Friday, October 25, 2013

My Experience with Comixology Submit

To date, my feelings on ComiXology Submit pretty much echo the thoughts expressed by Heather L Sheppard here on this blog post.

I also would have asked many of the questions raised at the ComiXology panel at the NYCC which you can read here.

So far I am mostly very happy with what ComiXology is doing to help me get my work out to a good market.

However, I support what has been linked to and posted above, and I have some suggestions of my own for the company.

The way I see it, digital media is going to change the playing field for comics in North America, and probably for many other markets as well. It looks to be ushering in a whole new readership who, while they may like super heroes, are looking for and are open to different genres and styles not produced by the Big Two.

It is probably safe to say that historically and to date, comics have only reached a niche audience in North America. And while other comic cultures in Europe and Asia are of comparable size, I think they are healthier with more types of stories and a greater, broader appeal. This makes me think that, relatively, the comic audience in North America is only scratching the tip of a much bigger iceberg.

"Indie" comics are the rest of that iceberg and ComiXology is doing a fairly good job, so far, bringing the indies to market. Besides a very good app and the cloud service, the ComiXology Podcast is a great listen and a smart way to get the word out to customers on new arrivals. But Submit titles could use a little more push from ComiXology.
So.
My first problem with ComiXology Submit is Guided View.
It is a nice added bonus to the ComiXology experience, but I suspect it is also a crutch to the Submit system. Therefore my suggestion would be to give creators the ability to do it themselves and have the staff review it. This could open the floodgates somewhat for accepted creators and move their next issues onto the service more quickly.
However, we need to consider as well, what would happen if the floodgates did just open up. If accepted creators did their own guided view and could submit comics more quickly, there could be an over abundance of titles to choose from. Quality could go out the window, and ComiXology could end up like the App Store.
My second problem with ComiXology Submit is a lack of statistical tools.
Since submitting my work earlier back in the year, I have yearned for ComiXology to give me the tools to see the stats of my published comics. Although, the things is, I am not too sure what the benefit would be to having that information.
Sure, small creators could potentially benefit from stats related to the comics they have published on ComiXology. But to be honest, if I had something like a download counter, for example, I am not really sure what use it would be to me. Certainly, I could see how many times my comic had been downloaded and therefore bought on a daily basis, but how would that help me market the comics I am creating? App creators tout how many times their app has been downloaded on whichever store, so I guess comic publishers could do similar chest pounding and possibly use it as a marketing tool, but I doubt in the long run it would help anyone all that much.

But!
A download counter could however be helpful to potential buyers debating the purchase of a more unknown title to see if others have bought it as well. Seeing a download number next to a title, could give them the push they need to buy the comic. Or if not a download counter, perhaps reader reviews like something similar to what Netflix offers its subscribers, could help people make smart purchases and invest in titles that would appeal to them.

Speaking of Netflix, ComiXology Submit comics are almost like a Netflix Original Series. And like Netflix, ComiXology needs this original content to take off in a big way.
The problem for ComiXology Submit comics is the Big Two. DC and Marvel Comics take up a massive amount of space on the store and this makes it somewhat difficult to find different content from smaller publishers. Since they are such a big part of the business, most of the promotions involve their work. This pushes small creator owned comics off the shelves to the back of the store, or as mentioned in the Bleeding Cool article, down into the “basement”.
Clearly though, a different group of readers are buying comics from the ComiXology store than the readers that go to comic shops. Many ComiXology buyers appear to be interested in more than just gods in tights, and clearly want different, unique stories to choose from.
So my third problem with ComiXology Submit might be ComiXology itself.
At least in its current incarnation. DC and Marvel have created an image of comics in North America that has kept potential new readers of comics at bay, and ensures that there is limited growth for people that create “alternative” comics. I can see that ComiXology Submit will change that, but baby steps are slowing it down.
Take for example large television networks in the USA. The major networks churn out an amazing amount of dull programming under the false impression they know what viewers want. But the successes of TV series such as AMC’s Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead show that a large number of viewers are actually greatly interested in unique programming never before offered by the major networks. Programming that the networks are unwilling to take a chance on. “Build it and they will come” looks like it works.
My point is that there are new readers out there who have never read a comic. They’ve never read a comic because they aren’t interested in super heroes, not because they don’t like comics. And ComiXology has an opportunity to change that.
In order to do that it needs to attract that larger group of new readers to ComiXology Submit, and make the titles available there a much bigger part of the app experience without pushing away the Big-Two and the fans that they have brought with them.
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