Friday, January 21, 2011

Behind the Digital Experiment

It thought you all might like to follow long with this little experiment I've been trying.  As you know, I'm working on my graphic novel and I began my research on publishing.  What companies have what contracts, what book stores are doing well and which aren't, what's the best option for digital distribution.  Honestly, the numbers are enough to give you a few panic attacks.

I read an article about selling digital content with out going thru Apple. The concept was sound but the duct tape method of doing so didn't make much sense to me.  There seemed to be too many ways to mess up and leave your customers wondering where their product was. But the idea of selling product directly to my fan base was intriguing.  After a 5 minute talk with Ryan Stegman, he suggested I give it try.  We hit up google and found many options for selling your digital content and I picked the one that was already teamed with BigCartel (my online store).  After adjusting my pdf, I started selling a digital copy of The Adventures of Bernard for only $2.

Here's where it gets interesting. In 7 days, I've sold 391 digital copies.  The only promotion I've done is on this blog, twitter, facebook, and deviantart. Since I started selling, a few news sites like CBR and iFanboy have done pieces on it.  But that's it. No real push, no real plan. Woke up last friday, no plan to sell anything digital and by noon the same day I was in the middle of this experiment.

I've been self publishing in one way or another since 2004.  Mostly sketchbooks, art books and prints. I've learned long ago that while it may take a little money up front, I can make more money selling a fraction of the numbers because I'm cutting out all the middle men. No distributor, no store, no publisher.  It's just me and you. (and paypal)  The same is holding true so far on this digital experiment.  I'm charging $2 and the only cut is the Paypal percentage.

Now, the sales could dry up in a week... or they could double. The point is, the book isn't going anywhere. It will never go out of print and I can sell it to you forever with out the overhead that comes along with keeping an indy book in print.

And before I get anyone saying but this, and what about that... I don't know. I'm not doing this to change an industry or say f you to the print world. I still do great in the print world and will always offer print versions of my books. I'm simply trying to use the internet to sell my stuff.  That's it. I'm not fighting any power and I'm not on a soapbox telling you to follow me into the fray. I'm not screaming that comics are broken and why don't they just do this or that.  I'm just selling a book and seeing what happens.

Basically, I'm at the baby stages of this experiment but so far it's going great.  I'll try to keep you in the loop over the next few weeks and we'll see if this is the new model for indy creators or if I just stumbled onto a fluke.  Either way, it's great to be able to connect directly with you all digitally on the same level I've been doing with the art books all these years. You all are the best!

For those interested.  I use BigCartel for my shopping cart and they are teamed with PulleyApp for digital content.  All you need is a Paypal account and some product.


=shane white= said...

Thanks for that, Skottie. Was wondering how it went for you. And while the numbers might not be there just yet there is hope with maybe a little more push and a little more organization along the way.

Bottom-line, it's exciting!

I can't wait to try this soon as well.

Peace, brother.


Casey Crowe said...

Very interesting article, thanks for posting it. If you're tracking where the buyers are come from, I'd be very curious to hear how that's working out: are visitors to BigCartel mostly coming from your blog links, twitter links, etc or the outside articles (CBR/iFanboy)? It's an exciting new world out there!

criz said...

hehe, glad to hear it's going well for you so far, but my favourite sentence might have been that you're still offering printed versions ^_~

I may wince at the shipping costs of some books, but in the end I just prefer to have a printed copy

however, I'd also jump at the opportunity to get out-of-print or hard-to-find books in digital form... just to have *some* version of the book

Boatwright said...

Printing costs are whats really keeping me down. Digital downloads would help me do something with the dozen or so books sitting on my hard drive ready to go.

A penny is a penny and they add up to dollars.

Mr. Hawthorne said...

Thanks for sharing this, man! Very interesting stuff.


D.J. said...

Skottie, here's an even better way to earn more from your paypal and another online delivery service

Charles Santoso said...

Thanks for sharing your experience, Scottie. :)

All the best.

Shane said...

Great post Skottie. I'm only just starting out on the ladder of illustration for publication and your experiences and comments are a great help.

Many thanks

Anonymous said...

Hi Skottie,
Thanks for sharing this. I'm one of your 391 and Bernard looks great on the iPad. :)
With ebook readers, mobile devices and apps that allow you to carry around shedloads of books as PDFs I can see why this would be the way forward.
I'd be interested how you find selling without any kind of DRM - is there a point at which your content is available for free across the net because people have shared the file? I'd hope at $2 an item people who liked it would "buy" anyway, but I'd be interested to hear more of your experiences around this.

Thanks again


Rulo said...

Thanks for sharing this Skottie! It's a GREAT help.

I'm also working on some new stuff to sell because I want to sell my comics on line, let's see what happens.

Thanks also for add Tinkers of the Wasteland to your blogroll!

All the best!

Wayne Tully said...

Publishing digitally is certainly a great option and one that many are considering doing because of the reasons you have outlined.

I'm doing this sometime this year with a couple of graphic novels and it just seems like the logical solution.....

Cheers now!

Anonymous said...

I just downloaded and read Bernard - it was really awesome. You actually got me to laugh. Easy as pie to download and a great first foray into digital publishing.