Amazon, Smashwords, and Comixology

I am in the process of converting our comics into ereader friendly comics.

The fact that it’s taking me forever to convert webcomic pages into ereader formats is an irony that is not lost on me. (In my defense, there are so many different settings, page sizes, and then the upload process itself. It’s… time consuming.)

A quick run-down of thoughts:

Comixology

Comixology is the reason I started converting all these files to digital.*

Comixology is the big one that I see all my comic friends talking about. It was a bit of a long and involved process (some of it due to their vetting of submissions, but most of it due to the fact that I can’t seem to stay focused long enough to finish any one project in a timely manner.) I finished setting up our profile in late June (or July? time has no meaning to me) and sent in the first Era issue. It was accepted fairly quickly, but then came the long wait while they “processed” it.

While Comixology was setting up the first issue of Era, I was riding high on a feeling of general optimism, so I decided to tackle the “Amazon Problem,” which is it’s own little area of thought that I’ll get to in a moment. Because every optimistic upswing is followed by a devastating crash (at least, for me) I quickly noticed that I’d sent Comixology the wrong file. When we’d first printed these comics, I’d sent a file with a typo on the first page. I’d thought that I’d long since deleted that page and replaced it, but because the process of getting accepted into Comixology was so long and involved, it turns out I’d started building the ebook before I ever sent the files to get printed (where the guy running the printing press found the typo!)

Horror!

Heading back into the Comixology dashboard, I realized that they were dead serious when they said “If you hit the submit button, there is no options to change your mind, you can not re-edit this comic.” So that’s super embarrassing and permanent.

In the time it has taken for me to get one issue accepted and another submitted to comixology, I’ve made some serious inroads into Amazon. The one really nice thing? We can sell our comics for as low as 99cents!

Amazon

Okay. Deep breath.

There are a lot of things I’m not good at, and figuring out (and filling out) forms is one of them. Amazon is a massive sprawling beast, and in order to do one thing, sometimes you have to do another (unnamed) think first. I finally broke down and instead of submitting another useless email help request, I gave in and asked them to cal me.

Another thing I’m not good at? Talking on the phone.

But the lady at the other end of the line told me in which order to set up my profiles and products. Something that was either reassuring, or not, depending on your point of view, was that she was also googling answers to questions that I was asking. I found that particularly empowering because I’m fairly good at googling answers (it’s how I got through my college electronic arts class).

After setting up a seller’s account and putting up the two physical comic books we have (All the Growing Things and Vagus Project**) I was then able to make an author profile at Amazon’s Author Central. From there I was able to dig around and get into the KDP dashboard which is how all the digital publishing magic happens at Amazon.

(My author page, linking to all our uploads at Amazon)

Whereas Comixology wanted high-resolution tiffs compiled into a high-res pdf, Amazon will take whatever you have. I used their Comic Creator to set up everything up, and because double-page spreads are important to me, I had to turn some other features off. There’s also supposed to be a way to insert a page where you can have text (and hypertext) that the kindle can resizes and manipulate, but I was never able to figure that out, no matter how much I wanted to.

The Comixology dashboard is pretty stripped down, while the Amazon dashboard is a maze of choices and decisions. At Comixology I was able to set the price to whatever I want (as long as it ended in 99cents – no freebies at comixology, or at least if there were, I couldn’t figure it out). Amazon on the other hand puts in price requirements based on your file sizes (and my files are huge.) People always joke “why would you ever take a 35% cut from Amazon when you have the option to take a 70% cut?” The answer to that is when you have a massive file (AtGT the digital book is about 70mb) Amazon will cut out all profit, citing that the “delivery” is too expensive if you don’t charge more (I chose 4.99 for the digital book.) While I didn’t lose money selecting the 70%, I didn’t make any money either. I was at a deficeit. But when I selected the 35% option, I now make a $1.70 for every $4.99 ebook that sells.

Smashwords

Pricing! Many authors I follow talk about using Smashwords as a control for pricing at Amazon. It doesn’t always work, and when it does it doesn’t work fast, but it’s still a thing I’d like to try!

I am looking forward to figuring out Smashwords, only at this point I need to use a Word doc to build my comics, and I don’t have Word. I have Open Office, and I guess it inserts a bunch of crummy code when you try to build your book. John, on the other hand, has Word, but only on his work computer… which means I sort of hover around his office, waiting for him to get off work. By the time he IS off work, he’s too exhausted to struggle his way through the Smashwords Style Guide.

I’d like to use Smashwords to offer the first of the ebook issues for free (regardless of the fact that the comics are free on the website), and then drop the rest to 99cents, and I have it in my head that Smashwords is the only way to do price matching with Amazon – I’ve read a lot of stuff about that, but “reading” and “doing” are two different things, so we’ll see what it is I actually “know.”

Another hesitation is that the file size requested for images is something like 600 pixels x 800 pixels, which seems incredibly small to me. I’m not a fan of how small the text looks at the larger sizes, and this seems just way too small to me.

Notes:

* Seriously, it drives me nuts to say that because I drew them digitally to begin with! However, the entire time I was/have been creating pages, I’ve been planning for print, so there is a substantial switch-up with how I’ve had to think/re-think my process.

** These two books are the only ones we make money on. The single issue comics (Era Issues, AtGT issues), were a small print run from a local printer. The cost per unit to print is pretty big ($3.50 – $4.50 per issue) compared to the fact that we sell them for $5 a piece. We make our printing costs back, but not quite enough to pay for printing more.

Well intentioned friends have suggested that we try to sell them for $8 to $10 in order to pay for the books and make a little money, but I don’t think I can sell a black and white 22page comic for that high of a price with a clear conscience. the same well meaning friends have also suggested we color the books, and then sell them for 10$ or so, not realizing just how expensive color printing is, and again, how little people will pay for physical comic issues.

Trade paperbacks (like the Vagus and AtGT book), however, sell fine at higher prices, and are where we make the most of our money back so that we can continue printing and expanding our lines. (I can not wait until we have the first five issues of Era together so that we can print that in one large book!)

2 Responses

  1. I feel your pain, and rather than dealing with all the madness I am writing, which ought to be productive but sometimes I wonder. Keep your chin up, your work is well done and engaging.

    • Weyodi!

      I’ve been thinking about you! How are you doing? I was thinking you must have a new book or two ready to go up soon, don’t you? I should write you a long email of questions (or just head over to your blog) and bug you!

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