Digital comics: Lessons learned and our vision for our future

Greetings everyone!

As we gear up towards the release of Issue 2 of Torchbearer, we wanted to share some of the lessons we’ve learned from both the release of issue 1 and the survey released last week. To those who’ve filled it out, thank you so much! If you haven’t filled out yet, please do so! It takes less than a minute to answer and will help us immensely.

So, what have we learned thus far?

1) Digital is here to stay… Yes, I know it feels like I’m just calling the sky blue, but it’s a point that needs to be made because…

2) Print is here to stay, mostly. While we had a few who said that they had given up on buying physical comics, yet most were still willing to get a print copy. Almost everyone who wanted a print copy loved the idea of bundling a digital comic to the print copy, and provided us good indicators as to where to set our price point. This is something we at Odd Truth believe to be the way of the future, but there are some problems that need to be addressed. For example, do we provide a universal code that allows you, the reader, to download it from your favorite market? Do we create our own digital marketplace? Do we do all or none of the above?  

3) iBooks, Kindle and Nook are the (immediate) future of digital comics. We kind of expected that, really, but most didn’t. It’s kind of hard to see this, given that Comixology is SO HUGE in the digital domain, but there are reasons for this conclusion.

– Comixology’s position is owed to being first in the market and by securing the big guys (Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, etc) early on. Now that DC has released their content onto the Nook, Kindle and iBooks (which, by the way, we did single issue releases on the Kindle and iBooks back before it was cool… and allowed. The Nook submission, surprisingly, is still pending. But I digress), it will leave Comixology with a vacuum of exclusive content that has to be filled somehow. And mark our words, DC is NOT a fluke. The other big guys will follow because…

– It’s all about new readership. We now know that for DC readership has gone up 197%. The folks at Time Warner are aware that digital comics will not cannibalize their print sales and are focusing now on expanding their digital readership, in order to use that as a lead-in to buy print copies and other merchandise. And, given the performance of comic book stories at the box office, they feel confident that people, when exposed to comics, will read then (not shun them immediately like they would have 10-20 years ago). But, these people will not have gone through the effort of downloading Comixology, ’cause they see themselves as “not into comic books”. 

But, more often than not, they have a digital bookstore on their device. And that, friends, is how you lead them in. By keeping them in their favorite digital bookstore and exposing them to comic book content, DC is betting that it will convert more people into regular paying customers readers. And we agree with that strategy: we’ve been following it for the past few months! But, we personally feel they are doing a disservice to themselves by just keeping all comics in a single corner of the marketplace (at least for Amazon it seems to be the case). Why? Because new readers won’t necessarily go out of their way to read comic books. But, if they are browsing for a Sci-Fi thriller or looking for new fiction books on corporate espionage and a comic book shows up, we are betting that they’ll be just as likely to buy the comic book as they would buy a book. And that, friends, is our strategy for Issue 2. We’re taking greater control of how Torchbearer appears on these digital markets so that we can maximize this strategy. 

4) Amazon is poised to become the market leader in digital comics. Again, a straightforward conclusion: Amazon has the largest digital bookstore out there, and is cross-platform (a huge incentive for some), so customers are more likely to buy content available there than not. Our own sales data validates this, as we’ve sold 2x as many comics on the Kindle than iBooks. However, for us, it also means that we need to take greater control on how our content is transferred onto the Kindle, as we’ve been hearing complaints from our readers. Further, due to the structure of how Amazon pays royalties (long story short: you don’t make 70% of your sale), it will require us to reevaluate how we are compiling the comics so that we minimize any losses. Rest assured, all this means for you, dear readers, is that we’ll provide a better reading experience with the same or better quality than issue 1.

5) Cross-platform FTW, but CBZ? Really? In light of our comments made about Amazon, this point seems a bit obvious. But it’s worth making: people want to read their content however they want, wherever they want.  The best way to address this would be to release one’s comic through a standard format that everyone can read, such as CBZ. While we’ve had some of our readers encouraging us to release our comics on CBZ, we’ve been reluctant to do so for two reasons. First, we don’t have an online store through which to sell them to you. Second, CBZs are notoriously easy to pirate and share. Given my recent discussions on piracy, it’s not something I want to delve into so quickly again. And it’s not liBut rest assured, once we have a store in place, we’ll most likely release CBZ versions. 

Even so, we are moving forward in releasing our own apps for iOS, Windows and Android (in that order of release). Why then, if we are releasing CBZ’s, which is already cross-platform, and we are targeting all major digital bookstores, are we releasing our own apps?

– We want to address some basic limitations in the current markets.This can only be done by releasing our own app. 

– We want to provide the best reading experience possible. We can only guarantee this on our own app.

– Having our own app would allows us to experiment with new forms of media, such as geo-aware content. motion-based content (like that seen in MadeFire, a company we would be eager to work with) and Augmented Reality (on that last point, some of at Odd Truth know how to create augmented reality content, so we’re excited to put that knowledge into action). 

– It’ll mean faster release dates, as we would not need to have our comic books approved by Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.

Again, we’re pretty stoked for the release of issue 2 (which we think you’ll love even more than issue 1), and we are excited for the future of digital comics! It’s a great time to be making comics!

Best, 

-Nick D.

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