How Graphicly is paving the way for self-published digital comics

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While technology has certainly made it easier to self-publish comics or graphic novels, this has not been the case with digital distribution – or getting self-published “independent” comics in multiple stores. online so people can buy them.

The lack of affordable distribution options for self-published comics makes it difficult for creators to turn their work into a business. But with over 300,000 self-published creators expected to start selling their own comics and graphic novels in 2012, digital comic book startup Graphicly sees a huge opportunity for growth.

In addition to Graphicly’s web and Facebook distribution channels, the company recently opened up its platform to self-published comic book creators to sell their work in several different digital bookstores, including Apple’s iBookstore, Kindle Store. from Amazon, Android Market, Barnes & Noble, and others. Creators pay an upfront “conversion fee” for each comic they wish to distribute and keep most or all of the revenue depending on the distribution channel. Sales made through Graphicly’s online store or integrated Facebook store are free, but sales through channels like the iBookstore still incur revenue sharing fees.

Considering the extremely high costs associated with making a single self-published comic book series available to all of the aforementioned stores / platforms, Graphicly’s “distribution as a service” model makes perfect sense for most people. self-publishers. The company estimates that it can implement a new comic in all appropriate distribution channels within a week of receiving a PDF of the book itself.

Creators of self-published comics also have access to a useful set of analytics tools, which measure things like average book reading time, total readership, platform used, social activity and much more. This type of information will certainly be useful for self-publishers with limited resources for marketing and promotion. And since analytics tools measure a customer’s behavior, it could dramatically change the way stories are told, according to Graphicly CEO Micah Baldwin.

“From our first tests with the analytics tools, we found that most people read an average of 3 to 4 minutes for each complete comic before putting it down,” Baldwin said in an interview with VentureBeat.

Having been a serious comic book reader for decades, I’ve determined that this is roughly the amount of time people need to read when they’re sitting on the toilet. And while Baldwin jokingly agreed, he went on to explain how future creators might want to release a new issue after three or four pages rather than the current industry standard of 22 pages per monthly comic strip.

“The only reason 22 pages is the standard length of a comic strip is that most artists can usually finish drawing one page per day… So, 22 pages spread out over the month, they would have enough time to finish.” the whole number, “he said.

For example, if a self-published comic book creator determines that people read only five pages at a time based on Graphicly’s analytics, that can change the frequency of distribution. This in turn could improve reader engagement, which could impact sales.

Why Graphicly’s self-publishing model will disrupt the comic book industry

Previously, Graphicly focused on its own distribution channel for a handful of large comic book publishers like Image, Marvel, and IDW, as well as a variety of smaller, creator-owned publishers. The distribution channel can be integrated with a Facebook business page or official website, giving it an edge over competitors like comiXology, as it combines the marketing efforts of publishers with the promotional efforts of Graphicly. Graphically generates revenue by taking a share of every comic book sale, much like Apple and Amazon do with their respective digital bookstores.

The problem with this strategy is that people inevitably favor the platform with the most “complete” media collection in its library, which often contains exclusive content that competitors cannot. For example, Netflix has the largest library of streaming video content and the highest number of streaming video subscribers. When it comes to digital comics, comiXology has the largest selection of content of any major publisher and arguably the highest customer base among digital comic distribution channels. While Graphicly has more content available from a much larger number of publishers, it still lacks inventory from DC Comics, which brings in the majority of all comic book sales (digital and print). And since digital purchases are only stored on each individual distributor’s platform, it’s likely that people will end up choosing the platform with the most comprehensive selection of content available for purchase.

Rather than competing only with comiXology or others like it, Graphicly decided to change its business model. The startup will continue to deliver popular comics within its own distribution channel for publishers with high sales volume and taking a percentage of the revenue. But now small publishers and self-published creators will pay a base fee for each comic ($ 150 per book) they want to distribute through Graphicly and keep all of the income.

“The beauty of this model is that we don’t need DC Comics to be successful,” Baldwin said. “Hopefully DC and other big publishers will see the value of Graphicly’s distribution and analytics eventually,” which gets them involved, he added.

Essentially, if you can generate at least $ 150 in sales from your self-published comic, you get a return on your investment, excluding any other operating costs. And since the Graphicly platform makes the book available on all major digital bookstores, it improves the possibilities for higher sales. Compared to printing costs, “conversion costs” are also a cheaper means of distribution – allowing more independent creators to publish books. (It’s worth noting that Baldwin said the $ 150 fee is “beta pricing” and will likely change to better meet the needs of each small publisher as the platform grows.)

The new publishing platform is available for current Graphicly publishers, with a full rollout coming in the coming weeks.

The Boulder, Colorado-based startup closed a $ 3 million funding round in January 2011 led by DFJ Mercury, with participation from 500 startups, Dundee VC, Ludlow Ventures and individual angel investors. The company was incubated by TechStars and has already raised $ 1.2 million from DFJ Mercury and others. It has 20 employees and has raised a total of $ 4.2 million to date.


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Lisa M. Horner