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What does a comic cost? Part 2: Artwork

Hello! This is the second post in my series about how much it cost to make the first issue of Andraste as an independent writer commissioning artists.

If you missed the first post, about the costs involved with getting started, check it out here:

And my last post in the series is now up, right here:

In this post I'll talk about how I found the artists I'm working with on the series, why I handled payments like I did, and what the different stages of panel art looks like, from script to final letters.

What I won’t do here is share everyone's page rates by breaking down how much each artist charged. Every collaboration is different, and it’s everyone’s right to negotiate as they see fit.

While I’m not sharing the page rates of the folks working on the book, I am doing a survey of comic creators to see what folks are charging for different services in 2020! If you’re an independent creator, or you freelance, I’d love it if you filled it out. It is anonymous, and the data will be aggregated when I share the results.


Here’s the total for producing Issue 1, not including promotion, which hasn’t happened yet.

The artwork total is the amount I paid for layouts and inks, colors, lettering, and two covers for 23 pages of interior art and 2 covers:

Issue 1 total: $7,915

Getting started: $1,655

Artwork: $5,160

Printing (estimate; 500 copies): $1,100

Finding artists

As I mentioned in my first post, I didn’t know any comic artists when I re-started production on the book in late 2018. I went to New York Comic Con that year hoping to meet some folks (and did!), but I found everyone I collaborated with on Andraste on… Facebook. I know! Weird.

(For the record, I still think Facebook is something of a hellscape; I just found a teeny oasis within it.)

Anyway, I joined a wonderful group called Connecting Comic Book Writers and Artists, run by James Lynch. I started off by going through old posts to find folks with an art style I liked. There was *a lot* of great work floating around, but luckily the first person I reached out to was Unai Ortiz de Zarate. I expected his rate to be at the top of or out of my budget, given the quality his work, but it worked out! After we signed a contract, he mentioned that his friend and frequent collaborator DC Alonso was a great colorist who might be interested in the book. When Unai got sick, DC introduced me to Luis Aramburu, who runs a comic artist agency. in Spain. Luis put me in touch with Abel Cicero, the artist who’s now doing the inks for the series. I was lucky to find Unai first! I didn’t have a network, but he did.

I found Micah Myers, the letterer, and Ariel Colon, the cover artist, in the same group! Truly, a goldmine.

Page rates vs. ownership

Because I had never written a comic before, I didn’t think it was fair or advisable to ask anyone to work for free on the book in exchange for partial ownership or future profits. I also wanted to work with folks who had experience, so that was even more of a no-go. So I paid everyone their page rates, and kept ownership of the book. There’s a possibility this will change in the future if the book goes on to make a lot of money and the artists opt for it, which is why each issue gets a shiny new contract.

(If you're interested in a work-for-hire template for hiring collaborators, check out The Pocket Lawyer for Comic Creators!)

Not all indie agreements work this way: some people share ownership and profits rather than pay up front; others pay a lower page rate and give a smaller ownership/profit share to the folks they work with. It depends on you and your team! I don’t think there’s a correct or incorrect way to structure that kind of partnership, so long as you have a contract you’re both satisfied with.

Page rates vary a lot, and depend where the artist lives, how much experience they have, how much other work they've got going on, etc. Many other folks have collected rates over the years, if you want to compare:

* Alex de Campi shared numbers at Special Edition (RIP! That was a really good con) in 2015.

* Creator Resource's most recent survey was in 2017. They break down rates by publisher (small sample size).

* Fair Page Rates published survey results in 2015 and 2016 (small sample size).

What happens after everything is signed?

Cool, my favorite part! So, you have assembled a team, you've sent them your script and your notes and your folders of assets and reference images, and you've paid them. This might be what the process looks like after that, using Page 3, Panel 1 of Andraste #1 as an example.

Here's the script:

After I waited eagerly at my computer for a little bit, I received a few character studies! Here's Aithne as drawn by Unai, with colors by DC.

I may or may not have hyperventilated and/or cried. I can say for sure that I was very excited, and not in a quiet, dignified sort of way. In any case, I scarcely had time to compose myself before I got a layout:

Then, after I let Unai know that the layout looked a-ok, he followed up with inks (Boudicca was our first working title).

Did I laugh maniacally? Did tears stream unbidden down my face? Cannot confirm nor deny. After the inks were finished, the page was sent to DC, the colorist, and then to Micah, the letterer. They added very necessary things like blood and mist and sunrises and thoughts:

Cover art

Andraste #1 has two covers. I wanted them to convey two things: the fear that Aithne and Gwyn, our leading sisters, felt on meeting the Romans for the first time and the idea that this family cares about one another a lot.

Here's Abel Cicero's take (colors by DC), with Boudicca shielding Aithne:

And here's Ariel Colon's take, with sad dad Prasutagus with Gwyn and Aithne:


Thanks for reading!

I'm pretty thrilled to share that Issue 1 of Andraste is going to be live on Comixology on February 26th. Sign up for my mailing list if you want a reminder of that and want more news about the book.


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