Tag Archives: Graphicly

Update on Life

It’s been a little bit since I’ve made a post, but I’ve been busy fighting for that mythical full-time job. Good news though, totally got one! If you remember, I interviewed Becky Jewell of Graphicly a while back. I was really intrigued by their work and I wanted to get involved with their company somehow. Flash forward a bit and now I’m working as one of their Panel Cutters, slicing up comic/book pages for the optimum viewing experience on digital devices. Yessssss!

Also, less important, but it was my birthday two weeks ago. I’m now the venerable old age of 26, and the only thing that I really wanted was an El Gato video game capture doohickey. My lovely lady totally delivered. Now I can record my fighting game exploits in HD instead of balancing my phone on a DVD tower. Man that was annoying… I’ve already started recording some of my Injustice matches and I may go back to UMvC3, but hot dog is this thing fun to use. Here’s an example of what I’m up to and watch out for more fighting game stuff in the very near future!

Talking Digital Comics with Ellerbism’s Marc Ellerby

About a month ago I got to talk to Marc Ellerby about his web diary comic, Ellerbisms, its move to digital, print, and other totally brilliant stuff. Then the struggle bus named “you’re almost done with grad school get your bleeping life together” hit me full steam ahead. But I’m back and I’m pleased to bring you this awesome interview, criminally late as it is. And now on with the show!

I Speak Comics: Would you mind giving us a quick rundown of Ellerbisms? Why did you decide to create a diary comic?

Marc EllerbyMarc Ellerby sitting at his desk with a pen in hand.During my second year of university Top Shelf was bringing out a bunch of autobio graphic novels and I got into them in a big way. American Elf had just started to pick up steam, Jeffrey Brown’s books were coming out and then Blankets hit and everyone and their mate wanted to draw autobio comics about girls.

I liked the way they were relatable to me even though I had never met the author, I connected with them in a way that I could see correlations with my own life. Sometimes the comics were heartbreaking and sometimes they were hilarious and I couldn’t get enough of them. So I did some diary comics for my third year project and I enjoyed making them so much that I thought I’d pick them up a few years later as a web comic.

ISC: Ellerbisms ended in 2010, but it just made it to print in November of 2012. Did it take two years to find a publisher or were you just content to have the comic live on the web?

ME: I ended Ellerbisms as I needed a break from it as I really had enough of looking at my life and putting it out to the general public – it had just stopped being fun. The two year gap in part was to get my head around “how is this going to work as a book; with a beginning, middle and end?” as it’s a diary comic and narrative is sometimes lost due to the spiralling nature of the genre.

Also about a year after the strip ended the relationship that I was in for the majority of the comic was falling apart and that was pretty hard to go through. I knew I wanted to deal with that in the book, and that in itself was the most difficult part of the book to do so I just put it off for a while. So even though the comic ended in 2010, I wanted to do a lot of new material for the book to give it context and a definitive narrative as opposed to just “hey look at this funny thing that happened to me”. When the relationship ended I knew what the book’s focus was going to be (and in a lot of ways drawing those comics helped me work through a lot of things and put it all in perspective).

Marc and his friend shaking their heads back and forth with their tongues out, being silly.I actually ended up self-publishing the book and starting a publishing company with my good friend Adam Cadwell called Great Beast so we could release these sort of projects.

I tried to get it in with a couple of publishers but none got back to me so I thought I’d do it myself and make the print edition the best I possibly could. So it has nice paper, it’s got rounded corners (to ape the sketchbook that I drew the comics in) and it has a spot varnish element on the cover. With Great Beast the creator is the publisher, so the person/s behind the comic pay for the print runs and the digital costs ourselves and then reap all the cash back. No one else takes a cut other than the printers, the apps and the stores etc.

ISC: How does it feel to hold three years of work? Literally hundreds of daily snippets of your life. Has there been any sort of catharsis as you reread your strips? Are you embarrassed about anything? Would you say that you’ve grown?

ME: Oh it’s a mixed feeling for sure. In some ways it’s great to hold a body of work and see your artwork progress but at the same time there’s the early strips that are just awful and I skim past them. Skip to the good bits!

