Over the summer, I wrote a few parts in a series detailing the creation of my comic Rebirth of the Gangster (on sale now!)
In case you missed it, check out these links to the first three parts-
And now, for Part 9: The final installment in my series about creating and publishing Rebirth of the Gangster!
After being rejected by all the publishers I sent my comic too (it wasn’t completely worthless, though, since I received some good advice, as I covered in Part 8), I decided to self-publish Rebirth of the Gangster. Self-publishing does come with a taboo, of course, but the revenue and respect given to self-publishers has been growing in recent years (The Martian was a self-published book at first, for one example of self-publishing being worth money and industry cred).
While much of self-publishing deals with the details of print and distribution, I decided to release individual issues digitally and distribute graphic novel collections of each six-issue story arc. After I made that choice, the next step for any self publisher is to figure out how to get your comic in the hands and hearts of fans. While I would like to get printed copies to fans, frankly Diamond Distributor isn’t very friendly to independent comics–they will only guarantee payments if enough copies have been sold to stores in their ordering phase. And I wasn’t–and still am not–in a financial position to take on that kind of risk. So, I started exploring the largely uncharted waters of digital sales.
I did some research–looking online and then sending questions to companies to get some answers about their reach, their payout structure, their editorial requirements and more. Not only did this help me understand my options better, I was able to distill these findings into a Slant article for others: giving them a map and compass to navigate digital terrain. That article is no longer available, since Slant went under and the domain was lost, but here’s what I wrote:
In recent years, the comic industry has been adapting to new demand for digital versions of their comics (although print is still a viable option), which has led to companies creating numerous platforms with some key differences in pricing for customer, payout to creators, editing and submission process, philosophy, and degree of involvement.
Platforms like Selz, Pulp Free Publishing, Gumroad, and Sellfy all responded to interview requests; other platforms of note (Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, Comixology, Scribd, and Tapastic) didn’t respond to interview requests but were researched for the following information. A huge thanks to Zeno Telos Press and Publishers Weekly for some of the research that supplements the interviews.
The Basics for Each Site
|Platform||Customer Cost||Creator Payout and Platform Cut of Profits||Editing and Submitting Process|
|Comixology||Varies by comic–there is a section titled “Free Comics” though||50% (after credit card fees and cost from Apple, Google, Kindle)||Can submit once an account has been created with company information and payment information. Get started here.|
|Amazon Kindle||Varies by comic, but you can also join Kindle Unlimited, their Netflix-esque program. It costs $9.99 a month and gives access to as many books as the customer wants.||If the sale price is less than $2.99, the creator gets 35%|
If the sale price is greater than $2.99 and less than $9.99, the creator gets 70%*
If the sale price is more than this, the creator gets 35%
|Submission information here.|
|Barnes and Noble Nook||Varies by comic||Barnes and Noble didn’t have this easily available, but a source says that as of Oct-2013, this is the payout structure:|
Prices from $ 0.99 to $ 2.98 = 40%
Prices from $ 2.99 to $ 9.99 = 65%
Prices from $ 10.00 to $ 199.99 = 40%
|iBookstore||Varies by comic.||70%||They didn’t list any specific requirements, but they posted this set of steps here.|
|Pulp Free Publishing||Kevin Bricklin, founder of Pulp Free Publishing states: |
“After Apple’s 30% fee, we share 70/30 with creators. 70% for the Creator and 30% for PFP (that equates to 49% of the sales price to the creator)”
|Although they don’t have editorial requirements, they do say they have the standard “ page specifications (which are required so that the comics can look good on retina devices)”, according to Bricklin.|
(website is offline while they relaunch their service)
|8.99 a month, Netflix style–this was their pricing plan before they took their site down to reboot and relaunch it||50%|
This was also what was listed before.
