If you’re looking to break into the comic book industry, the best way to do so is to create your own comic book. If you’re an artist, this is probably not too difficult, as you can find a writer to collaborate with, or even write it yourself. However, if you’re a writer, this can be a bit more difficult, as it is unlikely that you’ll find an artist to work with you as a collaborator. Even if you do, they are likely to be on the amateur end of the scale, or not very committed to the project. For years, I tried to get comics that I had written created for free or on the cheap, until I sat down and asked myself ‘how much does it cost to make a comic book?’
When writing Lord of the Twin Lands, my upcoming graphic novel, I had initially had a more collaborative approach in mind. However, after being frustrated by the lack of progress in trying to keep the budget to a minimum, I decided to invest a lot more into the project, and had fantastic results.
Paying Comic Book Page Rates
When examining the question, ‘how much does it cost to make a comic book?’ the key to this is how much you’re willing to pay for the art on the pages you’re producing. This, coupled with the amount of pages in your graphic novel and your printing costs, will determine your final costs.
How Much Does it Cost To Hire a Comic Book Artist?
Each artist is going to charge a different rate, depending on their availability, the time you are giving them to complete the project, and their level of skill/industry connections. For example, if you want to hire a penciller that is in demand at major comic book publishers like Marvel and DC, you will need to take a look at your budget and see if this is something you can afford. These type of pencillers regularly charge over $200 a page, and this is likely out of the budget for many comic book writers and producers.
Instead, I recommend finding a penciller that charges a reasonable page rate, but also has the skills to match. At the minimum, you should budget $50-$70 a page for a penciller, although you may need more depending on the quality that you are looking for. Ideally, you can also find a penciller that can digitally ink their own work as well, although this of course depends on the specifics of your comic book project.
For my own project, I was lucky enough to meet and collaborate with Rich Perrotta, a former inker at Marvel and DC. Rich inks his own work, and due to our longstanding friendship and the sheer size of my book (over 160 pages!) he was able to provide me with a bit of a discount. This is why it’s always important to form real relationships with your art team, as hopefully they can become your future friends and collaborators. To get a sense of what he and similar comic book artists charge, you can take a look at his website.
How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Comic Book Colorist?
Finding a comic book colorist can also prove challenging. However, like anything related to creative arts, it helps to make connections. Here, I utilized my connection with Jesse Hansen of Cornerstone Creative Studios to find the right colorist for Lord of the Twin Lands. Jesse has been a long supporter of my work and I have written two unproduced superhero comic book series for Cornerstone, American Eagle and Victor Champion.
By connecting with a colorist in this way, I was also able to save a bit of money. However, you should be prepared to pay anywhere between $30-$50 a page for quality coloring. While you can go cheaper, if you are trying to break into the industry and make an impression, you should make sure that the quality of your comic book coloring matches the quality of the art on your book.
How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Comic Book Letterer?
Some writers do their own lettering, but I don’t recommend this. Writing, producing, and editing a book is enough work on its own, and lettering is the cheapest component of producing a comic book. That’s not to say that lettering isn’t important — a bad letterer can totally destroy your book, while a good letterer can elevate it. However, this is the area where you can stand to save the most. A quality letterer can be found for around $10-$20 a page, and unless you’re shooting for a high level publisher, there’s no need to pay more than this.
Total Costs for Making a Comic Book
As you can see, each of the individual components of making a comic book can be quite expensive, but combined together it can be astronomical. That’s why you want to make sure to budget correctly for this. Set money aside from your day job to do so, all without neglecting the other parts of your life.
With these costs in mind, expect to pay around $110-$150 a page for producing a quality comic book. This, of course, depends on the kinds of deals you can create and the relationships you have, but even then it’s unlikely you’ll pay less than $100 a page to produce a quality comic book.
While this might not be ideal, being able to correctly answer the question ‘how much does it cost to make a comic book?’ will come in handy when you’re deciding whether or not you actually want to go through with producing your own comic book. Even if your greater goal is not to break into the comic book industry or create your own superhero universe, producing your own book will open doors to you creatively and allow you to get your work out in front of a larger audience.
At the very least, you’ll have a produced work that is all yours, and that certainty counts for a lot.