Comic Page Rates and Creator Budgets

There are 8 distinct production steps required to produce a comic book.

  • 4 of the steps are often condensed down to only 2 people; Story/Script and Penciler/Inker.

Sadly, in lower budget indie comics;

  • Production artist or Prepress duties (preparing the files to go to print) are often handled by the creator where no credit or compensation is given.
  • Editors are the first ones cut from the production cycle (creating books that never reach their full potential).

This leaves 4 core positions for many indie comic productions: Writer, Line Artist, Colorist, and Letterer.

Indie comics is one of the few creative industries where folks cannonball into the deep end of the pool, with no real clue of the amount of work involved or the cost of getting that work done, especially considering long-term sustainability.

Many indie comic creators will cut every corner they can imagine, trying to do a ton of work with less money.

They offer wages that are not sustainable.

It’s a trap.

If you can’t reproduce it, you’re not going to be successful.

By the way, you can read about cutting budget corners the right way, over on my Hiring Good Artists with Less Money and Hiring Talent articles.


Sustainability and why it matters?

Maybe you have an accountant friend who loves illustrating on the side.

You pitch him a story and he agrees to produce 1 page every other week and does it for peanuts because he loves the chance to pursue his passion in his down time.

After a year of hyping up your new book, you finally get the line art finished, pass it over to the colorist and letterer, and wait another 6 months for those “friends” to finish their work.

18 months after starting, you’ve got your finished book. You throw it out there, everyone loves it, and folks are dying for more!

In all likelihood, folks aren’t going to wait another 18 months for the second issue.

Traditionally, floppy comics were put out every month. That was the long established attention span of the collector consumer.

Momentum is real thing in serial publications. When the gap between issues runs too long, customers will lose interest, simply forget, or no longer have the money to support you because their money is committed to other projects coming out regularly.

At best, you have to start from scratch building your customer base on your next release. At worst, you’ve dug yourself into a hole you can never economically escape.

Not to mention, what are YOU gonna do for 18 months?

Maybe you’re gonna go catch lobsters off the Maine coast for a few months, while your accountant begins his weekly page of art for the second issue.

Annnd, maybe you fall off the boat and get caught in a lobstah trap and never make it home. Series over.

Life has a way of derailing even the best laid out plans when production sprawls across many months… or years.

Maybe instead of fishing for lobsters, you should have been makin’ comics.

Too bad your comic production wasn’t sustainable.

Sustainability is the means to work on a comic production as one’s primary focus. To consistently meet deadlines and demand, with the highest production quality.

Of course any good business begins with the plan of being sustainable from the beginning…

Nobody  opens a restaurant without enough money to stock it with food and hire on a chef. Nobody leases out a million dollars of farm equipment without land to farm on. Only in the arts do people tend to lose their mind and logic, and say, “Hey, there’s no way this can sustain itself, but let’s throw a bunch of money at it anyway!”

But I digress.

Most indie comic creators come to the table with smaller budgets.

But what happens if you’re lucky enough to start with a bigger budget, or, you manage a significant profit with your first book?

Do you know how to proceed?

Or will you keep working with your part time accountant friend and hope everything works out for the best?

After reading this article you will be able to;

  1. accurately assess your current budget (or set your personal page rates).
  2. maximize your potential for sustainability with an increased budget.


The comic industry lacks any kind of industry standard rate schedule.

There are a lot of reasons for this, but the subjective nature of art itself is the most likely culprit.

Personally, all the excuses aside, I think we can do better.

So here you go.

The following rates are based on my experience in the industry since the 90’s, awareness of current pricing trends, and understanding of the comic production process.

When talent honestly and objectively finds its proper ranking tier, both publisher and creative should find the following schedule fair and sustainable.

MY guidelines to sustainable comic production rates 2022.

Call the tiers whatever you want to call them. The point is identifying 5 key plateaus of increasing skill, ability, and experience.

* Mid-rank entries added for faster reference. 

* Experience markers added, but please take them with a grain of salt. 

Entry: beginner with little or no experience.