I know there’s some super personal stuff in there and that’s a worry but I knew that was going to come with the territory with autobio, you’re not always the hero of your own story and sometimes you’re a dick because you’re human. You have to be honest not only with yourself but with your reader and it’s easy to brush the bad times aside but that’s not how life goes.

I think I’ve grown artistically but I don’t know about personally. I feel like I could quite easily make the same mistakes as before (though I’d try really hard not to).

ISC: What do you like about web comics? I mean why start Ellerbisms on the Internet as opposed to print minicomics or something along those lines?

Mini-comic cover, with Marc eating a sandwich on the coverME: I did a few mini comics when Ellerbisms started online and I tried to make them as appealing as possible with recycled cardboard covers and nice paper but yeah no one really wanted them, they just wanted a book! I like the immediacy of webcomics, the best feedback I’ve got from my readers is in the comment sections (and also the opposite of that is true I guess) and it’s nice to build up an audience and interact with them online and at conventions. There’s not a huge amount of outgoings for publishing on the web (apart from the hosting and domain fees) and you can reach more people than you could with print comics for sure.

ISC: But you’ve also done work in print, like Love the Way You Love for Oni. What are some of the awesome things about working in print? Crappy things?

ME: I think with black and white comics you still can’t beat print for the reproduction quality and up until a few years ago I’d say the same about colour comics, but now with HD screen tablets I’m not sure that’s the case (though I hate the reflection you get on those screens, there’s nothing like reading Hawkeye and seeing your face all big in the reflection). I still love print, I love the smell of the ink on the paper and there’s nothing like a good quality paper-stock.

Books are still exciting objects to hold and I think that’ll be the future of the industry, publishers are just going to have to make the best book they possibly can. Print’s declining but it can still be relevant and sustainable by doing super-nice editions, you gotta make your books Kindle-proof, you’ve got to give the reader a reason to buy it physically.

ISC: Now just last month you released Ellerbisms digitally, on digital platforms like Graphicly and comiXology. Can you talk a little bit about that process? Why move Ellerbisms to digital comics readers if people can just go to your site and read everything for free?

Cover for Ellerbisms. Marc and his girlfriend sit on the curb beneath a purple sunset eating french fries.ME: Ah but they can’t read it all for free. There’s loads of new stuff in the book and you also get all those pages if you buy the book digitally. So, yes you can read the majority of it for free but I think if you’re going to charge people for it you have to give them something extra, something that they can’t get online.

So in the case of Ellerbisms it’s, well, it’s the rest of the story. I make another comic called Chloe Noonan: Monster Hunter and that came out as black and white mini comics first but for the digital edition I coloured all 130 pages to entice people drop £3 on it. It looks snazzy in colour and great to read on the tablets.

It’s important to offer your comics digitally as well as in print, the way people are reading books is changing and you have to adapt to that. It’s still in it’s infancy but it’s accelerating at such a speed that as a creator you can’t afford to not offer your books as ebooks. I’m still testing the waters to see what works and what doesn’t and what platforms are worth the headaches.

ISC: So now you’ve got Ellerbisms for free on the web, in a beautiful s0ftcover, and as a digital comic. I mean we can’t escape your books! But that’s a great thing right? 

ME: Yeah it’s a good thing! Though I think my Twitter followers are just so sick of me mentioning the bloody thing now. “No, we get it, you have a book out, well done, you” But going back to my earlier point, you have to cater to all audiences, some people want it as a book, some want to read it on their phone, some want to read parts of it for free. Publishing isn’t just about doing one thing anymore it’s about offering people options, the reader dictates how they want to read their books and not the publisher. Which is exciting and scary and kind of really cool if you think about it. The shift in power has changed.

ISC: Last question, I swear. How do you feel about the future of digital comics? About the medium in general? Are we going to see more digital comics? More web comic creators moving their work to comics readers?

