A Dozen Digital Distributors for Comics (1 of 2)

Quick history lesson: our comic IN MAPS & LEGENDS started life as a webcomic that updated on a weekly basis at the Zuda Comics website. When the Zuda site went away, artist Niki Smith and I knew we didn’t want to go down the webcomic route, for a variety of reasons.

Instead, we started talking about publishing the comic ourselves as UnWrecked Press, and using a couple of digital distributors to sell the comic at our site, and we’d get a percentage of each sale. Being former Zuda creators, we already had a foot in the door with Comixology (more on that, below), the online distributor working with many of the other Zuda creators, as they had become DC’s digital comics provider.

But which distributor should we go with? Just Comixology, or more than one? What distinguishes one seller of comics from another?

To answer those questions, allow me to quote, um… myself!

Here’s something I wrote yesterday on the IN MAPS & LEGENDS blog, as Niki and I announced our twelfth(!) distributor, LongBox Digital:

Our philosophy with the distribution of our digital comic has always been this — make it easily available wherever people look for comics and ebooks. As more quality  digital distributors come online, we check them out to see what they have to offer.

Do they have an easy-to-use interface? Can you preview books there? Does the distributor have good “buzz” in the industry? Can readers download and read our comic on a device that has a wide user base? Is the distributor someone we want to work with?

Since July 1st (has it really only been 3 and a half months?), we’ve teamed up with a dozen different sites to get IN MAPS & LEGENDS out to readers. Here’s a breakdown of each one, and what they have to offer.

Comixology:

For the former Zuda creators who didn’t make the transition to Comixology under the Zuda banner (MAPS was too new to make the move, as we hadn’t been running for long at the Zuda site before DC Comics pulled the plug), we were told that Comixology would be happy to distribute our comics for us. They offered a nice royalty rate, and an even higher rate if we went exclusively with them. We considered it, but then got to talking to other distributors, and that’s when we hit on our above approach to hit as many sites as logical and possible.

But hoking up with Comixology was a must — they’re the leader in selling digital comics as well as hooking people up with paper comics at their closest comics shop. Comixology has the slick online Flash-based reader I spoke about before, plus versions for the iPhone and iPad. The only complaint I have about Comixology isn’t really their fault — the Apple device versions get delayed depending on how quick the Apple people are to review the latest issue. Also, it’d be nice to get a live update of sales as they happen, because right now we’re just guessing as to how many downloads we’ve had there (and that’s just based on the number of people who’ve clicked the stars to “review” that issue).

Get MAPS for the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad or with Comixology’s Online Reader

Graphic.ly:

Another company that reached out to former Zudites was Graphic.ly, and we’re really glad they did. They’re a newer company, and they’re hungry. They’ve also been great to us, giving us some nice publicity at their site and in their store. It was also fun chatting on the phone with their CEO, Micah Baldwin.

Graphic.ly is available for your iPhone and iPad as well, but they also have a pretty slick, easy-to-use application that you download from their site and install on as many computers as you want (I know I use three different computers on a regular basis, so I’ve got the app on all three, plus my iPhone). Graphic.ly’s approach focuses on the social aspects of reading and enjoying comics, so readers can leave comments on the actual pages of any comic, as well as share pages and info about comics via Facebook and other social media. And you can read comics in a variety of ways with their app, which I also discussed before.

I just wish that – like Comixology – there was an easy way to track sales on a day-to-day basis. Right now I’m just guessing, based on the info I get on the Activity tab for each issue of MAPS in the app.

Note: You can install the Graphic.ly applications on as many computers as you like, and as long as you use the same login, you can access all your purchased comics, at any time, on those computers. Same goes for LongBox (below), as well as many of the Web-based readers, so long as you log into the site.

Get MAPS for the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad, or download and use Graphic.ly’s Desktop Application for Windows & Mac

Robot Comics:

For Robot Comics, we went exclusive. Just this once, for the Android phone, which is their specialty. We didn’t have the Droid covered with our other distributors, and it made sense to use just Robot for this, as they added some nice features for the phone version — there are certain panels that vibrate when something important happens, and other enhancements that I’ll let you check out on your own for issue 1.

Get MAPS for the Android Phone from Robot Comics

Amazon’s US Kindle Store:

It’s nice being part of the world’s biggest online bookstore (call it a monopoly if you want, but I’m not going there). Even though the actual Kindle version is in black and white, and you have to turn the Kindle sideways to read it, the comic is selling pretty well in the Kindle Store. I think Kindle owners are hungry for comics on their reader of choice, and MAPS seems to be doing the trick for them. It’s pretty easy to upload the files with the Amazon Digital Text Platform (which also tracks sales, in real-time!), but you’ll need to format those files for the .mobi format used by Kindle.

To do that, I’ll point you to the priceless information by VALENTINE creator Alex de Campi over at Bleeding Cool: Uncanny Valleygirl and Free Kindle Formatting. Niki used Alex’s tips to get the MAPS issues all set up for Amazon. Huge thanks to Alex for posting that (and to Niki for formatting our comic’s files!).

Get MAPS for the Kindle (also in German)

Amazon’s UK Kindle Store:

And once you get into the Amazon system with your digital comic, just a few more clicks will get you set up in the Amazon.co.uk system over in the UK. You can also track sales from the Digital Text Platform. It’s a lovely, lovely thing.

Get MAPS in the UK for the Kindle (also in German)

Barnes & Noble:

Just last week or so, the Pub-It site for Barnes & Noble went live, so we had to get into their system so people could buy and download our comic for their Nook. There are lots of similarities with the B&N system and the Amazon system — you have a dashboard where you can upload your comic, edit your comic, and track sales. I highly recommend both sites — they’re the future of ebook publishing, I think.

As far as formatting, the Nook uses the ePub format, and once again Alex de Campi hooked us up with her article about ePub How-to. It also helps to have friends who have Nooks (or Kindles or Droids or iPads) to check your files for you and make sure everything looks right and works properly (thanks, Paul and Ryan!).

Get MAPS for the Nook (also in German)

LongBox Digital:

Our most recent partnership came to fruition not even a week ago, with LongBox. I have a good feeling about LongBox, which is still pretty new, because they’re getting the bugs out of their infrastructure now, and they’re built for the long haul. They just launched version 1.0 of their desktop application for Windows and PCs, and they also just announced that  that the LongBox application will be pre-installed on all new Adam tablets by Notion Ink. They’re also planning on adding more devices and platforms as time goes by. I’m glad we got in on the early days of this company. Also, our comic looks just amazing on the reader for their app.

Get MAPS after you download the LongBox Desktop Application for Windows & Mac


And as this entry is running way long, I’ll finish this up tomorrow, in “A Dozen Digital Distributors for Comics (2 of 2).” If you have any questions at all, feel free to leave a comment, below, or shoot me an email (click the link in the right-hand nav up there).

Thanks for reading along! If any of this helped you, why not thank us by snagging a copy of our comic at one of our fine distributors?

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