Creator-owned comics are making a solid resurgence in the comic book world – from Ben Templesmith’s crowd-funded Squidder, to Jim Zub’s Skullkickers. With their successes proving that it can be done, we were asked what kinds of royalties creators see after they send their comic babies out into the world. Michael Yakutis snagged this question and gave us a great answer.
If your comic gets picked up by a creator owned company such as Image Comics or Fantagraphics, creators can usually expect to be paid a royalty percentage on the backend rather than upfront page rates or advances. Before the creators see any revenue there are a lot of costs involved with the printing, advertising, and distribution of a comic book, not to mention operation costs for the publishers and retailers.
In his two part series, comic creator Jim Zub discusses the breakdown of revenue for creator owned comics. Below is a chart illustrating the distribution of funds for his printed comic Skullkickers, published through Image Comics.
Approximately 89% of a comic book’s cover price goes to paying the retailer, printer, and distributor (Diamond), which leaves 11% to the publisher, creative team, and advertising costs. If a 24 page comic book has a print run of 5,000 copies and a cover price of $3, it only leaves roughly $37.50 per page to be distributed between these three groups. After the publisher pays for its staff and operational expenses, there may be little left over to pay the creative team.
In the second part of his series, Jim Zub covers digital comic sales through comiXology (who is currently leading the way in the digital comics market).
After the mobile distributors are paid their fee of 30%, comiXology splits the remaining revenue 50/50 with the comic’s publisher – meaning comiXology gets 35% of the cover price and the publisher and creative team gets the remaining 35%. If a comic is strictly self-published by its creator it means that the creative team gets the entire 35%. But when working through a publisher such as Image Comics, the publisher is entitled to a percentage as well, anywhere from 12%-17.5% of the cover price. This leaves the creative team with approximately 17.5%-23% to be divided amongst the writer, artist, inker, colorist, letterer, etc.