Digital comics site graphic.ly, which offers both mobile and iPad comics, is making a big push to bring its catalogue offering up to 1000 books within the next few days.
It's pretty much on course to do that, too - with 120 books added to the store in the course of just the past week.
"With a week to go, our goal of getting more than 1,000 books in the store in almost there," enthuses graphic.ly co-founder and CEO Micah Baldwin, whose backers include Microsoft (the site uses some of their technologies like Windows Azure to deliver its books and also offers comics using Windows PD), Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur Dave McClure (who also recently invested in OneTrueFan.com) and venture investor Chris Sacca. Northstar Ventures were the first investors in Graphic.ly through the Proof of Concept fund in August 2008 and are now the sole UK investor. (Despite the clever choice of domain, we can't find any evidence to suggest graphic.ly is backed by rich Libyan oil barons...).
Graphic.ly also owns the online comics book community iFanboy, which they bought for an undisclosed figure back in February.
graphic.ly is the brainchild of founder Kevin Mann, who, frustrated by the difficulty of keeping up with his favourite comics from the confines of “a small town in the northeast of England,” (graphic.ly has an officie in Middlesbrough as well as its headquarters in Boulder, Colorado) and, struck by the ease of downloading digital content from iTunes, determined to create “a similar experience for digital comics.”
graphic.ly is aiming to appeal to a broader market than just teenage fanboys. “We’re out to make comic books cool for everybody," says Baldwin. "We’re not building a system solely for collectors.“
Pushing its offering to 1000 books, graphic.ly, which already features books from publishers such as Marvel, BOOM! Studios, IDW, Tom Dell’Aringa and Top Cow, is on the hunt for more titles from indie creators.
"One of the questions I get asked a lot is about our willingness to distribute independent comic creators and publishers," Baldwin notes in a recent newsletter to graphic.ly subscribers. "Our answer is simple: Yes. If you are an independent creator or publisher, just shoot us an email and we will go through a short review process and work with you to submit your work and any bonus features you might have that you want to include.
"A great example of an independent creator who started as a web comic is Hot Mess by Diana Falzone," he continues. "It's a great book about a girl's mixed emotions when going to high school for the first time. Another cool independent book is Modelinia's comic The Silver Silhouette, which is a follow up to their comic from last year's Fashion Week that starred Hiedi Klum.
|Diana Falzone's Hot Mess comic - check out the official web site at http://hotmesscomic.com|
"We couldn’t be more excited about being on their service," says Hot Mess writer and producer Geoff Skinner. "Their graphic interface work most anywhere including iPhones, iPads, Android, Mac and PC. Plus, there are all kinds of special features that come with their downloads."
Of course, Baldwin also knows that having big brands on his platform will help drive traffic, and when Marvel came on board in September he was quick to acknowledge its importance. But, as he told Robot6 over at Comic Book Resources, the success of digital comics distributors will, at the end of the day be all down to creating a community and engaging an audience socially.
"We want to work with publishers, big and small, who work on how they interact with that community," he added, clwarly feeling some other digital comic distributors aren't doing enough to give themselves a clear identity since, ultimately, all of them will probably offer the same catalogue.
"... ComiXology’s primary focus is selling books," he cites as an example. "That’s all they want to do right now. We want you to talk about it, engage, interact, and it’s not possible to do that if you don’t have at least an account. If you look at our iPad app, you’ll see you can peruse everything, you can peruse the books and then decide if you want to buy. We haven’t put social into the iPad app, but it’s coming, and I think when the web app comes along we will have more of that."
While there are plenty of other digital comics publishers in the marketplace vying for attention, graphic.ly does seem to be making a determined effort to engage with the existing comics fan community as well as building an audience beyond it, an approach that has gone down well with Top Cow publisher Filip Sablik who likes the “slow and steady” sales curve of digital titles, the opposite of the boom-and-bust curve for print editions. “My hope is eventually it will replace the spinner racks that used to be in grocery stores and drug stores,“ Sablik told CoBiz Mag back in August. “We’ve kind of lost that feeder system.“
graphic.ly are also hugely enthusiastic about creating comics solely for digital platforms, arguing that as long as print publishers see digital comics simply as another distribution channel, they are doomed to fail. Which they might well be...
• Graphic.ly and comic book creator Jim Mahfood (Clerks, Spider-Man and more) recently invited illustrators and graphic novelists to submit three pages of one of their comic books in order to win three mentoring sessions with Jim and have their comic published and promoted by Graphic.ly. Check out details of the competition here.
• More from Micah Baldwin about graphic.ly's philosophy here on YouTube:
• Check out graphic.ly at http://graphic.ly/
• graphic.ly on Facebook
• graphic.ly on Twitter
• Marvel and Graphic.ly part 2: Graphic.ly’s digital difference (Comic Book Resources)
• An Interview with Micah Baldwin, CEO and co-founder of Graphic.ly (TechCrunch TV)
• Getting Funded: An interview with Kevin Mann on Fuel Your Venture
"The best advice I can give around getting funding is to research, research, research. Find the firms and partners that are interesting. Then ask, ask, ask. Find everyone you know who might know someone either at that firm or connected to the firm, and with a succinct, well thought out email, ask to be introduced."
• Michah Baldwin's 'Learn to Duck': Success Through Failure blog
• An Open Letter to Print Publishers by Micah Baldwin
"Create for digital. Expand your vision beyond the printed page. Think about all the amazing things that digital gives you. Want to change the story on the fly? Digital can do that. Want to allow your readers to engage within the story itself? Digital can do that. Want your story to actually move? Digital can do that.
"Imagine a world where your readers are not consuming but engaging with your content. Digital can do that. Imagine a world where you can connect directly with your fans. Digital can do that. Imagine anything. Digital can do that..."