Intermediate: More experienced than the novice, but lacking extensive experience. Still refining their craft to a practical degree. 3 years experience.

Professional: Solid experience. Extremely adept at craft. Refinement of craft is mainly logistical in nature to improve efficiency. 7 years experience.

Expert: Vast experience, mastery skill. Trendsetter and teacher of their craft. 15+ years experience.

Famous: Expert skill level creative with serious name recognition. We assume they became famous due to excellence in their craft, not luck or circumstances. 15+ years experience.

Further quantifying the tiers is really up to the individual reading this article.

Of course, you may feel that your ability increases your value to the next pay rung, regardless of your pedigree. This can certainly be the case. Maybe you’re between two tiers. Again, it’s up to the individual to decide…

and ultimately, the free market, what folks in the world are willing to pay you.



Fiction centers around an idea. The idea can be, and is often developed apart from the script. Most typically we call this the Outline. These rates are based on the development of an outline, from an existing intellectual property. For example, DC calls and says that want to hire you to come up with a story for Batman.

Coming up with a completely original IP, is something totally different and not represented in the following figures.

* Story is the only step listed in the comic production process detached from the actual page count of the book itself. This is to say; a 22 page floppy, doesn’t need a 22 page outline… nor does a 100 page graphic novel likely need a 100 page outline. I’ve commented elsewhere on common outline sizing. Ultimately, it varies based on many factors and is something to be discussed with your talent before beginning the story work.

Entry – $10/page

Intermediate – $30/page

Professional – $50/page

Expert – $70/page

Famous – $150/page


The script is the execution of an idea (or outline). The script is the instructions to the rest of the production crew along with the end product dialogue/narration.

Many times a script writer will also provide the story. Unlike combining pencils and inks below, the Story Script writer isn’t aided by technological advancements. At least not yet anyway

In my experience as a writer, if the story is simple, in line with existing canon, or working loose Marvel Method, the combined rate of story and script can quite accommodating, but reality is, if the story must be strong and stand on its own legs, or is particularly complex, be prepared to pay a premium as these really are two different elements of production. (I do outlines for people all the time and never touch the script and do script work from an outline I had nothing to do with.)

Entry – $20/page

mid-rank – $30/page

Intermediate – $40/page

mid-rank – $60/page

Professional – $80/page

mid-rank – $120/page

Expert – $160/page

mid-rank – $200/page

Famous – $240/page


The penciler lays down the core art. Pencils are the foundation of a comic’s visual quality.

Entry – $80/page

mid-rank – $120/page

Intermediate – $160/page

mid-rank – $240/page

Professional – $320/page

mid-rank – $480/page

Expert – $640/page

mid-rank – $800/page

Famous – $960/page


Traditionally, inkers literally inked over the pencils, on the same actual paper, turning the somewhat rough foundational art into clean, crisp lines which could then proceed in the production process (to colors). These days, many artists work digitally, producing pencils directly in digital format… and inkers now do a process equivalent to traditional inking, again, directly on the computer.

Further, many artists working digitally now provide pencils and inks together delivering complete comic LINE ART. An artist providing digital pencils and inks would not receive the combined pay as stated here, though ultimately, as a creator/publisher you should recognize that’s the value you’re getting.

Entry – $60/page

mid-rank – $90/page

Intermediate – $120/page

mid-rank – $180/page

Professional – $240/page

mid-rank – $360/page

Expert – $480/page

mid-rank – $600/page

Famous – $720/page


Almost all comic coloring is done digitally these days.

Entry – $40/page

mid-rank – $60/page

Intermediate – $80/page

mid-rank – $120/page

Professional – $160/page

mid-rank – $240/page

Expert – $320/page

mid-rank – $460/page

Famous – $600/page


Again, comic lettering is done digitally these days, usually in Adobe illustrator. Always hire a good letterer. This single cost-to-quality-increase on your book should never be overlooked.

Entry – $5/page

Intermediate – $10/page

Professional – $20/page

Expert – $40/page

Famous – $60/page


Editors are brought in before the script goes to art, to fine tune the story and help it reach its full potential. Editors can also stick through the entire production process making sure all facets of production are successfully executed.

