Kelly Sue DeConnick & Matt Fraction Undecided On Substack Offer

Supposedly, $600,000 is the amount that some comic book creators were offered to kick off their newsletters/digital comic book subscriptions on Substack for a year. Some, undoubtedly will have been offered less, but that seems to be the approximate figure offered to the Donny Cates/James Tynion IV/Jonathan Hickman/Jeff Lemires of the world. And that is also likely the amount offered to Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction. They already have a free Substack newsletter, Milk Fed Dispatches from their Milkfed Criminal Masterminds. And from that, as well as talking about a delay to Wonder Woman Historia, the return of Adventureman on September 29th from Matt Fraction, The Dodsons and Image Comics, running the #VisibleWomen project on Twitter and the whole Substack thing. De Connick writes;

So the short version is this: Substack has started offering SubstackPro deals to a set of comic creators that they view as influential in exchange for said creators developing and/or distributing some comics on the Substack platform. In exchange for the money, creators agree to offer a paid version of their newsletter and commit to posting 100 times in the year they're under the agreement. I've heard the deals referred to as "advances." Advances have to be earned out. As these don't, they're more like grants—or sponsorships, similar to what Nike does with athletes, which I think is much more accurate metaphor—and they're substantial. Substantial enough to be transformative to our industry.

If you're looking for our take, this is probably what you want to know: We did get the SubstackPro Comics offer. We haven't decided whether to take it or not; we can't commit at the moment. We'll see if the offer is still on the table once we're in a position to commit.

Kelly Sue DeConnick & Matt Fraction Undecided On Substack Offer
Kelly Sue DeConnick & Matt Fraction Undecided On Substack Offer

One bit of discussion probably worth weighing in on — I don't expect this to be a problem for retailers. The grants are significant enough to allow creators to pay themselves and their partners work-for-hire rates and maintain full ownership of all rights. It's usually a trade off: if you work for Marvel or DC (or any other WFH house), you get paid as soon as you turn the work in, but that's often it. You don't own anything. Depending on your sales, you might get royalties (or "incentives," depending on the company), but there's no auditing or predicting those payments. WFH pays upfront and that's great! And it's genuinely a privilege to get to work with those characters. It gets you in front of a significant audience, one that is usually rooting for you. There are very real, very valid reasons to do WFH. But a career with no ownership (or health insurance) is how we end up needing support from The Hero Initiative and GoFundMe. A creator-owned book, on the other hand, might—if you're very lucky—come with an advance that will usually only allow you to pay the colorist and letterer their full rate. The artist will take a reduced rate and the writer usually waits until book is in profit to get paid. Which, if it sells through on first printing means 90 days after the book hits the stands. (Which might be a year after you started working on it.) But it can take much, much longer. Years often. I know very successful writers on very successful books who have never seen a dime off the direct market sales of certain titles. And it is what it is, we know the deal when go in, but this is why the generation of writers that we come from have made it a point of balancing WFH and Creator-Owned. So the SubstackPro deal is, for as long as it lasts, the best of both worlds. Full ownership AND full rates. So you can release the book in serialized digital format through your Substack newsletter in full view of your core readers, then take that finished product to an indie publisher to put out in print, and distribute through the direct market—where many of those core supporters are likely to buy hard copies as well. With me? It's a hell of a thing for artists to get paid and keep their rights. That's an industry-changing year right there

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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