ME: I was never a successful webcomicker for many reasons (diary comics don’t reach high-audience numbers, I’m not great at doing t-shirts and it’s hard to market merchandise on a character that is essentially me) and I know it’s old-fashioned, I know I’m in the minority but what’s wrong with paying for the actual comics? Do I really have to make t-shirts and cups and coasters and tote-bags (though I do like making tote-bags) to make my comic profitable? So I see selling comics digitally as a vital step and it’s one that I hope stays and flourishes, especially for indie creators. I’m working on a new Chloe Noonan series to launch later this year and it was going to be a webcomic but now I’m not so sure, especially now that comiXology’s submit program has launched. It’ll be interesting to see if a digital comic can breakout in the same way that Kate Beaton did online and The Walking Dead did in print.

You can see everything Marc’s up to at his website – http://www.marcellerby.com – and all the Ellerbisms awesome you can handle over at http://www.ellerbisms.comBe sure to check out Marc’s publishing company Great Beast for more incredible books, and if you’re into digital you can browse their digital collection over at comiXology. Need to get your hands on a print copy of Ellerbisms? Grab one here!

Marc Ellerby is a cartoonist based in Essex, England. His comic book work (or “graphic novels” or “graphic stories” or whatever the buzz word of the moment is) includes EllerbismsChloe Noonan: Monster Hunter as well as illustrating comics such as Love The Way You Love for Oni Press and various short stories in anthologies published by Image Comics, Boom! Studios, Solipsistic Pop and We Are Words + Pictures.

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

Analyzing Digital Comics Through Interviews – Part 2

Alright yesterday I did part one of this analysis which you can read here. It went over digital comic creator motivations, and what they believed some of the strengths of the medium are. But because we want to be fair and balanced, we’ve definitely got to talk about the weaknesses inherent in digital comics.

If you haven’t read the interviews that I’m talking about, well what are you waiting for?
Christ Charlton of Assailant Comics
Michael Koch and Dimented Realities
Ed Dippolito and Frank N. Stein
Sara Simms and The Future Prophecy
Joe White and Annie MacCool

I also interviewed Becky Jewell from Graphicly, to get the lowdown on their services and what they can offer to digital comic creators. Becky provides an awesome industry perspective and highlights publisher goals and the emerging trends in the digital books market.
Becky Jewell from Graphicly

Weaknesses
So Much Material Out There: It makes sense that, because of how easy it is to get a digital comic up, there’s tons of material out there for readers. How do creators set themselves above the rest? How do they make their comic stand out? Creators have the same problem in the print domain, but I think the issue is compounded on the Internet. It’s definitely a major hurdle out their for neophytes.

Must Learn Ins and Outs of an Entirely New Market: Do you want your comic to be successful on the web? How are you marketing yourself? Are you leveraging the right social media platforms? How does your website look? Are you responding to fan emails and blog comments? Do you have an active Twitter profile? Are you meeting new creators in digital spaces? Are you constantly networking networking networking?

Not only is the internet on 24/7, but it’s very “choose your own adventure.” There are no rules for guaranteed success, and when experience is the best teacher, you’re bound to fail quite a few times while coming to grips with this new system.

Where are the Profits? Where indeed! Unless you’re a well-known comics creators, or someone with an absolutely rabid following, it’s not likely that you’re going to be seeing a steady flow of cash from your comics. Jim Zubkavich, the big brain behind the totally fun Skullkickers from Image, wrote a great piece that breaks down the financial realities of indy print books. It should be required reading for anyone looking to get their mitts dirty with comics. He wrote another piece breaking down the fiscal madness of digital comics too, and again, it should be required reading. Jim shows wear the money goes, the percentages, the whole shebang to the best of his knowledge. You can absolutely make money off of digital comics, but again it takes work and dedication. These aren’t short term gains we’re talking here.

Digital Comics are so New: Jim talked about this in his post, but digital comics are new and there’s not a lot of data out there to analyze and figure out best practices. Companies aren’t releasing sales figures so no one really knows how well these comics are doing.

And as of yet there is no industry standard. No prescribed measurements, no interactivity requirements, no sure fire way of doing, well, anything. I think J. Michael Straczynski put it very eloquently in an interview with Previews,

“I think the digital playground is still working out its own rules for comics and the best ways in which to incorporate comics. The conceptual problem is that when a new delivery system comes up, everyone tries to shove previous content into the new venue without understanding the benefits of the new form, like trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. It’s not just a new distribution system, it’s a new system, and you have to adapt and create something new and suited to its rules.”

