Money makes the world go ’round: The bottom line of comics creation

201009081814 Money makes the world go round: The bottom line of comics creation

Over Labor Day, Glenn Hauman at ComicMix had a fine post about the actual cost of comics which I’m quoting at length because it’s so true:

That’s about how much it costs for an average page of comic book art, in terms of labor. Figure $100 for the writer, $150 for the penciller, $130 for the inker, $90 for the colorist, and $30 for the letterer. Those numbers go up and down depending on talent and publishers, but that’s a nice round number for us to work with.

Let’s consider another number: 22. That’s the average page count for a monthly comic book story. It’s also the number of pages most average pencillers can produce a month. Neat coincidence.

Now start multiplying. That means a penciller will make $3300 a month, or $39,600 a year. With covers, round that up to $42 grand a year. Not a lot of cash there. And the penciller’s the highest paid talent on the book. A writer will make $2200 a month, and nobody pays him to write covers. He’ll probably have to write two books a month to make his nut. And so on.

But if you’re expecting professionals to create your comics, that’s what you’ll have to spend.

Graphic novels? From scratch? You’re looking at about 120 pages minimum– that’s $60,000 in labor costs. Unless you’re economizing and doing a lot of the work yourself, that’s going to almost insurmountable unless it’s commissioned by somebody– most writers don’t have a spare $48,000 to spend on an outside artist. This, of course, is one reason why many “literary” graphic novels are solo jobs– David Mazzuchelli, Darwyn Cooke, Alison Bechdel, Brian Fies, et cetera– because the economics simply aren’t there to support five hungry mouths.


For those wondering, these are absolutely the economics of comics. Every time I get a job where I have to do a P&L this is the ballpark. In fact, by quoting them, I just put myself out of a few $100/hr consulting jobs. Certainly some creators make a lot more. Some…much less. But it does put all the discussions centering on economic anxiety into perspective…Making comics is not particularly lucrative at the journey(wo)man stage.

Photo: Gus Ariola at his desk, from the Life Magazine Archives.

Comments

  1. “Certainly some creators make a lot more. Some…much less.”

    Allow me to raise my hand and declare myself in the latter position. Thank you. Also, I’m wondering… as one who writes, draws, inks and letters a book myself… if my rates should go up? Hah!

  2. Glenn Simpson says:

    So that’s $11,000 for one issue of a 22-page book. So if you sell 50,000 copies of that book, the creative is $.22 per copy. So the other $2.77 (or $3.77) is going for other things.

  3. People make money in comics? Who knew?

    I have a much longer reply that I ain’t gonna put here. Don’t know where I’ll put it, as I have to take time out of the writing that makes money to talk about how there’s not much money in writing indie comics. Irony.

  4. Oh, I will add that artists in demand on popular books have a secondary market of original art sales, as well as convention sales, though I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess as to how much that actually pans out to (figures vary wildly, and I mean wildly.)

    Writers don’t get to sell signed scripts. Or at least they don’t sell too many of ‘em. Letterers probably don’t either.

    Yes, I’m spending too much time on this.

  5. Nathan Schreiber says:

    Glenn, rest assured those rates are higher for a book that sells 50,000 copies.

  6. @Glenn: in Europe the pie is like this: 40%ish of the cover price goes to the retailer, another 40% to the distributor, 10% to the publisher and 10% to the artist and writer.

    But in comics on a 3 dollar book, there is $1 profit for the publisher to recoup his production costs (printing, inhouse and creative), so say that with Marvel a single comic is profitable about sales levels of around 25k to 30k

  7. chris Eliopoulos says:

    Glenn, don’t forget printing costs as well as the 60% that go to the retailer and distributor. Then, for larger companies, there are things such as overhead, editors, production, lawyers, sales people, etc.

    After all those things, profit doesn’t seem very large.

  8. >> So that’s $11,000 for one issue of a 22-page book.>>

    Plus the cover.

    >>So if you sell 50,000 copies of that book, the creative is $.22 per copy. So the other $2.77 (or $3.77) is going for other things.>>

    The retailer gets half the cover price, and the distributor gets another whack, so you’re taking that 22 cents off of $1.10 or so (or $1.48). The printing and paper costs about the same as the creative, plus you’ve got to pay for the shipping, you’ve got to pay the editor and assistant editor, the rest of the staff, the rent and utilities and any other overhead, warehousing costs, promotion, plus the additional share of those costs that aren’t covered by the books that aren’t selling 50,000. Which is the bulk of your line.

