Tip of the Quill: A Journal
Resources for New Creators + Makers working in comics.

One of the projects I’ve been working on at the Annenberg Innovation Lab is a study of The New Creators + Makers, where my team of students and I have been looking historically at the career trajectories of creative types, what commonalities exist across multiple creative industries (career stages, challenges, opportunities, etc.), and how new technologies are helping or hindering those common areas. This work is culminating in a big Think & Do event this fall in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where lab sponsor EPB offers a ludicrously high-speed Internet connection, which makes even more of these opportunities possible via long-distance collaboration, real-time work in the cloud, high-definition 360-degree experiences, and so on.

This past week a number of articles and other resources on the business of comics crossed my desk, so I thought I’d share a couple of them here for your enjoyment or edification (and my own later reference):

  • SKTCHD Survey: What’s the Life of a Comic Artist Like?
    “Over the past month, 186 artists anonymously responded to questions about who they are, what they do, how much they earn, which publishers they had the best experiences with, and much more in an attempt to provide a clearer picture as to what their lives are like. The plan for this project is to bring it back each year to deliver an evolving view of how artists live and how things are changing for them in this time of industry boom, while refining it as years pass. It starts with this first survey, though. The hope is an effort like this might give publishers, writers, readers, reviewers and up-and-coming artists a more comprehensive view of a world they may not fully understand.”

    “When you’re talking about what the typical respondent looked like, they were male, between 26 and 44 and from the United States. Those three segments were by far the largest, with each accounting for over 65 percent of their segments. That said, there was still solid diversity within the mix, with over a quarter of respondents being women and over 20 percent of them fitting into the tiny 19 to 25 age group. The United States and three other countries—the United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland—dominated the results for country of origin, but the survey had quality reach, with respondents from 19 countries in total.”

    “48.2% of respondents earn less than $12,000 a year, which means they are at or below the poverty line from income related to their comic art. It doesn’t get much better from there as over 66 percent of respondents earned $25,000 or less from their art. 5.4 percent earn six figures off their art, but that’s a small part of an ugly piece of pie.”

    “Almost 60 percent of artists who responded shared they can’t make a living off their work. What that means is many artists live interesting double lives. While many mentioned that they did freelance illustration, animation, advertising work, storyboards or other art related jobs to supplement their income, there were others who worked in factories, as bartenders, or even in one special case, lived off earnings as a figure drawing model and a tarot card reader. Others bring in income from alternative sources, including working in a shared income household with a spouse and leveraging Patreon and other crowd-sourcing outfits to help them get by. Artists may not be making the big bucks, but they are a resilient and resourceful group.”

  • Kieron Gillen on “Is The Wicked + The Devine in Trouble?”
    “To save you clicking through, the answer is ‘No.’

    The slightly longer answer is ‘While I generally object to jumping on a singular writer when talking about a larger issue which I see all over industry commentary columns, if you think that you can look at WicDiv’s sales and think they’re in any way in trouble, you have no business writing an industry commentary column. You simply don’t know enough to be doing this, and in doing so, you are hurting people’s perspective of the industry.'”

    Anything selling stably over 10k in single issues is a cause for celebration and joy. The creators are almost certainly extremely happy.

    If you’re selling over (ooh) 12k, you’re probably making more than either of the big two would pay you, unless you’re one of the very biggest names.

    If you’re selling anything near 20k, you probably have to buy drinks for your friends.

    “None of the above includes digital sales.

    None of the above include trades. You throw trades in, and you change everything entirely. A cursory look at hit indie comic numbers reveals that their trades sell much more than Marvel/DC main universe trades, with a few exceptions (There’s a reason why Matt and David’s Hawkeye was such a big thing, and it wasn’t its monthly sales). Let’s bold another sentence.

    You cannot do an industry commentary column on indie books without including the impact of trades.

    There are books that are selling well beneath 10k and are doing just fine.

    All the three sentences I bolded in a block were about making money from the single issues. They do not include any other revenue source, such as trades. If the single issues break even and you make your money in trades, that’s also fine. With a few exceptions, big two comics primarily make their money in single issues. That is one reason why their single issue sales matter so much more.”

  • The Beat: How to Break Into Comics and Survive Once You Get There.
    There’s tons more here. Less of an article itself and more of a list of other really great articles and resources.