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B&N Week 31: Expectations

| July 26, 2011 | 31 Comments

 

It’s Tuesday, isn’t it? See what happens when tempus fugits? I guess it’s time for another installment of Bolts & Nuts. Let’s get started!

First, I’m going to say that I’m not a nice guy. I’m here to slap a good many of you in the face, and you’re not going to thank me for it. It’s tough love. I’m here to help you get better, not nurse your bruised egos. Trust me, it’s more than the bulk of you are going to get in your careers.

Most of you are going to quit, simply because you’re quitters. Harsh, but that’s reality. Or, you’re going to only go so far because you have a small amount of talent. Again, harsh. Honestly speaking, the overwhelming bulk of you have unrealistic expectations, and that’s what I’m going to talk about this week.

I was on Digital Webbing once, and saw someone wanting to get together a creative team, as a collaboration [no pay], to be published through Lulu [print on demand], for what seems to be an ongoing monthly at 22 pages, with the goal to be picked up as either a movie or an anime.

I laughed. Remember, I’m not a nice guy. Let’s look at what the poster wants, and where it was posted, and talk about unrealistic expectations.

This was posted in the Collaborations portion of Digital Webbing. This means no pay up front. We’ve gone over that, but for the new readers, we’re talking back end pay—pay given after the book has been produced, printed, and sold. We’ve also already established that it takes a decent artist about a day on artwork, and if they’re fast, they can get more than a page done, probably two. But for arguments sake, we’ll call it a page a day. So, that’s twenty-two days to produce the initial artwork. That leaves just eight days for inks, letters, any other pre-press, and getting the files over to Lulu to be printed on demand. No, I didn’t add color in there. It’s impossible when you add in color.

(Steven, wait. Stop. You’re not being fair.)

Actually, yes, I am. Because, sad to say, it’s been proven time and again that for the most part, you’re not ready for the bush leagues, let alone the big ones. This person just asked someone to give up twenty-two days that they’ll never get back, creating something that is probably going to be unpublishable, using a print-on-demand company for the promise of admittedly low profits—profits that will be split with the rest of the creative team.

There’s no forethought here. Realistically, for an ongoing, you want to get a few issues in the can before you start soliciting anything. Let’s call it three issues, just to build up a buffer, because you don’t want to always be right up against it when you’re trying to go monthly. That’s a total of four months before you see any probable revenue off of this. (Four months?) Yes, four months, because you need that fourth month in order to get in all the revenue for that month in which the comic is being sold. At the end of the month (or thereabouts), you should be cutting checks to the team for all of their hard work and effort.

Now, the questions are these: how many publishable artists are going to respond to this ad? How many are going to quit because they never knew that creating comics was so much work? How many are going to be able to produce the work in the needed timeframe? And most importantly, how many are going to be able to produce the work basically for free? Because that’s what’s being asked here.

Instead of doing it the smart way, this person is more than likely to try doing this month to month, being right up against the wall during the entire short-lived run of their comic. (Steven, calling the comic short-lived is mean.) No, it’s giving the benefit of the doubt.

And this is what I’m talking about. Unrealistic expectations, because I’m willing to bet that those of you who’ve been reading the column regularly answered with a basic negative tone to the questions I asked.

The real shame is that, not only have I not even hit the halfway point, most of the people hitting Digital Webbing and going right to the Collaboration section are new to comics in general and Digital Webbing in particular, which means that there’s an astronomically high probability that they haven’t heard of this little column, or any column that deals with the subject matter and realities of creating comics. So, not only have they not thought about anything concerning the pitfalls of making comics, they’ve thought extremely way ahead to the lure of Hollywood.

And honestly, that’s what really irritates me, because most of you are guilty of it.

Instead of loving the medium for what it is, using its very real strengths to cover its few [but no less real] weaknesses, they’re using comics as a pitch to try to get a film made.

How many of you have done any research into Hollywood? Anyone? Anyone? Beuller? Think about this: discounting the Big Six of the box office [Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Hulk, and Iron Man], how many creators are out there with titles that are screaming movie? I mean, even DC has virtually unworkable properties in some form of development. You think you’re Steve Niles, and going to get a million dollar payday for your property? Think again.

