I’m self-publishing a digital comic series I wrote about the metal band Satanic Hell, who get trapped in a Texas run by religious fanatics. I used Graphicly to publish the comic because I wanted to distribute Satanic Hell on Kindle, Apple devices, and other platforms to maximize potential readership. Many readers may not read a PDF or CBZ comic but wouldn’t think twice about picking it up in iTunes/iBookstore. This past spring, Graphicly came out with a service that allows you to upload your comic once and they will convert and distribute it to multiple platforms. It also allows you to track sales across these platforms from your Graphicly account. This can save a creator time as they avoid having to deal with time-consuming conversions to multiple platforms and checking in on different sites for sales. Its why Smashwords is popular for ebooks. For this service Graphicly charges $150 and allows you to keep 100% of the profits from sales minus any percentage platforms such as Kindle keep.
I’ve used the service to publish two issues of Satanic Hell (its a seven-issue series). Overall, I like Graphicly, and depending on your needs and goals, it may be the right choice for you. Their new distribution model is still relatively new and given the short amount of time they’ve been doing it, they’re doing a good job. Surely the service will continue to evolve and improve. There’s some things that need tweaking, but I am pleased so far.
The customer service is great – quick and helpful responses. The interface for uploading your comic is straightforward and its easy to set up a nice panel-to-panel display of your comic. Once your comic is published, they also add the other platforms on your comic’s Graphicly page. So someone could read it and then see its available in Apple’s iBookstore and click there to get it instead of from Graphicly.
You can set the number of pages you want to make visible as a preview, but you need to email Graphicly to do this. This works fine, buts its an extra step. This should be added to the account panel so that creators can adjust it on their own, like DriveThruComics.
To publish through Graphicly you need an ISBN number. While Kindle and Nook don’t require ISBNs, Apple does, so the ISBN is used by Graphicly for all platforms. Currently, ISBN numbers in the US are controlled by the government-granted monopoly Bowker. If you get one through Bowker, its outrageously expensive: $125 for 1, or $250 for 10. This is a prohibitive price for many self-publishers and goes against everything else with tech and the internet getting cheaper. Graphicly charges $75 for an ISBN, which is still outrageous. Smashwords, which also distributes books to multiple platforms, provides ISBNs for free. That’s what it should be if you’re paying $150 to distribute through Graphicly. Unfortunately, its not free at the moment, so the ISBN is another cost to consider when publishing with Graphicly.
When you upload your comic to Graphicly, you enter the names of all people who helped create it: writer, artists, colorist, letterer, editor, etc. You can identify primary authors as well from this list. However, when you submit it for distribution, Graphicly sends all the names you listed to the platforms as authors- even the editor. So each of your titles could have 5 “authors” listed on Kindle and Apple. (And none of the platforms list out specific roles like colorist under the book- they only list people as authors and put them in the main title.) If you want just the writer and primary artist listed, you must directly call the platforms, like Kindle, and try to convince them to change it. Not exactly saving you time here. I haven’t bothered with this, but its something that Graphicly can and should fix.
For Graphicly’s page, you can also upload photos and fill out information on each creator, as well as characters in your book. This is a cool feature, but to add new creators and characters, and make changes to them, you must email Graphicly directly. You can’t manage this information on your own, which is weird. I’m sure Graphicly staff have many better things to be doing than adding Dr. Porcupine’s profile to your comic page. Fortunately, this seems like an easy fix for Graphicly. Give the creator the control to have fun with this option and save the staff time.
The first page of Graphicly’s website shows six different platform icons: Apple, Nook, Kindle, Google Books, Kobo, and Graphicly (web/Facebook). It appears that by paying $150 that your comic will be distributed on all six platforms. This is somewhat misleading. While it may be true that someday your comic will be distributed on these six platforms, in effect, you are only distributing on three platforms: Kindle, Apple and Graphicly. The platforms of Google Books, Kovo, and Nook are not working yet. Graphicly told me they are still working with them on processing submissions. Kindle and Apple are where most sales occur, so its good to see your books on them, but they should be clear and upfront about the others not being ready yet. One issue is that there is no way (except on the web through Graphicly) for Android users to get and view your comic. One fan emailed me saying that the Kindle App on Android would not display the comic and crashed, meaning that only Kindle Fire and Kindle for desktops work for viewing. Until Google Books comes into play or they bring the Graphicly app back, the best way for a fan to read your comic on Android is with a PDF or CBZ (like at DriveThruComics). At some point your books could go up on the remaining three platforms, so in the future, the $150 would really count for six platforms. Graphicly also has plans to add 4 more platforms as distributers, which includes Asia.