You’ve gotta carve your own path and that can be terrifying, but rewarding too.

Digital Comics Publishers
When it comes to choosing a digital comics publisher, you want to work with a company that takes advantage of all the medium’s affordances while navigating it’s weaknesses. The majority of my interviewees worked with Graphicly, and Becky actually works for Graphicly, and they all seemed pleased with the experience.

They help provide exposure by connecting books to Amazon and the iBookstore among others. They publish material quickly. From what I’ve heard, their customer support is top of the line, though the interfaces for some of their programs could use some work. They allow creators to see analytics and take direct control over their reader’s viewing experience with panel by panel transitions. I’ve never personally used Graphicly, just spoken with people who have and it seems as though they’re doing good work for the comics crowd.

That being said, are there some aspects of digital comics that are out of both creator and publisher control? Some unexpected problems that have arisen with regards to the technology, the culture, or just the way that we read comics? That’s what I’ll be addressing in my next post, complete with video! Stay tuned folks!

Analyzing Digital Comics Through Interviews – Part 1

Over the past weeks I’ve had the incredible opportunity to talk to multiple awesome creators about their digital comics work. We talked about their motivations, the services they used to get their books out there, the strengths and weaknesses of the medium, and so much more. Now I want to distill some of that conversation into something that we can use, something that shows how creators are using digital comics, their needs, and where the medium is going.

If you haven’t read the interviews that I’m talking about, well what are you waiting for? Be sure to check these bad boys out and head over to the creator’s sites to see what they have to offer.
Christ Charlton of Assailant Comics
Michael Koch and Dimented Realities
Ed Dippolito and Frank N. Stein
Sara Simms and The Future Prophecy
Joe White and Annie MacCool

I also interviewed Becky Jewell from Graphicly, to get the lowdown on their services and what they can offer to digital comic creators. Becky provides an awesome industry perspective and highlights publisher goals and the emerging trends in the digital books market.
Becky Jewell from Graphicly

Motivations
I think it goes without saying that those people out their creating comics, they have a passion for storytelling. The creators that I talked to all had this passion, but they had different reasons for working in comics and making that jump to digital.

Some, like Michael Koch, felt that their material was unpublishable and not mainstream enough for the established publishers to pick up so they decided to tell their stories digitally. Joe White wanted to see one of his film scripts brought to life and used comics. Others, like Sara Simms, saw comics as a way to combine a variety of artistic and local influences with her professional persona and create something totally unique. Ed Dippolito wanted to tell stories, but autonomy has to be a part of the package. What’s his is his, and digital publishing allows for those sorts of affordances. Chris Charlton wanted to create a body of work for people to see, whether they be fans or potential employers, and supplement his print comics work.

A ton of different motivations right? Well how did the affordances of this particular medium help fulfill those motivations?

Strengths and Weaknesses
Each creator had their own view of the strengths and weaknesses of digital comics and I think showing these off is something that will help us understand what the medium offers, what works well, and what can be improved.

Strengths
Ease of Entry: Anyone can publish a digital comic once they’ve gotten something on paper. Many of the services that help publish digital comics, Graphicly for example, only require a modest fee and your digital files. They take your work, convert them to whichever format a platform requires and they actually distribute the comic for you. Just sit back, relax, and watch as your story hits Amazon, the iBookstore, and other popular digital marketplaces. All creators are responsible for is crafting a great story.

Cost Effective: Compared to print, digital comics can be a lot cheaper to distribute. Companies like Graphicly and Aquafadas, depending on your service choice, only charge an up-front fee. Granted you get a huge chunk taken out of your profits by distributors, but that’s the same for print. No printing costs, and unless you feel like it, you don’t have to go to conventions peddling your wares. It’s probably a good idea to hit the convention circuit, it’s all about who you know, but you don’t have to.

Short Time to Market: While the act of actually writing, pencilling, inking, and coloring a comic obviously takes a crap ton of time, printing and distribution can add months to your release date. With digital comics your finished pages can go live in as short as two weeks!