    And maybe royalties, depending on at what level royalties kick in.

    kdb

  9. Glenn: Of the $3.99 of the average price, the publisher is only getting about 40%. The distributor gets about 20% and comic shops/retailers get about 40% (or less, as many offer subscription discounts).

    So, from $3.99, the publisher is getting about $1.60. Less shipping and printing costs, which will probably discount that amount by about half (depending on the volume). Publishers now have about 80¢ per copy.

    Most comics sell well below 50,000 copies. A book that is doing okay MIGHT sell about 25,000 copies. 25,000 x 80¢= $20,000.

    $20,000 subtract $11,000 leaves $9,000.

    Which might seem ok, however the above figures don’t calculate in the money going to marketing, the editor, the rest of the staff at the publisher and rent. What those figures are, I don’t know. What I can guess though, is that after these are paid, the $9,000 figure is likely much, much less than $9,000. On top of it all, publishers need to ensure that they’re making enough dough to cover those books that AREN’T making money.

    Wow. Talk about spending too much time on a response.

  10. And I was beat to it anyway!

  11. That wailing sound you hear is 500 web-cartoonists realizing that there ain’t no Big Rock Candy Mountain.

  12. Tom Spurgeon says:

    If only Jaime Hernandez could hire that inker.

  13. I didn’t realize inkers made “so much”.

  14. These numbers seem totally in line to me. People are really out to lunch as to what comic people make that’s for sure.

    I have a friend who works at a comic store who is certain that a certain comic artist (who is a terrific talent and long-time pro) is a millionaire because he works on a key book. When I said I was pretty sure he wasn’t – he just couldn’t accept this for an answer. I was really bowled over by that.

    As I get older, I find that more and more the #1 question people ask each other in the bar after a con is “Can you support your family on your comics work?”. Most of the time the answer is “God, no.”

    For me, it’s all worth it though. Nothing else I’d rather be doing…

  15. There’s an old joke:

    “What’s the difference between a comics professional and a large pepperoni pizza?”

    “A large pepperoni pizza can feed a family of four.”

    kdb

  16. After explaining this dilemma of a rather poor living wage to non-comics people they usually ask so why are people so crazed about “getting in to the industry?”.

    My answer usually revolves around, it’s one of the last industries where you can creatively effect mythology…where your skills as a storyteller are all there on the page with very little interference. There isn’t a job out there that shares that level of gratification.

    And according to this video that’s why we do it: http://tinyurl.com/2ga47re

    =s=

  17. I’m sure that most comics professionals can easily feed a family of four for a few weeks… assuming that he’s properly refrigerated, vegetables are added, etc.

  18. Wait…writers make money in comics?

    What am I paying out for, then?

  19. Army of Dorkness says:

    “That means a penciller will make $3300 a month, or $39,600 a year. Not a lot of cash there. ”

    Wait, what?! What I wouldn’t give to make $39,600/yr! Taxes, blah blah blah. Gross income is gross income, and my highest ever gross income was WAY below that line. I didn’t realize comics professionals made so MUCH.

    I think an important question, especially as the Bush tax cuts are about to expire and with the general sorry state of things, is who CAN support a family of four on their income?

    I had no idea one could make so much money pencilling a single comic book per month. Every comic book artist at this level should count themselves lucky, and twice as lucky when the rest of us wage slaves that make half of that spend money on your work.

  20. Literally everyone’s been paid but me on my self-published stuff, Brendan. I feel your pain, in the most Clintonesque sense of the phrase.

    Oh, and another old joke:

    “What’s the best way to make a small fortune in comics?”

    “Start out with a large one!”

    /rimshot

  21. jaroslav hasek says:

    its almost as if i get the impression that there are more people willing to make comics for a living than there are people willing to pay for enough product to support all these people. i don’t make comics now, but lets say i want to; i may be forced to receive LESS than $40,000 a year for my efforts? unfathomable.

  22. Jeffrey says:

    So basically, you artists out there, do a writer a favor and work on backend pay a bit. And since when was 42,000/yr not a lot of money?

