The global comic book market is valued at $7 billion:
Substack is betting on comic creators with its new Substack Pro program. The packages offer grants, design and editing services, and monthly stipends.
Discord now hits over 100 million active users monthly, and Discord bots are the hottest new feature on the platform.
Founder Ryan Deiss has made over $75 million selling online courses. His top piece of advice? Names and promises sell courses, not the course itself.
Want to share something with nearly 85,000 indie hackers? Submit a section for us to include in a future newsletter. —Channing
🦹♀️ Substack Pro's Comics
from the Indie Economy newsletter by Bobby Burch
The comic book market is valued at roughly $7B worldwide, and subscription publishing company Substack is now betting on comic creators.
What’s happening: Substack, currently valued at $650M, is now making a major investment in comics. This reinforces the company's confidence in the creator economy, and its commitment to transform publishing.
Substack Pro: Substack’s new comic creators and top publishers are part of its Substack Pro program, which aims to help creators go indie by removing the risks of starting a publishing business. Substack provides a financial guarantee, combined with access to its services, support, and community. The packages also offer grants, design and editing services, and monthly stipends to help out with the costs of health insurance.
Cash in comics: Substack cofounder Hamish McKenzie spoke more about the tremendous potential for comic creators to earn on Substack:
We can’t wait to see comics creators unleash their full potential and use this platform to bring to life new stories, concepts, and worlds that were never before possible.
To succeed with the Substack model, you don’t need millions of page views, you don’t need to play by the rules determined by an opaque social media algorithm, and you don’t have to submit to a corporate publisher’s conditions. Instead, you get rewarded for doing great work that you believe in.
The comics: Substack’s newest comic creators include Eisner Award-winning writer Saladin Ahmed, author of Throne of the Crescent Moon, and Prism Award-winning graphic novelist Molly Knox Ostertag, author of The Witch Boy and The Girl from the Sea.
Ownership: Substack explains that creators are their own publishers, maintaining that creators retain full ownership of their intellectual property, content, and mailing lists. After finishing the Substack Pro program, creators are free to leave and take their audiences with them.
Not everyone's happy: Some artists feel that Substack is simply giving lip service to the creator economy. Cartoonist Alex Schumacher had this to say:
I'm neither impressed, nor excited by the Substack announcements. They're just another company exploiting and catering only to established names, while neglecting up-and-coming independent creators.
The cut: Substack didn’t indicate a specific commission that it will be taking from comic creators, but presumably it’s similar to its 10% cut on newsletters.
Backing podcasts: Substack recently made a substantial investment in a new podcast network dubbed Booksmart Studios, which received a six-figure advance to launch the project. The network, founded by public radio veterans Mike Vuolo and Matthew Schwartz, launched with five new podcasts to which people can subscribe for $7 per month.
What it means: Substack is further expanding publishing opportunities for creators of all stripes. The investment aims to help Substack compete against an ever-growing list of companies, most notably Twitter and Facebook, offering similar services like newsletters, tipping, exclusive tickets, and flashy creator funds.
Empowering creators: This is yet another example of how social media and other large companies are building ecosystems in which creators can thrive. Companies are racing to offer creators as many tools as possible to generate revenue on their platforms and retain their audiences.
Race to duplicate: As a result of this competition for creators, we’re seeing many social media companies copy each other’s features. The Information’s Kaya Yurieff pointed this out in a post entitled "All Social Networks Look the Same." Paul Skallas, the infamous Lindyman, refers to the same as the "Media Monoculture."
What do you think of Substack’s investment in comics? Comment below!
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📰 In the News
from the Volv newsletter by Priyanka Vazirani
🤑 OnlyFans stars make 270 times more than the average worker.
📈 The crypto market has topped $2T for the first time in three months.
📖 This author has released the world's first Instabook, published as Insta stories.
🧠 A new artificial intelligence system aims to diagnose dementia in one day.
🌌 The world's first space restaurant will launch next month.
Check out Volv for more 9-second news digests.
🧨 Exploding Topics: Discord Bots
from the Exploding Topics newsletter by Josh Howarth
More than three-quarters (76%) of global internet users engage in some kind of online community. Discord hits 100M+ active users monthly, and founders can jump on the Discord bot trend.
The background: Discord bots are one of the most unique features that the platform offers. These bots use AI to offer various automated tasks on the servers. The bots can help Discord communities run more smoothly by offering help with onboarding, member intake, and moderation. They can also swing to the fun end of the spectrum, creating memes, sharing music, and offering other forms of entertainment. Depending on what types of server improvements that users are looking for, bots can fill in the gap.
Discord Street: Discord Street is a platform for discovering new Discord servers. With Discord now hitting 100M+ monthly active users, there are millions of people looking for new servers within their niche. Discord Street currently boasts 229K unique monthly visitors per month.