When you upload your comic, you need to put a release date. For the first issue, I was told 10 days would be enough time once it was uploaded for it it to appear on Kindle and Apple, so I timed my release accordingly and it worked great. But I happened to get in right before they sent a big batch of comics in. For the second issue, ten days was not enough time. It took 12 days for it to appear on Apple (2 days after the release date), which isn’t ideal but not terrible. The Kindle version has not appeared yet (four days since release date). I was told Kindle’s approval time for books is a week to two weeks. Its been 2 weeks since submission, so tack on a couple days for Graphicly’s processing time and it should be up soon. This seems to be a problem with the platform companies and their ability to process incoming books. You would think a big player like Amazon would have this down. Regardless, given this problem you would need to build in two to three weeks for your release date to ensure the comic is available on those days.
Authors may want to change prices of their books as way to offer discounts and stimulate sales. To do this, you must email Graphicly – you can’t change this on your own in your account. Ideally, Graphicly will eventually allow creators to change the pricing and the date it goes into effect on their own. So I asked to change the price of Satanic Hell #1 from $0.99 to free when issue #2 came out. Price changes happen immediately on Apple and Graphicly while they told me to expect Kindle to take around three weeks for the change to appear. Graphicly is talking with Kindle about faster response times for pricing. This issue lies with Kindle, so to get around having some out for free and others not, you have to send the date for your price change three weeks in advance for now. With my own price request, I sent several emails and got confirmation, but the change didn’t occur until a week later. Not sure what the issue was, but it would be easier if Graphicly let you directly set the pricing and date of the price change on your account panel.
According to Graphicly, it takes 30 days for you to see full sales for a month, since some marketplaces report monthly or quarterly. I’m not sure which platform the quarterly bit is referring to since after a month, it appears that all Kindle and Apple sales are there. The initial Kindle and Apple sales did show up for me after a couple weeks. Hopefully these platforms switch to real time sales because creators want to measure interest in their work in real time – not a month later.
Graphicly has a nice sales display, although its not perfect. For example, it lists your profit from each platform for each comic, but revenue still says $0.00. You just have to total it yourself. And strangely, while Graphicly has an app for Facebook, the display doesn’t accurately track Facebook likes, which do show up correctly underneath the comic window on Graphicly. Not a big deal, but strange. (On the window for Satanic Hell #1 it shows 37 likes, but shows 2 on the Sales Display.) On the sales report, it also shows number of opens and reads (I’m assuming the latter means full read through), and I assume this is accurate. One issue people might have is that there is no way of verifying sales that I know of. If there are glitches in the system, they may be hard or impossible to discover unless you somehow know you made a lot of sales and they didn’t show up. Perhaps you can try going to directly to the platforms for a spot check, but I’m not sure if they would share that info. It would be nice if somehow Graphicly allowed you to see your sales account on Kindle, Apple, and the others – the number of views, sales, etc.
Each issue of Satanic Hell is $0.99. Here’s what the profit looks like on each platform. I’m distributing separately on DriveThruComics, so I show that as well for comparison:
Profit for sale of one $0.99 issue
$0.66 on Graphicly (67%)
$0.66 on Apple (67%)
$0.35 on Kindle (35%)
- – - – - -
$0.59 DriveThruComics (60%)
When you pay $150 on Graphicly, you get to keep 100% of the profit from each sale of your comic. The profit is only $0.66 because they take out credit card fees. If you publish with Graphicly without paying the $150 you only get 70% of sales, so that means you would get just $0.35 an issue sold. In contrast, with Smashwords (which just does ebooks, not comics at this time), you publish for free and they take 10% additional on top of platform percentage. For Kindle, if your work is between $2.99 and $9.99 you get 70% of the sale.
So…Hopefully that was a helpful overview. Graphicly provides a good service. Most of these issues mentioned above can be resolved. It’s still new and things are always changing. The real question is if you can sell enough to justify the $150. If you sell half of the issues on Kindle and half on Apple, you need to sell 300 issues to break even at $0.99 an issue. If your comic is $2.99, then you would only have to sell 80 copies to break even. Perhaps Graphicly will introduce a service with a lower price and they get a partial cut.