Economic Breakdown The Man Who Died Twice

The comic industry changes day-to-day. Indie comics today definitely ain’t much like it was back in the 90’s… or earlier

That said, the numbers don’t lie.

Most creators don’t like to reveal their financials, but in doing so I think y’all can learn a lot. And while revealing costs and losses might make me look like less of a superstar writer/creator in your eyes, I’m willing to take the ego smash if it helps you not lose money.



The Man Who Died Twice Graphic Novel

And YES, before we start books and the wicked cool poster are available now over at

(You can also read more about the book by hitting the Sherlock Mysteries link under the comic menu above, or checking out the kickstarter page.)

The Man Who Died Twice is a 118 page oversized 7.5×11.5 hardcover graphic novel. Full color glossy interior. Somewhere around 106 pages of narrative and 10 pages of period accurate Victorian London advertisements. The graphic novel is NOT a linear story, but a series of individual scenes that the reader chooses to pursue by deciphering clues throughout the story; similar feel to the old Choose Your Own Adventure books. You can play the game on android mobile here and I highly recommend it, not just because I wrote a bunch of it, but because it is most excellently produced and a lot of fun.


$0000.00 — Story

Story’s don’t come out of thin air. They must be discovered, developed, structured, and ultimately refined. Since I came up with the story, I ate it, and had no compensation.

$0000.00 — Script

Execution of the story don’t come out of thin air either. Since I wrote it, I ate it, and had no compensation.

$0150.00 — Edits

There was no story level edit of the story or script. At each stage of production; pencils, inks, colors, letters… somebody really needs to oversee everything to make sure major mistakes aren’t made. This typically falls under the umbrella of a staff editor or project manager. Of course I did all that myself again, I ate it, without compensation. On a playable book like TMWDT it was quite a bit of extra work… I did hire a copy editor to check the script for grammar and spelling, so I’ll throw that budget up for edits.

$11,775.00 — Pencils, Inks, Colors

Pencils, Inks, Colors – I’m lumping these all together because some of the artists might not want their individual page rates published.

It’s worth noting here that I did indeed hire almost exclusively outside of the U.S. for this book–if I had hired exclusively or mostly U.S. talent, the production costs would have been significantly higher. Primarily this came about NOT from a budget standpoint, but simply because I couldn’t find anyone stateside to work with… also from a business standpoint, if you hire contractors in the U.S. you have to deal with a lot of tax/corporate paperwork–amazingly, if you hire someone out of country, there is literally ZERO paperwork to file, track, or deal with. Maybe for you and your accountant that’s not a big deal, but for me, less paperwork and less reporting is BIG in my book.

Of course, hiring outside of  the country, I had to deal with all the typical bullshit that often comes with it, as I discuss in my article on hiring talent.

Colorist, Eva De La Cruz, out of Spain, was awesome to work with. If I had connected with her from the beginning, I would have hired her to color the entire book.

$0800.00 — Covers

Complete cover art. Includes one variant cover.

$0800.00 — Shit (unprofessional) Artists

I had one colorist provide unusable work. The stuff he delivered was strangely not even close to par with his portfolio. Another colorist just took my money (deposit) and never delivered… anything. Yeah, he just straight up stole my money. I knew the relationship was destined to go south fast when he kept calling me “bro.”  “Bro, do you even meet deadlines?” Anywho, I can tell you even though people sign a contract that spells out what they are expected to do, sometimes unprofessional folks just do the opposite. Nothing you can really do about it, except limit your losses as best you can.
If you believe it’s unfair to include this in the budget, believe me, in this industry, it’s really difficult to produce something without a single wasted dollar.

$0500.00 — Additional Interior Art

Unique to The Man Who Died Twice, I purchased the rights to use period accurate, historic advertisements.

$0000.00 — Production Artist

Ok, so you get the final colored pages back, the letters, in this book’s case; the rules, the credits page, navigation index, well guess what… that doesn’t all just magically jump into the format of a book and create a PDF you can send to the printer to turn into a physical book. Nope. Somebody actually has to manually set all that up. It’s done by the production artist, or desktop publisher. In this case, you may have already guessed it, I did it myself, and ate it, without any compensation. Luckily, I have a bit of a design background and have the skill set to make things look slick and the experience to catch problems before they become problems, because in book layout and design, believe me, you run into a lot of problems.

$14,025 — total book creation

I’m obligated to point out again, that this current total of $14k, does NOT include any cash for story, script, or “real” editing.  This is not sustainable. Or to put it another way, if you aren’t a writer/editor/creator, you have to shell out a bunch more money to make a book. Super conservatively, let’s say you paid someone $50/page to write and someone else $20/page to edit.

Rounding the project 100 pages, that’s an additional $7,000 to the total book creation cost.  If you’re reading this article, you’re probably a writer and probably don’t see a problem with not taking money for your writing work on a book you create… but remember, the longer you aren’t sustainable, the harder it gets to keep going.

Throw in another $2500 for the prepress (the production artist duties), and you’re looking at almost another $10,000 this book really should have cost to produce. You might want to keep that in mind when you look at the big project total at the end.


I went to Kickstarter to raise funds to print the book. Kickstarter campaigns require some level of money to run:

$0500.00 — Campaign Page Art

A couple of custom art pieces for the campaign page.

$0500.00 — Campaign Reward Production

The Man Who Died Twice had limited ancillary rewards. The focus was the book itself. I did a really cool poster map of London, an 8×10 custom print, and a bookmark. Rewards can kill your budget, especially when it comes to shipping rewards, be careful!