What’s next: Discord Street is part of the Discord tools meta trend. Discord generated $130M last year, up from just $5M in 2016. This has contributed to its most recent valuation of $10B.
The startup’s success has spawned add-on products, most notably Discord bots. Among the most popular bots is Mee6, a moderation and gamification bot added to 3M Discord servers.
Other rapidly growing topics related to discord bots include Top.gg, Loritta, and Carlbot.
Founders can create Discord bots geared towards the platform's communities at large. Intake bots present many opportunities, as communities are always looking for better, more seamless ways to accept and add members. Sound effects bots could also be explored, as communities look for ways to keep members entertained.
Connection bots are another space ripe for exploration. Discord communities are constantly on the lookout for new ways to connect members and keep them engaged, and AI tools that do this consistently and seamlessly would likely do well.
Check out the full post to see this week's other three exploding topics. And join Exploding Topics Pro to see trends 6+ months before they take off.
Would you explore the Discord bot space? Please share in the comments!
Discuss this story, or subscribe to Exploding Topics for more.
🛠 Building in Public: Share How You Cope With Obstacles
by Ivan Romanovich
Share with your audience how you cope with obstacles. This is a great tool for building trust and relationships.
Discuss this story.
🖥 Ryan Deiss' $75M Course Business
by Ryan Deiss
Hi! I'm Ryan Deiss, and I run a course business. I launched my very first product from my college dorm room way back in 1999 (yeah, I'm old)!
Since that first product (an e-book on how to make your own baby food), my partners and I have launched hundreds of products and dozens of media publishing startups in niches such as:
- Entrepreneurship/business growth; Scalable is my latest
- Digital marketing (best known for Digital Marketer)
- Home and gardening
- Outdoor survival tactics
- Health and beauty
- Finance and investing
I've seen the good times, the bad times, and experienced my fair share of ugliness (including almost going bankrupt twice).
What is a course business?
Part of my problem with a "course business" is the name. If we call it what it is, publishing, then the model becomes much easier to understand.
In publishing, there are authors and there are publishers. With self-publishing, the publisher and the author are the same, but that's a relatively new idea.
All that said, for the vast majority of the courses I have published, someone else was the expert. They were either paid a royalty (usually 10% on net sales), a flat fee (usually $500–$10K depending on the scope of the project), or they did it for free to have access to our audience.
Instead of putting yourself in the box of "course creator," start thinking like a publisher. You'll find that a new world of opportunities opens for you.
How do you contract with subject matter experts?
All publishing contracts should have a start and end date. Two years is typical. After those two years, you can either renew the contract under the same terms, tweak the terms to be more appropriate (for example, require that they update or redo the course), or cancel the contract completely.
We structure our contracts such that the talent owns the content (meaning that they can repurpose it), but we own the name and branding around the course itself.
In other words, if things don't work out and we don't continue, we can have someone else redo the course and the course lives on, while they have the opportunity to still teach the same subject, just under a different name.
It's a super fair deal, and in 10+ years of doing this, I have yet to have one go sideways. Even when we have parted ways, we have always parted ways as friends.
How long does it take to ship one course?
Most of our courses start out as live, cohort-based programs, so they're made as they're delivered. I'm a big fan of building courses live the first time because audience feedback is critical. Once the core foundation is built, it's fairly easy to go back and re-record. Between recording and edits, a six-module course can be professionally shot and edited in 4–6 weeks.
How do you decide on what courses to produce?
As a general rule, we start off promoting a webinar so that we can test the basic hook and concept of the course. If people won't register for a free webinar, it's unlikely that they'll purchase a course on the same topic. If the webinar is a success, we will then promote the course (delivered live) to the folks who signed up for the webinar. If no one buys, then it's back to the drawing board. If some do, then congrats, you just got paid to produce the course!
We look for people who are already producing the kind of content we're looking to publish (bloggers, YouTubers, podcasters, public speakers, authors, etc.) and then we pay them.
What's your favorite medium to deliver your course content?
We let audience preference determine the medium, but most of the time, it's a combination of talking-head video and screen-capture recordings. For the big, conceptual stuff that doesn't change very often, I prefer head-on. For the more tactical stuff that changes all the time, screen-capture, image, and text is better because it's easier to update.
As for WordPress, it works, so I don't question it. I was an early investor in Teachable and am very close with the guys at Kajabi too, and both of those platforms are amazing. We've just always built in WordPress because when I started, none of the above existed.
How do you tell if a course will be a winner?
Names and promises sell courses, not the course itself. Never forget that.
Discuss this story.
🐦 The Tweetmaster's Pick
by Tweetmaster Flex
I post the tweets indie hackers share the most. Here's today's pick:
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Special thanks to Jay Avery for editing this issue, to Nathalie Zwimpfer for the illustrations, and to Bobby Burch, Priyanka Vazirani, Josh Howarth, Ivan Romanovich, and Ryan Deiss for contributing posts. —Channing