Tyler Chin-Tanner Discusses Shaking Up Comics with A Wave Blue World
A Wave Blue World announced this week they would be changing their release model in hopes to better serve the market. Instead of the monthly floppy release we’ve come to expect, the publisher will be releasing a “premium” first issue followed by digital releases of the subsequent issues and then a trade collection. The entire release schedule for a series/story has been compacted into a two-month window.
Things kick off this October with two series. Mezo is “a daring Mesoamerican-inspired Game of Thrones-type epic.” Dead Legends is a “martial arts throwback series” that’s described as “Kill Bill meets Enter the Dragon.”
We got a chance to talk to A Wave Blue World’s co-founder Tyler Chin-Tanner about this bold initiative, his view as to where the industry stands, and why this direction is the right one.
Graphic Policy: Before we get to the big announcement, there are lots of conversations about the “state” of the comics industry and how to move forward. What are the challenges facing the industry and what opportunities do you see in the future?
Tyler Chin-Tanner: That depends on what part of the industry we’re talking about. If we’re talking single issues, not very well. There are way too many comics released every week by companies whose main objective is to dominate the market share while making their money through other forms of media.
But if we’re talking graphic novels and tpb collections, it’s doing really well. New readers are picking up comics in book form everyday. Many of them are young readers, a demographic that this industry has ignored for too long. They’re starting to read with comics and sticking with it.
It’s become almost two entirely separate markets. The direct marketing competing against the book market. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Our new Premier Program aims to integrate the two. By releasing only a single issue in comic form, there’s never a question of which issue number the reader will find on the shelves. This issue will provide the perfect introduction to the series and if they want to read more, they can order the trade paperback right there in that same store.
GP: Your announcement is a shift in how comics are sold. You’re selling a “premier” first issue and then subsequent issues digitally every two weeks or the collected edition within two months. What brought you to the conclusion that this was the direction to go?
TCT: Well, the Premier Program is a shift in how our comics are produced, but it’s actually based on how comics are currently purchased. Looking at the market, there’s generally a lot of interest in the first issue but then there’s a drop in sales from there. This is the result of a growing number of readers waiting on the trade or a loss of interest during the month-long gap (if not longer) between each subsequent issue. We’ve eliminated the wait.
GP: Was there something special about the two-week release schedule for the digital releases?
TCT: We’re reducing the wait time from the typical monthly issue to better fit with how people consume media. The monthly comic schedule is an old model established by companies who would put out an issue of the same title every month and the creative team needed at least that much time to pump out another story. But now, we’re all about the story arc. We put out 4 to 6 issues and then it gets collected into a trade paperback. Issues are like chapters and who wants to wait a full month to read the next chapter?
GP: There are a few other publishers who have moved to this model or adding more material to print issues. Is there anything in particular that you’re seeing as success when it comes to this or feedback from readers that makes this approach stand out as the right way to go?
TCT: Our Premier Edition is more than a #1. Sure, it includes the full first issue, but there’s also a lot of content not found anywhere else that provides a full introduction to the concept and characters. It’s a peek inside the mind of the creators and the world they’ve built. We’re inviting you to the Premier and we want it to be a special experience.
GP: It feels like marketing this approach would be a big shift, especially the digital aspect. Do you have particular plans regarding that?
TCT: Our plan is to make it all work seamlessly. Readers have their individual preferences, but there’s no reason to put up walls between digital and print or single issues and trades. We want to amplify the strength of each format.
GP: When it comes to the digital, where will the issues be available? Is the first issue going to be available digitally as well and have the premier material? Are you going to advertise that in the physical first issue?
TCT: The digital issue will be readily available on a number of platforms including Comixology and our new partner, Spinwhiz. We also plan on making downloads available directly from our website, AWBW.com.
Each digital issue will have its own unique cover that’s different from the one on the Premier Edition. Anyone will be able to read the full story through the digital issues, but they won’t contain the same back matter as the print issue. That’s exclusive content for the Premier Edition.
GP: There also seems like there’s a tighter time frame to market the comics, which can be good. It’d allow you all to focus a bit more on a few releases in a short time period as opposed to numerous releases spread out over months.
TCT: That’s exactly right. It’s a singular story arc so why spread it out any longer than it needs to be? Readers prefer a shorter timeframe and to know exactly when they’ll be able to get the full story.
GP: From the outsider, it seems like there’s both more and less risk involved with this. More in that you’re not having single issues to possibly make a bit of a profit off of and you’re basically funding a full graphic novel but there’s a bit more opportunity with the digital aspect.
TCT: There’s really not much risk here. We’re putting together some really great stories and we’re going to have them ready to go so that readers can find them easily and read them in whatever format they prefer.
GP: One of the things that stands out from the announcement is that the full series will be done. Some high profile series has been plagued with delays. Are you going to be emphasizing that this is a guaranteed release?
TCT: Yes, and this is really the strength of the Premier Program. We’ve built up the material in advance so the trade is ready, but we’re just also going to have a little fun first for those who like first issues or prefer to read each chapter bi-weekly online.
GP: It sounds like this is partially driven by retailers. Did you receive feedback from them?
TCT: We spoke to retailers and they want publishers who are driving readers to their stores. Retailers want #1 issues that appeal to their customers with beautiful cover art that collectors find appealing and the ability to sample stories at a reasonable price before purchasing the entire story in trade paperback form. This is why our Premium issues will have high-quality cover stock and exclusive extra content while keeping to a price point of $3.99.
GP: One thing that does stand out is that comics need to be ordered in advance but there’s a two-month gap between the premier first issue and then the collected edition. How are you approaching that challenge?
TCT: The Premier Editions come out right when the collected edition becomes available for preorder, so anyone who likes what they see from that first issue can go order the full book or go straight to the digital issues where the story immediately continues.
GP: What’s the feedback from creators been like? This is definitely different for them.
TCT: The creators are very excited about the Premier Program. All it comes down to is that they want the chance to tell some really amazing and unique stories and have them reach an audience that will appreciate them. It’s a win-win situation all around.
GP: This all sounds really interesting. Thanks so much for chatting!