SKTCHDxTINYONION: Part Three, Dealing with a Changing Market

The third month of the SKTCHDxTiny Onion Studios collaboration is here, as this year-long series of monthly interviews with writer James Tynion IV arrives to discuss the changing marketplace from a broader creator perspective. It’s a time of great uncertainty in the comic industry, with significant changes coming the past few years at nearly every level and market. We previously discussed what that looked like from a 10,000 foot view, but in this edition, we dig into what that means for creators, how the publisher landscape has shifted, being aware of the different varieties of publishers there are, the different ways you can insulate yourself from all of this, and more.

We popped on Zoom recently for a sprawling conversation about all of this and more, and it resulted in a fascinating interview that dives deep into what it’s like for creators right now and what they need to be paying attention to going forward. As with the last one, though, this one is almost entirely behind the paywall, so if you want to read it, you’re going to either need to subscribe to SKTCHD or Tynion’s The Empire of the Tiny Onion on Substack to do that. We’ll be back next month with another good one in which we talk about the same subject, but zoomed in on how Tynion himself has been changing his plans amidst all this.

But that’s next month. Let’s get into this one.

In our first chat, we talked about the state of the direct market and the comics industry, and how things have been a bit worrisome of late. Today, I want to talk about how that manifests itself for creators themselves. Is everything that’s been going on, the uneasy feelings on the direct market, the problems at varying publishers, the constant changes in distribution, the slow motion car crash of Comixology, and everything else, is all that something most creators you talk to are keeping an eye on?

James: I think the key words in there are the creators I talk to. I talk to a lot of creators who sort of look at the industry in a similar way that I do. So, I don’t want to say it’s broadly true, but it’s definitely true in my immediate circle.

This goes back to the early days of the pandemic. I think the industry hit a bunch of shocks, and creators slowly realized that all these systems that were never particularly stable to begin with were actually even less stable than they were before. So, the idea of kind of putting all your eggs in one basket and putting your head down and doing the work was suddenly a more dangerous thing to do for your career. And the more that people became conscious of that, I think they started taking action to take better control over their careers.

What do you mean when you say take action?

James: It means a lot of things. I am someone who has never liked having all my eggs in one basket, even before the current moment. It has always made me a little bit uncomfortable. Nowadays we’re seeing that if your only source of revenue is a mid-tier publisher, when you look around and see that mid-tier publishers are suddenly falling into situations where they stop paying creators for six months or that the entire global paper supply could vanish for a bit, you start realizing that you need to build a few other off ramps that allow you to make money and pay the bills. With that in mind, you see a lot more people building up their web presence in different ways.

That’s another front that’s not particularly stable these days. All the platforms where you can do that feel like they’re going through such radical shifts. They are turning knobs on the algorithm so one day a system that works great no longer shares the art you post. That’s how you get commission work, which is how a lot of artists make sure that they don’t have to worry when a company doesn’t pay them for six months.

It’s hard. It is a hard, hard time out there.

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