  23. Sherry says:

    Jeffrey – $42K/year is a lot of money depending on where you live, whether you have kids or not, whether you are the sole bread winner or not. If you have a spouse who has a normal day job that offers health and retirement benefits, so that doesn’t come out of your comic money, then it could be more than enough.

    In my town, Abilene Texas, $42K can get you a pretty decent apartment/house payment in a decent neighborhood. Utilities aren’t too bad and etc. And probably still have left over for things like taxes, health expenses, setting a bit aside for savings. If you don’t have more than two kids, they’re always healthy and old enough you dont have to pay for daycare (which is ridiculously overpriced in this area IMHO).

    Take that $42K to Dallas or Austin or San Antonio, where cost of living is 2-4 times that of here, you may be singing a very different tune.

  24. At the last convention I attended as a guest, I had a beginning artist ask me what advice I had for him.

    I told him to marry well.

  25. Since when is $42,000/yr not a lot of money?

    Since you’re talking about adults who live in New York.

    If it’s freelance (and it most definitely is), you’ve got self-employment tax, which if you’re lucky or you live in fantasy land means you’re walking away with $35k.

    You’ll want an apartment of your own, avg. rent in Brooklyn=$1600 for a 1 br with a small office, so that’s nearly $20,000. You could get something smaller, or live in a shittier neighborhood, but suffice to say, you’re going to be paying at least $15,000.

    You’re left with $15k-$20k for food (avg. $10 a day), cable (with internet, $100/mo.), electricity($50/mo.), cel phone($50-90/mo), transportation($80/mo.) and a personal life (HA!/never).

    Oh, and don’t get sick because you can’t afford health insurance. A simple ear infection can cost you several hundred dollars (who needs to eat this month anyway?)

  26. I’m reminded of all of the Buffy fans who claimed that Joss Whedon was selling out with his Season 8 run and only in it for the money.

  27. These stats apply to the privileged few who get paid to make comics. The majority of creators don’t. How about a stat on how much it COSTS the average creator per page.

  28. Re: is $40,000 a year gross a lot of money?

    Remember that to earn this amount a comic artist has to draw 22 pages a month, or 264 pages a year, which usually means working 12 hour days/60 hour weeks. With no holidays and no sick days (unless they want to lose money). And little to no job security.

    On an hour by hour basis, it’s not as great as you may think.

  29. I’m sure those numbers are largely accurate, but rounding up from $39600 to $42k when factoring in covers seems off. I’ve always seen cover rate be significantly higher than interior page rate.

    Not that the point of it all isn’t spot on. Just that one part doesn’t seem very accurate.

  30. Well, there is the blunt way to put it. If we were all mathematicians or accountants we would stay clear of this industry. I think we got into this industry so we could stay clear of the mathematicians and accounting industries.

    These rates have been going on for a long time. Big business thrives. Little guys works to survive. Good thing the internet is changing all of this.

    Own your own property. Sell it to you own fans. Make the cash you deserve. Of course, that’s not where the BIG money is but, I’m sure you’ll get enough to feed that family and you’ll fun doing it. Any questions? Just ask.

  31. Ummm… the Bush tax cuts don’t apply to folks making a meager $39,600 a year. You need to be making a lot, lot more before you’ve even begun to be affected. One needs to get IN the millionaires boys club before you can be affected by it. We make and love comics and very few are getting rich at it.

  32. Charles Knight says:

    Interesting, I know a couple of inkers from the second and third world and they are being paid $25 and $30 a page and that’s from a well known publisher. So the answer is simply, if you are the publisher, outsource to the third world!

  33. @cheese Who pays $90 a month for their cellphone? That just seems excessive.

  34. Cheese says:

    My iPhone bill is $85 a month, $90 if I text more then I should. Granted, I could get a POS phone, but mobile comics are the new big thing and House of Twelve is available through Comixology (PLUG).

    The smartphone has become almost a necessity in urban America in the past few years, and with them the magical world of data plans.

  35. The costs are, indeed, pretty accurate. Like Heidi, I’ve scared some people away just by putting together an estimate.

