Chuck Saterlee pulls the curtain back a bit further over on the Bendis Board thread that started it all. I’m quoting it in its entirety as I wouldn’t be surprised if he was asked/made to delete it at some point, as it airs what could charitably be called dirty laundry.
My name is Chuck Satterlee and I have/had two books with Speakeasy. The titles are SMOKE & MIRROR and OF BITTER SOULS.
My association with Speakeasy has been decent on a personal level and disastrous on a professional level.
To start, I have never had a personal problem with Fortier or anyone else, but I am very dissapointed in the way the books were managed.
I’ll just lay it all on the line.
To start, I (as a creator) helped to pay for a Speakeasy Comics Party in San Diego. I paid $750.00 for that. I was the person responsible for actually getting them some banners through my friends who had the abilility to make them. You see, one of the first things that pissed me off about Speakeasy was their unprofessional presence in San Diego. The booth was a hodge podge of organization and without MY banner, they would not have even had a Speakeasy logo…IN SAN DIEGO!!!!!!!!!!! Also, I worked with the people who produce the television show Entourage on HBO to get a huge Speakeasy banner (made by my friends) shown in the episode where the Entourage guys go to Comic-Con. Adam had nothing to do with that past signing a release. Let’s move on to Chicago. They used the banners from the Entourage shoot and they still do. I also tirelessly stated in interviews that I was happy and I pushed Speakeasy and Speakeasy titles.
Also, my group was a well oiled machine. We turned in projects on time but that just didn’t seem to matter. The books still found a way to come out late. That is damn frustrating and I never received a acceptable answer for the delays. One time, when I spoke to a senior management person at Speakeasy, he told me that SMOKE & MIRROR #2 had “fallen off a truck”…yeah…he really said that. In San Diego, another senior managemnet member of the Speakeasy team told me to keep a look-out because he was expecting “Harvey Weinstein” of Miramax fame…really. Since that, I have taken everything they say with a grain of salt and never let on that I had frustrations. I simply started to look for another publisher.
Also, I am still trying to figure out what we get for our fees.
We have to spend a certain amount on a fee. Then we are also charged for printing and another amount for the ad in Previews (which nobody reads anyway for the most part). The fee is my biggest question mark.
I did the following:
I marketed my books at my expense.
I procured all of my own interviews (except one for silverbulletcomics).
I paid my own talent. (artists, etc…)
I had my book pre-pressed
I paid my own travel expenses
I paid for Speakeasy ( a good percentage) parties
I procured banners for them
I delivered my books on time
Let me also explain another point…
I also allowed them to print ads for their company owned books in the back of my books. I say allowed because, if I am paying for printing…which I am…then ALL of the content is my discretion. So…I allowed them to print ads for their books in my books. I must state that I have absolutely no problem with other creator owned books in my books, but the company owned stuff I have a problem with. They purposefully print larger ads for their books in Previews and I have my suspicions about who pays for that. But since I can not prove anything, I will not state who I think is paying for it.
Here is what I got for the fee
Almost non-existent accounting (even after several requests)
No marketing support
Almost non-existent communication (at one point, I had a serious question and I had to wait for almost three weeks for a call back….now I am a little slow, but if I am doing two books per month, that adds up to $3500 per month in feees. That would make me a client. That would qualify me for a call back I would think in a more timely manner…say…two weeks.)
No proofs or blue-lines (I have never seen a bok before it was printed. I said I trusted them before and when I was naieve. However, after issue 1 of Smoke & Mirror came out with the credits on the inside back cover and an ad on the inside front cover, I got a little pissed off. I thought we could at least count on them to look at a proof, look at the original file and make a f’ing determination if it looked the same. I was dead wrong. I can not tell you how many printing errors there have beeen in Speakeasy books. It ius a major reason for late shipments. Rocketo #2 had an upside down back cover and a senior member of the staff told him that “nobody would notice” but Frank insisted on the reprinting.
All of this said, I have had financing problems but I fixed them now. I have been shopping for another publisher and I found one. In fact, I am very happy at my new place and I am not the only Speakeasy creator to jump. I can tell you that I know of four to five others who are planning to jump to other publishers. I can not say who I am jumping to yet, but I will after it is safer to do so.
I will add that, while Norm Breyfogle is not a gigantic name anymore, he is still a household name in this industry. He is the quintessential Batman artists for a lot of guys and gals. A good bunch of us came up reading Breyfogle and GRant’s Bat stories. Norm is my partner for Of Bitter Souls. They had a household name and they did nothing to make that work to their advantage.
Their contract, which I am not allowed to divuldge due to a NDA I signed, has many stated duties that they are supposed to do as a explanation for their fee. They have, at last count, been in breach (IMO) of almost 11 of these duties.
I beleieve in my heart that Speakeasy management is not made up of bad people. I also believe that the problems that have arisen in Speakeasy have made Speakeasy management a bit on the desperate side and good…or bad…desperity can bring out the worst in some people.
My books will go on. I am happy about that. I will be leaving Speakeasy with a wealth of wisdom I did not have prior to our time together. For that, I am thankful. I do wish that nothing would have gone wrong and I would have been publishing with them for a long time, but maybe the education is worth the trouble. The books have also afforded me the ability to get ntoiced by other editors at the big two.
