Comics is not a “get rich quick” scheme.
I’m going to tell you a truth. It’s a truth you need to know before you decide to pursue a career in comics.
Comics is a “get poor quick” scheme.
Let me say that again, for those in the back who didn’t understand it the first time: comics is a “get poor quick” scheme.
If you’re trying to get a comic produced, and get it done with quality, you’re going to end up paying someone. Generally, this will be the writer who pays, but it’s occasionally the artist. If you’re a skilled artist, you can usually get away with not paying a writer, because a writer generally wants to get a book drawn, and it often won’t matter to them what story they’re working on.
But you’re going to end up paying someone, somewhere. You can cut costs here and there (learn to letter the book yourself, go black and white instead of color), but there’s going to come a time when you’re going to have to pay someone.
Even if you somehow get all the art done for free, you’re going to have to pay a printer if you want a physical book. Then, of course, you have to make enough sales to cover the entire cost of production. (Production doesn’t end until the book is in its final form, be it physical or digital.)
There are ways to defray the costs, though.
The most well-known way is through Kickstarter. You’re going to have to put in a lot of work and thought into doing your campaign, though. And then, you have to work it like a second job in order for it to be successful. (There are lots of articles on how to do it, but I suggest you go to ComixTribe.com and do a search for Kickstarter, and read the articles that are there. They provide a wonderful breakdown and analysis of how Kickstarter works, and the things you can do to help ensure you have a successful campaign.)
There’s also Indiegogo, which is very similar to Kickstarter, but with a few differences (it isn’t an all-or-nothing campaign—the money you raise is the money you keep, versus having to have a successful campaign in order to get the money, like Kickstarter does; it is also open to international campaigns).
Another way is to have a digital-only comic. If you have no physical comic, you cut out a good portion of your initial costs. (You will also generally have a tougher time recouping your costs.)
You can also try to make deals with your creative team. Give them a piece of the pie in return for a lower (or no) page rate, making it up to them on the back end (after the sales have been made.) I’ll have more to say about back end sales soon.
Right now, the basic thing to understand is that you’re very often going to end up putting out more money than you take in with comics. Only the most successful comics make any real money. Every comic that is a success is an outlier. Every single one. (This is, of course, outside of Marvel and DC. They have a built-in audience for their wares, and can afford to put out a 50 books a month. Even their lowest selling books are doing numbers indie creators would love to have.)
It’s a dream to have and to shoot for, but understand that comics is a get poor quick scheme.