X-POSITION: Phoenix, Upstarts & More Tear Up Bowers & Sims' "X-Men '92"
The announcement late last month that digital distributor Graphicly would close and its key employees join self-publishing platform Blurb was met immediately by questions, many of which centered on whether the company’s clients will be paid what they’re owed.
Originally envisioned as “iTunes for comics,” Boulder, Colorado-based Graphicly was soon overshadowed by competitor comiXology, and in 2012 shuttered its comics app to focus instead on providing visually based books and comics to eBook platforms. In its most recent incarnation, Graphicly was a digital conversion and distribution service: For a fee of $150, the company would convert a comic to ePub and other formats and distribute it to digital platforms such as Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Apple’s iBooks. Graphicly would then act as middleman, collecting money from sales on those platforms and passing it along to the creators. Unlike other digital comics distributors, Graphicly didn’t take a cut of sales on eBook platforms, just the upfront fee.
Since Graphicly announced its closing on May 27, a number of creators have asserted publicly that the company wasn’t tracking sales correctly and hasn’t paid them what they’re owed from sales. Bleeding Cool spoke to Dave Dellecese and representatives of Th3rd World Studios, as well as a former Graphicly employee. At The Beat, Marc Ellerby and Mike Garley told similar stories, and Eric Grissom and Dara Naraghi added their names in the comments. Ellerby tweeted:
In what VentureBeat dubs an acqui-hire, digital comics distributor turned eBook distributor Graphicly will shut down as its key employees, including co-founder Micah Baldwin, join self-publishing platform Blurb.
“None of the assets per se are coming over, but we are talking to publishers who were on Graphicly,” Baldwin told TechCrunch. “We are hopeful that Graphicly users will take their content and manage it with Blurb, and maybe print their books there, too.”
A digital-comics pioneer, Graphicly was initially envisioned as “iTunes for comics,” a phrase commonly associated with competitor comiXology, which, aided by early deals with Marvel and DC Comics, came to dominate the market. Graphicly, which for nearly three years owned comics news/podcast site iFanboy, announced in April 2012 that it would move away from distributing comics on its own app and instead focus on providing visually based books and comics to eBook platforms like Apple’s iBooks, Amazon’s Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook.
“After spending four years working on digital publishing, it became clear that we were telling half the story,” Baldwin said in a statement. “Print is not dead, it’s wildly important in the natural growth of creators, but it too is only half the story for self-publishers now. Combining the best in class print platform from Blurb, with all the ebook learning the Graphicly team has accrued over the past four years, was just too compelling an opportunity to pass up.”
According to Blurb, the addition of the six Graphicly employees will double the size of its eBook team.
“Comics used to be easy. You pitched something and if one publisher didn’t buy it, another would. Margins are tight now, and few comics are profitable. So it’s more like the Hollywood model of pitches and notes and so and so on while years crawl by. The same reasons I never wanted to write a screenplay are now present in comics. The ebooks let me just write the damned thing, and it’s out for public consumption within weeks.”
Warren Ellis’ new ebook Dead Pig Collector, whose original June 18 release was canceled when the author split with Mulholland Books, will now debut July 30 from Farrar, Straus & Giroux. While the new publisher was revealed last month, a release date hadn’t been announced.
The 99-cent crime novel will launch the publisher’s FSG Originals digital line, which GalleyCat reports will expand this fall with an ebook from Robin Sloan (Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore). FSG will publish Ellis’ first nonfiction book, Spirit Tracks, next year.
Here’s the synopsis for Dead Pig Collector, which features a cover by Ellis’ Fell collaborator Ben Templesmith: “Dead Pig Collector introduces readers to Mister Sun, a very proficient businessman whose trade is the murder and spotless removal of human beings. Like any businessman, he knows each transaction is only as good as his client—and today’s client, in Los Angeles, has turned out to be so dangerously stupid that Mister Sun’s work and life are now in jeopardy.”
Amazon Publishing launched its Kindle Worlds store this morning with more than 50 works, including Shadowman: Salvation Sally by Tom King, X-O Manowar: Noughts and Crosses by Stuart Moore, and Harbinger: Slow Burn by Jason Star, all inspired by the Valiant Entertainment properties. In addition, the Self-Service Submission Platform is now open, allowing writers to publish stories based on certain licensed properties and earn royalties in the process.
Billed as the first commercial publishing platform for fan fiction, Kindle Worlds was announced last month as “a place for you to publish fan fiction inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games.”
When Amazon Publishing unveiled Kindle Worlds last month, one of the first questions in comics circles was which publisher would be the first to sign on to the program, which allows fan-fic writers to earn royalties for certain corporate-approved stories. Now we know the answer: Valiant Entertainment.
The recently revived publisher was announced this morning as part of the second wave of licensors, alongside bestselling authors Hugh Howey (Silo Saga), Barry Eisler (John Rain novels), Blake Crouch (Wayward Pines) and Neal Stephenson (Foreworld Saga). Under the agreement, writers will be able to create and sell stories inspired by Bloodshot, X-O Manowar, Archer & Armstrong, Harbinger and Shadowman, with more properties expected to be added later.
In addition, the Kindle Worlds Store will launch later this month with more than 50 commissioned works, including “Valiant-branded” short stories by Jason Starr, Robert Rodi, Stuart Moore and others. The Kindle Worlds self-service submission platform will open at the same time.
