Creator Jim Zubkavich (aka Jim Zub) is the writer of SKULLKICKERS, one of Image’s more prominent post-WALKING DEAD, pre-SAGA hits. It’s had early sellouts, multiple volumes, and a treasury edition.
But was it really profitable? In a blog post, Zubkavich lays out the realities of the economics of indie comics. You’ll need to read the whole thing for the retailer/distro split, but here’s the nut graph for creators:
On a print run of 5000 comics (and many, many creator-owned titles sell less than that in the current market), it means $1250 to $2500 remains for those 4 important categories. Guess how that breaks down?
If the advertising cost was ZERO and publisher expenses were ZERO, then the writer and artist of a 20 page comic would still only get $31.25 to $62.50 EACH PER PAGE. Oops, no money in there for the cover art, sorry. Add in more people (inker, colorist, letterer, etc) and the amount would get split even further, but this is a BOGUS number. The publisher has expenses/staff to pay.
Now, some copies sell way more than 5000 copies, like SAGA, say, and Brian K. Vaughan is on record talking about how lucrative this comic was for him and co-creator Fiona Staples. And Robert Kirkman can probably afford a venti pumpkin latte when the urge strikes him. But for the many, many books that sell at or around this 5000 copy level. Zub’s numbers are pretty accurate.
What to do? Zub writes sound practical advice:
Believe it or not, I’m not bitter about all of this. It’s the price of doing business in mainstream comics via retail. That’s how it works. I just want to make it very clear so people understand what I mean when I say I’m not getting rich making my own comic.
That’s why you should
• Support indy titles.
• Support creator-owned comics.
• Pre-order books you’re interested in from your local retailer.
• Tell your friends about books and help build support.
• Support Kickstarter campaigns for great independent comic projects.
• Buy direct from creators at conventions so 100% of the cover price goes into their pocket.
Bitter or not, Zub’s numbers did draw this response from Aaron Diaz, creator of the webcomic DRESDEN CODAK:
— Aaron Diaz (@dresdencodak) November 27, 2012
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.