My First Month as a Digital Comics Purveyor

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My foray into the world of e-comics has been an experiment. I figured I’d give my books six months, and let my sales dictate what I did next:

  1. If sales were terrible (like a few dozen books sold) I’d see the writing on the wall and give up on the whole thing.
  2. If sales were okay (hundreds of books sold) I would keep experimenting with digital comics and see where they took me.
  3. If sales were good (thousands) I would redouble my efforts, and make finishing new digital books a focus.
  4. If sales were great (ten of thousands) I would seriously look into switching to a half-time job (as opposed to the full time day job I work now), so I could devote more time to cartooning.
  5. And if sales were spectacular, (hundreds of thousands) I’d take another stab at cartooning full time and see if I could make it sustainable over the long haul.
  6. And if sales were phenomenal (millions) I would buy a solid gold jet-pack and eat nothing but caviar for the rest of my life.

Okay okay, the latter half of the list are total long shots. But that’s probably for the best, since gold has a low melting point and I could get seriously injured if my jet-pack melted away while I was flying around in a caviar-induced stupor.

But I digress. Realistically, I figured six months of sales would fall somewhere between a few dozen books to maybe… I dunno, a couple thousand or so? That’s a huge range I know, but since the whole digital comics thing is new to me, I’m not really sure what to expect.

Now that May has come and gone, I have a full month of sales data under my belt. While there’s still another five months to go in my half-year time frame, I feel like I have enough info to draw a few tentative conclusions. So after one month, where on the sales spectrum did I fall?

I’m already firmly in the second tier, with 443 e-comics sold during the month of May.

I mean, okay, they’re not Harry Potter numbers or whatever, but not too shabby for a first attempt, I think! Even if I didn’t sell another e-book for the next five months, I’m already in the “provisionally keep at it” sales range.

So what will “keeping at it” entail, you might wonder? I have four main things in mind, which I cover in a blog entry next week. This will include a couple of totally thrilling announcements, so try not to get too excited, everyone!


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“Young Men of a Certain Mind” Preview (2/4)

(This comic is available on the iBookstore. Click here to buy.)

This is a bit belated, but let me briefly introduce this comic since I didn’t do so in the first installment of this preview.

Young Men of a Certain Mind is a 44-page comic I did in 2003 (just before I started work on my graphic novel Tonoharu). It is a account of the year I spent working at a four star hotel as a night bellman prior to coming to Japan to teach English.

Or I guess I should say a *fictionalized* account; I took tons of liberties with chronology, and generally exaggerated things for comedic reasons. For example, I’m not *quite* as much of a bitter crank as the main character of this comic (or at least that’s what I tell myself).

I’ll admit there’s really not much to Young Men of a Certain Mind in terms of story. It’s more supposed to be a slice-of-life type thing more than anything else. But for a comic that’s almost a decade old, I still think it holds up. It’s the oldest comic I’ve done that I can still read without cringing in embarrassment. (How’s that for a ringing endorsement! Buy it now, folks! Ha… ha…)

Well, I guess that’s enough foreplay. Here’s the second part of the preview:

Continue reading “Young Men of a Certain Mind” Preview (2/4)

“Young Men of a Certain Mind” Preview (1/4)

My two new e-comics (available for 99-cents each on the iBookstore) were experiments on a few levels:

  1. I wanted to see if I could create a worthwhile comic quickly, rather than endlessly laboring over it (like I do with the images in my graphic novel Tonoharu.)
  2. I wanted to see if reading a comic could be a pleasant experience on a smart phone-sized screen, if you took the limitations of the device into consideration when you created the art work.
  3. And finally, I was curious to see what effect offering the work online for free would have on sales.

I’d like to think that all of these experiments have been relatively successful, but the one that I’ve been the most pleasantly surprised by is the third one.

I started selling the two e-comics on the same day. For one of them, The Kameoka Diaries, I put almost 90% of it online for free beforehand. For the other, Young Men of a Certain Mind, I’ve never put any of it online at all.

I sort of figured that Young Men of a Certain Mind would outsell The Kameoka Diaries, since the former was 100% new material whereas the latter only offered a bit of original content. Much to my surprise (and delight) the opposite has happened. The shared comic has always outsold the unshared one.

Now I’ll admit this is hardly a scientific experiment, and that “correlation does not imply causation” and all that. But the thing is, I like to share my work. And to know that doing so doesn’t kill sales, and in fact may help them, is great.

So I’ve decided to try sharing Young Men of a Certain Mind as well. I’m going to put the majority of it—80%—online for free, and see if that helps/hurts/doesn’t affect sales. I’ll be doing it in four parts which will go up every week, the first part of which is this one.

So without further ado, here’s the first 20% of Young Men of a Certain Mind: Continue reading “Young Men of a Certain Mind” Preview (1/4)

3 Things I Learned When My Site’s Traffic Increased 25,000% in One Day

Unique visitors per hour. The flat line at the bottom is how many I usually get.

