UPDATE: To Graphic.ly or Not to Graphic.ly, That is the Question…

| April 8, 2012 | 3 Comments

UPDATE: As you can see in the comments below, Graphic.ly CEO Micah Baldwin stopped by and has volunteered to waive the conversion fee for OVER, so that we may report on the new Graphic.ly service here at ComixTribe.  (I told you the Graphic.ly folks were swell!)  

Given this development, I’ll be suspending the mini-fundraising drive, and refunding the money for those of you who contributed.  Of course, you can keep the book…it’s on me, and you can thank Graphic.ly for it!  


Digital comics distributor Graphic.ly made headlines today, announcing a fundamental change to their business model.   As one of Graphic.ly’s thousands of publishing partners, this change does have some impact on us here at ComixTribe…though as you’ll see with some hard numbers below…not much.

How Graphic.ly Used to Work…

  • Graphic.ly was in the business of selling digital comics.
  • Their customer was the digital comic book reader.
  • Their competition was Comixology, iVerse, and other digital comics distributors.
  • Publishers like ComixTribe were their business partners.   We provided them content, they formatted it and sold it on their platform across many digital channels, primarily through their own app and website.
  • The deal was that it was free for publishers to use their service, and we all got paid when a book was sold.   Comixology took 30% of the sale price, creators got 70%. (Note: If it went through an intermediary like Apple, Apple got 30% off the top first.)
  • They weren’t selling very many comics, and were getting their ass kicked by Comixolog

How Graphic.ly Works NOW…

  • Graphic.ly is in the business of converting digital ebooks (comics being a subset) and distributing through the major ebook marketplaces (Kindle, Nook, iBooks, etc.)
  • Their customer is the publisher (or in most cases now, self-publisher.)
  • Their competition is other conversion and distribution services (like Smashwords.)
  • Graphic.ly is not looking for a partner in pubs like ComixTribe, they are looking for clients.
  • They are charging a flat $150.00 fee to let you use their tools to convert your book for distribution across multiple platforms. Creators will get 100% of the sales through those platforms (After Amazon, Apple, etc. take their cut, of course.)
  • They seem to be selling a fair amount of Walking Dead trades.   Besides that…who knows.

Okay, some quick thoughts:

1) I don’t begrudge Graphic.ly making this change.   They had the benefit of huge VC funding, but the numbers clearly weren’t adding up, and without this change, likely would not be able to sustain their business.   If it’s not working, you gotta change things up. So they did.

2) I fully expected this.   Back in January, Graphic.ly contacted all of it’s pubs and let them know their focus was going to be on a fee for conversion to various platforms model, rather than the current one.   It was clear they wanted to expand beyond comics, because the in-app and websites sales just were not there.

3) From a revenue side, the loss of Graphic.ly as a sales channel won’t effect us much.   ComixTribe had 8 titles for sale through Graphic.ly in 2011 (priced between $0.99 and $1.99) and for the entire year netted a whopping $25.00 in sales in that channel.   (It’s worth noting that in the first 3 months of 2012, we’d already surpassed that total…but only by about $10.00.)   So bottom line, the sales were not there for us, and won’t really be missed.

4) I have nothing but good things to say about the people at Graphic.ly.   They were professional, responsive, and Yannick Morin (our digital comics manager) and I really enjoyed working with them under the old system, despite anemic sales.

5) It’s very, very hard to justify paying $150.00 for conversion services to a distributor that cumulatively netted us just $25.00 last year.

Now, with respect to the last point, I have a feeling a whole lot of other publishers and creators are wrestling with that math.   Just how are we supposed to know if the pastures of the Kindle, iBookstore, and Nook Marketplace really are any greener for our titles?   We have no data, no numbers, no nothing…with which to make that decision.

Just blind faith.   Just a leap and a prayer.

Now, it sounds like there are already plenty (Graphic.ly says over 1100) publishers happy to shill out $150.00 to test the water.   And Graphic.ly will tell you they’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into technology that makes it possible…and thus $150 is a steal.

But for someone who has been selling digital comics for almost two years now and has yet to see it result in significant returns, it’s hard not to see it as throwing money down the well.   (By comparison, I’ll make more money in the first 45 minutes of the Boston Comic Con in two weeks than ComixTribe has made selling digital books in the last two years.)

But, all that said…I’m damn curious!

I WANT to test the waters.

I want to test the service.

I want to know how Nook sales compare to Kindle sales.

I want to see what kind of support the NEW Graphic.ly provides.

And I want to share all that info with you regularly here on ComixTribe.

Here’s My Offer:

I want to raise the $150.00 Graphic.ly fee to distribute the OVER Graphic Novel through the new Graphic.ly service.

I will raise the money by selling:

PRINT copies of OVER at a new discounted price of $12.99 + FREE SHIPPING


DIGITAL copies of OVER (DRM FREE PDF) at just $2.99.


If (and only if) I can do this by next week at this time, then I will use the funds raised to distribute it through Graphic.ly, and report back here on ComixTribe each month my experience with it, in full detail.

– I’ll describe the upload process

– Share sales across channels.

– And give hard, transparent data about my experience with the service.

– Answer any questions ComixTribe have about the experience.

Okay, that’s the offer.   If you want to see me bring OVER to Graphic.ly, and let us be a digital guinea pig, and it’s worth a few bucks to find out how it turns out, I hope you take me up on this offer.

NOTE: Although the fundraiser is now suspended, if you still want OVER at this discounted rate, I’ll leave the prices set until next Thursday as originally scheduled.

And for those of you unfamiliar with OVER, here’s some details and a preview:

Breaking up is the EASY part….

Struggling to get over the woman who broke his heart, an indy comic book writer makes a graphic novel recounting every detail of his failed relationship. Unfortunately, the book is an unpublishable mess, and threatens to destroy his relationships, career, and best hope at finding love again.

OVER – Artist Edition features the complete romantic comedy graphic novel, including artist concept sketches and a never before seen epilogue.

Story and Art by Tyler James
184 pages, B&W, w/ grayscale

5×7.5 Perfect Bound Trade

ISBN: 978-0-9830689-0-7



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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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  1. Talking Graphic.ly with Micah Baldwin | ComixTribe | April 16, 2012
  1. Brennan says:

    Done. I love this idea, and I hope you’re successful.



  2. Tyler – I will pay for the conversion of Over. Lets talk about how we can work together to show case the power of having the control of your book, its distribution and the learning you can receive from analytics, etc.

    Your story about digital is not uncommon. Putting your book up at Graphicly, or anywhere else and expecting it to generate any sense of return on its own, will always be disappointing. It has to be a mix of marketing, luck and quality to break out.

    We believe that by being in more places and having complete control of your work and its distribution that creators can break out of the current direct market–broken–model.

    Lets work together. Shoot me an email…


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