It literally takes an unusual set of circumstances to get a movie made these days, despite the fact that Hollywood is looking to comics as a new vein to mine. While you’re sitting around, dreaming of tentpole blockbuster summer movies featuring your story of hermaphrodite zombies in love with the plot twist of them never being able to get it on because the parts keep falling off, if it gets made at all, it’ll probably end up on SyFy starring Dean Cain, if not direct to video and never heard from again. (Burn!) Stop it. I’m being serious.

I don’t want anyone to mistake me. I’m not discounting the lure of Hollywood. It’s big and bright and powerful. Everyone wants to have the next Spider-Man or Men in Black on their hands. You’d even be set with a Schumacher Batman. Like I said, the lure is powerful, and Hollywood is looking. However, the properties have to be good…well, at least decent.

The odds of the neophyte creator having publishable material, let alone material that is Hollywood ready, are extremely low.

If you’re submitting things to companies and not getting any response, and then decide you’re going to self-publish with no real plan, what makes you think you’re going to be able to market your book to Hollywood? Do you even think you’re going to know where to begin?

(So, Steven, what’s more realistic, since you want to try to dash everyone’s hopes and dreams?)

We’ve been over this in bits and pieces, but let’s put it together.

Let’s talk about making comics before we start talking about Hollywood. The Hollywood portion is really fast, but it needs to be built upon first. We’re talking comics, so let’s talk comics.

Part of this will also be covered in my Diamond talk, but it’s nice having things in one place, methinks. Anyway, some quick numbers. Pull out your calculators to check me if you wish.

Creative team, sans colorist and editor [because, while nice, you don’t really need color, and while everyone needs and editor, few of you get them]: pencils-$75/page, inks-$30/page, letters-$30/page. That’s $135/page, which is $2970 for 22 pages, and for a cover, we’ll call it $100, which puts us at $3070 per issue. With me so far? Right now, we’re working with an initial out of pocket expense of $3070, just so we’re clear.

Okay, let’s talk about printing for a little bit. We’re going to talk about a low print run, and we’re going to assume we’re going to sell out of the run. Right now, we’re going to talk about using a distributor, doing the traditional method that’s standard today.

Distributors are going to take a deep discount of your book. Over half. Yes, I’m being serious. It’s going to be like 60%, but just to make it easier [and adding in hidden costs], we’re going to call it 61%. (Steven, isn’t that kinda steep?) Hey, I don’t make up the numbers, I just report them. So, rounding to the nearest cent, for a $2.99 book, you’ll only be making $1.17 per issue. That’s right, you lose $1.82 per issue, going through a distributor. And it gets worse.

Printing! Remember, I said we’re going to start with a small print run, and we’re not going to talk about color. We’ll do that a little later. Maybe. Let’s say you’re using a bigger company, not print on demand, and that you’re going to have a 1000 copy run. Stop thinking that one thousand copies is nothing to sneeze at. Trust me. Okay, for 1000 copies, you pay $1400, which means that it costs $1.40 per issue.

Now, you ready for this? In order to start talking about profits, you have to subtract the expenses it take to make the comic. So, from your $1.17 profit per issue, after the distributor, subtract your cost per issue, the $1.40. That means you’re losing 23 cents per issue. (Steven, my head is spinning! Break it down for me, please.) Well, since you asked so nicely…

$2.99-61%= $1.17 (remember, we’re rounding up to the nearest cent.)

$1.40= price per copy for 1000 copies.

$1.17 (your “profit” after distribution) – $1.40 (price per copy for 1000 copies) = negative 23 cents.

So, for your total profit, after selling out of your 1000 copies of Pen Man at $2.99, you’ve made -$230. Let me put that into words, just to be clear. You’ve made NEGATIVE two hundred and thirty dollars. So, no, you haven’t paid for your print run. You’re now at an out of pocket expense of $4700, per issue.

(Steven! That’s not right… Wait! I’m in it to MAKE money! Your numbers aren’t right. You made a mistake somewhere… PLEASE tell me you made a mistake somewhere.) Sorry. Go check it out for yourself. I’m telling it to you straight. You want to make some money, or at least make a “profit”? Up your book to $3.99. Plugging in the numbers, you’ll make $154 off of your 1000 copy print run. So, while you’re no longer mathematically negative, you’ve still not made a profit.