Dead Pig Collector, the ebook by Warren Ellis that sports a wonderful Ben Templesmith cover, won’t be released June 18 as planned following the author’s split with his publisher.
“Due to continuing issues, I have today terminated my relationship with Mulholland Books,” Ellis announced Wednesday on his email list, which is also provided by the publisher and thus is being turned off. “Dead Pig Collector is cancelled (for now).”
The 99-cent short story was being offered for preorder on the publisher’s website and was about a character named Mr. Sun. “As far as Mr. Sun is concerned, the heart is just a pump. It’s an anatomical fact he knows quite intimately, and a key component of the knowledge base essential to his particularly devious line of work: murder for hire and body disposal<” the description on the page read. “Certain jobs, however, make it hard to keep this in mind. Like the one that’s brought him from cold, dreary London to sun-soaked Los Angeles, and connects Mr. Sun with a beautiful and perpetually curious woman who has to know everything about Mr. Sun’s methods.”
Mulholland published Ellis’ most recent novel, Gun Machine, in January. Hopefully, Dead Pig Collector will find another publisher soon.
Warren Ellis has a new ebook debuting June
15 18 called Dead Pig Collector, and Sunday, via his Machine Vision email list, he revealed the book’s cover, by his Fell collaborator Ben Templesmith.
Dead Pig Collector, Ellis says, is “a love story. It is also about killing people and effectively disposing of their bodies.” Check out the complete cover after the jump.
Publishing | Heidi MacDonald reports that shareholders of Platinum Studios held a conference call Wednesday, with President Chris Beall sending a letter to founder Scott Rosenberg suspending him indefinitely as the company’s chief executive officer. Rich Johnston posted the press release announcing the call, and some of the topics on the agenda were fairly jaw-dropping. [The Beat]
Publishing | Andrews McMeel Publishing and Universal UClick (which are different divisions of the same company) are collaborating on a new line of digital comics, Udig, which collects themed newspaper strips into short e-books (the one I checked had 55 comics) for $2.99 each. [Good E-Reader]
Have you ever tried explaining particles to a 5-year old? Me neither. I have a hard enough time explaining them to myself. But comic creators Jason Rodriguez (Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened) and Noel Tuazon (Elk’s Run) are doing just that in their new illustrated children’s book The Little Particle That Could.
This 22-page book follows a girl graviton who is out to meet the little photon boy of her dreams. In addition to the illustrated story, Rodriguez wrote a four-page primer on particles, gravitons and protons that is ideal for kids or adults to explain the science behind the story.
Currently, The Little Particle That Could is only available as a digital download for the Kindle, but it’s available there FREE for a limited time. Here are two pages from the book:
The Diesel Sweeties eBook-Stravaganza 3000 is a cut above the average Kickstarter campaign, both in the breadth of the project being considered and the originality of the prizes being offered.
The Kickstarter drive (which has already garnered over $10,000 worth of pledges, over three times its original goal) will pay for Stevens to compile a downloadable e-book of all his Diesel Sweeties strips. While the strip is a free webcomic, and Stevens has made smaller collected editions in a variety of formats, this would be a 3,000-page book that would include every strip; Stevens plans to correct typos and other errors, do some minor editing, and index them—in other words, this would be the definitive edition of Diesel Sweeties.
Immediately after Amazon announced its new full-color tablet, the Kindle Fire, on Wednesday, eagle-eyed comics fans noticed something they hadn’t seen before: evidence of a digital version of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal comics work Watchmen. The next day, DC Comics officially announced an exclusive deal with Amazon to offer not only the full Watchmen story in one download for a single price, but to unleash a wave of other graphic novels and collected editions, all formatted for the November-debuting Fire.
As with any announcement for a product not yet available, there remain some questions about the Kindle Fire, the DC agreement, and their effects on digital comics. Here are the ones Robot 6 has:
CNET has picked up on a rumor that B&N will show off a full-color version of the Nook tomorrow. The supposedly reliable source reports that the new Nook will be Android-based (like the original) and feature a 7-inch screen and a price of $250.
It’s worth taking a look at the lengthy comment string on the post to get an idea of the issues involved; the commenters at CNET are a lot more tech-savvy than I am. But this does raise some issues from a comics reader’s point of view. Most people focus on the screen: The iPad’s backlit screen is bright and makes the colors pop, but it also shortens the battery life and is hard to read in sunlight. Dedicated Kindle and Nook readers prefer their e-paper screens because they are easier on the eyes. The early Kindle had terrible resolution, rendering comics unreadable (I tried), but they seem to have overcome that problem, and the Japanese company Animate is actually publishing yaoi manga direct to Kindle.
But as Steve Jobs could tell you, it’s not all about the technology. Everyone talks about the iTunes store, but I recently had a conversation with a creator who pointed out that when people want books, they go to Amazon, not iTunes. In fact, iTunes makes it hard to find comics unless you are using a dedicated app, because the store doesn’t have a separate section for them. Neither does Amazon, but the search function works more smoothly and displays the results in a more useful manner (with product details right on the search page). So for someone who is looking for the digital equivalent of poking around a comics store, a retailer who specializes in books may have an edge.
And for someone who is just looking to read comics, $250 looks a lot better than $499, the starting price for the cheapest iPad.