Much Longer Shelf Life: Digital comics, unlike their print cousins, never have to go out of print. This means that readers who caught on to a creator’s later work won’t have to wait for a trade paper back or comb through the quarter bins at the local shop for the early stuff. It’ll be right there for them to purchase, whenever they feel like it.

Exposure: Even if you had the power to go to every single convention, you’ll never get as many eyes on your work as the internet could potentially provide. The internet grants access to markets and audiences that you never knew existed. It provides a space for to brand themselves and their work, to create a home base for fans to gather, and a offers a whole slew of different ways to communicate across industries and continents. It allows easy access for fans, fellow creators, editors, and publishers who may be interested in your material but aren’t anywhere near your geographic proximity.

Synergy: Chris mentioned that the sales of his print stuff have gone up since introducing free digital comics into the mix. There’s an opportunity there, especially with the innovations provided by print-on-demand services. Get readers hooked on the free stuff so that they’ll want to support you and pay for your other work. Comics are still “collector’s items” and until we forget what it feels like to hold a comic in our hand, forget that special smell, people will be willing to buy print work. Why not get them hooked on digital first?

Adds Legitimacy: The best thing creators can do for themselves if they want to make it in comics is, you guessed it, make comics. Once you’ve done that you’ve got a leg to stand on when you start pitching your tales to established publishers. You’re not longer Random Joe with a story about fairies, but you’re Joe Spinelli, that guy who’s done great work on that cool digital comic Fairy Fire.

The Future: In an increasingly digital world, and with the increasing ubiquity of tablets, ereaders, and smart phones, what creator wouldn’t want to ride this wave? Learning what it takes to thrive in an online environment now will prepare creators for the rapidly changing face of publishing and better situate them for this brave new world.

WHEW! Alright team, that’s it for the analysis tonight. Next post, I’ll be talking about the weaknesses of the digital comics market, so don’t think that the world of digital is totally rosy 24/7, and why our creators used the services they did. It should be a blast so stay tuned!

Talking Digital Comics With Annie MacCool’s Joe White

Annie's Got Her Guns
Annie’s Got Her Guns

Joe White, author and artist of Annie MacCool, was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to talk to me about his book and his experiences in digital comics. The guy’s got a full-time job, is finishing school, and he’s got time to write and draw a comic? If that’s not dedication then I don’t know what is. Now let’s get this puppy started!

I Speak Comics: Tell us a little about Annie MacCool

Joe White: “Annie MacCool” is my own take on Lycanthropy, Irish Mythology and my hometown of Milton, Massachusetts. It is the story of a quiet, picturesque New England town with an age-old secret. Werewolves. They live in the Blue Hills. A truce between the Townsfolk and the Werewolves have kept things peaceful for the last 50 or so years. The occasional hiker or roving band of teenagers will go missing from time to time, but for the most part, Man and Beast are making nice as neighbors.

Until Annie MacCool shows up. Her strange accent can be traced to County Galway in the Southwest of Ireland, and she is the last in the line of the Irish Warrior King Finn MacCool, a fabled slayer of beasts with a fierce Battle Frenzy ability. Annie’s sole mission in life is the eradication of all Werewolves, and Milton is just one more stop on the map for her. However, it might just be her last stop as interference from a well-meaning State Trooper thwarted her plan of attack and set in motion a chain of events that may well lead to absolute devastation.

ISC: Very cool stuff. So what motivated you to create a comic? Is it just a hobby or something more?

JW: I’ve been drawing since I was very young and my creative life has taken me down a few winding paths. Annie MacCool was originally written as a feature film script, but I didn’t really want to let the story just sit on a shelf so I decided to put pencil to paper and create my first ever comic book. I have several other scripts that I plan on converting as well, I had such a blast making “Annie” and I want to keep this effort going.

Nearly Finished...
Nearly Finished…

ISC: Why go digital instead of print?

JW: It was the most readily available option for me. I work full-time and attend school at night for 3D animation so I don’t really have much time to be knocking on publishers doors and sending out submissions.

ISC: Did you ever think about turning Annie into a web comic?

