A quick and dirty estimate is...
A 32 page color Independent book, including production and printing of 1,000 copies, would run you around $4,000 - $6,000
Now let's spend a moment to break that down and you will get a better sense of the costs involved in creating your own printed comic book.
There are going to be roughly 22-26 pages of story and art in an independent 32 page book. Art and production fees will constitute your largest investment, unless you are doing all of the production yourself. When I speak of production I am talking about the art, inking, coloring, lettering, scripting, layouts, and graphic design. This part not only constitutes the lion's share of the work and investment, but it is the most time intensive as well.
Let's assume you are not an all-in-one production studio. Breaking down the production further we can divide it into individual pieces.
Art (Pencils) $1,200-$2,400
Art (Inks) $500-$1,000
Art (Colors) $600-$1,200
Script / Story $500-$1,000
Graphic Design / Layouts $250-400
We'll assume that you are going to tackle at least two of those parts yourself. You can also save a little bit of money by going with a digital artist who might combine stages, say pencils and inks. This is also a very rough estimate and can vary greatly depending on the experience and credits of the creatives you are looking at hiring.
The other piece of the pie is the cost of printing. As with anything that you get physically printed (unless you are using a print on demand service) the cost per piece will greatly reduce as the number you print goes up. The magic number you want to aim for, if you are doing a full print run, is 1,000. A quantity of 1,000 will give you the sweet price point that will allow you to resell your books at a small profit and maybe even break even, at the end, if you can get through the whole run.
Printing 500 32p color comic books $800
Printing 1,000 32p color comic books $1250
Printing 2,500 32p color comic books $2000
Again these are estimates and will vary depending on where you are sourcing your printing.
So what's the moral of the story? If you are looking to get your first book published and have gone the traditional route of pitching major publishers and can't get a foot in the door, this is a viable alternative. However, don't expect to get rich. Actually if you want to get rich go find another industry all together. Do the math. Even if you magically sell out of all 1,000 copies, and that is a big if, you'd have to hock them for an average of $4-$5 each. Meaning you can't wholesale any of them to dealers or through distribution channels. Add to that the cost of marketing and advertising and you can be upside down very quickly.
Why should you do it? Do it if your primary incentive is not to make a dollar from your hard work and sweat. Do it because it's something you always dreamed of. Do it only if you will be happy selling just 10 copies. The world of comics is highly competitive, as is any desirable occupation. However, you can achieve anything you put your heart and soul into (the theme of my series Only Human) and will find a way to make it work if you continue to drive forward.
Connect here at Indie Link to source your production needs, printing needs, get discounts, marketing advice and more. You will be happy you used our tools to get a head start and save yourself both countless headaches and wasted investments.
Hope to see your next comic book soon!