Thoughts on comics in the iPad Age

From: Dial H for Holden

Ok, some loose thoughts, that may or may not add up to anything and that not only will you disagree with but, over night, I’ll probably find fault with too.

In order to prevent me be a dithering waffler (as I am prone to do) I will state the following as ABSOLUTELY correct assertions and shall brook no compromise. Though, obviously, that’s just an affectation. As I’m probably dead wrong on all fronts.

1) The NEW digital comic format is landscape. Uh hu. It is. We’ve all been fighting it, because, frankly, we’ve too much invested in the old portrait format of print. But we’re all wrong. DC have a couple of books that are pure landscape format (they seem to have started by producing work that can be both landscape ipad and portrait print, by having an artificial half way point on the art, and getting the artist to keep that in mind when drawing. But, I don’t think it’s a strange hybrid animal and if you do it so it works for ipad it works less well for print – and vice versa)

2) Cheap comics weekly or Expensive long one offs. That’s it. That’s your choice. The monthly comic book format, 22 pages for $2.99 is a result of the current distribution model and, while it sort of works ok, produces books that are really perceived as not being great value for money.

A diversion on economics

Look, I’ll be honest, I know nothing about economics, but I know this: a thing is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. You can scream and shout about how people don’t value your work because they refuse to pay $3.99 for 20 pages of comics, but you don’t get to decide how much someone is willing to pay for it. Y0u can refuse to sell them at other prices, sure, but you’re forgetting the work is probably available elsewhere, for free and without DRM (and if you succeed at stamping that out, well done, you’ve done what millions of dollars and thousands of US attorneys have been unable to do). Figure out a way to give readers value for money. You will be rewarded with their money.

3) Remember I just said landscape format? Here’s another thing: landscape format between 1 and 3 panels. That’s roughly half a comic book page. That means a 16 US comic page story becomes, basically, 32 pages of comic content on the ipad and a great price for that is 99cents. There’s your value for money right there.

4) Everywhere, everywhen. Go via comixology, graphic.ly, iVerse and whatever. Sell from your website as DRM free content. try and coordinate the damn things though (good luck on that front. It will be a nightmare).

5) Offer DRM free to readers who bought from a DRM store. Why not? What have you got to lose. Ask for a screen shot (or a copy of the digital receipt) or something, and email them a drm free copy – for themselves to keep.

6) Once you’ve got a bunch of weekly comics, get them collected and resell at a good discount for the lot, and include backmatter if you’ve got it. Make it enough of a good deal that people will buy it even if they’ve already bought the strips.

7) Unless ONE member of the team can bring a massive massive audience (thereby seriously increasing the readership and profit), you need to go it alone as much as possible. I’m sorry, there it is. The smart money is on individuals writing, drawing, colouring and lettering. The tiny pot of cash can only be divied up so many ways.

8 ) You’re going to get one good shot at getting money off people for one comic, the long tail is great in theory but it works for the store and not for the individual creator. Which is why you want to maximise that by either selling lots cheaply, weekly, or by selling one massive tome at a high price. And, you know what? if splitting a massive book into short chapters to sell to finance the creation of the work was good enough for Dickens, it should be good enough for you.

UPDATE:

9) Don’t forget, ignore all of the above and just make some pretty great comics. That’s good too.

should be good enough for you.

And that’s all I’ve got. For now.