JW: Initially I started Annie MacCool as a weekly web comic and published ten pages of a scene from the script for every Saturday morning in October of 2011. Here’s a link for that segment: http://anniemaccool.tumblr.com/page/2. Ultimately I wanted to publish a more traditional 20+ page comic issue, so that was my October 2012 project and now here we are with issue #1. Oh an I want to give props to Boston artist Dennis P. Burke for inking the initial web comic in October 2011.

ISC: Why did you choose Graphicly as opposed to other services?

JW: I chose Graphicly because they allowed the most flexibility and control for the creator. The only trick was I had to buy my own ISBN codes. I would up buying a batch of 10 so looks like I have 9 more books to publish. Amazon Createspace will get the ISBN for you, but you cannot sell it anywhere else BUT Amazon. Comixology was still beta testing their self publishing, and they promised all kinds of obstacles and roadblocks in terms of “review boards” and “approval processes”. I uploaded my .pdf to Graphicly and was live within two weeks on the web, and in iTunes and Kindle two weeks later.

ISC: Which path did you choose to publish through? Web, Ebooks, or Apps? Was it cost-effective? Are you seeing any return on your initial investment?

JW: I published on all of them, actually. Graphicly offered a flat rate for the distribution and it was a great deal. I’m still waiting on the Nook and Kobo but I’m live on the Graphicly site, Facebook, iBookstore and Kindle. The sales data isn’t spectacular, I’ll admit, but I’ve learned that marketing is a whole new ball of wax.

It’s one thing to “hope to go viral” but you can’t count on that as a business plan. I’ve taken to old-fashioned one on one sales pitching with my trusty posters and flyers. I also hope that adding more issues and titles will bring a larger audience, as I’m sure people are more apt to get into a story if they know there’s more coming.

Fully Colored!
Fully Colored!

ISC: In your eyes what are some of the strengths and weaknesses of Graphicly? Digital comics in general?

JW: I can’t say enough wonderful things about Graphicly, I’ve swapped emails with everyone from tech support to the owner himself, and they’re all super friendly and extremely passionate about what they do. The strengths lie in the direct-to-audience connection for the creator, which is a great freedom. This goes both ways, and sometimes without the proper editorial support a story could well fail to meet its true potential.

The other issue is market saturation. There is TONS of stuff out there, so how do you put something out there that’s going to be a signal instead of more noise? That’s the artist’s perpetual challenge. I feel that as long as you’re staying true to yourself, telling a great story and doing it consistently and persistently, you will hit your stride.

ISC: Could being a digital comic creator become a career? Where do you see the future of the medium?

JW: Gosh I hope so! It’s really a combination of all the right elements coming into play, from the content to the marketing to finding an audience for it. As long as the power stays on, digital comics can be very successful. I will say this though, I do love going to my local comic book store. It’s a bit of a sacred ritual and you don’t get to do that on your iPad or Kindle.

Joe White studies 3D Animation at Boston University’s Center for Digital Imaging Arts in Waltham, MA. He’s lived in Boston most of his life but spent a few years in Los Angeles, where he hopes to return after school.  He plans on making awesome stuff that people love until he’s put into the ground. Or space. Space would be cool.

You can check out all of Joe’s projects at http://www.optimusmediagroup.com and you can follow the man of many talents on Twitter @mightyjoewhite. Also go like the official Annie MacCool Facebook Page be sure to check out AnnieMacCool.com to pick up your own digital copy of this solid indy title! 

An Awesome Digital Comics Interview With Graphicly’s Becky Jewell

Right before the lovely Thanksgiving holiday Becky Jewell, Graphicly’s comic book guru, and I had a nice little talk about Graphicly and their awesome digital publishing services. For anyone who’s been keeping track, all of the individual creators I’ve been interviewing have worked with Graphicly to some extent, so if you’re thinking about diving into the self-publishing comics scene, keep reading, Becky lays it all on the line!

I Speak Comics: Hey Becky, so for those readers that aren’t aware, Graphicly is all about helping creators publish their books digitally. You got your start in comics, but now you’re looking to make the jump into the larger book market. What sort of options do you offer?

Becky Jewell: We have three major services that we offer to both established publishers and indie creatives.

