Webcomics Publishing

As you may have already read, Kleefeld shared some digital comic sales observations as a reaction to Hibb’s thoughts on the price and scale of digital comics. I was going to post a comment on the former’s site but the latter got there first. I’m not going to get in the middle of them hashing things out.

I also won’t hazard to speculate on which set of comic sales numbers are more or less correct, but the pattern is clear that fewer copies of each issue would be sold as opposed to print. That’s a loss of millions, which no publisher wants. How Marvel and DC are going to translate the bulk of print sales to digital remains to be seen. Kleefeld made a great point that Marvel and DC manage intellectual property now and do not exist to give Diamond something to ship or monthlies for you and I to buy. That’s important.

Seems logical to me that not printing floppies saves a lot of money in ink and related costs. Seems to me that most comics will sell digitally (with ads built in) in enough bulk to yield a tidy profit over and above the cost to produce them. Monthly dig-issues can be easily collected into graphic novels if the demand is there, otherwise they can simply be sold long tail and bring in unanticipated sales every month.

Kleefeld also said “comics (for publishers) are self-funded research and development.” That gave me pause and explains much about my dissatisfaction with the current kinds of superhero comic stories being told. This is not to say that individual creative teams or even the companies themselves do not want to create good work but rather that the stories have limited approaches and types they are restricted to.

But how does this relate to webcomics? Say Marvel finds that they can (overall) very profitably produce a variety of 20 page digital comics every month at 99 cents each. That eventually determines audience expectations about what a digital comic should offer and anyone producing comics of any kind will be affected by that. As we watch more and more comic books being turned into movies and video games, it’s folly to think that comics and webcomics are different animals.

It’s a situation worth watching and thinking about so even amateur comic publishers can put themselves in good position as things continue to change.

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