For the past few months, my site has averaged maybe, oh, 75-125 visitors or so a day. Then for a 24-hour period beginning on May 10th at 9am CST, 48,342 people came to my site. That’s more unique visitors than my site had gotten in the past three years combined. Here’s what happened:

I released a couple new e-comics two weeks ago (yup, gotta get a plug in for them somewhere) so I’ve been looking for ways to promote them. I’d heard of Reddit, a social linking website, and had visited it a couple of times. I’ve always had a vaguely positive opinion of it, but never made it a part of my regular internet surfing routine and wasn’t intimately familiar with the ins and outs of the site.

But I figured I’d give them a shot, and submitted the first installment of the Kameoka Diaries to their comics section. I figured I’d get, oh, 100 visitors and maybe four or five comments.

So yeah. I got a few more than that.

The whole thing has been a real learning experience. Here are three things I took away from it:
Continue reading 3 Things I Learned When My Site’s Traffic Increased 25,000% in One Day

Top 5 Reasons to Buy My E-Comics

A week ago I announced the e-comics I created for the iPhone/iPad, available exclusively on the iBookstore for 99-cents each:
The Kameoka Diaries: Volume One [ Direct iBookstore Link ]
Young Men of a Certain Mind [ Direct iBookstore Link ]

But I still haven’t really discussed the features of these puppies, or gotten into why I think they’re worth 99 of your hard-earned cents. So I thought I’d make my little sales pitch here. Here’s five reasons I think my e-comics are worth your consideration:

1) They Have Exclusive Content.
The Kameoka Diaries e-comic contains a chapter I never put online, and it’s the funniest of the bunch IMHO:

Above: actual, unaltered panel from the exclusive chapter. I swear it makes sense in context.

And the Young Men of a Certain Mind e-comic has never been put online, so that’s entirely new.

2) They’re in HD.
The resolution of the images in the e-comics is twice that of their online counterparts. They’re incredibly crisp, taking advantage of the iPhone 4 and the new iPad’s Retina Displays (though they also work great on pre-Retina Displays too). The difference is striking. Here’s a couple enlarged comparison shots of the the online version vs. the e-comic one:

An appropriately narcissistic example.

The devious, creepy foreigner from the Japanese textbook looks all the more devious/creepy!

3) They Work Great on the iPhone.
Most e-comics don’t work well on smartphones. They were originally designed for large printed pages, so when you try to read them on the smaller iPhone screen, you spend half your time pinching and zooming to read to the microscopic text, and the other half scanning around the “page” to find the next panel.
I designed The Kameoka Diaries from the ground up to play nice with iPhones. The panels are optimized for that screen size. The text is legible without pinching and zooming. You don’t need to scan around the “page” to find the next panel. Each panel is its own page, so you just flip from panel to panel to panel, like turning the pages of a book. It’s a joy to read, rather than a chore.

This’ll sound arrogant, but honestly: no other digital comic (that I’m aware of) works as well on the iPhone as mine do. But don’t take my word for it; you can download a free sample through the iBookstore and decide for yourself: [ Direct iBookstore Link ]

(Side note: They also work great on iPads, in both portrait or landscape mode, adapting to the larger screen size by showing 4-8 panels at once.)

4) They’re Cheap.
I’ve always felt a bit sheepish about the price of my print graphic novel Tonoharu ($20 per book). That’s a significant chunk of change, especially with the economy being what it is, and with all the cheap/free entertainment alternatives out there. But my hands are sort of tied; with the way print book production/distribution works, I can’t really sell them cheaper than that.
Which is one of the reasons the e-comic format excites me. For the first time, I can sell my work at prices that really feel like bargains. I mean, 99-cents! That’s literally cheaper than dirt!

5) You’ll Help Support the Artist / Fund Future Installments.
Okay, obviously I didn’t go into comics for the money (I’d be way ahead financially if I had devoted the time I spent on comics to a minimum wage job).
But at the same time, I’m not indifferent to financial concerns. So I’ll admit: if these e-comics totally flop, I probably won’t keep making them.
If I can manage to sell just, say, a few hundred copies, I’ll consider that an encouraging enough sign to keep at it. I think that’s a realistic sales target, but I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion by any means. So if you like The Kameoka Diaries and would like to see more installments of it, throwing a buck or two in my direction will go a long way to helping ensure that that happens.


Okay! So that’s my pitch. If you have an iPhone/iPad and are willing to give my e-comics a shot, you can get them for 99-cents each (or get a free sample) here:
The Kameoka Diaries: Volume One [ Direct iBookstore Link ]
Young Men of a Certain Mind [ Direct iBookstore Link ]

And if you have any friends you think might like my work, please let them know about it. Thanks!