How Much Money Will I Make From My Comic Book?

Written by Martin Shapiro on Friday, 25 January 2013. Posted in Marketing

How Much Money Will I Make From My Comic Book?

There is no definitive benchmark for typical comic book sales numbers that I'm aware of. Book sales numbers are not tracked like movie box office grosses. Some comic book stores don't even use UPC bar code inventory systems. Furthermore, most publishers are private companies who don't have to report their revenue to public investors, so there's no way to know how much money a company is earning or losing.

There are numerous variables involved in book publishing that determine sales, most of which are hard for an independent creator to control, such as the following:

  • Size and prestige of publisher
  • How popular the artist on the book is
  • How popular the writer on the book is
  • Publicity and access to key editors and reviewers at comic book news sites like CBR
  • How big of a loyal fan following you have on Twitter and Facebook
  • Pre-existing relationships with comic book store owners
  • Advertising expenditures
  • Whether or not a well-known movie, TV series, or video game is associated with the comic book title
  • And of course, is the story and artwork good or crappy

Keep in mind, Marvel and DC Comics account for over 80% of total Diamond catalog pre-order sales to retail stores, so nobody else is getting rich publishing comic books except for rare indie breakout successes like The Walking Dead, 30 Days of Night, and Grimm Fairy Tales.

The financial projections for Chopper I gave in the Writing a Graphic Novel class Powerpoint presentation are based on an aggressive marketing campaign coupled with distributing via an established publisher. A self-published book by an unknown writer and artist with no Diamond or comic book store connections and no publicist or marketing department pushing the book will have much lower sales numbers - perhaps as low as 1000 units.

But should this harsh reality dissuade you from creating a comic book? Personally, I don't think so. Because IMHO the point of making a graphic novel is to help you sell the movie rights to your story and allow you to tell people that you are a "published author". There is something special and joyful about seeing your work in printed and e-book form as an actual "product" that people around the world can buy. It's certainly more spiritually fulfilling than a Final Draft screenplay sitting in your computer that nobody will ever read or enjoy.

Like I said in the class, nobody wants to read your 120-page screenplay (unless you pay a guru consultant $200 to do so). However, people will pay YOU for the privilege of reading your story if it's in comic book or novel format.

About the Author

Martin Shapiro

Martin Shapiro

Martin Shapiro created the horror comic book series Chopper, and sold the movie rights to it. The prequel to Chopper was produced as a web TV series starring Tyler Mane (Halloween, X-Men). Mr. Shapiro’s action-thriller screenplay Lair of the Fox was optioned by Ilya Salkind (Producer of Superman). Mr. Shapiro has written and developed projects for MGM, HBO and numerous production companies including an adaptation of Dragonlance, the New York Times bestselling series of fantasy novels with sales of 22 million copies. He received a Master’s Degree in Screenwriting from UCLA and now teaches classes at New Hampshire School of Film and Television.

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