Digital Comics: How We Set Up IN MAPS & LEGENDS as a Digital Comic

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…

Starting Up

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.

I talk more about this in my entry about distributors. In fact, check out all the entries tagged Digital Comics for more info on the process.

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.

Note: We’re still looking into a couple other potential distributors, including Kobo Books, Google’s eBookstore, and Apple’s iBooks. We’ll let ya know how that shakes out…

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.

In Closing…

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.

And if you wanna say thanks, well, feel free to buy an issue of IN MAPS & LEGENDS in a format of your choice. Thanks!

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7 thoughts on “Digital Comics: How We Set Up IN MAPS & LEGENDS as a Digital Comic

  1. Great info Mike. It’s interesting that landscape would cause issues, I guess there’s a lot of legacy monitors out there. Everything I use is widescreen so the landscape works great for me, when I read a portrait comic I have to scroll more. Or over on the digital DC comics it’s zoom and then scroll, but that’s more understandable for content originally created as a print comic book.

    Like

    1. Hey Ryan — thanks for reading! Landscape is a bit of an issue on some of the readers, because folks have to turn them sideways to read them, but the bigger issue is with the distributors who aren’t set up for that sort of comic. We had to do some rearranging, like taking our portrait cover (which we use on the product pages) and making it landscape by addoing some blank space to the left and right sides.

      But yeah, I think the horizontal aspect works much better for computer screens (it’s the webcomics approach).

      Like

      1. Nice, just what I was looking for. I’m looking into starting my own webcomic/digital comic but am clueless on startup cost.

        Any chance you can spare details on server fees, artist/inker costs, website hosting costs etc etc, just to give me a general idea, thanks.

        Like

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