When Stan Lee — unquestionably the most famous comic book writer of all time — passed away in 2018, reports that he had a net worth of $50 million started doing the rounds very soon. Many were shocked that it was not more. The fact, however, is that many aspiring comic book writers will never surpass the humble beginnings Stan Lee came from.
Estimates suggest that the United States comic book industry is worth around $893 million, but also that only 2,528 people are employed in this field. Do you think you have what it takes? You will be wondering what you may be able to earn as a comic book writer.
Average Salary for Comic Book Writers
Surprisingly little reliable data is available to indicate what the average annual salary for comic book writers is in the United States, or anywhere else for that matter.
The closest that PayScale, a popular source for people who are hoping to get a glimpse into average yearly wages, comes, is for the title of “book writer”. The site determines average yearly earnings of $$51,693 in this case, also documenting a starting base salary of $30,000.
Zippia.com suggests that the average annual salary for a comic book writer is $68,603. At the time of this writing, the site lists precisely one job opportunity to back that idea up — a freelance writer for comic book content is offered work for $39,000 to $78,000.
We can also turn to the Bureau of Labor Statistics for some further insights. The BLS closely tracks median annual earnings for a range of professions, while simultaneously providing reliable data regarding the top 10 percent and lowest 10 percent of earners in any of the occupations the agency follows.
They determined that the median annual earnings for all types of writers and authors added up to $67,120 in 2020. Those in the areas of “performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries” — which would likely include comic book writers — make a higher median wage of $82,350.
Average and median wages are not realistic indicators of what you can expect to earn, though, as many will make significantly less.
It is helpful to consider that comic book artists — and especially those who are working on a freelance basis — would typically be paid per (published) page of copy, rather than offered an annual salary as an employee. Fiction Horizon estimates that comic book writers may be paid anywhere from less than $50 per page to around $200 per page.
Salary Based on Experience and Education
The job of comic book writer is both unusual and unusually coveted. In more typical jobs, it would be reasonable to expect a higher starting wage if you possessed a relevant degree from a top university or a professional credential. It would also be rather typical to expect for your pay to rise after being on the job a certain number of years.
Being a comic book writer is not like that. Your education won’t matter. Your experience won’t either, unless it is top-quality experience. Rather, your earnings will go up depending on the popularity of your work, and your ability to get a foot in the door in the first place is going to depend on your talent and industry connections.
What Exactly Does a Comic Book Writer Do?
Comic book writers create compelling and exciting characters that the audience will be able to relate to and idolize or demonize — and they write, or participate in writing, the scripts and plot lines that take these characters on exciting journeys, crafting comics which readers won’t be able to put down.
The job of a comic book writer is not a solitary endeavor. Successful comic book writers, meaning those who have managed to turn their passion into their profession, work with numerous other industry experts. They include comic book artists, pencillers, and colorists as well as editors and publishers or clients.
Although many aspiring comic book writers will dream of writing for major studios such as Marvel or DC, it is important to note that these rare opportunities are not the only ones in the field. To name a few examples, professional comic book writers may be called on to produce characters and scripts for curriculum publishers or even for commercial ventures that seek to use the format of comics for marketing purposes. In the modern market, comic book writers may additionally produce content destined for the internet, including for games.
Compared to other types of creative writing, the work that comic book writers do is inevitably highly dialogue-focused — and comic books focus on the relationships between characters as much as they do on the plot.
Qualifications to Be a Comic Book Writer
To be a successful comic book writer, you will undoubtedly require artistic talent, vision, drive, and tenacity. Formal qualifications are, however, optional. Stan Lee, for instance, received an honorary degree from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia toward the end of his very long and unusually successful career. He didn’t need any qualifications to begin his career.
Those young people who are aspiring comic book writers may, however, benefit from pursuing a degree in a related field. Keeping in mind that comic book writers are, above all, writers, such people would benefit from choosing an educational path that can nurture their writing and linguistic skills. Journalism, English, English literature, and creative writing are all possible degrees to consider if you have the ambition of becoming a comic book writer.
Skills Needed to Be a Comic Book Writer
Comic book writers require an amazing variety of skills and personality traits. Do you have what it takes?
- Like any other writer — including script writers for TV, reporters, book authors, and even resume writers or web content writers — you will depend on excellent creative writing skills. Comic book writers should understand what makes a plot exciting, and what tropes kill a story. They need to have an excellent command of the English language, enabling them to portray characters that speak in different dialects and come from a range of different backgrounds convincingly.
- Comic books frequently focus on the relationships between characters. They understand what “makes people tick”; being able to craft believable motivations and backstories for their heroes and villains while making connections with their audience. As such, a solid understanding of psychology will make you a better comic book writer.
- Comic book writers may focus on the writing aspects of comic book production, but many are also involved in the visual aspects of character development. Possessing decent drawing skills will be helpful.
- Successful comic book writers don’t work alone, but rather alongside enormous teams. Excellent teamwork and good interpersonal skills are not optional.
- As in other artistic professions, comic book writers should expect to encounter more than their fair share of failure. A strong fighting spirit and a large dose of self-confidence (or at least absolute belief in your ideas) are required to make it.
Can You Be a Professional Comic Book Writer Without a Degree?
Yes, it is entirely possible to become a successful comic book writer without a degree. As with many other artistic fields, your odds of being successful depend more on your vision, talent, and industry connections than on your level of formal education. Those who have unique ideas that they believe to have potential should not be stopped by a lack of qualifications — your work may, ultimately, speak for itself.
How to Become a Comic Book Writer?
As an aspiring comic book writer, you can take several paths. You will want to consider the qualifications that may help you become a comic book writer. Should you not succeed in reaching your goals, degrees in creative writing, English, and related fields will still lead to related opportunities in other writing fields. You will also want to practice writing as much as possible. In today’s world, the internet can offer plenty of opportunities for exposure. Some take the road of animated comics on YouTube, for instance, while others publish web comics.
There are no hard and fast rules in this industry. You are not, however, necessarily doomed to failure — that’s the message Stan Lee received as well, but look where he ended up!
Comic Book Writers Job Outlook
This is undeniably a niche field. Very few job opportunities are available to aspiring comic book writers, who will usually find that they have no choice but to forge their own paths. Like with similar creative fields, many aspiring comic book writers will start off with high hopes and dreams, only to find themselves working in other fields — perhaps also related to writing — in order to pay the bills. Of the many creative writers who dream of becoming famous comic book writers, only a few achieve their goals. Those who do may be celebrated and wealthy.