, and £36 in tax. Her work is worth it, but for a standard comic you are looking at just shy of 3k. In my case, going for a 36 page comic increases that to a whopping £4896 and right there is the bulk of your cost. So if you can draw, you should really consider investing in some classes and although the time frame may extend, you can protect your finances in the mid-to-long-term.
Some artists do their own colouring. It may make the page rate increase, but I find getting a professional for each stage of the process cuts down the overall time. After Maja completed a test page, it was a no-brainer to hire her. Plus she did the page flatting which makes the quality better.
Colour (and flatting) = £1100
Early on, while getting some initial impressions for the first few pages, several people commented on the lettering. Originally, Monika was the letterer, and while I have always valued the letterer as a team member, I was trying to save money by roping Monika into doing it. That initial feedback though reminded me why letterers are so vital to the process. Again, I managed to get an letterer who had worked at DC, Vertigo, and Marvel. Letterers can move quite quickly and their input is lesser than the colourist (though no less important) and because of that, their page rate is quite cheap.
Lettering = £180
The cover image isn’t usually done by the interior artist, but it isn’t uncommon. Monika came up with a few concepts, we bounced ideas around and even went on social media to poll the potential cover. When we got our final concept Monika created it for a standard price for a good, high-quality image. Remember, the cover image is super important to the success of the comic on Kickstarter. As people scroll through Kickstarter projects/ social media feeds, you need your image to stand out and grab people. So this is one area not to scrimp on.
Cover = £180
The debate went up on a forum the other week about how a creator was getting quite frustrated that while selling at cons, their prints were doing far better than the comic itself. Some people were telling them to get a better comic, and others were saying he should just be happy selling anything. While there are slivers of truth in those comments, they miss the point. Prints are there to subsidise the comic. On Kickstarter, they are to try and get backers to dig that little bit deeper for something they may not be able to get ever again. The prints that were available for issue #1 were not available for issue #2 and the same will likely be for the Issue #3 kickstarter. So prints are important in that respect.
For the issue #2 Kickstarter, I picked 5 artists of varying fame. The first 3 were for the Kickstarter itself and the other 2 were to be used as stretch goal rewards. The more known the artist, the more it’s gonna cost you. So it is good to chase one really known artist to boost your profile (also you can tap into their fan base for your own Kickstarter, so you are paying for that as well) and the rest are cool indie artists that may not have a massive fanbase to put your work in front of, but they can create cool prints regardless.
Guest prints = £450
Thanks for reading so far, this article is part of my eBook “The Art of Conversation; Writing Comics and Surviving Kickstarter.” To read the rest of this article (and many others), you can purchase it here: (Full contents below)
Here is a peek at the contents
1. The Art of Conversation, Depicting dialogue in comics (You can read this for free on my blog)
2. The Art of Conversation Part 2, representing dialogue in comics
3. Black holes disguised as white lines; the power of the comic gutter
4. A Picture is Worth 1000 words – how to write a comic script that your artist can use Part 1
5. A Picture is Worth 1000 words – how to write a comic script that your artist can use Part 2
6. Write to the beat of your own drum – How to pace scenes in a comic
7. Piracy and Indie Comics
8. The Internal and External Drives of a Narrative.
9. The terrifying REAL cost of creating a comic issue
10. Lessons that turned a failed comic Kickstarter into a successful one.
11. No Snakes, Only Ladders: Kickstarter Reward structuring
12. Kickstarter Capitalism: the worth of debut and returning creators
13. Surviving your maiden Kickstarter Part 1 – Failure to prepare is preparing to fail
14. Surviving your maiden Kickstarter Part 2 – The Campaign Trail
15. Surviving your maiden Kickstarter Part 3 – Crossing that finishing line
10 thoughts on “The terrifying REAL cost of creating a comic issue”
It would be great if you were to put your books up on Artithmeric.com as well as your usual routes to market. It would not cost you anything, just upload the files for free and physical comics are printed and shipped on demand worldwide. Our Creator Prices are published on the Artithmeric.com website (in the ‘about’ section). Our creators set the retail prices of their books and we pay the difference monthly. Contact me please if you’d like to know more. We are a London-based business, but we have US printers and distributors too (and are currently negotiating with Australian printers).
Hi Steve! Could you put up a link so that myself and others can find out more information? Thank you!
Richard – Hi! The website is Artithmeric.com and the important pricing (for both Freemium and Premium membership) is all in the ‘About’ section of the site. It’s a new business (2019) and has just 230 creators so far, but is growing at quite a rate.
Sorry, not sure how to add a link here.
And this is the all-important pricing page.
In all ventures, there is risk. The more you risk, the more you can gain. In brief: don’t be afraid to set the KickStarter goal at the full amount. If you are afraid of that, you just ensure having to spend a lot of your own money. Also, you should be amassing readers as you go, so a higher amount for the next KS makes full sense.
This is all very true. But the first attempt to fund issue #2 with a higher amount failed which was a big factor in setting the funding goal so low this time around.
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