Friday, May 22, 2015

The Joke That is Comixology

Yup, I found Comixology to be a complete and utter joke.

At least for self-publishers looking to it as a revenue source(excluding superstar SPs like Jeff Smith and Terry Moore).

Let me backtrack a little...

I held off on going digital for a long time. Farlaine the Goblin was meant to be held and seen large and flipped through. It was meant to be read in print.

Going digital provided one large draw - availability. No longer were there shipping costs or printing costs. You were never out of stock. People around the world could find and read the book easily.

But there is also the reality that as soon as you go digital your work will be stolen and spread. People will be able to get it for free. It is a guarantee. People will always be too lazy to scan the printed book, but if they can download a torrent of the PDF and repost it in 30 seconds? Of course people will do it.

So I gave the idea of going digital a lot of thought, and after two years, I finally decided to do it. The potential growth of my audience, both to digital readers and overseas, seemed a fair trade-off.

But the idea was still that you’d expect it to sell.

That you'd expect in exchange for worldwide piracy you'd sell a bunch of copies. You’re already discounting it dramatically($4.99) from the printed version($13), so you’d think the people who'd heard about it would give it a try. Even impulse buy it to read later.

Well, don’t look to Comixology for that.

My book first hit their site on January 28, 2015 via Comixology Submit.

Within 10 minutes of going live it was appearing on torrent sites.

Yes, that quickly.

A lot faster than I would have thought. I rolled my eyes at how little protection they offered, and their empty claim to "inhibit unauthorized distribution of your book".

But I still hoped that the piracy was a good sign. That it meant people were buying the book on the first day. Having no experience with Comixology and their sales numbers always unpublished, I had no idea how many copies were likely to sell in a day or month.

And this is where Comixology fell to utter-garbage.

Although my book went on sale in January, it was a complete blackout of information until mid-May. They tell you nothing. Silence. I could have sold ten copies that first day or a thousand and I wouldn't have known.

This made me a little suspect about the honor of the company. This is a website. Everything is stored and easily accessible in a database. There is no reason not to let publishers see how their sales are doing. To tie marketing strategies to results. Even a weekly or monthly number would be helpful, but honestly, there's no excuse not to have it live and instantaneous.

Yet they don’t. It’s a complete secret. You need to wait until May to find out how you did. Four months of silence.

And what makes this troubling is that there is no “digital inventory”. No way of knowing anything beyond what Comixology wants to tell me. For all I know maybe the book sold 50 copies on its first day and Comixology lost the data in a power failure. Or maybe they deflate sales numbers and play accounting games.

The point is, there's no visibility...and I think it's pretty clear why - they don't want you to know how weak the numbers are.

After four months of silence I finally heard from them last week. Before I opened the email I wrote down some numbers. What I was expecting and thought I’d be happy with.

I knew how many copies my books sold through Diamond. I knew how many I sold at a convention. I knew how many I sold on my website.
This was four months of sales, a $5 price tag, worldwide digital, wide-screen friendly, and posted on Comixology, the biggest digital comics publisher out there, owned by the mighty Amazon.

My breakdown:
< 25: Complete waste. Don't put anything else on there. You gave my book away for free. Butthusks.
25-50: Still a waste, but maybe post the other TPBs eventually. People read it at least.
50-100: Worth putting up single issues, starting with Book 4.
100-200: Pretty cool. Worth doing.
200+: Awesome! I love digital!

Want to guess how this turned out?

It sold 5 copies. 5.

I got a direct deposit of $11.85. Not even the retail of one physical book. Not even worth the time to put together the PDF and submission.

To say I’m disappointed is an understatement. This is a joke.

At this point the damage is done, so it'll stay up. We'll see how sales of the digital TPB goes after Book 4 appears in Previews. Maybe that will trigger some orders. But I doubt I'll be putting Book 4 up on Comixology anytime soon.

And I do need to leave a little bit of hope here - that there will be a longterm impact on growing the audience not measured in sales; that the free books were read and enjoyed. Maybe hundreds or thousands of times.

Or maybe 5.