Robot 6

Quote of the day | Mark Millar on digital comics

Mark Millar

Okay, I’m loving the fact that Millarworld books account for 8 of the top 10 downloads in 2010. That’s cool, but what superficially looks like a great deal for creators is less so under a little scrutiny. Yes, you’re eliminating paper, printing, comic store and distributor costs, but there’s hidden costs here I haven’t seen highlighted anywhere.

1/ Apple take 30% right off the bat.
2/ In the case of Wanted, Comixology then splits 50/50 with the publisher.
3/ Then the publisher pays the agent and creative team out of the remaining cash depending on their deal.

In hard numbers, the digital comic is normally half the price of the paper comic, but you have just as many percentages to pay out as a creative team to an electronic distributor and publisher. So effectively the creative team is getting half as much money. For creators, this isn’t great and for comic stores this is awful. I don’t mind paying thirty percent to a local store where my friends work and the guys care about the product. But do I want this money going to Apple?

Kick-Ass and Wanted co-creator Mark Millar, commenting on the fact that issues of both titles made up the bulk of the top ten paid comics list for the Comics by comiXology application. Perhaps more disturbing, though, was something else he noted — “… I checked several sources last night and nobody could tell me what my download numbers were for these supposed record-breaking numbers of mine.”

Also, someone should send him the link to The Not .99 Method that Warren Ellis highlighted yesterday.



Eventually the middle men will be cut out entirely…just a matter of time. Will comics be better for it? Dunno? But I for one am unlikely to catch on to them…I love the smell of ink on paper (old or new) too much to say goodbye.

Can’t they tell how much they sold by dividing the price of each comic from how much each comic made?

Well, I think one of the theories with digital comics is that you will sell them in a much greater quantity than you would a print comic, due to the lower cost, portability, etc. so that could make up for the 30% Apple cut. Then again, the loss due to piracy may cancel that factor out.

This is not always the case, for a small, self-publisher, I make considerably more money on my digital download through Graphicly than I do with my print copies. I appreciate both sets of customers and appreciate all types of business.

Brigid Alverson

January 14, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Two things: Millar seems to be assuming that if it wasn’t for digital, everything would stay the same, but there are a lot of reasons besides digital why sales of paper comics are declining (bad economy, leading in turn to fewer comics shops, plus the decline of Borders—which does carry monthly comics). He may not be making as much from digital, but he will make even less without it.

Also, he may want to charge full cover price for a comic, but nobody wants to pay it.

Marc C, I doubt the middle men will be cut out. Most artists want to make comics, not fiddle around with computer code. It will always make sense for some creators to pay the money so they don’t have to do the work.

“Also, he may want to charge full cover price for a comic, but nobody wants to pay it. ”

But artists/writers still want to be paid decently for their work, which is why digital editions of professional comics/manga aren’t as cheap as people want [and why manga artists ask for higher royalty percentages on digital editions due to lower prices- maybe Millar should look into that on future contracts?].

I dunno Bridget, he’s not really entirely putting off digital- obviously, he’s made a lot of his creator-owned material available. I think he’s just pointing out that the current systems to get that content to people legally is a lot more convulted than fans expect, and not really as beneficial as it could be for creators. It’s a new venue, but is it really a game changer?

Even if you’re selfpublishing, giving a 1/3rd of your price to Apple. Kindle intitally only gave you 35% of your selling price if you self published, taking 65% for themselves. They look to have changed that, but gah, it made publishing something on Kindle very unappealing, and vague- on demand printing pubs like Lulu gives you a base price for your book and let you set the final price [ie- the book costs them say, 6 bucks, and you can charge 7 and make $1 a book, or charge 12 and get 6 a book. Meanwhile, with Amazon, the more you charge, the more they make, for something that requires the same amount of work on their end whatever you charge]

The issues w/sale numbers is something that makes it sound like things are very transparent- I imagine some shady company could very easily screw over an author if they felt like it. I don’t imagine that’s the case with Comixology given Marvel/DC are probably keeping an eye on things, but I could see all kinds of issues with startups promising people a vague chance to get published. And if Mark Millar is having these problems getting info, what does that say for the rest of us making comics?

Maybe people should learn to pay what creators deserve? If you don’t like the price, well, don’t read it. The problem is though, that people can just go bootleg it somewhere [just look at all the goings on involving ebook piracy ], so people don’t value anything anymore, which makes it hard for creators to make money

Oops… anyhoo, again, giving %30 of your price to Apple? Ewww. Dark Horse is looking to get around that based on their web plans, and I imagine others are looking into options- Marvel and Digital Manga have their own pay web-based sites, VIZ has it’s anthology sites w/revolving free content. But Apple and Kindle are both aggressive companies with captive audiences, and odd policies. Digital looks to have it’s own costs, from distribution to formatting to all the different devices/platforms you have to jump through time consuming hoops to get your material on.

Ack, sorry for all the posts-
Then again, Amazon/Apple probably see themselves as retailers/distributors, which is why they demand such a large chunk, mirroring traditional outlets. But I dunno, I’d rather see my money go to the hardworking local comic shop or bookstore or library, or directly to the creator if I were to make an online purhcase [mail order or digital]. But I suppose there still lots of good reasons for Millar and creators to have the content on these devices- but I think his post mostly explains why these things aren’t as cheap as people’ld like, and why they’re not quite as revolutionary for everyone.

I’m glad he brings up the Apple issue. We’ve settled into Apple as the default digital distributor for music, and maybe eventually movies and books. Turning Apple into a digital Walmart — no matter how nice their products might look — doesn’t do any of us any favors.


There are alternatives to Apple for music and movies, though. If I decide I don’t want to buy from them I can and still get access to if not the same, then nearly the same product. And, I almost always do turn to the alternatives because I don’t like being locked into a device that doesn’t like linux (not a concern for most people, I know, but a relevant one for me).

With time I hope the same thing happens with comics. Competition has definitely been good for the consumer with regards to other digital products.

Hey Everyone I just wanted to Clarify the whole Apple situation. In the App store the revenue is split 70/30 (70% of revenue goes to the developer, 30% to apple). However if you offer your App for free in the app store (which I believe most of the Comic book Apps are) than Apple does not receive any revenue, that’s where the whole idea for iAds (ads within free iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch Apps) came from in the first place. All the revenue that developers make from within’ the App (ie: selling comic books) is split within the proper channels nothing from that transaction goes to Apple. So Sorry Mark Millar is wrong on the front. And while I have my issues with Apple just like everyone else here, comparing them to Wal-Mart is a bit harsh and considering the reality that comic book sales are in decline and most casual readers will never step foot in to a traditional brick and mortar Comic book store, any company that allows an App onto some of most popular tech in the world, that allows me and millions of other people to potentially read comics deserves some kudos.

Ravi, you’re wrong and Millar is correct. Apple developed the mechanism for in-app purchases for apps on their platform, they maintain it, and they take 30% of purchases that use it. And you HAVE to use it (or do what Amazon did, which is have people purchase their ebooks on Amazon’s website, and then download them onto iOS afterwards).

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