Drawing Comics for Fun and Profit? Not So Fast, Hot Rod. [Part 1]
I’m recently off of New York Comic-Con weekend and it gave me a lot to think about. Chiefly, I was left thinking about the costs of being a comic book professional. I’m not only talking about the thousands of hours you have to spend to get to the level of competence to compete in an incredibly talented field of professionals, but what you’ll actually have to spend of your own money to do the things that professionals do.
New York this year was one of the most exciting conventions I’ve ever been to even though I didn’t get a chance to step away from the table for more than a half hour at a time. The crowds weren’t smothering for me, but the stream of fans of the book was steady and that’s about as good as an artist like me can hope for. I sold comics, prints and commissions and nearly sold out of all three. I don’t think I could have done better at a show like that without some help handling the money.
So it was a success, right?
I’ve found there isn’t a simple answer to that question. There are a lot of variables that you have to take into account that I never had before.
As a comics book professional you are your own company. All the expenses are your own for the most part until you reach a stage where shows are comping your hotels or covering the cost of your flight. For the vast majority of us however, that simply isn’t the case.
Variable I : The Exchange of Money for Goods and Services
Room (Not Board) $1000 – $1500
New York is the cultural and economical capital of the world. Hotels there are usually packed with business people of all stripes and an army of tourists even on the crappiest of days. This leads to the economic tidal force of supply and demand, the supply of rooms being limited and the demand for your money incredibly high. There are ways around this, but nothing that will mitigate the damage to your bottom line that much. If you can stay with a friend I recommend it. If you can sleep on a bus bench you’d be even better off. Finding a place to stay will likely be your largest economic concern.
Travel $200 – $600
Travel comes in at a close second in the amount of money you’ll have to shell out. Flying brings its own costs beyond just the flight. Baggage, parking, and possibly taxis to and from the airport. If you live in a large city your travel will be better; if you live in Haigler, Nebraska you might be in for more trouble.
Convention Table Space $300 – $500
If you’re showing in Artists Alley most shows ask for you to pay for your table space. Most mainly offer either half of or a full six-foot table and if you have more than 4 issues of anything or prints of any real size to sell, you’ll need the full space.
Food and Drink $Who The Hell Knows, Let’s Just Say $500
You’ll have to answer that for yourself. Have you even met a doughnut you didn’t like? Do you prefer your drinks in liters? All the food is going to be more expensive than you think, you’ll eat too quickly and you will inevitably have to deal with the aftermath of all that if you catch my meaning. Also, New York has the most expensive cocktails outside of California. I didn’t know you could spend $42 dollars on a martini until I ordered two of them.
Stuff you just need to have $200 – $1000
Prints have to be printed, comics have to be shipped, you have to print a sign or a banner, you have to have business cards, maybe you want to have a NYCC exclusive, maybe you want to have something to hand out to people, pins, postcards, sample packages, leave behinds, t-shirts, or cassette tapes (Rosenberg’s idea: check eBay). They all have to be produced and they have to look the part. The days of printing comics on typing paper to make the quaint little homemade ashcans are long over.
Now you see the hurdle you face just to show up at the show to be ignored by people who have been so bombarded by images that the thought of taking a minute to look at your cutsie little comic book makes them want to wretch. Besides, many of them are there to sexually harass some video game cosplayer or to spend their money to get a picture with Stan Lee. Please don’t touch Stan.
Next time I’ll touch on why you’d bother to show up for all that being ignored anyways!
Until then KEEP DRAWING.
Also to all those who came to visit either me or Matthew Rosenberg, the writer of our book We Can Never Go Home, thank you.