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A Netflix for Comics? A ComicsFix Interview

| December 30, 2013

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I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of Hulu+ and Netflix. At least 75% of the television and video content I consume is through those two platforms. The “all-you-can-watch” for one low monthly price business model has been proven in the video space…but what about comics?

ComicsFix aims to fill that gap. Promising readers access to an ever-expanding library of comics and graphic novels for one low monthly price, ComicsFix hopes to do for comics what Netflix has done for video. But will it work? Is there a demand for this kind of service? And is ComicsFix the team that will be able to make it work? I had a chance to chat with Felix Kiner, CEO of ComicsFix, to try to find out. Here’s the interview…

TJ: Felix, thanks for taking the time to talk to me and the ComixTribe readers. When I met Jordan Plosky, ComicsFix’s Director of Submissions, at New York Comic Con, he described ComicsFix as wanting to become “the Netflix for comics.” While I appreciate a good quick pitch, can you elaborate a little bit more on the vision for ComicsFix?

FK: ComicsFix is all-you-can-read digital comics and graphic novels for under $10 a month. We do draw a lot of inspiration from Netflix and Spotify, there’s no doubt about that. We know there is no shortage of digital readers for mobile devices, tablets and browsers. We are simply marrying the model with the technology. But, our real job, our real challenge, is to build the perfect user experience that will make members stick with us for years. That means a great library, well-crafted apps, and flawless digital readers. It means listening to our users and adapting accordingly. We want to build ComicsFix around each individual member and give them the tools to make it their own. If you want to sort your reading list by the color scheme of the covers we want you to be able to do it. Why not, right?

TJ: Why this business? Why comics? Can you tell us a little bit more about your and your partners background, and why, of all possible entrepreneurial ventures to tackle, ComicsFix is it for you?

FK: I am a comics creator myself. I started self publishing with Kickstarter not very long ago and it doesn’t get any better. I found an audience from all around the world. And while Kickstarter is easy and fun, the rest of the channels to get your comics out are not. Trade-shows are expensive and very tiresome (although fun), online marketing requires expertise, and to get picked up by a big publisher is simply not for everybody for many reasons. So I wanted to give creators, like me, a low-cost, worry-free channel that will connect them to new readers – the holy grail for any creator. The rest of my small team is made up of comic book creators and lifelong comics readers, unlike me. I was born in the Soviet Union – we didn’t have comic books, but I am trying to catch up now.

TJ: Comixology has emerged as the 800 pound gorilla in the comics space. How are you going to compete with them?

FK: Comixology to ComicsFix is like Video-on-Demand to Netflix. We are not a competition so much as an extension of Comixology. Just like a movie, a comic book has a cycle: it gets published, comes out on Comixology, enjoys the tent pole sales and eventually gets replaced by the new, freshly minted books. For some, the cycle is short and sweet, for some it is longer and sweeter, and for others it doesn’t come at all. Comixology has a limited shelf space and quotas to fill, they have to put their bestsellers forward. ComicsFix comes to extend your days under the sun and puts your books before a steady stream of readers. Comixology did us a great service by advancing digital comics and my hope is that ComicsFix will do the same..

TJ: I often tell aspiring creators that they need to think about the long game, and that success in comics is a marathon, not a sprint. Even Comixology started with just a small handful of indie publishers. Will ComicsFix be able to play the long game? What does success look like for you 1 year out? 2 years? 5 years?

FK: We have great financial backers who believe in us and are ready to extend their support as we progress. By no means are we are flushed with money, but what we have is what we need to get our technology ready and marketing done. We want to be on our feet as soon as we can. 5,000 to 10,000 paying customers and growing in the first 6 months is our goal and 30,000 to 50,000 in the first year. Skipping ahead a few year into the future, I see ComicsFix as an international company that serves communities around the globe in many languages. Even today, we have books in Spanish, French and even in Hebrew. Comics will become more widespread than ever before – we count on that. I see us translating American comics to Chinese and taking ComicsFix to China. What a huge market that would be!

TJ: What are you looking for in your publishing partners? Is your submissions open to everyone? Will there be any content curation or quality control?

FK: We are open to everyone. Big to small publishers, self-published authors, artist collectives, web-comic artists – we want them all. We’re after great books that connect with readers on a very intimate level. Be it for adults or teens or even children, we crave content that will take us somewhere magical, change us, make us better. If ComicsFix is filled with these kind of books, people will be coming back to us every night for a new thrill. Our library is shaping up to consist of larger volumes and graphic novels and we like it. Larger books means more time spent with us.

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There will be curation, but it will be kept very open minded, and we probably will rely on the public in one way or another for that.

TJ: Do you think ComicsFix can be successful without eventually signing on Marvel, DC, or some of the other top-tier publishers?

FK: We can, but that doesn’t mean that we want to. Between mid-level and small publishers and creator own titles, we can create a well-rounded library and satisfy readers for years to come. But, we don’t want to neglect any genres, we want to attract readers of all kinds and expose them to new material. We want teens who read Marvel and DC exclusively today to try the taste of a different type of books tomorrow.

TJ: Let’s talk about the business model. How does ComicsFix make money? How do your publishers make money? And about how many paying customers do you estimate you need to make this worthwhile for anyone?

