Creator-Owned Economics: Wayward Oct 2015

Just over seven months ago I posted a financial/sales article letting people know how well Wayward launched in the current comic market using Skullkickers, my previous creator-owned series, as a comparative benchmark. Now that Wayward’s second story arc is complete and I have more sales data to look at I thought it would be good to post an update.

I’m happy to say that Wayward is doing well in a very, very competitive market. With both Marvel and DC putting out a ton of new #1 issues and Image on an incredible roll with new creator-owned series, the shelves at comic shops are absolutely jam-packed and it can be hard to stand out. Every series goes through periods of attrition, and that’s to be expected, but my biggest fear has been that we’d get completely lost in the shuffle and our readership would plummet.

Here’s how initial sales have held up through 10 issues:

Wayward arc 2 stabilized quite well and it looks like we may have found our ‘level’. The drop between issue 7 and issue 10 for Final Order Cut-Off (when comic retailers finalize their order numbers) was less than 500 copies and the gap between each one has gotten smaller and smaller. The variance between issue 9 and 10 was less than 50 copies. What doesn’t show up on that chart is that we’ve also been getting steady reorders on earlier issues and, once you factor those in, the series has even more stability at this point in time.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t have any concerns. Creator-owned books are always vulnerable to market fluctuations and even small drops that accumulate over the long haul could push us into a situation where the series isn’t financially viable. Arc 2 was stable but we need to make sure we keep readers around through arc 3 and beyond. My fingers are crossed that we’ll get a small post-trade bump on Wayward #11 (have you pre-ordered your copy yet?) to keep us rolling.

Okay, so sales look good, but how does that translate into initial earnings:

You can see that even a slight variance in sales can have a larger effect on profits. Again, we’re seeing overall stability, but there is some drift there as it moves along.

By this point in its life cycle Skullkickers was already struggling to turn a profit in single issue print sales while Wayward is covering its production costs. What that means is that the art team (Steve, Tamra, and Ludwig) gets paid, our letterer (Marshall Dillon) gets paid, our back matter essay writer (Zack) gets paid, and Image gets their base fee without me having to dip into my personal savings to cover any of the bills. The small amount of profit leftover month to month isn’t much but that’s okay. I’m in for the long haul with convention book sales, digital/print accruals, and co-ownership. I was also able to sock away some money from our big first issue for my “future project war chest.”

Let’s look at the latest issue breakdown of who gets what:

As you can see, those percentages have moved around compared to Wayward #1 Cover A (which had a massive print run compared to issue #10, skewing the numbers quite a bit). With Image’s flat rate fees and the changing price of printing, shipping, storage, and distribution each issue will vary, but this seems to be a more “normal” breakdown for our series. It’s also a more healthy balance as the creative team, distributor, and publisher have a pretty balanced stake in the series. As I mentioned before, being with the 3rd largest comic publisher in North America during their current renaissance has been a huge benefit. Image has been able to leverage their hit series to bring down printing costs and negotiate terms that leave more money for them and the creative team.

Let’s look at accrued sales and digital:

If you compare these to the first chart you’ll see that reorders have helped some of the issues level out. As an example, Wayward#2 has sold an additional 7% of its initial order numbers in reorder copies.
I was surprised to see that Wayward is primarily a print-heavy audience right now. Digital sales (the vast majority of which are through comiXology) only make up 9.1% of our current sales totals (and I didn’t count issues 8-10 in that calculation since I don’t have digital data for those issues yet). I was expecting a higher percentage of digital, but now that many of our early issues are sold out at Diamond that number will almost certainly increase.

Okay, so how about trade paperbacks?

In short, Wayward is kicking ass in trade. Image printed a very aggressive number of Wayward Vol. 1: String Theory books and in the past six months we’ve moved a big chunk of that stock thanks to great word of mouth and a $9.99 cover price. Although convention sales aren’t reflected in that chart, I can anecdotally say that Wayward Vol. 1 sells very well for me at shows. I usually just tell people “It’s like Buffy in Japan”, mention it’s only $10 and they’re in.

I know a few other creators I’ve spoken to have been wary of the $9.99 first volume price point, but so far on Wayward it’s working well. Image printed enough copies that our price per unit is incredibly small and that means it won’t take long to get that book into the black. Most importantly, the $9.99 pricing has paved the way for a lot of new readers to try it out. It’s a loss leader to build our overall audience, banking on the fact that they’ll come back for Volumes 2, 3, and beyond. I’ve been able to sell multiple copies to people to give as gifts or buy again even though they have the single issues. $10 feels like a reasonable price to spontaneously try something new, especially at a convention. I don’t think the value pricing is useful on a mini-series collection or short run, but for an ongoing series like Wayward it seems to be helping.

Skullkickers has always had a trade-waiter readership and I’ve been happy with our TPB sales but Wayward is gaining ground at a ridiculous rate. In six months Wayward Vol. 1 has sold about 90% of the lifetime sales of Skullkickers Vol. 1 from the past four and half years. Yeah, that’s kind of nuts. Initial orders on Wayward Vol. 2 were almost the same as volume 1, so I’m also curious to see how it’s selling in six months time.

