Talking Digital Comics with Chris Charlton, Owner of Assailant Comics

In my quest to delve deeper into the world of independent creators and digital comics publishing I had a chance to talk to Chris Charlton – up and coming comics creator, owner of Assailant Comics, and writer of Binary Gray and Sleepless – who was able to fill me in on how he’s utilizing the digital space to market and distribute his own awesome work.

It was an absolute pleasure talking to Chris and I hope you enjoy our little talk, maybe learn something, and make sure to check out all the things that Chris has coming down the pipeline, you’ll be glad you did. So, without further ado, on to the interview!

ISpeakComics: Hey Chris, what inspired you to start publishing your own comics?

Chris Charlton: Much like a musician breaking into the record industry or an actor breaking into Hollywood, you have to create a body of work for yourself.  It’s a means to an end.  If you want to get additional work, you have to be able to show that you understand how the process works and it’s to your benefit to have a finished product that you can show someone.  Having said that, it really snowballed into something larger than that for me.  Multiple books and multiple series.  I love the process, but again, my goal is to get more work from larger publishers and expand my portfolio.

ISC: Which digital comics service(s) do you use? Why?

CC: I use as many FREE services as I can.  Graphicly’s free web service, MyDigitalComics.com expands on that a bit and gives the reader the ability to read it on the web or download a CBZ or PDF file.  I have downloads available at the AssailantComics.com site, and Binary Gray is available on the free Cloud 9 Comix app for iPad and Android devices.  Downloads for Binary Gray #1 are FREE at all of these locations and subsequent issues are only 99 cents.  This is the main benefit for me as an indie publisher – exposure.  Anyone can download my book and give it a shot for free.  It has increased sales as well.  Readers pick up the first Binary Gray book for free and either purchase Issues 2 and 3 digitally or place an order for all 3 print books, and in a lot cases pick up the first issue of “Sleepless”, (my anthology series), as well.  It’s all about getting eyes on your product.  If you can’t give away a digital book, do a free preview – something to hook the reader.

ISC: What appeals to you about the digital comic medium?

CC: I am and will always be a print guy.  I’m not gonna lie.  But from a publisher standpoint, I’ve already invested my money in the artwork to get the books together.  To print you’re essentially putting your book in a digital format anyway, so why not make that available for cheap or free?  It’s like selling one copy of the book over and over.  So your price point is low, (only a dollar), but it’s a dollar I wouldn’t have had otherwise and that counts when you’re self-publishing.  It ALL counts.  Aside from exposure, I think digital is an excellent way to read the classics and books that are so rare you’ll never actually get to see them in real life, let alone read them.  Detective Comics #27 (first Batman) is a great example of that.  I love that I can download this and read it and that everything is crisp and clear.  Collectors will always want print books, but for the avid readers and fans, it’s an amazing option to have.

ISC: Do you see digital comics as a career or a hobby? Is it a supplemental medium?

CC: Hmm.. Trick question!  I don’t think they’re going anywhere if that’s what you mean.  They’ll always be there and my guess is that they will increase in popularity over the next few years, but print is where my heart is.  I mean I have a Kindle, but I also still have shelves of books.  I think there’s room for both – but strategically, I’m using digital as a promotional tool to gain exposure and sell my print books.

ISC: In your opinion, does the digital comics medium offer financial security? Might it in the future?

CC: I think it certainly does for the larger publishers, but not for the little guys.  Once you have a built in audience, the sky is the limit.  If the digital age of comics has done anything, it has increased competition and expanded the playing field for those who want to get involved and create their own books.

ISC: Why not web comics?

CC: I’ve never done a web comic.  I actually love the idea of it being these episodes split up and eventually sold in book form, (I believe this is the standard now), but I also know me.  I have the attention span of a gnat on crack and I would forget to go back and check or get the next episode.  So I’d have to say it’s not for me – FOR NOW.  That’s not to say that a few weeks down the road I won’t have the perfect idea for an episodic format comic.

ISC: What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of digital comics/the digital service you use?

CC: Well again, exposure and a low price point for new readers are the strengths here.  Granted, that the digital distributors I use generally take 60% of the sale – so I only see 40 cents of every $1 digital sale.  Pretty lame, but there are more costly options, which I would consider the weaknesses for independent publishers – those would be services like Graphicly where you have to invest to get an ISBN for each book (not cheap) and then pay Graphicly to convert and include your book in their various markets – Amazon, Nook, Kindle, etc.  I have not gone this route yet in my first year.  Everything I’ve done to this point has been trial and error; seeing what works and what doesn’t work.  To this point I don’t see the reasoning in investing that much up front.  My print books outsell my digital books 10 to 1.

ISC: Have you ever published print comics? If so why did you make a move to digital?

CC: Yes, print is my primary format.  I’m a collector.  I like the smell of comics.  I like to hold them in my hand and I like to walk into my local comic shop and see the familiar faces.  This is a part of the nostalgia that makes it fun for me.  As I’ve said before – if you’re Marvel or DC and you have a built in audience or a fan base clamoring for the next issue of Spider-Man, digital is a means of getting eyes on your work and hopefully spurning more business.  This is especially true for the up-and-coming indie publishers.  I think if you’re going to do digital only, web comics are the way to go.  It’s a great way to get people coming back to your site and (eventually, hopefully) sell  print books once a volume of the web comic is complete.

Chris Charlton is the owner of Assailant Comics, writer/creator of “Binary Gray”, “Sleepless” and “Black of Heart”.  In addition to his work in comics, he also writes scripts for movies and video games.  All of his books are currently available at AssailantComics.com or the fine digital distributors mentioned in this article.  Follow him on Twitter @charltonsect and @AssailantComics.  You can also check out the Assailant Comics Facebook page here.  

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