Part two - a day late! - in my series of posts about self publishing. This one is about production. I'm writing from the point of view of a writer-artist who has both done freelance work and hired others to do freelance work.
Generally the way a comic book starts is someone has an idea - typically a writer (or someone who likes to think of themselves as a writer, anyway). I mentioned in my last post, ideas are a dime a dozen; to self publish, you need to turn the idea into a comic book. That means producing around 24 finished pages... and that means art. (I don't go to much into script writing because I don't do it and I'm not an expert at it. If it's something I'm drawing, I do it storyboard style. If it's for another artist, I do it storyboard style... then just write out what my storyboards show.)
One thing many creators (i.e. writers) fail to understand is just how much sheer labor is involved in the creation of the artwork for a comic book. A single page of comic art can take 8 to 10 hours to draw. TO DRAW. Nothing has been colored or lettered yet! It can be done faster, but you know the old saying: you want it done fast, or you want it done RIGHT? So decent art takes time. Your options therefore are have the art hacked out for free by a friend or a sub-par artist; hire someone good who is also cheap but has a day job or some other main gig, and wait; or hire a pro freelancer. That freelancer may charge $100 plus per page to pencil and ink the art. (They may charge way more than that. If it's less, either you're lucky or they're crazy!) Any price of $100 to $200 a page for inked comic art, no colors or letters, is NOT OUT OF LINE. Not if the work is good. Yeah, that means your comic book is going to cost between 2 and 5 thousand bucks to have it drawn, if you get somebody decent.
Where do you come up with that money? Savings. Credit card. Cash out a 401k. None of these are necessarily good ideas. Kickstarter? Maybe. I had one successful one and one that I pulled the plug on when it became clear it wasn't gonna make it. But if you want the book to look professional, you have to expect to spend money. Don't complain about fairness, and don't whine about "artists holding all the power" - an artist draws for a living. Meaning to draw your stuff, it's taking time away from other work they could be paid for. Don't expect them to work for free or for nebulous promises of "a cut of the profits." Most of the time the profits are so razor thin, that share will barely cover the sheer gallons of coffee that artist needed to draw your book. The book is your baby (unless you created and developed it with an artist from the beginning, with the understanding that no money is being exchanged up front). Budget to have the book professionally drawn, and expect that to be a large part of your expenses.
(Another word about artists: make sure your artist knows how to prepare work for comic book publication. You might want to check with your printer, if you've found one, to get their specific trim / live area specs. I've worked with different printers, and I think the last one I worked with had a 6 5/8 by 10 1/8 trim, with the live area being a quarter inch inside all around. Check first, because it does differ sometimes. You don't want art or word balloons getting unintentionally cut off.)
What about coloring? It's not a necessity for self published books. My book was black and white up until, well, now. Ask your artist if they know a decent colorist. Good colors will make okay art turn gorgeous. Bad colors will make great art look, uh, not great. Coloring is less than art but can still run anywhere from $30 to $80 a page. Consider someone to at least do grey tones on the book, which (to my eye) elevates straight line art to something more polished... unless the style lends it self well to stark black and white.
Lettering is a specialized skill, and having both lettered my own work and hired professional letterers, I cannot recommend highly enough that you find a good letterer. In my experience, they aren't that expensive, and they will elevate the professionalism of your book. Bad lettering will make an otherwise pretty well-produced comic look totally amateurish.
So, in summation: plan to spend money, or plan to wait - a long time - to get the book put together. Don't skimp on the art or the lettering. Any idea worth executing is worth executing well.
Next up: publishing!