Want to make a profit in the traditional model? Keep your book at about $3.99, and sell 10k comics. A 10k run will cost about $3400, but will net you $12k.

So, you add the cost of your print run to the production cost per issue, and subtract that from your profit [if any]. Dismal, isn’t it?

How are your expectations looking now?

The simple facts are these: in order to survive, you need to at least break even. Breaking even means selling about 5k per issue. Anything less is a losing proposition. And yes, it gets worse. The more expenses you add, the more you have to sell in order to break even. Advertising costs money. Sure, it’s a little cheaper now, but it’s still there. There’s also the costs inherent with going to cons as a professional, thinking you’re going to sell your wares. You have to worry about the costs of the table, travel, lodging, food, and whether or not you’re going to have items shipped to the con or tote them yourself. After paying for all of that, a profitable convention means that you’ve made enough in sales to cover your entire con experience, and a little extra.

Crying yet? (Steven, you’re a jerk, you know that?) I told you. This is what you’re in for. This is what it means to be a comic creator. I’m just here to give it to you straight, because no one else is.

To be honest, these numbers are the [unknown] reason why creators are going after the much-coveted Marvel/DC gigs. Why unknown? Because you’re all lazy quitters, unwilling to do the hard work yourself, which means you don’t know how anything works. You just want to jump in feet first, not knowing the first thing about anything. Sure, there’s also the things like getting to tell that epic Superman and Spider-Man story that will change them forever, trying to make a name for yourself as the one who put Wolverine in a skirt, but that’s really just an extra. You’re a writer, and writers write.

(Steven, what about print on demand?)

A little different beast. The thing about POD is that you don’t print more than you need, but lots of people I’ve come across have stated the quality of POD companies vary—price, job size, timeliness, quality of paper stock, binding, and damages [number of damaged copies during shipping]. While you print only what you need, you also have to realize you’re going to have to pay for multiple printings when you sell out of your stock. You have to decide if you want the multiple bills, or want the stock sitting around in your garage.

And for your ongoing epic, you have to juggle this over and over and over again, until your book either takes off or crashes. Puttering along means that you’re going to burn out, because breaking even month in and month out may not be worth it to you. You’re paying thousands of dollars just to tread water, while working a full time job because comics “don’t pay.”

This got into self-publishing a little, but really, using a print-on-demand company or going through a co-op like Image or Ronin Studios, self-publishing is really what you’re doing. The more honest you are now, the more research you do now, the more you take the realistic approach instead of “the rules don’t apply to me,” the better off you’ll be in the long run.

And that’s it for now. Your homework for this week is going to be simply to create a budget for your comics. That’s all. See if you can afford your hobby. Be honest with yourself. It’s going to be a lot harder than you think, and if you really want it, it will call for sacrifice.

See you next week.

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Category: Bolts & Nuts

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

Comments (31)

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  1. Hi Steven,

    I enjoy your column, thanks for the interesting read. I agree that you need to love the medium and be passionate about writing/drawing before looking at to the shiny stars of Hollywood.

    I also agree that having a buffer of several issues is helpful and is something I am planning.

    Could you comment on the Image route? I’m guessing it will be similar in that you still need to put together the creative team. I agree with Will Eisner in that writer and artist should be the same enabling a continuation of the creative input from one instance of the comic to the next (not that it can’t be done well using a creative team).

    Anyways, enjoy the site and I’m glad theres more to read on creating comics.

    Thanks
    Seb (Echaelon on DW)

    • Hey, Seb!

      Thanks for reading! I appreciate it. I also appreciate the question.

      I have one of my own, though, which will help clarify yours a bit: what is it that you’re wishing to know about Image? Are we talking about what you need, or what I think you should do? Keep in mind that these two are not the same.

      Thanks!

      • Sebastian Chow says:

        Hey Steven,

        More along the lines of what do you think I should do? For example is it a path you would recommend? This way would supposedly negate the cost of publishing as they take that off sales.