Now that Skullkickers is complete it moves into new territory for me. Over the next year I’m going to see what the long tail sales are like for the six trade paperbacks and three deluxe hardcovers that encompass the series. Will more people try it out knowing they can read it all or does the finality of it and lack of new issues make it less visible? I genuinely don’t know.


On the deluxe book front, the first year of Wayward is being collected in a spiffy oversized hardcover called, appropriately enough, Wayward Deluxe. It’s a bit mind boggling for me to realize that in one year we put together enough material for a 320 page tome, but we did and I’m hopeful that it makes it onto some comic buying gift guides and sells well through the holidays.


As I mentioned in my previous article, I think Wayward’s success has been a combination of Image’s growth, my increased career visibility, and an engaging concept coupled with Steve and Tamra’s knockout artwork. The audience I’ve built up over the years through working on Pathfinder, Samurai Jack, Conan Red Sonja, Dungeons & Dragons, Street Fighter, and Figment have come together along with Skullkickers readers to give Wayward some wings. If we can keep that grassroots interest going I’m hopeful the series will have a long life.

If you’ve bought Skullkickers or Wayward, as a retailer or reader, you have my deepest thanks. In an industry with giant media companies and world-beating superhero brands I’m doing my best to carve out a little spot for my creations and I couldn’t do it without your help.

If you found this post interesting or helpful, feel free to let me know here (or on Twitter) and share the post with your friends. Please consider buying some of my comics online, from your local retailer or from me in person if you see me at a convention.

Comic Snobs Podcast Interview


I was interviewed by the crew at Comic Snobs and we chatted about working on different comics including Conan-Red Sonja, Samurai Jack, Figment, and Wayward. Give it a listen!

Zub at New York Comic Con 2015!


This year’s New York Comic Con is going to be bigger than ever and I’m excited to be there! I’ll be set up in the Artist Alley Pavilion at TABLE X3 with Edwin Huang!

I’ll have advance copies of Wayward Deluxe Book One and Skullkickers Treasure Trove 3 available at the table along with a host of other trades, variants, sketch covers, and more.


In addition, I’ll also be on two comic panels:

Friday October 9th
12:15pm-1:15pm – Image Comics: Where Creators Own Worlds – ROOM 1A21
The beauty of comics is that they can transport you to another place, if you’ll let them. The comics of John Arcudi (Rumble), Marjorie Liu (Monstress), Declan Shalvey (Injection), and Jim Zub (Wayward) show us worlds as fantastic as any summer blockbuster, but executed so well that they burn themselves into your memory.

Saturday October 10th
11:00am-12:00pm – Writers Unite: Writing and Pitching Comic Stories – ROOM 1A01
Comics have grabbed the imagination of the pop culture-loving public all over again and Publishers are looking for fresh ideas from a new generation of talent. Listen closely as Charles Soule (Letter 44, Death of Wolverine), Marguerite Bennett (A-Force, Bombshells), Steve Orlando (Midnighter, Undertow) and Jim Zub (Wayward, Samurai Jack) discuss writing comics and pitching their work to publishers, along with comic writing techniques and amusing anecdotes.

It’s going to be a great show and I can’t wait to see friends and readers there!


Wayward #1 For $1 in December!


Starting in December Image will be releasing a special version of WAYWARD #1 for $1 as part of their ‘Image Firsts’ line of promotional comics. If you haven’t had a chance to get on board our Japanese myth-fueled action epic, this is a great time to give it a try or buy up extra copies to hook your friends.

(W) Jim Zub (A/CA) Steven Cummings, John Rauch

IMAGE FIRSTS editions reprint the first issues of some of our most popular series for only $1.00. Perfectly priced for new readers interested in trying out a new series or sampling the first chapters of some of our trade paperbacks at little to no risk, IMAGE FIRSTS are available year-round to order upon retailer request, and this month we’re adding eight new titles to our growing list of dollar comics that are always in stock!

Rori Lane is trying to start a new life when she reunites with her mother in Japan, but ancient creatures lurking in the shadows of Tokyo sense something hidden deep within her, threatening everything she holds dear. Can Rori unlock the secrets of her power before it’s too late?

Diamond Item Code: OCT150588
In Shops: 12/2/2015
SRP: $1.00

Zub at the First TopatoCon!


Stacy and I are proud to announce that we’ll be at the very first TopatoCon, a new indy comic, game, and music convention happening in Easthampton, Massachusetts on September 26 and 27. You’ll be able to find us at TABLE R8 all weekend and I’ll have copies of Wayward and Skullkickers trades available.


