By Michele Brittany, a West Coast Bleeding Cool Correspondent
Last year, Joshua Hale Fialkov and artist Joe Infurnari were shopping around their project, The Bunker, the story of five students who receive letters from their future selves cautioning them about their choices that could impact the fate of humanity. Between the two creators, they have been nominated for the Eisner, Harvey, and Emmy awards, however none of the mainstream comic book publishers would take a chance on their creator-owned story.
ComiXology VP of Communications and Marketing Chip Mosher was joined by Fialkov, writer of Elk's Run (Villard), and Tumor (Archaia), Echoes (Top Cow), at the Wondercon panel "ComiXology Submit: The Future of Self-Publishing" Saturday afternoon, April 19th. Fialkov and Infurnari "wanted to retain all the rights" to their story because "money is made from selling the rights." In addition, Fialkov said he wanted 100 percent control over the series release, but more importantly, "wanted responsibility if it [The Bunker] was a failure."
Fialkov and Infurnari turned to Submit, the cloud-based program developed by comiXology, which the company launched in early 2013. The application provides creators a venue to publish their independent series in a digital format and downloadable to several mobile applications.
"Retailers can see a proven track record," Fialkov said and added one can "build an audience and actually make money." Creators set their own price, which Mosher clarified that the minimum price had to be at least 99 cents. Fialkov cautioned that "price point is important" but so is not undervaluing one's creative output. And once the series is published on comiXology, self-promotion becomes critical.
The Bunker has done quite well in the digital format. The series hit number one in July/August last year and became the top series for comiXology and a runaway Submit success story. According to Fialkov, the sales returns through comiXology were up to 20 times better than any of the other venues he and Infurnari offered the series. Oni Press, who picked up the print rights, is now releasing the popular series in print. The publisher had copies for sale, including the limited Francesco Francavilla cover.
Mosher opened up the floor to questions and an audience member asked how long the wait is from time of submission to either an acceptance or rejection. Mosher stated, "Ideally, one to two months, but currently the reviews are averaging 90 days."
A question concerning profit margin and how that works was brought up. Comixology splits the proceeds 50/50 after expenses are covered, however Mosher could not go into further detail given the non-disclosure agreements comiXology has with creators and publishers. Fialkov added that he could field the question and said the secret to the profit margin was two-fold: "make stuff people want to read, and do not quit your day job."
Since Submit's launch about 670 submissions have been rejected and that is largely due to file issues, specifically the quality of the submission. Mosher could not stress enough the importance of "knowing how to properly scan one's work" as well as reading and following the Submit guidelines. Mosher stated that comiXology's review is not based on an equation but two questions: "Would someone buy it?" and "Is the submission professional quality?" He also said the reviews are completed with "sensitivity".
Another reason for rejection? Mosher said that using the font "Comics sans" on projects submitted are an instant rejection. Hence, lettering is an important component of a creator's submission. Fialkov strongly recommended Richard Starkings' Comic Book Lettering: The Comicraft Way and Mosher concurred.
Of the 2,800 submissions submitted to comiXology, 2,500 have been reviewed and over one thousand have been published – approximately 47,000 pages of content. According to Mosher, a lot of creators are uploading one-shots, but he said submitting bundles provides comiXology the opportunity to optimize the series by spreading out it over a specific period of time. In addition, Mosher said he "loves webcomics" and would very much like to see more submitted. And according to Fialkov, "it is a great time to self-publish."
All photos in this article are courtesy of Michele Brittany
Michele Brittany is an independent popular culture scholar and semi-professional photographer currently editing an upcoming anthology on the influence of James Bond on popular culture. She regularly posts reviews and analysis on the spy/espionage genre on her blog, Spyfi & Superspies.