        Thanks
        Seb

        • Well, Seb, it’s like this:

          Unless you’re trying to swing for the fences, then Image is the next biggest game in town. Without knowing anything about you or your project, I will always say ‘Why not?’, with the caveat being that you know (not ‘believe’) that your project is as good as the worst thing Image currently puts out.

          Image is self-publishing. If you’re able to get in, then they will publish your book, getting it into Previews, and doing the tiniest bit of marketing for you. All they do is publish the book and cut checks when they get paid by Diamond. That’s all. They do not pay page rates, they do not settle disputes with creative teams, they do not dictate the direction your book should take. You are responsible for everything concerning your book. It is a LOT of work. If you’re not ready for it, then you’re not ready to create comics.

          Do yourself a favor. Go to the Image message boards, and read the FAQ for submissions. Read all the questions that people have, trying to make it much more complicated than it is. Then, go to your LCS. Look on the shelves to see what is being produced. Buy one, if necessary. Then put it up beside your project. If it doesn’t compare, then you’re not ready. If you don’t have an editor, you’re not ready. If you’re unable to tell a clear story, you’re not ready.

          There are a LOT of things that can make you ‘not ready.’ The biggest obstacle, though, will be not producing anything. So produce a book, and before you think about adding to the slush pile, make sure it is a good book and something you can believe in.

          Hope that helps.

  2. Noel Burns says:

    Greetings Steven,

    I have been reading for about a month now. I love your columns and the insight is great. I would like to touch on a couple of things.

    The first, being what is your take on Kickstarter? I know a number of self-publishing people have gone this route, but I am starting to see books that have a publisher listed on it now as well, IDW being the one I have noticed most. Is this a logical step to try and get your work out?

    Second question,if you have access to professionaly printing at a price that makes it worth doing wholesale…do you think self distribution would be a way to consider getting books out?

    Please, let me know your thoughts.

    • Hey, Noel! Thanks for reading! I appreciate it!

      Kickstarter: this isn’t really a publisher. This is a means of gathering funds. That’s all. How you use the funds are totally up to you. If you want to use it to pay a creative team, you can do that. If you wish to cover your printing costs, you can do that. Remember that the funds are yours to do with as you please. You just need to have a plan in place (know what you want) before you start your campaign. Success with Kickstarter means that you may have a greater opportunity for success with self-promotion, because within that paradigm, one leads into the other.

      Self-distribution: Remember that it is MUCH more than just printing up books. You also have to contact stores to see if they will carry your book, and if they do, you have to mail them out. That costs money. And then you have to worry about invoicing the shops for the books, work out a deal for returns (if any), and more. It becomes another job unto itself. If that is the route you want to go, then by all means, do so. However, make sure you think everything through first: cost of the books, possible costs of contacting the stores, what regions (if you’re not contacting all of the comic stores in the US), what shipping method, what shipping container (box or bag), weight of shipping… All of those have to be taken into account when you talk about selling price. Do your research in order to come up with your own conclusion if self-distribution is the way to go for you and your project.

      Hope that helps!

  3. Sebastian Chow says:

    Thanks for your reply Steven,

    You’ve confirmed a lot of things I’ve already thought about and appreciate your frankness concerning the work and talent that is required just to get something that is worth publishing let alone something that will do well. Like you said all too often people overestimate the cost (money and time) of producing a comic or the actual quality of the work they are producing. Originally I just want to produce a comic as something I could personally look back on fondly as my own comic even if I never showed it to anyone.

    Your advice is sound and before I embarked on this mammoth task I evaluated the factors (because as you say if it’s not feasible then it’s not worth even beginning such a project). In fact it was reading several creator owned comics from Image that moved me to eventually think “I could do better”.

    Just to give you a bit more background to show you where I’m coming from, I started out as primarily a penciler but over time have acquired the skills to also ink, colour and letter comics. The obvious advantage of this being that I don’t have to put together a creative team or pay for one but naturally there are downfalls to doing this all on my own. I know a lot of people learn these but it’s rare that the outcome is good enough for the shelf. I won’t talk myself up in and the proof as they say “is in the pudding” or finished product. I work full time but have written several short stories some which have organically merged together to create a mini universe of its own. I am aiming to have several issues completed if not ¾ of the work done before I attempt to approach Image.

