What Are the Economic Realities of Publishing Your Comic?

gamalhennessy Community • Sep 3, 2020

Now that the summer is over, we’re going to shift gears away from marketing and discuss another facet of comic book publishing that doesn’t get much attention. We’re going to spend the next few weeks discussing how you can pay to get your comic out into the world. But any discussion about financing comic book publishing has to begin with a disclaimer:

What you are going to read in the next few weeks isn’t financial advice and or legal advice. These are concepts you can consider when deciding if and how to fund your project, but before you do anything concerning money, consult your financial advisor. You should also speak to anyone in your life who might be relying on your finances.

What are the Three Economic Realities of Independent Comic Book Publishing?

Some creative projects don’t get produced because the creators fail to acquire the funds to get the project off the ground. Other projects are produced, but at a cost that ruins the creator financially or forces them to lose the ownership of their creation.

While managing the finances of your book might not be as exciting as seeing your vision come to life or as inspirational as seeing your book on the shelf of a comic shop, it is a critical aspect of independent publishing that revolves around three basic economic realities.

The first economic reality you have to come to terms with is that before your IP can make money for you, you have to put money into your intellectual property (IP). Who puts the money in, when the money is spent, how (or if) you pay it back are all factors you can influence, but it will be difficult to make comics without getting some startup money from somewhere.

I define this initial money as your investment. It includes all the cash and other financial assets spent to develop the IP. Investment is different from revenue, which is all the money generated by the IP at any stage.

Basically, investment goes into the project and revenue comes out.

The second economic reality of comics is that you have to be willing to lose your entire investment. When you put money in the stock market, real estate, or gambling, you are making a bet. You’re hoping to win back the money you put in and acquire additional money for your efforts. Some bets are more calculated than others, but all investments have some risk of loss.

Investment in your comic follows the same dynamic. You’re betting you can get back the money you put in and acquire additional money for your creativity. But there are no financial guarantees in comics. For your financial security and mental sanity, you should only invest funds that are not vital to your survival.

The amount you are willing to lose on any investment is referred to as your risk tolerance. Determining your risk tolerance for independent publishing will be based on several factors, including:

1. Goals: If you plan to publish comics as an entry into a new career, you’re going to have a higher risk tolerance than someone trying to publish comics as a way to pay off their current debts.

2. Timeline: If you plan to publish comics for the next four or five decades, you’re going to have a higher risk tolerance than someone who needs their comic to make a profit in the first year of release.

3. Life stage: If you have little or no financial responsibilities, you’re going to have a higher risk tolerance than someone who has a mortgage to pay, kids to support, or medical bills to cover.

4. Relationship to comics: If you love comics, you’re going to have a higher risk tolerance than someone who lusts after comics.

5. Personal comfort level: If you have a personality that enjoys risk, you’re going to have a higher risk tolerance than someone who likes to play it safe.

Everyone’s risk tolerance in comics is unique. The goal of determining your risk tolerance is not to take on as much risk as possible. The goal is to find out how much you can invest in your IP without endangering other aspects of your life.

The third economic reality of comics is that comics is a discretionary investment for both you as the publisher and your readers. You may have a burning passion to tell your story. Publishing comics might be your singular goal in life. You may be willing to risk everything for your comic. These are admirable traits that are valuable to independent publishing. But in most circumstances, your publishing of comics has to occur in the context of other aspects of your life.

If you consider comics in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you will find that you can only use comic publishing to address your growth needs of self-esteem, recognition, and creativity after you have satisfied your needs for food, shelter, and stability. You need to make sure you can continue to pay for a place to live, food to eat, and basic life necessities before you can invest in your comic. At the same time, your readers might want your comic, but it’s not something they have to have. If they need to choose between buying gas for their car or buying your comic, your comic might not be purchased.

How Do the Economic Realities of Independent Publishing Determine the Investment?

The key to your investment is finding the funding mechanism that fits in with the rest of your life. First, you need to determine how much money you need to publish your comic. Then you need to understand the impact of your potential investment on your personal or family finances. After that, you can explore additional forms of investment from outside parties or the public. This analysis will lead you to a better understanding of how much cash you have to work with and shape your various budgets.

Understanding of the three realities shouldn’t prevent you from independent publishing. They are designed to help you be more strategic about your financial investment.
Next week, we’ll figure out how much money you need to publish your comic.

Have fun.