1. Our free service puts books on our web store at www.graphicly.com/store as well as our game/app on Facebook. Creators have full power over deciding how their books are priced on our store, and they can also panelize books as they choose, which offers fans an elegant reading experience.

2. Our second-tier service places books on Apple’s iBookstore, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, and the Nook. This service is our $150-per-book model, and it also includes the free option as well.

All we need is a PDF, and we convert this PDF to epub files which are compatible with these major three marketplaces.

3. We also offer an app-creation service which develops an app ‘shell’ which houses a series of books or issues. Readers can subscribe to these apps and the newest issues will be automatically delivered to their device each month.

The Walking Dead on Graphicly

ISC: With regards to your guys’ services, can you tell me which is the most popular?

BJ: Oh gosh, our most popular that we do the most sales from it would probably be our middle service, with a tie of highest sales between iBookstore or Kindle Fire. And web – web would be up there for very popular series, like The Walking Dead.

ISC: Well I’m really interested in the independent comic creators, the guys that don’t have a big back catalog of their own work, what can you offer these new creators?

BJ: Our model has shifted across the years. We used to offer a Graphicly app which was available on Android and Apple devices, and comic fans could purchase indie books through it.

But since our model shifted to the epub model, what we offer now is instead of having indie creators on a tiny app called Graphicly that nobody knows about, creators can have their book on Amazon and they can have it on Barnes and Nobles’ Nook, and the Apple iBookstore.

Some indies were a little bit recalcitrant about the whole epub business in the beginning. They were asking, “Why don’t you have an indie app? Why aren’t you catering to indies more?” and now I think that indie publishers are beginning to understand the benefit of having their books on these large platforms. It’s good for many indies because it puts their work right in the comic book section of Amazon, placing their books right alongside big titles.

Part of our day-to-day jobs at Graphicly is taking care of indie creators, and at the same time taking care of larger titles from DC and Image. That’s the benefit of our services – everyone is given the same distribution powers. I think that some independent creators have been a little bit hesitant about it for some reason. It may be because it can be very hard to sell that many books to recoup our initial conversion cost.

ISC: When creators decide to publish through your Ebooks service, the step up from web publishing, which platforms do you send it out to?

BJ: Well the big three are iBookstore, and that’s on i0s devices –  iPad, iPhone- and that’s very popular. I didn’t actually realize how popular it was until we started using it. Then there’s Kindle Fire, Nook from Barnes and Nobles, a Canadian reader called Kobo.

ISC: And do customers get the web service connections as well as the eBook markets? Because it looks like the Web Service actually hits some markets that the eBooks doesn’t.

BJ: Yes! Our web service is always free and it’s actually covered under the eBooks conversion process. So unless someone absolutely does not want their comic on the web for some reason, that is always part of the package.

The web service makes books available on the web and through a widget that can be embedded anywhere. This, as you may be able to guess, covers a lot of marketplaces.

ISC: Now let’s talk about the apps. I’m a little confused on what you guys are offering. I imagine that this “branded experience” is actually, instead of people going to a Graphicly app that no one’s ever heard about, they get their own app that no one’s ever heard about.

BJ: That’s quite on target, though it all depends on how you market yourself! I think that it’s very hard for indie creators to develop the app and then have people find it because the way to find it on an Android device or Apple Newsstand, where it’s housed, you have to search directly for it. So, if you’re looking for an indie book, you have to know the exact name of the book in order to find it. It can be advantageous for some creators who have a lot of fans, or especially ravenous fans.

The app model works best for larger pubs or pubs who market widely. For instance, we publish The Walking Dead through its own app and Game of Thrones has its own as well, and both of these titles, which already have huge followings, definitely benefit from it, gaining large subscriber bases and fan follows. It’s a very elegant experience, and a lot of our indie creators who have purchased it really seem  to like it, I just think that it’s a little difficult for some people to search for the apps and find them correctly.

ISC: Now this is interesting, you mentioned Game of Thrones, now doesn’t Dynamite publish those books? What’s the relationship between Graphicly and Dynamite? Wouldn’t they just have their own Dynamite app?

BJ: Some of these comic book publishing companies don’t have conversion houses that convert their pdf or digital files into epub files, which is a very difficult and finicky process. We’ve been doing it for a year, and it takes a team of 20 of us all day every day to figure it out.