    I may submit some stuff on here to get feedback in the near future.

    Thanks again for the reality check, tis needed if I’m going to be realistic about this.

    Seb

  4. Good stuff Steven. I think you’re average fan who buys your book has no idea how little the creators make per unit sold through shops or online books sales. I think convention appearances and sites like kickstarter are excellent for Small-press books as when people realize they’re giving directly to the creators for them to handle various aspects of publishing themselves they don’t mind paying cover price and we as creators going this route make at least twice as much per unit.

    I feel like 2 things need to happen for small-press books to really explode. #1. We as creators need to temper in our minds what constitutes a victory in sales and give it time to grow. #2.Prepare for the long haul. I call it the “everybody likes to party, but nobody wants to stay and clean up” syndrome. Making comics is an extremely involved process. Dig in and just do it.

    • I agree with you wholeheartedly, Jeff. Making comics is an extremely involved process, if the creators are serious about it. You can’t NOT learn a lot about it if you’re doing it right.

      I tell people all the time that I write and edit comics. Then they ask me, right on the heels of that, so you can draw really well? GAAAH! Listening is a lost art… But you’re right: the average fan has little idea of what it takes to make a comic, and really, they shouldn’t. Not if they’re just fans. They want to be entertained, and that means a story well told. They should have little care about how much money creators take in so they can be entertained.

      The clothes you’re wearing. Where do the materials come from? How do they get from one form to the other? How involved is it to make a pair of Levi’s? How involved is to have a pair of jeans tailor made? Do you really care? Neither do I, and neither does the average fan. Their job is to be entertained, and ours is to do the entertaining.

      Now, those more involved with the industry may know more about the money side of it, but those are few and far between. I’d speculate that those are the webcomic readers, because they’re buying merchandise directly from the creator, instead of going to a store and buying something there. Again, that’s just speculation, and I have nothing besides my own observations and thoughts to back that up.

  5. Kristoffer Peterson says:

    This whole writing for Hollywood is laughable, according to the WGA there are something in the neighborhood of 70,000 screenplays registered a year. Name one movie made from a no name creator ar a no name publisher. Oh that’s right, it doesn’t effing happen.

  6. Kristoffer Peterson says:

    I haven’t that’s for sure lol. I’m still writing just to get to the point where I don’t completely hate what I do. I know if I do ever get to a point where I think I have something publishable it will cost plenty out of my pocket. You can’t make a comic book expecting to get rich. Hell if you break even that would be a success story. But you can hone your craft, keep pushing and maybe someday you can write that Forbush Man story for marvel and actually get paid lol

  7. Rich Douek says:

    I think of my self-published comics (of which I only have 1 completed, lol) as my “demo reel” for getting paid work down the road. I’m producing them to gain experience, yes, and to tell stories I want to tell… but once I looked at the numbers I knew that making money on them would be next to impossible. So i look at them as an investment in my career, that will hopefully pay off later if I keep plugging away and getting better.

    Which is not to say I don’t want people to read them – but I’m producing them more to have something to show to editors and other professionals as completed, professional level work, than I am to fulfill some fantasy about becoming wildly popular overnight.

  8. Caty Long says:

    Steven, I’ve been reading your columns for a while now. I’m not trying to discredit anything you say but what I was wondering what exactly is your first hand experience with creating comics? What comics have you created and published?

    • Thanks, Caty! Great question!

      This is basically a ‘why should I listen to you’ question, and those are always good. It means that the questioner isn’t just taking what has been said at face value. Thanks for asking.

      I have created and published Bullet Time, first through Paper Dragonz, and it will be coming out from Markosia next year if all goes well. I have also created and published Group. You can find the first issue of both at bullettime.stevedforbes.com and group.stevedforbes.com. I have also co-written Fallen Justice with Cary Kelley of Red Handed Studios. You can buy the tpb at Dedham wrath iOS.com. My latest project is Runners, which you can download the preview of for free right here!

      I am also editor of the award-nominated The Standard, which ComixTribe has the honor of publishing, I have copyedited Warmageddon Illustrated/Quarterly for Digital Webbing, as well as stories that have been Zuda contestants, in addition to editing other titles on a freelance basis. The life of those projects are in the hands of their respective creators.