|No information available.|
|Selz||Varies by comic||Melissa Whidjay, Selz community manager says, “All we keep is a small transaction fee on each sale, which is usually under 5% of your sale price. You get to keep the rest!”||They don’t have editing requirements, but Whidjay did give this advice for file format: |
“It’s totally up to you! We let you sell pretty much all file types, but your best bet is to publish in PDF as it’s the most widely accepted file type for reading comics. “
|Sellfy||Varies by comic||95%||No editing process–they’re only interested in running “ a third party [that] manage[s] the sales and download link delivery”, according to customer service manager Matthew.|
|Gumroad||Varies by comic||95%.||The only requirement Sahil Lavingia, founder and CEO of Gumroad, gave was “the standard NSFW stuff (though since we’re not a marketplace, we can sway more freely).”|
Details on how to submit here.
|Scribd||Netlix style subscription for unlimited comics, books, audiobooks and sheet music: $8.99 a month; there are individual texts for sale too, with varying prices||There are a few different creator payout guidelines:|
For an individual sale: 80% after $0.25 processing fee.
There are a few different payout options for subscription readers, depending on publishing service used by creator:
Smashwords:If books are read past the 30% mark: 60% of sales. 10 reads between 15-30% will also count as an individual sale.
If books are read past the 30% mark: 60% of sales.
55% of sales
This is another option but the royalty structure wasn’t outlined.
|Submission information here (broken down by categories like publishers, self-publishers, etc…).|
|Tapastic||Some are free, but some have varying costs||Monthly Support: 85%|
Ad Revenue: 70%
|Submission information here.|
More Detailed Descriptions of Each Site
While Comixology didn’t respond to interview requests, there is some further information available about their platform. Comixology was acquired by Amazon in April of 2014.
Most people buy individual titles and issues, but Comixology does have a subscription option, although there isn’t any discount for subscribing to an issue. They currently have thousands of titles available (7500 individual issues, 700 of which are free) and thousands of individual submit titles available (creator-owned and self published titles, not ones published by big companies like Marvel and DC).
John D. Roberts, cofounder of ComiXology and director of Submit, describes their submit program this way: “Submit has the broadest range of comics and graphic novels possible, and that’s what customers really enjoy about it. From superhero to queer comics, slice-of-life graphic novels, all-ages manga, and beyond, the readership of Submit titles is as varied as the books submitted.”
If you’re a creator looking to submit your comic to Comixology, it has to meet their quality standards (not outlined on their website). They say the process should take 3 months minimum, but it can sometimes be longer (6 months or longer) depending on whether the creator meets Comixology’s specifications right away, needs to make changes, or other issues.
The big specifications problem, according to Roberts, is creators producing poor digital quality when converting their files to PDF. He says that these PDF files often “suffer from artifacting and pixilation, primarily due to excessive compression. Some of the more popular PDF tools have compression defaults that are hard to find and change, and thus we get a ton of files that we can’t use”. He also reminds creators that they’ll be competing–on Comixology and in general–with big companies that have strong formatting for their digital content.
Amazon Kindle also did not respond to interview requests.
Similar to Comixology, Amazon has content requirements, mainly formatting, that a comic needs to reach to be accepted.
Creators make less for individual issues on Amazon than they do on Comixology, so some people suggest releasing individual issues elsewhere, and then submitting graphic novels to Amazon. They do admit that submitting individual issues to Amazon is good exposure and increases marketability.
Barnes and Noble also did not return requests for an interview. The most current information available is already described above.
iBooks also did not return requests for an interview.
When submitting to iBooks consider this following information about file format, given in the Q and A here: You can submit your work for publication in the iBooks Store as an .ibooks file, where you can sell it or offer it as a free download. You can also export your book from iBooks Author as a PDF, text file, or .ibooks file which you can distribute outside the iBooks Store or through iTunes U.
That’s it! After 9 detailed parts, my behind-the-scenes look at the making of Rebirth of the Gangster is over!
I hope you enjoyed them all (and if you missed any, click on the links at the beginning of this article): for future news and behind-the-scenes looks, check my website out: cjstandalproductions.com.