    The actual profit involved in single-issue comics publishing is hard to compute on the back of an envelope, though. The reason: Printing costs per copy drop radically as your print run (quantity) rises. At that point you have both a much lower per-copy cost AND more money coming in, because you’re selling more copies. So low-circulation books lose more money than you might think, and high-selling ones probably make a bit more.

  36. these numbers are dead on and most pencilers I know have trouble nailing 12 issues a year. as well, most books do not make royalties…or the numbers to get them. Also, you cant count on art sales since most artists can only sell a few pages because people only buy key pages…or they work digitally.

    and yes, some companies that can afford to pay decent still send their people to go outside and find guys that will work for much less…but you get what you pay for.

    and yes, writers have to do more than one book a month to make a decent living.

    JIMMY

  37. Ha. These rates apply to Freelancers, NOT self-publishers. Freelancers that work for the bigger companies. I self-publish my books, “One Live Beast” and others, and they do well. And then I do freelance stuff, penciled, inked, and lettered, for $50-$100/page. If it wasn’t for convention sales and commissions, I would starve. And thank heaven my wife has a good insurance plan.

    And sadly, the bottom line is that I would rather do this than work for the big companies. Total creative freedom and critical acclaim = starve now, MAYBE feast later.

  38. wayne beamer says:

    Had a knock-down cyber fight with a former friend about health care reform framed around the fragile economics of creative people working from project-to-project on the music, comics and books we love. He didn’t really care about all the good books that don’t get written or the music that we never hear because too many people choose a steady income over the creative life. Maybe, that’s the “natural” barrier of entry in America for being an independent creator. I dunno…

    And, as far as having an annual income of $42,000, as Sherry said, depending on your health, marital status and dependents… That’s pretty low.

    For anything thinking about being a comics creative, I think Bill Williams’ advice above makes about more sense to me. Unfortunately.

  39. So has the creative talent seen anything from the $3.99 price point?

  40. Jesse Young says:

    I think $42,000 a year is all about perception. I started my first job at an ad agency 6 years ago making just $18K a year, working 50+ hours a week. After 6 years I’ve finally broken above that 42K mark, but I am still doing something I loathe every single day.

    Some industries take a while before you make any money at them, comics and advertising being examples of that.

    But if you start out a job making $42K a year for something you love, that’s not that bad. If after 5-10 years you’re still making the same, then there might be a problem, but guys like Robert Kirkman, Jason Aaron, Bendis, McMiven, Alex Ross, these guys are making more now than the first couple of years they started. It’s just like any other business. You’ve got to work your way up, but there aren’t many jobs you “start out” and are raking in the dough.

  41. According to this Jason Aaron post, in his first full year as a professional comics writer, he made less than $7000:

    http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=28225

  42. Jesse, I think you answered yourself. In this business, you start out losing money, not making it, and that $42K is the MOST that the majority of us can expect to make.

    People of my age (early 30’s) still remember being teenage dreamers when the Image guys were selling a million copies a month and paying writers $100,000 for ONE ISSUE. I think that maybe there’s still some residual denial inside of us all. Nowadays the only way you’re getting anywhere near that kind of dough is with a movie deal, which is why there’s currently a large number of comics that read like movie pitches.

    But I think Cheese’s point is apt: The largest comic companies are based in New York, but they certainly don’t pay NYC freelance rates – which would be about 10x what Glenn quoted. And there is a trend of outsourcing to artists overseas, though I can only speculate as to the economic reasons for it.

    So why do it? For the reason stated above – lots of creative freedom. And because some of us have been training for this since we were 8 years old and are ill-equipped for desk jobs.

  43. “I think $42,000 a year is all about perception. I started my first job at an ad agency 6 years ago making just $18K a year, working 50+ hours a week. After 6 years I’ve finally broken above that 42K mark, but I am still doing something I loathe every single day.”

    Jesse, thank you! I was thinking the same thing!

  44. Pencillers make even more money by doing commissions on the side.

  45. @Ken Raining: they probably se the continuation of their own employment.

  46. Great article.

    But as Kurt had mentioned, don’t forget costs for printing and distribution; overhead payment to staff, rent for the corporation to hold offices in NY… publishing comics costs much more than anyone thinks.

    As a former production manager for one of the largest publishing companies in the magazine industry, I’ve worked with costs, budgets/forcasts and actuals on a monthly basis for over a decade and believe me when I say, printing and disribution costs are enormous.

