I am most certainly not the person to offer the definitive opinion on this matter, but I am a person with an opinion, so I’m going to talk about. Especially because it concerns a lot of talented and creative people I really admire.
There’s been a the rumblings of a start of a great exodus over to Substack, the newsletter service that allows you to put a price tag on what people want in their inboxes. Basically, people sign up, pay your fee, then they get the goodies delivered right to them. You’re essentially controlling what kind of community you’re building while also making money off of your hard work.
It might seem strange now, but there once was (and, seemingly, is) a gigantic network of newsletters in the Days of Internet Past. All that went away once social media invaded and took over everything. However, if you look around *motions to all of social media* you can see that not everyone on there is a “good” person.
Or a “decent” person. Or a person “with good manners and a knowledge of how to not be a dick.”
Now, about this exodus.
A great number of comic book writers and artists are leaving their jobs at the Big Two (Marvel and DC) and making their way over to Substack, basically starting their own company (I’m getting flashbacks to the Image Comics boom of the early 90s). These are lower level guys, these were all TOP NOTCH writers and pencilers and colorists and inkers and letterers leaving TOP LEVEL jobs to, basically, start out on their own.
They’re not starting from scratch, mind you. Their name brand recognition is going to be the thing that sees them through this, I’m sure. Hard to ignore the names Jonathan Hickman and Scott Snyder, just two that have guided Marvel and DC comics, respectively, in the last few years, when they say we’re going to be writing stuff over here now.
And this is nothing new. Just under a month ago, Publisher’s Weekly talked about the perks of using Substack, how it functions in a way the traditional online publishing model has failed, where ad revenue is slowly dissipating as they figure out that maybe there isn’t infinite money and people are spending in ways not always attributed to some little pop-up on the side of their screen. Journalists, novelists, and so on, are all finding their way to get paid for their craft.
So, is it right for someone like me (a freelance content writer with aspiring dreams of being a paid novelist) to make that jump?
Sorry. No. I don’t think so.
It really comes down to name recognition, doesn’t it? This was the issue with Patreon and Kickstarter I had from the beginning. They promise big things, but unless you have either, a) an already recognizable name or brand, or b) just the most INSANE work ethic, like, you’re working night and day with no sleeping or eating to make sure your project is on everyone’s timelines every 10 minutes, then odds are you’re not going to hit it. A once-a-day post talking about your art studio isn’t going to bring in the Patrons, you know?
Which is sad, but that’s how it’s always been.
To become a writer people will pay for you have to become a writer people are worth paying for. This involves paying some dues, taking lower paying jobs, working your way up. It’s all hierarchy, it’s all proving yourself, it’s all beating out the competition.
And there is competition. Don’t ever forget that. When someone else gets a book deal, that’s a book deal that is now no longer on the table for you to take. Doesn’t mean you won’t get one, but keeping in mind there is not an infinite amount of money out there, being shifted around for written content, is crucial to success. As Jason Pargin said in his Substack newsletter (which is thankfully not paid content yet and you should all head over there and subscribe now):
It a teenager asked me for a word of advice about surviving adulthood, it would be this:
“That doesn’t mean anything,” they’d probably reply. “A ‘word of advice’ doesn’t literally mean one word, you dumb piece of shit.”
To which I would say, fine, here’s the longer version:
“The well-meaning adults in your life have lied to you. This is a world of competition, whether you acknowledge it or not. You’re not just competing or money but for relationships, status and all of the other good things in life. You don’t have to be an asshole to win…but you do have to compete.”Jason Pargin
Not everyone is made for that Substack life. I’m one of those people. I’m trying to get a foot in the door, just get an agent, you know? I’m not ready to start a “paid content streaming platform.”
And, yes, I really wrote this as a lesson for me to learn. Sorry you had to come along.
Thanks for reading,