When I shopped my books around, I did stop by IMage where they were flattly rejected by Erik Larsen. He was not shy about his rejection either. I just want to close with something.
A lot of people knock Erik Larsen. I don’t. He personally did not like my books and he told me so. He didn’t say I could never pitch again. He simply did not like the books I offered at the time. I must say that he is at the very least…an honest guy. A creator knows where he stands with an Erik Larsen. I feel as if I have been less fortunate in that department with Speakeasy. I just can honestly say I have no idea what they are ever up to.
In closing, let me also say that I never found Marshall Dillon at Speakeasy to be anything other than an honest, hard working guy. Again, I do not think that the Speakeasy upper management were born bad, I just think the circumstances have created some desperity.
Oh yeah, they sent me extra books to sell, which I intend to pay for, once everything is settled.
I can’t imagine Adam Fortier is thrilled with the amount of attention this story is getting, as everybody seems to be blogging about it, and several creators have come out expressing various levels of displeasure with the new policy, as well as their overall experiences with the fledgling publisher. Satterlee, though, is the most damning so far, getting as specific as I’ve ever seen someone get in a public forum, seemingly inching right up to the line of what might violate his NDA.
For my article, I asked Fortier a few questions about their Creator Services, as posted on their web site, but due to space considerations, was only able to fit one of them in, about their direct and mass-market penetration. Here’s the other two, plus one about how he feels they compare to Image:
ME: Let’s break down some of the statements you make in your “Creator Services”, as presented on your web site.
“Through our Printer contacts and relationships, signing on with Speakeasy can save you incredible and quantifiable amounts of money on printing and pre-press, allowing you a bigger and better return on your project.”
Define “quantifiable” for me. ie: If I self-publish a 32-page, full-color comic and print 5,000 copies for, say, $1.50/copy, how much are you going to save me? How has your ability to save money on printing been affected by the unexpected developments with Lamppost that delayed several of your titles? Are you getting as good a deal with Quebecor? Did the switch have anything to do with the new cutoff policy?
FORTIER: It’s not a hard and fast number, it will change from month to month, based upon the last prices charged, etc. I’ll save different amounts for different people, depending upon what they were last charged. That’s not to say we guarantee anything, simply that we strive for it, and we believe that we can, on average, save people money. For Lamppost and Quebecor, it’s had an effect on our schedule, but these aren’t the only printers that we talk to , nor the only ones that we use. It’s about always being on the lookout for a new opportunity, but recognizing when reliability means something as well. Printing was an issue in regards to cutoff policy, as printers in general were requesting larger minimum print runs as a result of dwindling profits.
One thing to note in regards to printers, especially Canadian (as a number of comic book printers are) is that in the last two years (or maybe three) the the US dollar went from being worth 1.60 Canadian dollars to recently 1.15 Canadian dollars. This has a serious detrimental effect on profits, and means that many printers can no longer look at publishing comic books in the same light.
ME: “From the writing of the product solicitation, to securing contests promoting the creators and the project (both online and in print), interviews promoting the creators and the project (both online and in print), creating awareness and support at the retail level, and more, Speakeasy is with you every step of the way, developing your brand, and insuring success.”
Give me three examples of specific marketing efforts Speakeasy has successfully undertaken on behalf of a creator-owned project. Were the costs for these efforts included in Speakeasy’s fee, or is this an optional service for additional cost?
FORTIER: The costs for these are included in the fee, not additional. As for examples, we make calls to numerous retailers (and I mean literally hundreds) to discuss upcoming projects, we talk to online sources for interviews, set up online advertising, promotions through diamond, etc. We try to do as much as we can with each book, but also note to the creator that it’s important they spread the good word themselves as well.
Also, we simply cannot guarantee coverage. I can’t guarantee that you’ll do an interview at a certain time with a certain creator, it’s ultimately up to you. Same thing with contests, and ultimately ordering. The goal with publishing is to try to do as much as possible so that some of it goes through. You cross your fingers and hope that the guys on the other end of the e-mail dig things as much as you do.
ME: Besides their premier publisher status, if a creator has the opportunity to publish a project with Speakeasy and Image, why should they go with Speakeasy?
FORTIER: It mostly comes down to individual taste. I will freely admit that there are things you get from Image that you can’t get from us, but we handle projects differently than they do, and sometimes that matters more than the other things. By and large we’re different from Image, and there aren’t a whole lot of comparisons to make either way. If you want to know why people go with who they do, it’s most likely best to ask them yourself. I’m a salesman, so I’m always going to want people to sign with me, so I just might be a little biased.
Speaking of biased, Rich Johnston, who “broke” the original story last week in his rumor column, has been hitting a few of the message boards and blogs where the situation is being discussed, seemingly running interference for Speakeasy, defending the change in policy and continuing to put a postive spin on the whole situation. He’s also solicited “hard questions” to put to Fortier in the aforementioned Bendis thread, so it’ll be interesting to see what his follow-up is this week as he certainly can’t ignore the story now.
In the end, he’s slyly wrung a bit of promotion for his own Speakeasy project, The Flying Friar, a one-shot graphic novella that won’t have to worry about subsequent issues going the online-only route. Be interested to know what his pre-order numbers were/are and whether or not he’ll have to front the printing costs for it, or if his pitchman duties balance the books.