In this column: our shambolic and ongoing launch, Paypal worries, and the possibility of a print-on-demand collection of Valentine Episodes 01-06. We launched last week; it went… OK. Main drama was that I didn’t get the ePub formatting done, or indeed the e-Commerce set up to sell them on the website. Secondary drama is that Robotcomics and I managed to get our wires crossed (they didn’t get the message about the December 16 launch) and come to find out on 12 December that they hadn’t yet submitted any edition of Valentine to the Apple Store (which can take up to a month to clear things, especially during busy periods like the holidays).
Luckily, Robot Comics got the Android Marketplace versions up within days, and Comixology was there with all of Episode 01 (including a new and better simulator ), and four of the Episode 02s for iPhone. Rest of the Episode 02s will come soon, as the Apple Store approves them. The Kindle launch went well. In fact, after all my kvetching about Amazon, the irony is that the Kindle editions were the only ones to launch both episodes completely by 16 December, in all 13 languages.
Kindle are the only sales figures I have so far, too. So with little marketing, we’ve sold a blistering 30 copies of Valentine in three days on Kindle (I can feel the constituents of the NY Times bestseller lists quaking in fear already), of which 50% are non-English editions. I’ll post other sales figures as I get them, but they usually take three to four months to be collected.
I’ve been trying to do as much marketing as I can, but haven’t had a lot of luck beyond CBR, who very kindly did an interview with me, and Rich, who also very kindly conducted a Twinterview with me. Newsarama promised something, but never sent questions. I’ve emailed TCJ, Tom Spurgeon, Kevin Church, Johanna Draper Carlson and a few other of the usual suspects but no response. Heidi MacDonald wrote back and said “congratulations”, but didn’t cover the book. Frankly, new / self-published comics launch every day, by names much bigger than mine, so there’s no special reason the media should pay attention to mine. It’s also the holidays, when many bloggers/sites are contending with big end of the year publisher announcements, and their own “Best of 2009″ lists.
To repair that, I’ve decided to hire a friend for a month of PR in January. He’s very well established within the book publishing industry, having headed up a small but prestigious literary publisher for nigh on a decade. He also is a reknowned advocate for new models of publishing, writes for Publisher’s Weekly and is one of the top 10 publishing industry Twitterers to follow. So he’ll hit the mainstream press and a few international sources, and I’ll keep sending overly-polite, increasingly desperation-tinged pleas to the comics press. I’ll also be very, very broke in January. But: we need press to drive sales. I can’t get it myself. So I will call in an expert. I also need to start getting the ePub editions in e-Book stores, but that’s almost an impossible task for a self-publisher so I am hoping mainstream press will also help drive that forwards.
Meanwhile, I’ve written Episodes 04 and 05, and tonight I begin lettering Episode 03. It will be released on 13 January, hopefully (now that launch speedbumps are over) with everything coming out day-and-date. I hope we’ll have Stanza sorted out then, too – it really depends on when they do their next update, and if it will cover some of the issues with images.
I’m also considering a print on demand collection of Episodes 01-06 in April. This would be a circa 220-page tankubon, black and white (sadly; colour printing is prohibitive), and cost around $12. Tell me of print on demand, friends! What luck have you had with Lulu? Is their “publisher paper” crap and see-through, or OK? How is their print quality with greyscale images? Is there anyone you would recommend other than Lulu – especially if they can print in colour?
I am, however, undecided about print on demand. There’s no reason we can’t go to a publisher to collect the first six episodes – as Rich suggests in his Twinterview with me, Image – or indeed scifi publisher Tor (who are serialising Dan Goldman’s next webcomic, Red Light Properties, on their website from January 5). I would feel more comfortable with that, because I’d be assured of better design, actual colour, and print quality. But, that’s another bridge to cross once we’ve got enough episodes to show potential publishers. The only advantage of Print on Demand against this is that we could have all the language editions available. Publishers are unlikely to want to do runs in all of our languages.
We still need translators. My priorities are Russian, Hindi and Arabic, but we will happily create an edition for any language which someone is willing to translate.
We also need your help. If you have been reading this column and own an iPhone, Android Phone, or Kindle, please buy Valentine; Episode 02 is a mere 99 cents. If you don’t own any of these items, please recommend the book to friends who do. Word of mouth is spectacularly important, so your favourable blogs/facebook status updates/tweets directly help us continue to be able to do this.
If you buy the book, please consider doing two further things. First, take a picture of it on your device and post it in the comments. Second, if you bought it on Kindle please leave a review in the Amazon Kindle store for Episode 01 and/or Episode 02. Amazon sales are significantly driven by reviews, so even a quick “Enjoyed it, would recommend” is of great benefit to us.
As with much of the world, I’ll be skipping updates next week due to holidaziness, but I promise the first post of 2010 will include the ePub templates I’ve promised.