      Hopefully, that answers your question. Thanks again for asking!

  9. Caty Long says:

    So basically your experience is somewhat limited? Not to rain on your accomplishments but all that you listed seems pretty low level and limited in scope.

    • Which means what? That what I’m imparting isn’t of value? That I haven’t studied and lived what I’m imparting in an effort to ease other creator’s paths? If I had gotten into comics just here a few months ago, sure. I could see someone being skeptical of listening to anything I had to say.

      The goal of the site says it all. Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. I’m no guru, and what I’m imparting in my columns isn’t the only way to do things. I’ve even said so in a few of them. But I’m failing to see what my perceived lack of experience (low level and limited in scope) has to do with what we’re doing here.

      If you don’t find my columns useful, then I at least hope you find something useful on the site. Everyone we encounter is capable of teaching us something.

      Thanks again!

    • Tyler James says:

      Caty,

      Figuring out who to listen to and what advice to follow is incredibly important for any creator. I first discovered Steven a few years ago, when I decided to take my writing more seriously, and went in search of an editor. While a resume of working on successful books is one thing I was looking for, I think just as important to me was to find someone who was well-versed in comics and who has the heart of a teacher.

      Reading his columns and looking at the work he’s done on The Proving Grounds, there was no question he was the right guy for me to work with.

  10. Lance Boone says:

    A VERY sobering article Steven with many points I’ve learned whilst journeying around the internets trying to learn the comic book craft and industry.

    $4,000.00 is a number I’ve been aware of for a while now. It’s the number that strangles my comic book scripts in their sleep.

    It’s a number that raises a few questions for someone that doesn’t have the financials to get a book made. Do I settle for subpar art just to get my story out there even if the art drives people away from wanting to read it? Do I continue to try to find better artists and inevitably doom my story to fictional purgatory?

    I think my greatest fear(and the fear of most writers) is that my story will never be read by anyone…ever.

    I just want to entertain. Maybe I should learn to juggle.

    • Hey, Lance.

      The numbers are why I suggest writers also learn another skill, such as lettering. If you letter your own books, you can do two things: first, you help to control the costs, and second, you can edit it up to the final moment.

      Any skill you can learn to make comics will help you. You will start thinking about things in different ways, and this will help you become a better storyteller.

    • Jules Rivera says:

      Lance, whatever you do, DO NOT skimp on the visuals in your book. This is not to say you have to go out and hire an A-list artist, but nothing’s going to kill your fledgling comic like sub par art. In my experience, most new readers come for the art and stay for the writing, so no, don’t scrimp on an artist.

      And while you may not be able to afford the artist of your dreams, that’s not to say you have to give up. Many writers outsource work from outside South America, East Asia, and many other countries where a good quality artist doesn’t cost as much to hire. Granted, there’s an inherent gamble dealing with an artist who may not even speak your language, but there could be a great payoff. Or, if you’re interested in working with someone without a language barrier, contact your favorite artists on Dev Art, or even webcomics. If you have a strong script (and you should, before courting ANYONE), there are artists who might be willing to negotiate page rates. You have options.

      My best piece of advice for you is to talk to other writers who have commissioned artists. I know for a fact the creators of Amya (http://www.amyachronicles.com) and Hard Graft (http://hard-graft.net) commission artists for the comics (especially the latter, since I’ve worked with that writer off and on for nearly two years). See what they have and others have to say about commissioning artists. I hope this helps.

      • Lance Boone says:

        Jules, I’ve pretty much settled on the fact that it has to look good to even bother trying.

        A big part of what I’m doing right now is just trying to find out if my scripts/storytelling is even worthy of someone putting stick figures to it. In the meantime, I’m looking for pointers and advice just in case I take things to the next level. Right now my writing would probably be considered at a hobby level.

        Thank you for your advice.

  11. Jules Rivera says:

    Steve, I think I love you. So often I run into creators with stars in their eyes and often asking artists (like me) for countless hours of work for back-end pay. I don’t work for profit sharing because there are never any profits to share (especially from a book that would ask me to work for profit-sharing in the first place, they usually suck). I’m glad I’m not the only one who believes some people’s expectations are just astronomical.

