When I started production of Satanic Hell, my plan was to make a digital comic series. I was pissing-my-pants thrilled at the idea once I learned it was possible. I wasn’t too interested in making physical copies because of the expenses involved. If it happened, cool, but it wasn’t my goal. I’m a little surprised at how many people still want the chance to start out making comics with physical copies. I have nothing against physical copies but when starting out, it can be a risky route to take. Getting a comic produced is a task in and of itself and building an audience even more so. While a Kickstarter can help build an audience, it’s likely best to start out with digital unless you have Neil Gaiman’s demon offspring on your team or Josh Whedon’s fan base starving for your next issue. There’s no shame in digital publishing. It’s not a let-down or “settling” for something less than the “sublime” physical. Digital comics are booming and they’re the future. Physical comics will always be around, but they will likely be subsumed by digital in numbers.
And digital comics are amazing. You can walk around with hundreds of them in your damn pocket and read them anywhere! That’s some serious magical power. If I went back to 1970 and told comic book fans that I had a magic device that could contain thousands of comics in it, they would shit bricks and burn their collections just to get a hold of it (and probably burn me too as a witch). And now we all can get one of these magical comic transportation devices that also happens to function as a communication device to the entire world. Digital comics don’t take up monstrous amounts of space in your room or apartment. It makes moving easy. They don’t risk wear and tear like physical copies. Your Amazing Spider Slug #1 will always be in mint fracking condition. The last time I had to go through yet another move, I sold my 3,000 plus comic book collection (which had tons of valuable gems in it) for $750. Why? To get rid of it as fast as humanly possible so I could move in peace. It’s so great not having to own and manage a lot of stuff. I sold my 500+ CD collection after grad school. I’m all digital now. Books? Same. No more lugging around boxes of books that feel like concrete breaking your back in two just so they can collect dust and maybe impress some guests. And trees love me for that. I read or buy digital novels and comics wherever I go, because my books and comics are always with me. I know many comic fans love physical copies, and that’s totally cool. Physical copies can be nice to bring to a convention to sign and show potential fans your goods. My main point is that if you’re creating a comic, going for digital is not a bad thing. Think about your goals when creating comics and rate your priorities. Some people think success is having a physical copy in hand. I understand the appeal, but if your top goal is to get people reading your work, then going the digital only route makes a lot of sense and you avoid a lot of financial burden. Making comics is still a risky, expensive endeavor with artists, colorists, letterers, promo and website maintenance all requiring money and time.
Regardless of whether or not you produce a physical comic book, a creator should absolutely have a digital version available. I keep running across small indie comics I’m interested in buying but there’s no digital. Sale lost. For example, Alan Moore et al’s Occupy Comic looks like an awesome compendium of amazing artists and writers in support of the anti-Wall Street occupy movement. But unless I want a paper copy, which I don’t, I can’t read the thing. Its chock full of anti-authoritarian goodness, but how I can get inspired to fight the man if I can’t get a hold of it? Is it some “ethical” or “artistic” stance against digital? Digital presents exponentially more power to get the message out than paper (just ask the occupy movement themselves). How does playing gatekeeper help the revolution? When creators do this, it’s frustrating. The creator loses a sale and I lose the opportunity to see what their work is all about. Please, folks, use digital as much as you can. Multiple platforms. Spread it far and wide. See the list of digital distribution options.
Digital comics should be priced reasonably too. That’s just good practice in general, but even more important for the new or less-well known creator trying to get as many eyes reading their material and build a fan base. Even amazing material won’t get noticed if it doesn’t have readers. Besides not making your comic available in digital, the next best thing you can do to limit your readership is to put a high price tag on your work. I understand the desire. Comics still take money to make and you want to recoup some of that. The reality is you’re unlikely to make any money on comics. Even well-known indie creators aren’t raking it in. So focus on building readership. Most of us are making comics because we love comics (and we’re slightly deranged), so it’s not about cash. Your average comic fan is more likely to spend some dough on an unknown property if it’s affordable. So what’s a reasonable price? Individual issues should probably be 99 cents to $1.99 (unless there’s some other mitigating factor like the mob has your boyfriend tied up and is going to cut his tongue out if you sell your comic for anything less than $4.99). Some indies charge $2.99 for new releases – same as their physical prices – but lower prices later when they offer the collected volumes. That’s acceptable if your sales and visibility are high enough. For most self-published works though, less expensive is better. Graphic novels should be around $3.99-$9.99 depending on length and the cost of your individual issues. Making your first issue free, at least eventually, is also a good idea. Do you have any more thoughts on digital comics?