The terrifying REAL cost of creating a comic issue

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.
Editing

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
Inking

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.
Inking =£4900
Colour
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
Lettering
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
Cover
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
Guest Prints
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
Printing
This will likely be your second largest cost, but there is a good opportunity to make a long term saving. If you plan to sell at cons, or launch future kickstarter campaigns where earlier issues may be used as rewards for backers, you can invest more now, to lower the costs for the next kickstarter.
In real terms, I needed 141 copies of issue #1 and 162 copies of issue #2. Instead of buying just what I needed, I decided to order more copies.
Comic Printing UK charged £669 for 300 copies of issue #2, and £399 for 200 copies of issue #1. Above I mentioned I had 5 art prints, I got 250 in total, sticking pretty much to what I needed which added an additional £96 onto the cost.
Printing = £1200
Packing
Packing is fairly cheap and straight forward, but you aren’t going to want to scrimp on the quality, nothing worse than your comic getting damaged in transit and having to resend it with better packaging. Amazon will cover everything you need in bulk for a good price. I still have some leftover which will be used in the next campaign.
Packing = £150
Postage
This is a minefield and where I made the biggest mistake. The Royal Mail in the UK has set prices for certain sizes and weights of letters and parcels. While I factored in the size of the letter, I didn’t realise that the weight of 2 comics would take it over the threshold into the next weight category. This meant that there was between a 10-50% increase per package. If it were only a few packages it would be fine, but I had to send over 100 packages to the U.S., Australia, and other far-flung countries. This mistake essentially cost me an additional £416.
Postage = £1016
Marketing
Some people put more into facebook ads but this was simply all I could put into it. Most sources claim that putting more into marketing improves sales, so I put a few pounds here and there and split the rest of the budget on adverts on the first day of the kickstarter and on the last day to try and catch some attention. It worked. But nowhere near as well as mutual shoutouts on Kickstarter updates.
Marketing = £100
So if we add all that up. We get a grand total of £8310. Remember that does not include writing, so if you are a creator and you want something written up by a professional, then you will need to add accordingly (also hit me up I’ll do it for a good deal haha).
Now I wouldn’t have to rethink the entire Kickstarter approach to Issue #3 if I had raised that amount. If my costs were covered, issue #3 would be inked and coloured by this point and I’d be shouting about a Kickstarter launch. But the problem with Kickstarter is that there are no guarantees. And it was one hell of a leap of faith to assume we would raise 8k. Since I had put in a lot of my own money and was determined to get issue #2 out there, even at a heavy personal cost, I went for a low funding goal to guarantee that 100% funded status.
We did raise an incredible £4018 which is no small amount in itself. But after KS took their cut, I was left with £3600 which again, is not an amount to be sniffed at. But when taken in the context of the overall costs, I had to put in roughly £4700 of my own money.
Now if I was rich and could afford it, this would not be a problem, but I simply cannot afford to put that much money into issue #3 and considering Daughter of Titan is a 6-issue miniseries, I need to consider the prospect of sinking 18k into it. When researching this article and calculating that figure. I can’t lie, I felt a bit ill.
So when we go for Issue #3, I will likely need to ask for minimum 6k in funding. And I know it will hurt my chances of getting funded but it’s time of DoT to stand on its own. If people ask me why I all of a sudden went from needing £1500 to £6000 then I can simply send them a link to this blog.
If you are an indie creator who uses crowdfunding, please comment with your experience (and if you would be so kind) and budgets. How much did you spend, did you make or lose money? Finally, any tips for raising more?
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8 thoughts on “The terrifying REAL cost of creating a comic issue

  1. 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).

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      1. 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.

        Steve

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  2. 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.

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    1. Richard Mooney

      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.

      Like

  3. Pingback: End of Summer Reading – Callum McSorley

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