$0500.00 — Marketing Campaign

Marketing is a black hole of black holes and personally an aspect of indie publishing I don’t enjoy. You might not spend any money on marketing, or you might spend a hell’of’a lot more than this. These days $500 is really a bare minimum campaign.

$15,525 — running total


Of course, we can’t forget the actual cost to print the physical books.

I printed The Man Who Died Twice in Canada at one of the biggest comic book printers. Quality was of paramount importance to me.

$8500.00 — Book Printing Costs

$24,025.00 — Total Production Cost


Not quite done, there was also… shipping.

Shipping has a reputation of getting messy. I have to go back and dig deep into the receipts to get a truly clear picture. I tried to cover shipping in the actual cost of the kickstarter rewards, but I had a major problem with the post office. I was unable to get my commercial rates and wanting to get everyone’s books out a.s.a.p., I didn’t mess around and just sent most of the packages priority. I probably overpaid by a couple bucks per package.

I was unwilling to send the books Media Mail–the cheapest postal service option. I think when you pay a premium price for a hardcover book, better quality shipping is required.

My notes say the following:

$1200.00 — Shipping


The Man Who Died Twice hardcover Graphic Novel

$25,225.00 — Total Project Cost



The Kickstarter succeeded with an anemic 121 Backers putting up $9465 in “presales.”

The actual check Kickstarter cut after their fees and the bank fees, was $8519.


This brought the total project cost down to $16,706.


This is the out of pocket cost I had to put up to produce a 118 page, oversized hardcover graphic novel, printed in Canada. And keep in mind, this is the COST I HAD TO PAY, after all the folks from Kickstarter bought and paid for the book.

(Shit, I should have just bought a new car.)

I won’t get into the profit/loss particulars unless folks ask about it, suffice to say, the book was a monster financial loss. I recouped only 33% of my cost and if I sell through the entire book stock, I can maybe, bump that up to 50%.

Sadly, I don’t expect to sell through the stock…

I’m not doing a whirlwind convention circuit anytime soon and I don’t have the budget or energy for any kind of robust online advertising campaign.

On that note,

if anyone wants to grab a copy, in case you missed it at the start of the article, the books and poster are for sale here 🙂 


NSFW Cover

Before I go I wanted to touch on one other quick point that’s been a double-edged sword of the social and financial nature.

For TMWDT I did one alternate cover; a fully nude girly cover.

I felt that the alternate cover was in good taste. It’s basically a bunch of nude Victorian era girls getting dressed for a party.

I didn’t do the sexy cover FOR SALES. I did the sexy cover, because in my quest to find an alternate cover artist, I connected with Jasmin Darnell who happens to do insanely sick Victorian period women. There is a scene in the book, in the actual narrative, where this party in an abandoned mansion turns… “devilish,” for lack of a better term. So when Jasmin was willing to do an alternate cover I thought man, capturing that scene would be perfect.

In my efforts promoting TMWDT, I got significant shit for that cover. Even though I wasn’t showcasing it, some folks would eventually see it on the campaign page, then come back at me, barking like a mad dog.

But here’s the thing, none of the angry people supported the project by buying the normal cover version.

People want to “change the world” and make it a place where nude female art isn’t celebrated (or whatever), but they don’t want to actually be that change– they don’t want to support creators and show them first-hand the market outside that material is viable. They just don’t want to see or know that whatever they find offensive actually exists. They also just want to vent and hate.

I can tell you, in having a femalecentric cover for The Working Writer’s Guide to Comics and Graphic Novels and having a typewriter on the cover of my story structure book, none of the folks who complained about the (fully clothed) script writing book, ever decided to show support and buy the typewriter cover book. Not once in 6 years.

My point is, people who get offended and angry about what a creative creates, most likely weren’t going to support that creative no matter what they created. Those folks only support an extremely narrow spectrum of work. And knocking down or complaining about someone else’s creative work, passion, or interest, gives them pleasure–especially when degrading others validates their own world views and life choices.

Personally, I love the female form. I’m definitely a visually hardwired human being.

But I’m also not interested in being known for producing sexually explicit stuff. I work too hard on all the other meaningful elements of my craft (writing) and modeling success around sex just isn’t for me. It’s fine if it works for other folks.

48 hours after listing main book on Ebay and 24 Hours after Adult cover – Adult cover has 16 views to Standard cover ZERO views. (I had to jack the prices, Ebay is ridiculous.) *** UPDATE SEPTEMBER: The adult cover now has 62 views. The normal cover has 2 views.


In the end, I can tell you three things in regard to a nude variant cover from a financial perspective.

  1. Sherlock Holmes stories are generally harder to gain visibility and traction with. Every time I changed the Kickstarter campaign image AWAY from the variant cover art, the campaign tanked. Folks only wanted to click through on the alluring, sexy art.
  2. The project would not have funded without the money brought in from the nude cover variant.
  3. Post campaign, I’ve sold more nude variant versions of the book, than normal versions by a factor of three. And I’m not even hardly mentioning the adult cover anywhere. Folks are just gravitating toward Jasmin’s awesome work.


I hope this article doesn’t discourage you, but instead emphasizes the reality of indie comics and pushes you to get all your ducks in a row before you start throwing your hard earned money toward making that dream a reality.


About the Author —
Newcomer or veteran writer, if you’re working on a project that needs commercial success, Nick urges to you read this intro article.
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.