Web and Digital Comics: Wrangling the Revenue Stream

graphiclyWhy aren’t more webcomic creators taking advantage of digital comics? Tablets, smart phones, eReaders, the way people consume comics is changing and I feel like the brave new future of comics is rife with digital devices. So digital comics should be worth investing in, whether that be learning the technology yourself, or paying Graphicly or some other group to take care of it for you.

However the plunge into the digital comics pond isn’t as easy as 1, 2, 3. Seeing as I’m not embedded in the industry, I went to talk to an expert on digital comics, Becky Jewell of Graphicly, to see what she thinks about the webcomic to digital comic movement. In the following quick interview she illuminates some motivations and sticking points in the transition process, and I think that when we more clearly realize the problems, we might more easily navigate to workable solutions.

I Speak Comics: So Becky, seeing as how webcomics are already so perfectly tailored for digital readers, why haven’t more creators migrated to the digital comics arena?

Becky Jewell: Some webcomics folks have launched their books on Graphicly, sometimes with the free webstore option, other times, with our paid ebooks (iOS, Kindle Fire) option. Here are some webcomic books that we have running now:

Cover of Gunnerkrigg Court
Gunnerkrigg Court

Think Weasel

Gunnerkrigg Court

Ellerbisms – A Sporadic Diary Comic

Pushing comics to ebooks can be seen as too expensive for some creators, though at Graphicly we are working on making the process cheaper, easier, and faster.

As the technology matures,  more creators will not only step into the ebooks realm, but also creators will be able to fully optimize this marketplace. Overhead alone may be the one thing preventing ebooks from exploding for indies.

ISC: Is it just money though? The extra exposure and extra income seems like it might be worth that large initial investment.

BJ:  It’s worth it! Though the returns can be mid-to-long term. Ebooks can create another venue of exposure for webcomics folks and generate passive income, but not many indie webcomic people are on the boat yet because the industry is so new – which can make it a bit tricky to navigate.

The key is that revenue and fanship both take time to build. Making an epub of your book and putting it up on Amazon can take an hour or less using Graphicly, but getting 7,000 fans to buy the book? Not easy. This can take years to build. Having multiple venues of exposure can help, however. You never know if a potential fan of yours loves reading on Android or on Nook, or on your website, or paper only!

What’s cool about ereaders is that you can tag your self-published books as well. So, if your comic is about a cat who is a nighttime superhero, you can tag it with ‘cat’ ‘superhero’ ect. The search engines for Amazon and iBooks are not yet as saturated as Google — as a result, an indie comic book about a cat superhero would have better chances of appearing immediately on an e-reader if a random fan just writes ‘cat’ into the comics search.

Kindle Fire is also *Just* adding a new comics section, and the same with iBooks. These marketplaces are only beginning to realize that people love to read comics on their devices. It’s odd that it took them so long, but the storefronts are way more in tune with their products than they were one year ago.

 ——

So some creators have migrated their material, but not a ton. It seems like the chief barrier is money, but there are some interesting things on the horizon, and I especially like the idea of tagging your work for SEO purposes. I’m going to try to talk to some webcomic creators in the near future and get their take on digital comics, but if you think you know what’s up or have any thoughts regarding webcomics, digital comics, or anything else, leave a comment!

Becky Jewell is the queen of public relations and customer support at Graphicly.com. You can follow her on Twitter @beckyjewell and she’s got some incredible art on display, and for sale, at her website

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5 thoughts on “Web and Digital Comics: Wrangling the Revenue Stream”

  1. Wow, this is really interesting. However I do think there are barriers other than money and confusion that cause webcomic creators to not bother just yet, I know a lot of people create for fun or a hobby and like the idea of offering their work for free to the internet. Also I can understand the hesitation for someone who has always run their comic for free online not wanting to suddenly charge their readers. Not to mention unless the comic is especially good why wouldn’t the reader just find other free webcomics to read? If the artist decides to keep their archives online as well, why wouldn’t the readers just continue to read for free online? That being said, I am comforted to see that more outlets are opening up for digital comic artists to gather some type of actual revenue for once. I love being able to enjoy my favorite online entertainment for free, but I would be devastated if my favorites went on hiatus because the artist had to take on another day job or something. Either way thanks for the article!

    1. You’re welcome! Remember, transforming webcomics into digital comics doesn’t necessarily mean readers will need to start paying for content. I think Becky and I agree that digital comics could be utilized as an *alternate* revenue stream running parallel to, but a bit behind, their webcomic. You know how web creators gather collections of their work into print volumes that readers can pay for separately? I think it would be incredible if they did both print and digital comic collections. If someone likes a book enough, wants to support the reader enough, and don’t always have a dedicated internet connection, it might make sense to invest in digital comics.

      1. That’s true, not to mention the guarantee of always having those archives to look through in the future. A while back Amy Mebberson took her comic Thorn offline and I kick myself for not saving it somehow.. Not for redistribution of course, just because it was that good. It would be nice to have a digital or print version of it now. So yeah, I agree there is definitely a draw in that sense.

      2. I love owning print copies of webcomics, especially if the creators add extras. Karl Kerschl’s Abominable Charles Christopher sketch volumes are incredible. I don’t think I own prettier books.

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