A very special Thank You! to Mike Jasper, who generously offered to share some of his thoughts and experiences in publishing his own amazing comic In Maps & Legends (with artist Niki Smith). Last week Graphicly released In Maps & Legends – The Complete Series and if you haven’t yet read it, get over there and do so! You’ll be very happy you did. Take it away, Mike…
How to Go Digital
So, you’re a comic creator, and you’re considering making the leap from print or webcomic to digital? Great. My name is Mike Jasper, and I’m the author of the digital comic IN MAPS & LEGENDS along with artist Niki Smith. Climb aboard, and I’ll share with you what I’ve learned, based on how we did it for IN MAPS & LEGENDS.
Basically, what we did was create our own publisher, UnWrecked Press, and we use that name to publish our comic issues. And then we started contacting online comic distributors.
Note: For more great advice about starting up your own publishing company, see author and publisher Dean Wesley Smith’s article “Think Like A Publisher: The Early Decisions.”
Finding Digital Comic Distributors
Our philosophy with the distribution of our digital comic has always been this — make it easily available wherever people look for comics and ebooks. As more quality digital distributors come online, we check them out to see what they have to offer.
And we ask some basic questions about the distributor:
- Do they have an easy-to-use interface?
- Can you preview books there?
- Does the distributor have good “buzz” in the industry?
- Can readers download and read our comic on a device that has a wide user base?
- Is the distributor someone we want to work with?
By the time we re-launched our comic independently in September 2010, we had nearly a dozen digital distributors. Using those distributors, our issues came out in a range of digital formats, for a number of reading platforms: Kindle, Nook, iPhone/iPad, Android Phone, plus ePub for all the other digital readers out there, as well as PDF, and CBZ formats for laptop and desktop computers.
In particular, we’ve had great success working with Graphicly (obviously!) and Comixology, who have become the pioneers and big guns of distributing digital comics (and they’ve been incredible to work with). I highly recommend getting your digital comics online with them — they’re fine people, and they seem especially open to creator-owned comics.
We’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the success we’ve had selling PDFs with DriveThruComics, a great site with tons of comics and a great, easy-to-use interface for uploading comics, doing promotional work, and tracking your sales in real time. That last one is huge.
And we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the success we’ve had selling on the Kindle, via the Kindle Direct Publishing program (formerly called the Amazon DTP program), as well as the number of downloads we’ve gotten so far on the Barnes & Noble Nook, via the Pub-It site. For both Kindle and Nook versions, you’ll need to do some extra work to get your comic in the right format. Kindle uses the .mobi format and Nook uses the ePub format. Niki and I put together an ebook to help creators get their comics set up for the Kindle and the Nook: http://niki-smith.com/InMapsAndLegends/2011/03/28/formatting-comics-ebook/
If you start off with those five distributors — Comixology, Graphicly, DriveThruComics, Kindle, and Nook — I think you’ll get some great coverage and sales of your digital comic.
Marketing Your Digital Comic
This is an issue that could take many, many blogs. It’s my least favorite part of the process, as I’m sure many creators can attest. You can find many sites with tips on marketing via Google, so I’m gonna sum up what has worked best for us in the past year of publishing our comic:
- Give your comic a website. This is your home base, your HQ, the place where someone interested in the comic can find everything they’d ever need to know. Be sure to have an About the Comic section with a quick overview of your comic, and add links to your distributors as well as cover art and more. Feel free to check out our Maps website for ideas: http://inmapsandlegendscomic.com.
- Add extra, related content to your website and elsewhere. Write up blog posts like this one, sharing what you’ve learned about making comics, about digital comics, about distribution and formatting. Find a way to add to the growing knowledge base about digital comics or comics in general. You can also do this by leaving comments in online forums, other creators’ blogs, or writing some sort of how-to book like Niki and I did for MAPS: http://niki-smith.com/InMapsAndLegends/2011/03/28/formatting-comics-ebook/
- Set up a Facebook page for your comic. This is a place to share updates and announcements, sketches and contests, and anything remotely related to your comic. Just don’t overdo it – a couple posts a week ought to do it, and make sure the title you give the site is a good one (we got stuck with the tag “An Online Comic” with ours back when we thought it was going to be a webcomic at Zuda, and can’t change it now!). Here’s the Maps Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/InMapsAndLegendsComic
- Give back/Pay it forward: Similar to the previous tip, I always try to point out great comics (and novels and stories and articles) that I come across on the Net and in the real world. Twitter is a great way to share these things. I know lots of creators whose work I love, and I want others to discover them as well. That’s why we highlight a different digital comic every Friday on the Maps Facebook page, and every month we link to two to four digital comics at the Maps website. Readers get more comics to read, and creators get to sell more comics. Everyone wins.
- Create ads and press releases (and all that other boring crap). Yes, do these, too, but I have to admit, I don’t feel like we’ve gotten a lot out of them. Anything that costs money takes a lot of consideration on our parts – we just don’t make enough to justify a huge banner ad on some hi-profile comics site. Try Project Wonderful for ads, because they’re free and comic-friendly. Me, I’m not convinced ads and all that PR really works. Write and draw an awesome comic, get hooked up with great distributors like Graphicly, and the readers will come.
I think digital is the way of the future, as monthly comics go away and people buy more individual issues online, and buy trade paperbacks of the collected issues later. It’s a great time to be a comics creator. You just have to work your tail off. But you knew that already, right?
Feel free to share this page with other comics creators. And if you wanna say thanks, well, feel free to buy an issue of IN MAPS & LEGENDS in a format of your choice. Thanks!
IN MAPS & LEGENDS is a contemporary fantasy graphic novel — with elements of science fiction and steampunk — about a young woman caught between two worlds who tries to save them both. In January 2011, Comic Book Resources’ Robot 6 named creators Niki Smith and Michael Jasper “Digital Creators of the Year” (along with Alex de Campi) for 2010. Earlier, MAPS won the November 2009 competition hosted by DC Comics imprint Zuda Comics, and it ran online there on a weekly basis in mid-2010, until Zuda closed and Mike and Niki made the leap to digital-only comics.