    And don’t forget the costs of prepress to prep a page in the digital age; many publishers do all prepress in house but for those who don’t, page corrections are outrageous…

    So actual costs even after all the creative is paid is much higher than anyone thinks. And the lower the print run, the higher the cost.

  47. I wonder about pencillers, especially, augmenting their income doing convention appearances and signings. Forgive my naivite, but do the companies pay their pros for these appearances, and do the companies get a cut of the sketch and signing cash?

  48. wait, do inkers make more than writers for a single issue in mainstream comics?

    not dissing the inkers’ hard work here and obviously name writers must be paid more, it’s just that this blew my mind, really.

  49. I appear to have hit a nerve. Rest assured, I’ll be coming back to these topics in the next few days.

    Quick replies:

    Kurt, Jimmy, and everyone else who said I got the numbers right: thanks. Except for the exceptions, which I’ll talk about shortly.

    Army of Dorkness re: the Bush tax cuts: please come back when you’ve gotten your driver’s license. (Sadly, I suspect you’ll be very happy when I start up on outsourcing overseas.)

    AO: Joss ain’t getting $100 to write Buffy comics. What he’s actually getting, I have no way of knowing, particularly because of the vagaries of licensing, etc.

    Daniel Burton: “If we were all mathematicians or accountants we would stay clear of this industry. I think we got into this industry so we could stay clear of the mathematicians and accounting industries.” To paraphrase Will Shetterly: Accounting is an ugly job, but if you don’t do accounting, accounting will be done to you. I can name comics pros with three decades of experience who live in their parent’s basement and don’t even have checking accounts, let alone a health plan.

  50. Dave Elliott says:

    If you’re not at one of the larger companies you aren’t making numbers like this. Some companies are paying $200 or less for pencils/inks/colors. Many companies pay a regular page rate for covers.

    As for sales, the lowest selling book in the top 300 is 3600. There are 5000 line items listed in Previews every month (not all comics of course) with a lot more comics than 300. The books that don’t make it into the top 300 probably aren’t paying these rates…

  51. No WAY a letterer gets $30 a page. Well, maybe one or two like Klein and Starkings. But mostly rates are closer to $5-$8 a page from MANY companies.

  52. >> But if you start out a job making $42K a year for something you love, that’s not that bad.>>

    How many comics pencilers start out with a regular monthly assignment right out of the gate?

    Odds are they’ll start out with less work than that, at a lower rate.

    My first year in comics I made under $5000, and was living in Manhattan. Even in 1982, that wasn’t sustainable, so I moved back home, where getting paid $30/page for one monthly book was nice, but I wasn’t close enough to the offices to dig up more work, and when I lost that gig I had to move back to the city to find work. It took 8 years before I could make a living as a full-time writer, and about 12 before that living seemed reasonably trustworthy.

    You don’t walk in and become employed at full capacity right out of the gate.

    kdb

  53. And to loop back to the issues Mark Waid raised, it’s important for fans and the mainstream audience to understand these costs because many believe that if something is “published” digitally and on the Web, there is no “production” or “manufacturing” cost, so it should be free.

    This is not an issue unique to comics, it’s being faced by the music industry, television, news media, etc. The unique aspect of the digital age is that for a lot of media the cost isn’t in “manufacturing” but rather in the ideas/intellectual property produced. But some people don’t see that as a tangible product and so think it should be free or cheap.

  54. @Andy – $5-$8 a page for lettering is a shitty rate. I know some of the smaller publishers pay that (Bluewater, et al), but most pay more than that. I’ve not come close to $30 a page, but am always open to it (Marvel? DC? You want to throw some of that $30 a page work my way?).

    Regarding $42k a year: it sounds great when if you’re currently making less, but trust me, it doesn’t go far. When I first got my job, I was making about $38k a year and thought I was rich! Then my wife and I decided to buy a house, have a kid and buy a car (which we needed to commute). We live just outside of Vancouver, which is now apparently (next to LA), the most expensive city in North America.

    My wife and I each make around (to above) the $42k per year mark and still only manage to squeak by each month. Savings? What’s that?

    If I were single, kidless, carless and still renting, then $42k a year would be great. But, I’m not and $42k is barely enough.