FK: We pay our marketing bills, hosting, payment processing fees and what is left we split 50/50 with our publishers. Each publisher gets his/her share based on the page views of his/her books. The more books you have and the larger they are, the more money you are likely to make. One well circulated graphic novel can make up to $6,000 dollars a year or more. Those numbers are possible with only 10,000 paying members.

But this is not the only way our publishers will be able to make money. We’ll pay bonuses, give out grants, commission new comics. We’ll pay referral fees to publishers that actively promote ComicsFix and bring their readers to us.

Our new partnership with a very reputable film production company in our home town of L.A. will open doors to many of our indie publishers for their books to be turned into films.

As you see, it is very beneficial to belong to the ComicsFix family.

TJ: What platforms will ComicsFix be available on, and what’s the rollout schedule? Can you tell us anything about the ComicsFix reading experience? Will it be comparable to Comixology, Kindle, etc?

FK: We will be available on iPads, iPhones, Android tablets and phones, and Web Browsers. iPads and Web Browsers will come first – mid-January if all goes as planned. On one hand, we’ll try to give our users the very familiar experience of reading digital comics: bookmarks, history, reading lists, panel by panel views. On the other hand, we’ll be always working on innovating our apps. One such innovation that will be out soon after the initial launch is audio enhancement. We want the publisher or an author to produce an audio reading that will be played with each page turn.

Another feature I am very excited about is shared reading. Imagine being a father or a mother, away from home on a work trip, you can open our app in New York and your kid do the same in San Diego and you can read the same book together. You flip the page on your device, and the page on your child’s iPad gets flipped. You you can read to him and he can hear your voice. Imagine how great it would be for our men and women in uniform, serving abroad, and their families. Give us some time to get there and we will.

For the parents among us, we are introducing two ways to protect your kids from reading what is not intended for them. One is a password protected Parental Control. Another is a completely separate app “ComicsFix Kids” that has an appropriate look and feel and displays only comics for kids. Similarly “ComicsFix Teens” will be available soon after.

TJ: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the ComicsFix launch?

FK: Being new kid in town is not easy. We see lots of excitement, but hesitation also. Some publishers want to see if the boat floats or sinks before they get in. The good thing is that the idea behind ComicsFix is so promising, many people joining in early. Like you guys, here at ComixTribe. [TJ: ComixTribe will be test-driving the ComicsFix platform, making a limited number of titles available there.] And all the early believers will benefit from it, immensely, I personally guarantee it.

We are pre-signing members and the numbers are very encouraging. So people do accept us, and that is more important than anything

TJ: Anything else you want to let the ComixTribe readership know (most of whom are target market of comic readers and/or comic creators)?

FK: We are building ComicsFix for you, so let us know what you want it to be like. Sign up early, write us often, spread the word.

If you go to our website now and request an invite using the promo code ‘ComixTribe‘,  your first month will be on us!

Here is where you can find us:

Online www.comicsfix.com

For authors and publishers www.comicsfix.com/publish

On Facebook: www.facebook.com/ComicsFix

On Twitter: www.twitter.com/ComicsFix

So, there you have it, an interesting interview with a potential new player in the digital space.  Here are a few more of my thoughts.

1. As a Consumer, I Like the Model, but Selection is Key

As I said, I’m a fan of the all-you-can-consume model for video. When I discover a great new series to binge watch (just burned through 5 seasons of Sons of Anarchy this month, brother) there’s nothing better. But my biggest complaint about Netflix and Hulu is that, for all the titles they offer, it’s not uncommon for me to spend more time surfing for something decent to watch than actually watching stuff. Selection really is key. For me to plunk down $10 a month for the ComicsFix service, there better be a lot more than $10 worth of comics on there that I would actually spend money on. While I’m a big supporter of indie and creator owned books, thousands of titles I’ve never heard of, from artists and writers I don’t know, is always going to be a tough initial sell.

2. As a Publisher, I’m Skeptical…Like I Am With All Things Digital

While I wish Felix and the ComicsFix gang luck, as someone who’s been at this comics game for a while now, it’s hard not to look at his numbers and projections for adoption above as very optimistic. Acquiring customers is going to be a challenge…as it is for any new business. As a publisher, the worry is that putting titles on the ComicsFix library will lower their perceived value, and not amount to much in the way of payments coming back to the publisher. Only recently has digital sales started to make any kind of impact in the ComixTribe bottom line, thanks to improved sales performance on the Comixology platform. Comixology has proven it has the audience size and reach to actually add up to real dollars. Does ComicsFix have the resources to ever get to become a household name?  That I don’t know.

3. I Hope It Succeeds

All that said, I hope Felix’s team crack the code and make ComicsFix into something. It seems like a great, open, long-tail platform that can breath life into your comics backlist. As creators, we’re always looking for new potential revenue streams, and ways to monetize work we’ve already done. ComicsFix has the potential to be another revenue stream for creators. I’ll be watching it carefully.

What do you think?

As a consumer, would you subscribe to ComicsFix? As a creator, what would make you distribute through them?

Let’s discuss in the ComixTribe Forums!

Keep Reading!

If you found this article useful, you may want to read one of these three articles next:

Comixology: Yes, a Game Changer

Why Aren’t I Selling More Comics?

Everything You Need to Know About Small Press Distribution

 

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Category: Comix Counsel

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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