The idea that one piece of advice or a passing comment may help someone else somewhere is something I am a big fan of.
With that in mind, I present a break down of the cost of production for a single issue of The Hero Code, giving people an idea of what it takes to actually start to make money on a creator owned, self published book.
I've bundled the production costs together, so as not to reveal the individual costs of those aspects like pencilling, colouring and lettering, as I don't feel it is my place to reveal each creators rates.
A single issue of The Hero Code is made up of 22 pages of interior art, and one cover. Issue one featured variant covers, partly because of if being a Kickstarter campaign and I wanted to offer those variants as rewards to backers. For the sake of this example, however, I'll be referring to one cover only.
I will also not be including such things as logo and skirt designs. It's hard to factor these costs in as they will be used across the series.
The cost of pencilling, inking, colouring and lettering a single 22 page plus cover issue of The Hero Code is: $2024.00
I know it can be done for less, and I know it can cost a whole lot more!
I did look at doing an offset print run of the book, and found some very good quotes for runs in the low thousands (more on this later), but in the end I opted to use a POD service, namely ICGeeks.
ICGeeks were able to print full colour copies of the issue, 24pages at $1.65 per issue.
The issues are for sale at the Monkey Pipe Studios store for $3.99 + S&H.
This means, not taking into account the initial shipping costs of getting the books from ICGeeks to me, each issue has a profit margin of: $2.34.
For the sake of this article, let's say that shipping costs on a single issue is around .20c - making the profit $2.14.
Selling the book
As most people are probably aware, selling to stores means selling at some kind of discount. Normally stores will accept paying 50% cover price (in this instance $2.00).
Selling in stores will increase your exposure, but decrease your profit (in this example down to .14c per issue).
It is also worth noting that some stores will not pay 50%, but instead something more like 40% (especially through Diamond). I have also heard of some paying cost. In these instances you make nothing, but open up exposure to the book - something which each creator has to decide if it is worth doing or not.
Selling digital is another method, of course.
Selling through an app or third party normally sees a percentage profit. In this example I sell my books (single issues) at .99c per issue. Making a profit of .49c per sale from the third parties.
Selling direct at .99c means that you make a profit of .99c minus paypal deductions - normally making the profit around .85c.
I also offer digital subscriptions at $5 for 6 issues, making the profit around .75c each.
So when does the money come rolling in?
Not including the Kickstarter campaign, I have to date sold around 25 issues of issue one direct; 17 print and 8 digital.
I also have the book in four stores around the US. Of those four stores, one backed us on Kickstarter, two bought the books at 50% and one took five issues on consignment (to be paid for if they sold).
I know that one store has sold 4 copies, but that is all the feedback I have at present.
There was also a store in Canada which sold two copies.
So, when does the money start rolling in?
With selling print issues through the online store, we would have to sell around 946 issues to break even.
We're currently 929 away from that.
Digital would need a little over 4,000 sales.
I could have gone the offset route. Let's say printing 3,000 issues.
The costs based on the quotes I received would have been around .90c per issue, adding .75c of profit per sale.
It would have made selling in stores and through Diamond a profitable venture. Maybe something to visit at a later date.
I know that a single issue, a first issue, of a new book, self published, a relatively unknown creative team, is a hard sell, but that's how these things start. Having the book ever-green available might help us make profit at a later date, as the issue count grows, the interest might build backwards.
Luckily for me, I have a day job. One which allows me to carry the cost of production for now. I pay the creative team, and would not have it any other way.
However, with tax season now upon us, it is becoming harder to offset these costs against my tax deductions - the numbers basically make this a glorified hobby.
Will I keep going?
Of course - Hero Code is a story I want to tell. Maybe it will all become a huge money spinner in the future, maybe.
For now, I'll keep on telling the story.