    But, seriously: Marvel, DC. Friends. At $30 a page, I will letter the hell out of your books. They will be hell-less!

  55. QuickDrawMcGraw says:

    I think that articles like this do more harm than good, in that it only serves to drive down prices of artists — good artists.

    The bottom line is that those numbers should be looked at (at best), as an AVERAGE rate for AVERAGE talent. And comics, like any other industry that requires and is separated by talent (along other factors), has many tiers. In the end, you get what you paid for.

  56. Actually Quick Draw, while articles like this may have that unfortunate side effect they also help artists. A lot of young artists have no idea what a reasonable wage is or that they could possibly get paid this much. Transparency and being willing to talk numbers helps.

  57. QDMcG: trust me, there are lots more things that drive down the price of artists. Making that mortgage payment is a biggie. The Internet is another, although not the way you probably think.

  58. Army of Dorkness says:

    “Army of Dorkness re: the Bush tax cuts: please come back when you’ve gotten your driver’s license. (Sadly, I suspect you’ll be very happy when I start up on outsourcing overseas.)”

    Seriously? That was uncalled for. I didn’t even say anything ABOUT the tax cuts other than they’re going to expire. I was referencing a hot-button political issue to address the bleak economic outlook of the country while throwing out the question of who can support a family of four. That’s a reasonable question. What gross income would be considered as being able to support a family of four? What percentage of Americans make that much? What percentage of families make it in combined household income? 40k/yr is still considered working class not middle class, and yet a large number of people make a lot less than that.

    If you want to go toe-to-toe on the tax cuts discussion, let’s do it. Taking an unprovoked swipe at me for merely pointing out an economic issue only makes you look bad. At most, I’ll give you that I could have just avoided mentioning a specific issue at hand as it really didn’t benefit the question posed. Your reaction to that, however, was petty, insulting and unwarranted.

    So… I’ll just restate it more simply. In this day and age, who CAN support a family of four with their gross income?

  59. @Al: “Forgive my naivite, but do the companies pay their pros for these appearances, and do the companies get a cut of the sketch and signing cash?”

    I believe the answer to both is no. definitely to the “get a cut of” question. That’s all gravy for the artists.

    Comic conventions may pay the talent to appear at their shows, but that’s reserved for the top tier guys. Again, depending on how famous or “big name” they are, the show may cover their travel/lodging costs, or comp them a table, but most creators have to pay for their own tables/booths.

    In most cases, artists can recoup their table cost and make some money by doing sketches and selling original art. us writers are pretty much there to meet fans and interact with other creators :-) At best, we may break even if we can sell enough books.

  60. Synsidar says:

    Here are the results of a cost of living calculation for someone moving from Manhattan to Fargo, North Dakota:

    Product Manhattan Fargo Difference
    Home Price $1,130,511.00 $259,446.00 $871,065.00
    Payment + Interest $4,636.00 $1,063.00 $3,573.00
    Apt. Rent $3,340.00 $728.00 $2,612.00
    Total Energy $353.06 $117.19 $235.87
    Part. Electrical $185.43 $53.54 $131.89
    Other Energy $167.63 $63.65 $103.98
    Lipitor $160.24 $142.59 $17.65
    Optometrist $155.00 $74.75 $80.25
    Dentist Visit $121.33 $78.00 $43.33
    Doctor Visit $116.50 $110.50 $6.00
    Washer Repair $95.00 $66.24 $28.76
    Vet. Services $86.40 $31.91 $54.49
    Beauty Salon $47.00 $24.80 $22.20
    Men’s Shirt $44.86 $30.50 $14.36
    Women’s Slacks $38.88 $27.49 $11.39
    Phone $29.95 $25.01 $4.94
    News Paper $25.35 $18.33 $7.02
    Boy’s Jeans $22.79 $14.99 $7.80
    Tire Balance $15.65 $9.60 $6.05
    Hair Cut $15.50 $13.59 $1.91
    Dry Cleaning $14.60 $10.95 $3.65
    T.Bone Steak $14.32 $7.91 $6.41
    Pizza $12.60 $10.00 $2.60
    Movie $12.30 $8.63 $3.67
    Beer $10.39 $8.39 $2.00
    Bowling $9.78 $3.34 $6.44
    Ibuprofen $9.67 $8.50 $1.17
    Wine $9.39 $6.39 $3.00
    Cascade $7.63 $4.95 $2.68
    Coffee $5.99 $3.92 $2.07
    Cereal $5.59 $3.85 $1.74
    Orange Juice $5.49 $3.00 $2.49
    Parmesan Cheese $5.25 $3.57 $1.68
    Frozen Meal $5.07 $1.87 $3.20
    2-pc Chicken $4.96 $3.17 $1.79
    Sausage $4.95 $3.99 $0.96
    Canola Oil $4.79 $3.15 $1.64
    Toothpaste $4.69 $2.27 $2.42
    Potatoes $4.59 $2.44 $2.15
    Potato Chips $4.39 $3.42 $0.97
    Ground Beef $3.99 $2.51 $1.48
    Hamburger Sandwich $3.95 $3.26 $0.69
    Sugar $3.35 $1.97 $1.38
    Peaches $3.19 $1.55 $1.64
    Klennex $3.04 $1.70 $1.34
    Gasoline $2.94 $2.66 $0.29
    Bread $2.52 $1.39 $1.13
    Half Gal. Milk $2.49 $2.61 $0.12
    Dozen Eggs $2.49 $1.08 $1.41
    Frozen Corn $2.49 $1.43 $1.06
    Tennis Balls $2.47 $1.78 $0.69
    Coke $2.29 $1.77 $0.52
    Lettuce $2.12 $1.55 $0.57
    Fried Chicken $2.07 $1.43 $0.64
    Tuna $1.92 $0.80 $1.12
    Margarine $1.79 $1.03 $0.76
    Shampoo $1.79 $1.07 $0.72
    Sweet Peas $1.56 $1.12 $0.44
    Bananas $0.91 $0.50 $0.41
    Mortgage Rate (%) 5.16% 5.16% 0.00

    There is about a 57.5 percent difference in the income needed for the same standard of living.

    SRS

  61. Army of Dorkness says:

    “There is about a 57.5 percent difference in the income needed for the same standard of living.”

    Good thing you can write and draw comics from anywhere.

  62. artist says:

    I’ve never made that much as a full time artist, so I’d feel rich. Although they are probably working their butts off non stop.

  63. This discussion alone should be enough for any comic creator to be discusted that the gate keepers of the industry have allowed the readership of comics to dwindle to next to nothing.

    This digital era will shift the controls to the creator. Do you want to make a living making comics? Find more readers willing to pay for your work.

    In a country of over 300 million people it seems almost impossible that we can only sell 30,000 copies of a good comic. We can only reach .01% of the potential market? Come on…

    Comics are perfectly suited for the masses!

    Stop the griping and and put that energy into promoting the products and the medium. (no preaching to the choir!)

    Make the market grow and so will the revenue.

  64. Charlie clark says:

    Excellent article! And yes I’ve been training since I was 8 years old and couldn’t fathom doing a book. 1. I need to support 4 people and 2. Many companies don’t pay! Or lie, cheat and steal! Do your home work and learn the hard way! Many respects to those artists working.

  65. Excellent discussion. Glen’s numbers are correct, but if I remember correctly, those numbers also haven’t changed significantly since the early-to-mid 1990s. I have an old Marvel editorial rate sheet around here somewhere that had a new writer’s rate of around $70 a page and an established writer’s rate at around $90-$100. At a panel at this year’s CCI, one of the panelists said that as a new Marvel writer, his fairly recent first assignment was for $65 a page.

    Someone else above pointed out that this is all freelance, so it’s not a guarantee of 42k gross. You might be on a book for six issues, and not get another assignment for 6 months, so your six issues of steady work is your year’s income.

  66. Army of Dorkness: You’re right, I overstepped. However, the Bush tax cuts make so little difference to 99.9% of us working in comics that throwing it in is like arguing which side of the forest fire we should attack with the garden hose.

  67. For my first graphic novel (in stores this November, incidentally) I got paid an advance, not a page rate — but it works out to a bit over $175 a page. That’s for writing, penciling, inking and lettering combined. At the speed I work, it’s WAY less than $40,000 a year.

    The truth is, if we want to do comics for a living — and this is doubly true if we don’t want to do mainstream comics — we probably have to find ways to live very cheaply. Don’t have children, have roommates instead. Live in the cheapest part of town, and that town better not be LA, SF or NYC.

