What Are The Page Rates for Comic Books and Graphic Novels?
In the Golden Age of comic books, artists were often paid staff working in the office. That proved expensive for the employer and they switched to using freelancers.
This started the process of creators being underpaid and starting at $1 per page. Eventually getting to around $30 a page in the 40s and being stagnated there for decades until the 70s. It didn't keep up with the rate of inflation.
In 1978 some top creators formed a guild and stated what rates they should be paid. The group was headed by Neal Adams with Jim Shooter, Frank Miller, Cary Bates, Howard Chaykin, Chris Claremont, Steve Ditko, Michael Golden, Archie Goodwin, Paul Levitz, Bob McLeod, Carl Potts, Marshall Rogers, Walt Simonson, Jim Starlin, Len Wein, and Marv Wolfman.
You can read more about that on the Comics Alliance site
Adjusted for inflation, those rates today would be about:
David Harper and Brian Churilla did a survey in 2015 to find out what Comicbook artists really make on the site Sktchd.
and they did another survey to determine if gender plays a role in how much an artist earns.
You can read the 1st survey here and the gender survey here.
Both are fascinating reading.
Talent isn't equal and treated differently. I have listed minimum rates below (which I'll explain later); however, you should always negotiate the best deal for yourself. Everything below is a guide to help you decide what you are worth. And guess what? A publisher may decide you are worth more. When talent signs a contract with a corporate company after they have worked a certain number of years, they are offered benefits.
Yes, this is intended as a reference and guide, so that talent is not so easily taken advantage of when it comes to payment. I continuously meet new talent who want to know the answers to this question. The second most asked question is, "What are the royalty rates?"
I’ve worked for many small and corporate companies over the years. See some, but not all of the companies I’ve worked for my Amazon Author’s Page. I have received these rates and know others
who also have.
If you feel the opportunity to draw for $5 a page is something you want to do, then go for it. At least, be aware of what you should be getting. In my freelance life (which includes more than comics), I have accepted weird payments. I received clothing from a fashion designer instead of monetary compensation. So compensation is really between the client and the talent.
I'm only addressing working for pay from a company or individual, not self-publishing, webcomics, selling original art, commissions, or any other alternatives to making money creating comics. There are too many variables involved that make it hard to predict what someone can earn consistently. Create what you love to do, whether you are paid or not, and you will be happy. You're doing it because you want to do it, not only because you're paid.
Editors aren’t listed, because they usually are not freelancers and work on staff; 9 to 5 for a company.
SUGGESTED MINIMUM PAGE RATES
The minimum pages rates listed below are based on the minimum hourly wage. If you are working for an individual or a small company, then these are the absolute minimum rates you should accept, in my opinion. Yes, this is not a standard or the law, just my own opinion.
I have listed typical starting rates. Since I can't record every companies' starting rate, there is going to be variation. Also, an editor can decide to start someone above the starting rate (when possible), if they like the talent.
For example, I feel the lowest page rate for pencil art today should be $58 a page. How did I arrive at that? The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. An artist should take 8 hours to draw one page. 8 x $7.25 works out to $58 for a page. This calculation is a baseline formula that everyone can follow as a guide for setting their rate. A minimum wage is not a living wage. A minimum wage would barely pay rent and utilities in some states, if at all. Well, forget about food, hence the term "starving artist." As long as we have a place to draw, we can do without food. (just joking)
A good letterer can do one 22 to a 24-page comic in 8 hours, so the per-page rates should be adjusted accordingly based on $7.25 an hour.
Minimum pages rates are useful as a guide to use when the client is an individual or a small company.
WHAT IS MY TIME WORTH?
What your time is worth is not specific to comics. It’s for any art you do. If your time is worth $75 an hour, then instead of cutting your own grass, hire someone for $20 an hour to do that. Unless, of course cutting grass relaxes you. The point is to decide how to better spend your time.
You must pay taxes according to the laws of your country, state, city, and county.
Currency exchange rates vary all the time, so there is no clear answer to how much you will pay in taxes.
One thing you can do that applies to anyone in any country is to figure out what your time is worth,
Add up all of your expenses:
• and whatever applies to you
Let’s say that equals $2755 a month. A month is 22 days, because after all who wants to work on the weekends?
$2755 divided by 22 days = $125 a day (now you have a day rate)
$125 divided by 8 hours = $15.60 (now you have an hourly rate)
So you really should not accept a job that doesn’t cover your living expenses.
But we’re not done yet. Multiply $15.60 x 3 = $46.80 an hour. Why 3? For your education, talent , experience and because life happens! Besides who just wants to live to only pay bills?
So in this example, your time is worth between $15.60 and $46.80 an hour or between $125 and $374 a day.
SO, if you accept a rate below your minimum, then you are not going to make a living, because bills will be unpaid.
Knowing the worth of your time gives you negotiation room, because you can ask for a high rate and you know what your bottom line is as you get negotiated down.
CAN I MAKE A LIVING DOING COMICS?
That’s the question you need to ask before you can think about the page rate. Can I make a living doing print comics? If you can't produce comic books pages at the speed listed below, you are not going to be able to make a living at this.
The schedule below is the minimum production output you need to do.
Writer - 4 books a month
Penciler - 1 page in 8 hours
Inker - 2 pages in 8 hours
Colorist - 2 to 5 pages a day average
Letterer - 1 to 2 days to do a full comic book
Page rates are based on the expected time to complete a page.
Here are the various scenarios talent can find themselves positioned in the comic book industry and the page rates. That is corporate, small press and independent publisher.
Here are the average starting rates per page:
Minimum rates per page you should ask for:
writing - $13
pencils - $58
inks - $29
colors - $11 to $29
letters - $3
Independent company starting rates per page (these do go higher):
writing - $35
pencils - $125
inks - $90
colors - $50
letters - $20
Corporate company starting rates per page (these do go higher):
writing - $75 to $100
pencils - $155 to $200
inks - $100 to $175
colors - $75 to $100
letters - $35 to 50
Everyone deserves to make at least minimum wage for their services; writer, artist, colorist, letterer, and any other job in America. Not only deserves, but it's also the law, regardless of skill level.
Here's an article from Money.com on salaries and income titled How Much You Can Earn in the Comic Book Industry — From Artist to CEO
read next - What Are Comics Better at Than Movies?
previous - Jeff Koons and Copying
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Copyright 2017 H. Simpson
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