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DC Comics’ New Creator Royalty Plan Means More Credit Where Credit Is Due

This is interesting and important, I swear.

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Digital sales are the easiest way for the new comics reader to find a title, new or old, though it’s often been unclear to what extent those sales are “counted” by the comics industry when determining the success of a title. But at least at DC Comics, it seems that digital sales are being given a big vote of confidence. For the first time, they’ll be counted with physical sales towards the payment of royalties to the creators of an issue. And, for the first time, that includes colorists.

We know this because of a memo DC Comics sent out to all of its talent today, recovered and published by Comic Book Resources. Here’s an excerpt:

Perhaps the biggest difference is that all participations will now be calculated based upon DCE’s net revenue from a book’s sale rather than on the cover price. This change gives us more flexibility to sell our material in new distribution channels that have different pricing models.

It’s interesting DC would mention channels with different pricing models, raising the question: is the idea of pricing digital issues differently than physical ones being considered?

In addition, physical and digital sales will no longer be treated separately. Digital sales will now be added to print sales and the sum will count towards achieving the sales threshold which triggers participation payments.

We’ve also standardized sales thresholds for all periodicals. There are no longer separate thresholds and percentages by channel (direct market vs. digital vs. newsstand). We’ve also added a threshold for collected editions. The new thresholds and percentages are designed to generously reward high sales performance.

Previously, CBR notes, digital-first series such as Dustin Nguyen’s Li’l Gotham, Batman Beyond, and Smallville paid their artists a flat rate, without the opportunity to receive more pay if the series was successful enough.

We are pleased to announce the very welcome addition of Color Artists to the participations pool. Color Artists will receive moving forward cover credit for their work alongside Writers, Pencilers and Inkers. In addition, Digital First talent will now be eligible to receive additional compensation and share financially in the success of their books.

For those not familiar with the assembly-line-like production of many American comics, allow me to explain. There are a number of jobs that are filled when making a comic: Editor, Writer, Penciler, Inker, Letterer, Colorist, and Cover Artist. While there are plenty of artists who fill more than one of those five latter positions on an issue, those jobs can, and often are, filled by different people, in order to maintain a monthly rate of production. As it stands, the only names credited on the cover of DC Comics issues these days are the writer, the penciler, and the inker. But no longer: colorists are getting their due, with both a cover credit and the ability to earn royalties based on the comic’s performance. Which, you know, makes sense and should have been done a while ago.

Overall, this is a great move by DC to acknowledge the changing and more technologically-based landscape of comics sales. And more than that, these rules give comics readers a pretty important thing to be confident of: that no matter how they buy their comics, they’re supporting their favorite creators in an efficient way. You can read the entire letter from DC to their creators at Comic Book Resources or The Beat.

Previously in Comics

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