Opinion: When “Revenue Share” in our comics industry becomes Creator Exploitation

Revenue Share Image

Here at downthetubes, I am becoming increasingly concerned by the rising number of independent publishers professing to support our comic industry, on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond, whose worthy ambition to promote comics is being marred by an apparent blind spot when it comes to the recompense of creators.

Singling out no particular company, I’m genuinely disturbed now by receipt of press copy from publishers offering product based on a somewhat nebulous “revenue share” or “promotional” use of creators’ work.

Translated, “Revenue Share” can often be what one creator described to me as the “Maybe” back end model; while “Promotional” should mean the use of a limited number of preview pages, used for press purposes, not entire strips in return for “Exposure”.

Effectively, in my view, what these publishers are doing is licensing the use of this material. While license usage would not necessarily mean payment of a page rate equivalent to commissioned work, as no rights are being reassigned, a nominal payment at the very least ahead of “revenue share” would be some acknowledgement of the contribution creators are making toward a publisher’s potential profits.

Promotion of comics as a medium has to come, in my view, with fair treatment and support not only for potential readers but those rising in the industry alongside established professionals.

I have been championing both independent and mainstream comics for over 21 years now on downthetubes, and before that, too, and welcome any genuine effort to grow our industry. With increased costs for publishers, rising imported costs due to currency fluctuations and other factors affecting sales and comics distribution, it’s not as if publicity isn’t welcome.

But not, in my opinion, at the expense of comic creators whose first encounter with allegedly “organised” publishers is so poorly served.

In consequence, I have reluctantly decided I will not be promoting such projects where I am aware of such treatment, unless some re-examination of business model, or a clear statement of how their “revenue share” model works, is provided, even if on a “Not for Publication” basis.

I hope that those of you reading this will understand my concerns and appreciate why I have raised them, without singling one or more publishing projects.

Equally, I welcome the hard work of publishers that do treat creative talent with respect. There are a great many out there, for all the criticism our industry sometimes receives, even small publishers who offer a flat fee for strip use, dependent on budget, and good for them..

Thank you for reading.

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Explorer (previously known as Star Trek Magazine) and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of "Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies" for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.

Categories: British Comics, Creating Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Features, US Comics

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5 replies

  1. I for one appreciate the stance you’re taking. It will be good to know if I buy a comic that the creators aren’t being “paid” with some promise of exposure or possible, unspecifed financial recompense,possibly, at so.e point down the line

  2. Hear Hear, John.
    Speaking as someone effectively on the lowest rung of the publishing ladder I go to great lengths to make sure that creators know what they will and will not get from me.

  3. Not something I’m hugely aware of (speaking as a mere reader/pleb) but I appreciate you standing up for creators.

  4. Hi John, I never for one moment thought that it was. You’ve always been a huge support to the Small Press.

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