Entry – $5/page

Intermediate – $10/page

Professional – $20/page

Expert – $40/page

Famous – $60/page


Once you have a wonderfully written and illustrated comic, it doesn’t turn itself into a book by itself. Someone needs to compile the pages of art and any supplemental material, like the Cover and inside Covers, and create a production file that can go to the printing press OR be directly converted into a downloadable comic.

Entry – $5/page

Intermediate – $10/page

Professional – $20/page

Expert – $40/page

Famous – $60/page


Production Costs Not Listed

  • Cover art (art)
  • Preliminary Character designs (art)
  • Series bible (writing)

Assembling your Production Team

Indie comic productions are known for working with smaller budgets. This means we don’t always have the luxury to hire talent across the board at the same tier. This is where the difficulty of being a comic creator begins, choosing where and how to allocate your funds.

The Majority of Indie Comic Creators

The majority of indie comic creators and talent you see putting out comics and comic crowdfunds, really fall into the first two tiers.

There are certainly plenty of professionals and even well-known folks producing indie comics, but beyond intermediate, the number of folks narrows at each tier.


Creating a Comic Production Budget

The comic industry is rapidly changing.

There are a few ways to sell indie comics and as a creator/publisher, you should exploit them all.

For purposes of this article, we’re focusing on producing a comic whose primary vehicle of sale will be Crowdfunding.


ComicChron Estimated Sales Units February 2022… (this was the latest month they had unit info posted.)

We take a look here and see that the number 1 monthly book for Feb 22, is Saga Issue #56 at 51,397 units.  (This is a $2.99 book by the way. Meaning the top comic of Feb 22, was grossing $154,000.)

#2 Image’s Nocterra at 46,297 units.

and #3 Boom’s Keanu Reeves’ book, Bsrkr at 45,849 units.

This basically tells us, the best of the best pushes just under 50,000 books.

Let’s take a look at the bottom of the sales chart, which shows the last 13 or so titles, all from Marvel, Coffin, Image, and Boom, all at a meager 200-250 units sold.


OK. (Those are all mostly, $3.99 books, so they’re grossing $800-$1000.)


Lastly, let’s also take a quick look at the middle of the top 400,

Rank 200; Image’s Redneck at 4,227 units


205; Dark Horse’s Last Flight Out,  3,914 units.  (Both 200 rank books are $3.99 grossing about $16,000.)

So the middle of the top 400 comic titles are selling about 4,000 books.

As I always tell folks, comics are, and have always been a numbers game. If you have the fan base willing to buy your books, you can do absolutely fantastic in indie comics.

You may or may not have heard about the Rippaverse presales going on right now. The dude behind this, has 3.5 MILLION in presales.

His site notes 39,000 purchases.

Interestingly, that’s a bit under Feb 22’s number 1 comic sale, yet what, like 22x gross profit?

To me this is very insightful on how much money from crowdfunding actually comes in through supplemental rewards and not the actual comic itself.  But that’s definitely a discussion for another article.

When trying to develop a budget for producing a comic to crowdfund, I’m in the boat that the total project development budget is directly related to the quality or amount of support you get during a crowdfund. Generally speaking, it can be seen as a dollar multiplier per 100 backers.

It breaks down as follows;

Micro Budget Below $5k –  $1,000 support

Low Budget $5k – $2,000 support

Medium Budget  $10k – $3,000 support

Big Budget  $20k – $5,000 support

Blockbuster Budget $40k – $10,000 support

This means if you put together a comic book for $800, you will need 100 backers to cover the cost.  1 set of 100, delivering $1000 of support. (Beware the micro budget trap! I’ll talk about this at the end.)

Or, if you make a medium budget book for $10,000, you will need 350 backers to break even. 3.5 (three and a half sets of 100 backers) x 3000 = $10,500.

Is this formula set in stone?

Absolutely not.

There are many factors that affect crowdfunding. It is certainly possible to make a low budget book that manages to get a much higher support tier, OR a high budget book, that manages to get a much lower support tier.

HOWEVER, I think you’ll find the above chart surprisingly useful.

