Let’s start out this brief history of my experience starting up a digital comic with artist Niki Smith by saying this — Robot 6’s Brigid Alverson named Niki and me “Digital Creators of the Year” for 2010 for our work with IN MAPS & LEGENDS (we actually tied with Alex de Campi, author of VALENTINE, which I thought was very fitting, as we’ve used a lot of advice from Alex from her website and comic). Awesome!
(Kinda strange how, just 5 days into the new year, but 2010 seems so long ago…!)
I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for a while, to help other comics creators make the jump into digital. This isn’t a blow-by-blow set of directions for Going Digital — think of it as a sketched-out map drawn on the back of a manila envelope. Detours and shortcuts and delays are bound to happen for each creator!
But you gotta find your own path. If you have ANY questions, let me know in the Comments section. Here are a few tips, based on how we did it…
Basically, what we did was create our own publisher, UnWrecked Press, and we use that name to publish our comic issues. And then we started contacting online comic distributors.
In particular, we’ve had great success working with Comixology and Graphic.ly, who have become the pioneers and big guns of distributing digital comics (and they’ve been nothing but incredible to work with). I highly recommend getting your digital comics online with them — they’re fine people, and they seem especially open to creator-owned comics.
We’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the success we’ve had selling PDFs with DriveThruComics, a great site with tons of comics and a great, easy-to-use interface for uploading comics, doing promotional work, and tracking your sales in real time. That last one is huge.
And we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the success we’ve had selling on the Kindle, via the Amazon DTP program, though we’ve been bowled over by the number of downloads we’ve gotten so far of issues 1-3 of MAPS on the Barnes & Noble Nook. I think Nook readers are hungry, if not starving, for comics on their new ereader.
I recommend you go to the Pub-It site and learn how to get your comic into EPUB format for the Nook (they call their ebooks “NookBooks” — ugh!). Alex de Campi has some great directions on how to format for EPUB (and I’ll try to add my own version of the directions, if there’s interest — so let me know, okay?).
If you start off with those five distributors — Comixology, Graphic.ly, DriveThruComics, Kindle, and Nook — I think you’ll get some great coverage and sales of your digital comic.
Formatting for Fun and (Hopefully) Profit
Speaking of formatting…. (cringe)
Niki and I juggle all the various formats for the dozen or so distributors we work with. She does a lot of the formatting work using Photoshop, where she can export content as a hi-resolution PDF. We also have a template so we can quickly create EPUB versions as well as MOBI versions (for the Kindle).
As I said earlier, I’m hoping to talk more here about how to create EPUBs for comics in the future, as well as versions for the Kindle
MyDigitalComics converts our PDF into CBZ format for us, which is great for fans of that format (it’s essentially a ZIP file that’s very friendly to comics).
And Comixology does their Guided View work for us, as does Graphicly with their Graphicly View — we just provide them with hi-res PDFs (Comixology) or TIFFs (Graphicly).
Portrait or Landscape?
We have run into some issues at first due to the horizontal layout of our comics (which we did as part of our Zuda participation). Some of the distributors had to do some tweaking to get it to work and look right, so keep that in mind if your comic is landscape instead of portrait.
I think digital is the way of the future, as monthly comics go away and people buy more individual issues online, and buy trade paperbacks of the collected issues later. It’s a great time to be a comics creator. You just have to work your tail off.
And I think I’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg as far as the information I can share about our experiences in digital comic publishing.
Any questions or comments, please leave me a note in the Comments, below. I’ll try to address any future questions in another blog entry like this. Feel free to share this page with other comics creators.