That’s our service. That’s our model and that’s what we do for people. I think that companies like Image and Dynamite might open their own conversion services within their publishing house, but it would take a lot of technology, time, and a lot of specialized web developers, which we have, and we’ve grown over the years. It’s very specialized work.

ISC: What do creators think about Graphicly? Have you gotten any specific feedback from your clients?

Becky Cloonan’s Wolves

BJ: One person who really understood our model is Becky Cloonan. She’s an awesome artist and she’s used our model and our service to distribute a few of her smaller books through the web and epubs. One of her books on Graphicly, Wolves, has done well.

We have creators like Becky who really do understand what we’re trying to do and they take one look at our service and they’re like “I get it. This is valuable to me.” Additionally, they’re able to use our conversion tools and they can modify the experience of their own artwork. They can take their comic book and put it in our system and sort of orchestrate the panelizations and the sequence of the reading. We allow our creators to take full responsibility and full directorship of that. A lot of creative people really enjoy that.

ISC: A lot of creators use your services, maybe not to make money on their comics, but to create a space as a sort of online portfolio. I’ve talked to creators who see Graphicly’s web service as essentially a marketing tool. How do you guys feel about that?

BJ: We definitely have noticed that our webstore is more of a promotional tool than a sales tool. I think what’s helpful about the webstore and the service being on the web is our tool allows them to see the analytics and the breakdown of sales through each platform. Creators can take a look and notice that they sold 4 books on Kindle Fire, 3 on the Nook, and 7 on the web. I think that’s a useful tool as far as testing the waters for their fanbase.

What many creators may end up doing is discovering that they have a large digital followership and then they’ll print their book, or use the Graphicly web book as a tie-in with a Kickstarter campaign. More and more creators of ours seem to be saying: “If this book is successful on the internet and I can get enough people to like it there, maybe it’ll be worth printing, or worth sending on to Amazon.”

ISC: How do you feel about digital comics as a medium? Where is it going?

BJ: Well for Graphicly, we definitely see digital comics as a niche genre that’s allowed us to move into publishing books in general online and through eReading devices. I think that the comics experience, digitally, is very fun for many people. I think a lot of people enjoy the digital social experience around comics. It’s just fun! However, there’s still the part where comics fans enjoy the retail experience of comics – actually going in to a store, flipping through books, chatting with that weird comic book guy. You know.

Where I see it in the future? Right now, ebooks are often seen as a mostly supplemental source of income for publishers who have successful hard copy books, though this isn’t always true. Books in general have been selling a lot on eReading devices. Just recently, ‘hardcover’ books on Kindle Fire outsold the same books in brick-and-mortar retailers. This year was the first time that ever happened. Even though comics are niche, I think they can get to this point as well. And that is very exciting.

There’s also enhanced reading experiences on the horizon for comics. We’ve already seen motion comics and enhanced books, but I think there is a huge opening for enhanced comics on ereading devices to be explored.

ISC: We have our comics on Graphicly, but where are you guys going? I know you started in comics, but with digital books growing by leaps and bound every year, are you looking to move more into that market? Is there any commitment to the comic creator crowd?

BJ: I think while we have a deep commitment to the comic book fanbase and world, we are definitely moving toward the larger book market. But what our widget, what our tool is good at doing, is managing images through the web, and orchestrating an elegant experience of large areas of artwork. Naturally, we got our start in comics, but we’re looking to move on to children’s books and cookbooks. We look at novels occasionally, but again, our tool was built from comics and it manages images beautifully. It is made for art, and it makes art look fantastic.

Our company is very very dedicated to comics – we love comics, our sister site is iFanboy.com, and many of our employees who have been here since day one don’t know much about the larger book world, but we are excited to branch out into new territory.

Our CEO is very progressive with how he thinks about the future of our company. He sees us moving toward providing conversion services for the larger book world, and really just helping creators with distributing any book, anywhere, instantly. We don’t consider ourselves to be a competitor with Comixology. We’re for everybody and all kinds of books. We are sort of a whole new animal, but we got our start in comics and we are endlessly grateful for that.

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