Stacy will be hosting a panel on Japanese street fashion:
Saturday Sept 26 – 11am-12pm – Style on the Streets of Tokyo with Stacy King – Room One
Harajuku fashion gained global prominence in the 1990s with its colorful, outlandish style; twenty-five years later, how have those looks evolved? What are the cool kids of Tokyo wearing these days? Stacy King, manga editor and J-fashion aficionado, will highlight the major Tokyo style tribes and emerging trends in this visually-packed panel.

and I’ll be hosting a special panel all about propaganda cartoons:
Sunday Sept 27 – 4-5pm – Cartoons Go To War with Jim Zub – Room One
In World War II animated cartoons weren’t for kids, they were mainstream entertainment running in theaters and they carried a powerful political message. Jim Zub, Comic Writer and Professor of Animation History at Seneca College, showcases a few of his favorite short films of the era and gives them historical context. Crazy, comical, and controversial, but also an important era in the history of the animated art form.


WAYWARD #12 Arrives in December!

Arriving in December. Pre-order now!


DECEMBER 16 / 32 PAGES / FC / M / $3.50
No more hiding. The new gods of Japan are on the attack and Tokyo is caught in the middle.
JIM ZUB (SKULLKICKERS, Samurai Jack) and STEVE CUMMINGS (Deadshot) continue their acclaimed supernatural spectacle.

WAYWARD #11 Arrives in November!

Arriving in November. make sure you pre-order!


story: JIM ZUB
NOVEMBER 18 / 32 PAGES / FC / M / $3.50


The new gods of Japan rise in Tokyo and the world will never be the same. Will the old myths survive?

“This book is proof positive that Image really is the home for cutting edge storytelling.” -Reading With a Flight Ring

Cover A is part 1 of a 5 part panorama by Steve Cummings and Tamra Bonvillain. Buy all 5 issues of this story arc to fit them together into a massive Wayward illustration.

Cover B is a variant by Nick Bradshaw (Wolverine and the X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy).

Cover C is a variant by Karibu (Survivorland).

Figment 2 Issue 1 Reviews!


The first issue of our new Figment mini-series arrived last week. Let’s see what critics thought of it…

Adventures in Poor Taste: 8/10 “If you’re looking for a light read with some laugh-out-loud moments and an endearing premise, look no further than Figment 2 #1.”

Comicosity: 8/10 “…a fun, magical comic with that truly captures the spirit of imagination.”

ComicWow!: 9/10 “This is a really fun, imaginative all ages series.”

Comix I Read: 4/5 “Although Figment 2 #1 is a book meant for kids, there’s enough there in the writing and artwork for older readers to appreciate.”

Dis Kingdom: “I loved reading this comic, so much, I instantly went back and read it again”

Laughing Place: “This book is a great follow up to an amazing series with two of the most lovable characters in Disney Parks lore.”

We The Nerdy: 8.9/10 “The story is interesting and appropriate for all ages, and the art just makes everything more cheerful.”

WAYWARD Reviewed on NPR Books!


NPR Books has a nice overview of WAYWARD on their front page. Click through to read about what they thought of our supernatural spectacle.

“[Wayward’s] emphasis on epically battling the Big Bad is coupled with a determination to get its monsters right.”

Zub at Fan Expo 2015!


The summer is almost over, which means it’s time for Canada’s pop culture bonanza, Fan Expo Canada, right here in Toronto on September 3-6 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre! I’ll be at TABLE P34 for the whole show and I’m bringing a ton of books, sketch covers, and other goodies.

A year ago I launched my new creator-owned comic series Wayward at Fan Expo and it was a blast. I’m happy to say that the series is doing well and I’ll have copies of Volume 1 and 2 available at my table along with single issue sets, postcards, and other rarities.


I’ll also have copies of Skullkickers (including pre-release copies of our final volume), Figment, Samurai Jack, Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate and a bunch of my other titles at my table. In fact, here’s a list of items I’ll have available at the show while supplies last.


If you buy any Skullkickers or Wayward at my table you’ll get a special badge flag so you can show off your skullkicking or yokai slaying talents to your friends.


I’ll also have some of the limited edition Skullkickers pins we had made up for Gen Con. They turned out fantastic.


On Friday I’ll also be on two panels:

Friday Sept 4th-4:45-5:30pm-Room 705 Humour in Swords & Sorcery
Description: Can mighty thews and sinister sorcerers be funny? By Crom, they certainly can! Panelists Jonathan Lavallee (Critical!: Go Westerly), Jason Anarchy (Drinking Quest), Rachel Kahn (By Crom), and Jim Zub (Skullkickers) will discuss their particular brand of mirth and myth.

Friday Sept 4th-5:30-6:30pm-Room 714 Writers Workshop Panel
Description: Join Jim Zub (Samurai Jack, Wayward), Charles Soule (Death of Wolverine, Letter 44), Ray Fawkes (Gotham by Midnight, Intersect), and Kathryn Immonen (Journey Into Mystery, Snipe) as they discuss writing and pitching their comic series to publishers. Get their advice on how to climb to the top of the treacherous submission mountain as they share comic writing techniques and amusing anecdotes.

With comics, games, cartoons, toys, and a whole lot more there’s something for everyone at Fan Expo. If you’re headed to the show, please stop by and see me there!