TIME Technologizer

ComiXology Is Helping Indie Comics Publishers Go Digital

ComiXology Submit
Clown Fight!, a ComiXology Submit comic by Rob Herrington, Ger Curti and Laura Maruca ComiXology

After one year, its Submit program has published a thousand works of graphic storytelling.

A year ago at SXSW Interactive, I visited with David Steinberger, co-founder and CEO of ComiXology, the company that works with DC, Marvel, Image, Archie and dozens of other comics publishers to put their publications on tablets and smartphones.

The company’s big news at SXSW 2013 was Submit, a new offering that allowed very small publishers and solo creators to sell their work through ComiXology, putting their creations in front of everybody who reads comics with a ComiXology app. At this year’s show, I chatted with Steinberger and John D. Roberts, who heads the Submit program, about the first year.

Turns out that the numbers look quite good: If Submit creators were a publisher, they’d have been #3 among all those who publish through ComiXology in terms of quantity of titles, #6 in downloads and #10 in gross revenue. Submit creators published 1,007 one-shots and issues of ongoing series in the first year, with a total of over 47,000 pages of content.

Far more than the biggest comics publishers, indies are inclined to explore genres beyond superheroes. They even do work that doesn’t fit into any established genre at all. So Submit is making ComiXology more eclectic and interesting. And when I browsed through the Submit titles, I even noticed some big companies using it, such as Tribune Media Services, which is publishing collections of Dick Tracy and Annie newspaper comics.

ComiXology lightly curates the Submit store: “We just want to make sure it’s fairly professional. Otherwise, if we think someone is going to buy this, we’ll put it out there,” Steinberger told me. It splits the revenue 50-50 with the publisher.

More than 20 years ago, I published a small-press magazine — hey, it has its own Wikipedia article — that was distributed through comics stores. We got a lot less than half of the cover price, were at the mercy of local retailers and could barely afford to print the cover in color, let alone the interior. So the fact that it’s now possible for any comics creator who has a shot at reaching an audience to produce something in full color and get it into the same app used by DC and Marvel sounds pretty neat to me.

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