Flutterby™! : Yes, we're serious

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Yes, we're serious

2011-12-16 03:29:53.511367+00 by Dan Lyke 3 comments

Scott Kurtz and Brad Guigar lay it out for the newspaper comics and syndicate industry. And offer to help.

Dear Cartoonists Studio: This is not a prize. Anyone can put their comic on a webpage and populate it with ads from Google Adsense. GoComics.com isn’t promising (nor can it deliver) traffic. That has to be generated by the artist anyway, so why add a middleman? Also there is no such thing as an electronic-book publishing contract. That’s like selling freshman elevator passes on the first day of the spring semester.

Dear Syndicates: You are making yourselves look more and more out of touch with every passing day. The USC Anneberg School for Commincation and Journalism just released a study that predicts newspapers are gone in five years. If you want to survive beyond that cataclysmic event, you gotta figure out this online stuff soon.

Some good notes on relevance of the newspaper industry in there as well.

[ related topics: Children and growing up Interactive Drama Books Journalism and Media Art & Culture Comics Rocky Horror Picture Show ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2011-12-19 20:57:36.569388+00 by: petronius

I once heard a lecture by someone who co-wrote a syndicated newspaper medical column. When asked what a syndicate does for you, she said," Well, if some newspaper wants to run your column, the syndicate won't stand in their way."

#Comment Re: made: 2011-12-20 19:23:40.036547+00 by: other_todd

[Disclaimer: I find Kurtz to be one of the biggest blowhards in the industry, and he pisses me off whenever he opens his mouth. I wish he'd just shut up and draw his comic strip.]

This is the same article that ruined my morning a few days back. Putting aside the business of whether I think paper newspapers are going to really be gone within five years (sadly, yes) or whether I am happy with what has come along to replace them (no) - even ignoring the matter of whether syndicates had any usefulness (I think they did) - let's focus on the fact that Kurtz is a SUCCESSFUL web cartoonist, and those are not three-a-penny. It's very cavalier of him to say, "Disregard all that bullshit, just work hard and you'll make it," just because HE happens to have done so. It ignores the reality that, in the web world, there still doesn't seem to be any good mechanism for making sure that content creators get paid - be it music or books or comics or whatever.

His flip dismissal of electronic publishing contracts may be accurate in some ways, but turn it on its head and it says, "Sure, you can write an electronic novel, but, ha ha, good luck getting paid for it, because the market is such that conventional publishing contracts with author's advances are now pretty much DOA, which means that the amount of money you earn from your book depends entirely on how aggressively you can shill to attract readers." That shilling, to me, is NOT THE AUTHOR'S JOB. Kurtz shouldn't HAVE to flog his products as aggressively as he does. His job is to CREATE the damned things.

I got into the business of writing to write. I don't want to do my own promotion; it is not my job. I don't want to negotiate my own contracts. I don't want to have to deal directly with getting advertisers to advertise on my site. I don't want to have to think about traffic numbers. I just want to write. In the old world, I could get an agent and ingratiate myself with a particular publisher who saw me as a good long-term bet, and I'd be reasonably set. I could concentrate on my job, which was to turn out a book a year or so and then collect a modest advance on each.

It might have been a lot harder to get my foot in the door under the old system than just putting some comics or fiction on the web, but overall the benefits of getting your foot in the door were MUCH better. Now we have a system that's far more democratic in terms of "anyone can publish," but the system is considerably worse in ALL other ways. Why do none of my peers seem to see this?

The fact of the matter is that none of the successful web cartoonists I know makes their living *from their creative work*. They do it through other means - merchandising or advertising. This means that in addition to being a creator, which is hard enough already sometimes, they also have to be a merchandiser or an advertiser. I do not care for this system one tiny bit.

The fact of the matter is that if I were to write a novel right now - and god knows I could, I've done it before - I would have no mechanism whatsoever to connect it with a potential audience and no mechanism whatsoever to make money from it that would not be bought at the cost of a HUGE investment in my time stumping up eyeballs and scrounging for a pay-to-read mechanism that worked. THIS IS NOT AN IMPROVEMENT OVER THE OLD HEGEMONY.

OK, stopping for deep breaths now. Sorry. I just get really, really tired of all my peers cheering the new regime where anyone can be a publisher, without stopping to consider the ramifications of how those people are actually going to be rewarded enough for the trouble of making good content to make it worth their while to continue. Certainly, once I read the writing on the wall some years ago, I no longer found it worth my while to try.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-12-21 00:17:32.730671+00 by: Dan Lyke

What you're complaining about is that in the old days, someone else had to flog advertising or merchandise or whatever in order to pay the content creators, these days people have to do that entire chain themselves.

However... I don't know how seriously you've shopped around a novel. I have. The reality is that to get the attention of a major publisher, you have to do most of that publicity yourself. You have to hire the editor. You have to hire the publicist. You have to present to the publisher a complete package that says "I will be able to sell 50,000 books for you".

Eventually we decided that ... well ... eventually the relationship ended and I think the novel ended up on a floppy disc somewhere.

The difference between then and now is that you have one less layer of people taking a cut. You can either set up your own billing system, or you can have one of the ebook publishers take their small cut for the billing, but you no longer have to beg and plead to get someone to print a few thousand copies and push them off to B&T and Ingram, and then bill you for the costs when those books don't move.

Yeah, Kurtz is a success in a world full of cartoonists struggling to make it, but so is the syndicate/newspaper world. Except that there the market is even more closed to the person who'd struggle to break in.

I still head down to my local bookstore and order the paper, but it's getting harder and harder to do that, and I'm tossing more money into virtual tip jars because that's the content I find that actually interests me.