    Living very cheaply does involve making some sacrifices. But it also comes with enormous freedom. Being able to spend your days drawing comics is a MUCH higher pleasure than being able to afford an ipad, and I think it’s totally worth it.

    (Of course, not everyone can choose to live cheaply. It may be too late not to have children, for instance; or health insurance might literally be something that can’t be lived without.)

  68. Rachel Edidin says:

    @Kate – Couldn’t agree more–one of many reasons I wish Unscrewed had been able to maintain steam. This is the kind of information that should be readily available, along with stuff like rights law.

    Another useful resource: http://workmadeforhire.wordpress.com/

  69. If you want to look at comics as part of the arts in the same way that people look at music or novels or painting as art, there’s still a lot more money being made per person working than these other artistic groups. Even with the vast number of us doing mini-comics & such, there’s probably 1 per 100 comic makers doing it for a living which I bet is much higher than musicians or fine artists.

    If you really want to feel like your making money off of your comics, you move to Malaysia.

  70. Army of Dorkness says:

    Glenn Hauman says:
    09/10/2010 at 3:45 am
    “Army of Dorkness: You’re right, I overstepped.”

    Thank you for that.

    “However, the Bush tax cuts make so little difference to 99.9% of us working in comics that throwing it in is like arguing which side of the forest fire we should attack with the garden hose.”

    It was unnecessary–irrelevant, even–for me to bring it up. Sorry it set you off.

  71. @Army on cost of living:

    The problem is, based on what Kurt Busiek was saying above, you can’t get these rates working anywhere. If you want to make anything close to $40,000/year you’re going to have to live in NYC. And even then you’re looking at investing several years of your life in getting work at big publishers.

    To provide some perspective: I know people that were making well more than that straight out of college working for a non-profit. With that kind of salary you’re looking at a couple of roommates, no savings, and working all the time.

  72. Army of Dorkness says:

    “The problem is, based on what Kurt Busiek was saying above, you can’t get these rates working anywhere. If you want to make anything close to $40,000/year you’re going to have to live in NYC. And even then you’re looking at investing several years of your life in getting work at big publishers.”

    And based on all the evidence to the contrary, you don’t anymore. Someone tell me, have any of the following writers or artists ever lived in or near NYC: Bendis, Fraction, Ellis, Bianchi, Ramos, Remender, Moore (Tony or Alan or Terry), Kirkman, Rucka, Lieber, Cho, Immonen(s), Moon, Ba, anybody from Studio Revolver or Gaijin or Tsunami? Obviously I’m not saying they didn’t. I’m saying not everyone has to go the Busiek route and especially not now. No offense to Mr. Busiek, but his early years in comics were a LONG time ago. There’s no longer a need to live in NYC to get comics work. Sure, it helps, but it’s not like “the good ol’ days” anymore.

    I’m not saying it’s easy. All I’m saying is you can’t use the norm from the mid-80’s as the norm of 2010 which is what it looks like you’re doing.

  73. >> The problem is, based on what Kurt Busiek was saying above, you can’t get these rates working anywhere. If you want to make anything close to $40,000/year you’re going to have to live in NYC. >>

    No, I didn’t say that.

    It was true in 1983. It’s not true now. Though being able to come into the offices when you’re starting out, and meet editors you’re not directly working with, is still a good idea.

    kdb

  74. I believe we have a viable business model here, the problem is that it’s not the “mainstream” model. With Orion the Hunter and our upcoming title Belter we’re starting on the web (for free) building an audience, then publishing both 20-page (or so) installments and a trade paperback at the end of each story arc.

    The real story here is the economic curve. Even our “mini-series” are never “off the shelf” since we sell them online. Instead of the downward track you see from day one with any comic, OGN or TPB, we see an upward track. Sales steadily increasing as we expand our web audience. We end up making more money, albeit over a longer period, by expanding our audience over time.

    I believe it’s the distribution methods that are flawed and holding back the market, and to some extent the current barriers to entry for new readers. Remove those and you have a decentralized business model much like the one taking hold in the music industry where creators don’t need middlemen to find their audience.

  75. Just like pimpin’ … comic bookin’ ain’t easy.

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