*Guest post written by Heather L Sheppard*
Recently, I completed work on the first issue of my own comic/storybook ‘Sunrise’, a small, wordless story about a silent little monster on his search for the sun.
I wanted to publish it myself – to learn the whole process of creating, printing and selling my book myself, as I still think it’s one of the best ways to learn – to experience it for yourself. To pay for this, I decided to print each of my 4 planned issues as limited edition paperback copies, and sell them myself both online and at comic conventions – the problem being, it turns out people really like it, and 75 limited edition copies weren’t going to last long!
So I had to come up with another plan – lots of people wanted to read it, but I needed a platform to publish it on which would allow others to easily read it, yet not devalue the limited edition copies that so many people had bought in good faith. I completely intend to sell the final ‘full’ version of all 4 issues in a nice, solid hardback, but that is still a year away, at least! So I thought ‘Why not sell a digital copy?’ And so I began to look into alternatives.
There were many methods, most involved selling a PDF version on my own digital stores, which I wasn’t entirely happy with. Not only is a PDF a bit of a bother to read, you can’t sit with your child and read through the book together – and that’s still something that I find important. I even thought about making a book app myself to sell on the iOS and Android stores. However, with my experience with making games for tablet and phone devices, I knew how much of a pain in the behind this would be – I can create the art and menu systems easily enough, but then I’d have to hire a programmer (which, despite knowing many, I couldn’t ask them to work for free!), a testing team and most likely the tablet and phone devices needed to test the app – which is far easier with the limited amount of Apple products than it is with the plethora of Android-using phones! And then I would have to hire a PR team to get the word around – all of which is a little impossible with my teeny tiny budget! So I had to give up on that idea almost as soon as I had it.
Earlier this year though, popular digital comic outlet ‘Comixology’ opened the doors to small-press comic creators with ‘Comixology Submit’. Brilliant! A way to get a digital version of Sunrise on so many phone and tablet devices, as well as computer screens, in an easy to read way – and best of all, I didn’t have to invest any of my own money in it! So, as soon as I could, I prepared a tablet and phone-friendly version and submitted it.
There are a few things to take note of – as far as I could tell, there were no guidelines, so you are working a little blind. I worked with traditional iPad3 screen sizes (2048 x 1536) but this wasn’t big enough. Comixology contacted me to ask if there was a bigger size, so I decided to make it bigger. I can’t remember how I came to this file size, but 2292 x 3056 was accepted. I think the huge file size is to do with their guided view system, which is fair enough – it is essential for those reading on smart phones! Secondly, it takes a long time for your comic to go through the submission process. Sunrise was ‘Tentatively accepted’ nearly a month after I submitted it. After that, it took another 6-8 weeks or so to appear in-store. This is definitely not a quick process and you are not guaranteed to get on the store at all. Thirdly, once your comic is in-store, you can’t see what your sales are. This does annoy me slightly, as I like to know how well my personal work is selling – and Comixology is telling me to trust them with something very important to me, which I find quite difficult when it comes to big companies. Another thing is, that instead of getting your monthly share sent to you each month (like Redbubble, for example) you’re sent a cheque every quarter IF your comic sells over $100, which worries me a bit – what happens if you only made $99 that quarter? Does it roll over into the next quarter? My comic hasn’t been up there an entire quarter yet, so I can’t give an answer. I do worry about them sending a cheque though, rather than wiring it to my bank account. As I have found out in the past, by receiving a cheque in US Dollars my bank will charge me extra to put it into my account – usually about £12 – which is annoying, and what happens if I move house while the cheque is in transit? I know there’s only a small chance of that happening, but it still worries me!
But, even with those cons, there are a lot of ‘pros’ to submitting your work to Comixology Submit.
Firstly – a new, huge audience from around the world! Suddenly, you’re getting reviews and 5 stars from people who would never have found your work before. I now have access to the American market especially, which I would never have had on my tiny little table at UK comic conventions (I will most definitely still be at UK conventions though). Secondly, some of the people at Comixology found Sunrise in the submit section, and included it as the very first thing mentioned on the Podcast – even stopping their talk about Batman, to talk about Sunrise! My partner and I were sat open-mouthed while we listened to it! It was so nice to hear people I’d never met, talking about my little book in such a positive way. They even bought a physical copy of the book afterwards! Success! Even with the cons I listed, this Pro made up for everything 🙂 Thirdly – setting up your comic for Comixology is completely free for you. Yes, Comixology will take a 50/50 cut from your sales (after credit card fees and fees from tablet and phone companies for having the app on their store, which happens with every app), but the cost of hiring an entire team to get your comic on the app store yourself will cost you even more than Comixology’s fees. Plus you won’t get the same level of PR or open up to an entirely new market, like you will do if you go with Comixology. I have worked on many iOS and Android games and one thing I have noticed is, it is very difficult to get people to notice your game/app if you are not one of the top 10, or even the top 50! Comixology will help you with that. And lastly – submitting with Comixology means you are not bound to an exclusive contract – you can still sell digital copies anywhere else, which is perfect for the small-press creator!
So, in my opinion, if you have your own comic and you’re looking for a digital release, try Comixology. It won’t cost you anything to set up, so you have absolutely nothing to lose – and maybe even something to gain. Just keep in mind that it’s definitely not a quick process, and sometimes you can feel like you’re working blind.
I’ll post another update in a few months, once I know whether I get my first cheque or not!
Images and text in this post are copyright of Heather L Sheppard.