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Comixology Submit: A Game Changer?

| March 25, 2013

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Comixology received a ton of buzz this month, finally announcing their long in development Comixology Submit platform.  ComixTribe was a late addition in their Private Beta for Submit, and was one of the publishers to have books released during their “grand opening.” So, is Comixology Submit a “game changer” for independent and small press publishers?  Or is this much ado about nothing?

What Is It?

It’s about time, is what it is!  Announced more than a year ago, the Comixology Submit portal is finally out of Private Beta and open to the masses.  This means that any creator or publisher can now submit their comics to be sold through Comixology, the largest digital comics platform.  The service is free to sign up for, and creators will receive 50% of the net sale of titles (after they pay  mobile distributors their standard fees). So, books at that $0.99 price point we all love so much, when sold through your iPad, will net creators about $0.30 a download.

(For a detailed FAQ on Comixology Submit, go here.)

Why Should You Care?

Up until now, Comixology has been largely a closed platform for new creators and small press companies.  While there have always been a selection of smaller publishers on the platform, most of those were signed prior to Marvel and DC signing deals with the digital distributor. Over the past several years, getting on the Comixology platform has been more difficult than getting a Diamond distribution deal for most small-press and indie creators.  With Comixology Submit, that is no longer the case.

While digital comics sales numbers are still largely shrouded in mystery, with few hard figures released for digital sales, it’s clear that Comixology is the biggest player in the digital comics space.  Gaining access to that platform can be a potential big win for creators, enthusiastically expressed by Too Much Coffee Man creator Shannon Wheeler in this flow chart:

My Concerns

I’m thrilled that ComixTribe now has a book on Comixology.  (SCAM #1 Digital Deluxe edition went live a few weeks ago…50+ pages of content for under a buck.  GRAB IT!)  And no question digital sales will continue to grow as the adoption of tablet devices continue to explode.  However, I have a few concerns about Comixology Submit, as it relates to me, an independent, creator-owned publisher.

1) Comixology Might Not Have the Bandwidth to Keep Up With Submit

Despite being the clear leader in digital comics, Comixology showed its vulnerability recently, when a SXSW promotion with Marvel Comics to give away 700+ free comics completely crashed their servers, shutting down access not only to the promotional comics…but also to other comics in users’ libraries of already purchased books!  Comixology’s servers simply weren’t ready for the onslaught of downloads.  It’s now a few weeks later and users still don’t have those free Marvel comics…it’s hard to see the promotion as anything but a colossal bust, and one that pointed out the vulnerabilities of digital platforms.  Now, I work in the software field, and I know these things happen…but it shows that Comixology, like every other company out there, only has so much bandwidth.

Likewise, bandwidth will be an issue Comixology Submit will face.  Comics submitted to Comixology need to go through a review process for approval.  (Here, Comixology still will act as a gatekeeper, and presumably not all comics will make it on their platform, rejected for reasons of quality or content, at Comixology’s discretion.) After being approved, the books need to be processed and formatted for guided view, which is also done by Comixology staff.  How many Submit books can Comixology review and process each week?  (I don’t know.)

And when you consider that Comixology staff also has some 400+ titles to process a month from its existing publishers…many of whom advertise “Day and Date” releases, how much time will be dedicated to Submit? Comixology only makes money when books sell, and we know sales will continue to be dominated by the bigger publishers, so from a company priority standpoint, it’s likely that Submit books are the lowest on the totem pole.

While in the Private Beta, it took SCAM #1 about three weeks from the time I submitted it, to it being approved, processed, and released on Comixology. SCAM #2 has been “In Review” for several weeks now, with THE RED TEN and THE STANDARD sitting in their “Submitted” pile.  Now that the floodgates are open and ANYONE can submit a book, your guess is as good as mind what the standard turn-around time for Comixology Submit books will be.  They have stated publicly the goal of a 30-day turn-around for Comixology Submit books. Do they have the bandwidth to see that happens? This will be something I’ll be watching closely.

ComixologySubmit

2) Publishers Going Through Comixology Submit Might Be Buried

Much of the press around Comixology Submit was directed at “independent creator” who can now get their books on the Comixology platform.  But what about the small press publisher?  Right now, small press publishers going through Comixology Submit are mostly invisible.  Go ahead, search for ComixTribe on Comixology.  As of 3-24-13, no results come up.  (And a DAMN shame, because we have a BADASS logo.)  Go look for 215 ink or Challenger Comics in the publishers list.  They aren’t there.

Right now, the only way to find SCAM #1 is to search for SCAMWhile ComixTribe HAS a publisher page, it’s nearly impossible to navigate to.  When I asked Comixology about it, they seemed to imply that there would soon be a Comixology Submit tab, that would allow users to browse all books that have come through the Submit portal.  But, if that’s the case, Submit is positioned as the Publisher, and ComixTribe, 215 ink, Challenger Comics, and the rest of the small press publishers are basically shafted.

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Now, I get it.  We’re small fish in the big pond of comics.  We need to work our way up, and fight to be counted among the other, more visible publishers on the Comixology platform.  I just hope we’ll have the opportunity to do that…and not be doomed to Comixology Submit second class status. ComixTribe will be moving some 40,000-50,000 books through the Direct Market in 2013.  We are not a major publisher yet…but we have big things on the horizon.  Being on Comixology doesn’t have much value if our fans can’t easily find us there.

3. Take off the Rose Colored Glasses

I love reading digital comics.  I read about a dozen a month on my iPad. I like the convenience and the always on access of digital. I like that my wife doesn’t complain about my stacks of digital comics. (Can’t say the same about my stacks of print.) And as a creator, I love the fact that ComixTribe’s digital comics:

A) Never go out of print.

B) Have a marginal cost of zero.

C) Are accessible to potentially anyone, anywhere.

That’s the beauty of digital.  And the dream is reflected nicely in the “Too Much Coffee Man” strip above.

But let’s cool our horses on the whole “find a mass audience, wealth, and success” pitch, shall we?  Simply being on Comixology will do next to nothing for 99% of creators submitting through their portal. If being on Comixology was enough for wealth and riches for all, I think we’d be hearing a lot more creators talking up their digital sales.  My ear is to the ground…and I’m not hearing a peep about mind-blowing digital sales.

Comixology is simply another channel to sell your books.  If you want to actually sell them…you’re still going to have to develop an effective sales campaign to drive traffic to your book and get folks to buy ’em.

So, to recap, I am excited now that the Comixology platform has opened its doors to creators and publishers like us.  I remain skeptical about the immediate sales potential of the platform, and I’m concerned about the bandwidth issues and the way publishers are currently presented through Comixology Submit.  But, I’m optimistic that Comixology will continue to improve the platform, and definitely see this as a step forward.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Experiences?  Take it to the COMIXTRIBE FORUM!

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About the Author ()

Tyler James is a comics creator, game designer, educator, and publisher residing in Newburyport, MA. He is the writer and co-creator of THE RED TEN, a superhero murder mystery, EPIC, a superteen action comedy, and TEARS of the DRAGON, a swords and sorcery fantasy. Tyler is the publisher and co-creator of ComixTribe, which is both a new imprint of quality creator owned titles, and an online community where creators help creators make better comics. Follow him on Twitter @tylerjamescomics, or send him an email at tyler.james@comixtribe.com.

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