The double sided blade of indie comics is of course that the main cost of doing business comes at the beginning, to produce the actual product. This alone is the barrier to entry to most aspiring comic creators.

It’s a double sided blade because once the barrier is breached, the negative becomes a positive. With the single greatest cost out of the way,  you get to pocket all the excess, and the upside in indie comics can be quite high–especially in crowdfunding.

If we look at the highest possible cost to create a comic as noted earlier in this article, the big budget to blockbuster budget comics, cost $40k-60k per issue to create! That might seem insane, but remember these top tiers are the best quality possible, with the blockbuster tier being from super famous people, with the biggest marketing draw possible. (You simply can’t produce a better quality comic with any more money.)

Looking back to fan base from ComicChron, and our formula above, we see we will need 400-600 backers or fans to break even with out production costs on even the most expensive comic… ever…

Rippaverse’s 39,000 fans supporting him; that blows 400-600 backers into smithereens.

Clearly, if you crack into the top tier of comic sales, you’ve got it made.

But how realistic is that?

Well in Rippa’s case, with a 500,000 youtube subscriber base, quite realistic… for the rest of us, not so much.

So really what we want to know is, how low do the number have to be, for us to squeak by, and how realistic are THOSE numbers?

Crowdfunding truth is;

  • Who do you know?
  • How good are you at marketing?
  • Where is your project in trend?

Quality alone CAN score you a win… but sadly, doesn’t always…

But all that goes more to actually executing a crowdfund and that’s not the goal of this article.

So back on point;

100 backers

200 backers

300 backers

400 backers

500 backers

These first five sets of one hundred backers represent the fundamental support levels of crowdfunding.

How would these levels actually support your production based on the earlier chart and your actual production budget? No really, go do the math using the chart.

The great news is, look;

400 and 500 backers are the bottom of these fundamental support levels and what did we say earlier we need to make the most expensive comics ever?

400-600 backers!

This is the real amazing thing with crowdfunding. Crowdfunding the most expensive books imaginable are really right there in reach of anyone with the means to do it!

And even better news, take a look through comic crowdfund over the years, plenty of them blast through 600 backers like they weren’t even there!

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Sustainable Indie Comic Production is a reality!


The Micro Budget Trap

After reading through this article, you might think, Cool, I’ll shell out $4,500 make a micro-budget book, and all I need is 100 backers based on the chart example.

Not so fast, do your math!

The micro budget level is the weakest support level.

When you’re at the top area of that level in production cost, you need way more backers!

100 backers = $1000 support and you put out $4,500, so you need 4.5 times the support, OR 450 backers.

Notice, 450 backers to put out a $4,500 micro-budget book is the same number of backers you need to put out at Big Budget or Blockbuster budget book!

And to make it worse for the micro budget production, that book has much less potential of rocketing off to the moon. Very rarely does a micro budget book crack 1000 backers and bring in a couple hundred grand.

But in the expert or blockbuster budget range, quite a few do. Some quick examples;

Keanu Reeve’s Bsrkr had 14,571 backers raising $1,447,212.

The Graphic Novel based on the latest Dune movie, had 1,741 backers pledged $181,726.

Bruian Pulido’s Lady Death Sacrificial Annihilation had 3,035 backers pledged $480,245.


In my opinion, there are no good online resources for comic production page rates.

For the creative looking to set your rate, I hope this article helps you recognize where you are an your worth in the industry.

For the creator/publisher looking to budget your next project, hopefully the talent rates posted here will give you a real idea of sustainable rates. And help you recognize the correlation between your total project budget and the likely crowdfunding support.

These things just might make the difference of successfully navigating a long and fruitful career in indie comics.


About the Author —
Nick Macari is a full-time freelance story consultant, developmental editor and writer, working primarily in the independent gaming and comic markets. His first published comic appeared on shelves via Diamond in the late 90’s. Today you can find his comic work on comixology, amazon and in select stores around the U.S.  Visit for social media contacts and news on his latest releases. Also, check out and go buy some stuff at Story To Script where the really crazy super advanced writing stuff lives.