    As far as comic costs go for my work (like Valkyrie Squadron), I don’t pay myself as an artist or a writer, but I’m also not in the hole for employing a creative team. My major costs are in web marketing and conventions and I haven’t broken even on conventions or advertising yet. Some folks are shocked to hear that because they see my work and think it looks professional enough, but I don’t have a huge following and my website doesn’t draw in enough hits to justify higher ad space fees. Thems the breaks. At least I’m not a quitter.

    As for Hollywood, that’s a whole other pile of insanity right there. Two years ago, I set up shop at SDCC with my meager table of wares and I actually had several people claiming to be “Hollywood professionals” talk about trying to license my book to make into a movie. Unfortunately, those guys are usually just script writers, which means absolutely nothing. People like that, or other underlings in the industry, are out to pilfer your work and pass it off as your own. And even if said “professional” isn’t out to rook you for everything your property is worth, Hollywood itself is particularly brutal to comics creators. Simply put, they want to pay you as little as possible while making the maximum profits off your work as possible. It’s not fair, but it’s business. You want to make it in Hollywood selling properties? Get the meanest, ugliest entertainment attorney you can afford. You’re gonna need them.

    Yet another cost of doing business.

  12. John Lees says:

    I finally got round to rereading this column. It’s just as depressing as it was first time I read it, perhaps even moreso now because I’m living it.

    Laying out the financial realities of making comics hammers home the limitations we face as indy creators. The indy comics scene is supposedly where we can do anything, but if you’re a writer who can’t draw, and you want to pay for a quality artist, then you get in a situation where you may come up with an idea only to think, “That would be nice, but because it would have X amount of pages I couldn’t afford to do that.” And it becomes a matter of finance dictating format.

  13. Well this is a sombering article 🙂

    I notice youve excluded colour from this example and then pointed out that the book would need to be sold at $3.99 to cut a profit.

    Are people prepared to part with that amount for a black & white comic?

    I’ve got to admit, I’ve been guilty in the past of an interesting comic catching my eye on the shelf, but then realising it’s not coloured, putting it down in favour of something else without really giving it a chance.

    Now I’m starting to realise I may be missing out on some fantastic creator owned stuff by doing this, but if I’m making that mistake, and I have an invested interest in checking out creator owned properties, then what are the chances of your average joe picking it up when it’s on a shelf next to a whole bunch of full colour comics?

    Sorry to add to the misery of this topic by questioning expectations even further 🙂

    Maybe as well as lettering it would be a good idea for creators to put some serious effort into learning the dark art of colouring too 🙂

    • When I first started making comics, I was just like you, Adam. If the comic didn’t have color, it wasn’t worth my time.

      As I’ve grown older (and hopefully wiser), I’ve come to understand what color does and doesn’t do. Now, I’ll give a b/w a shot.

      When it comes to the average joe… They don’t go into comic shops. Those that do know what they want, and are more willing to give b/w a try. The art has to be damned impressive, though.

      I also think age has something to do with it. I think younger readers/collectors aren’t into b/w because it lacks the visual pop of color. Think of it like movies: my kids don’t appreciate b/w movies because they’re not in color. My youngest goes so far as to say she doesn’t like things that were made last century! She’s 11. Apply that to comics, and there you go.

      So, I think it has something to do with age. I think age definitely plays a part in it.

      There isn’t a real answer to this, because we’re talking about people’s tastes, but smarter people than I will mix age in there, along with taste.

      Not the best answer, I know, but there you go.

  14. Conner MacDonald says:

    *Sigh* Why did I read this Bolts and Nuts again…

  15. Paula says:

    Working my way in from the beginning of the column… Good thing I’m a fast reader 🙂

    I kinda had a suspicion that what’s true for self-publishing and promises of back-end pay in freelance writing would also be true for comics. And now you tell me it’s even more complicated!

    Yikes. I figured I could hold down costs by using my fine arts background (my “comics” style drawing is just going to have to be unusual and lean more on drawing from life, and it’s a good thing I got along with the calligraphy pen in college) but even with that, I have quite a hill to climb, huh?

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