My experience with ComiXology, Kindle, Createspace, and iBooks

Right now, I’ve got a novel and a comic book series. That means that I’ve got my work on Amazon’s platforms and Apple’s iBooks. Let me walk through my experiences working with each of them.

My novel is on Createspace as a paperback, Kindle as an ebook, and Apple’s iBooks as an ebook. Createspace is Amazon’s independent publishing service. There’s a lot that’s good about Createspace. Probably the best thing about it is that you can create and upload a book for free, and start selling it on Amazon’s site along with all the other products. They only way anyone would know that it was self-published is if they looked closely at the tiny tiny line where it say publisher in product details. My 100,000 word novel was approved in about a day, and was up on Amazon’s website in no time. You get to pick the price, and it ships with Amazon Prime. Nice. The ISBN number is free. You can see your sales updated daily, if not live, and they royalties get sent to your bank account.

book cover

Converting your word document to a PDF that fits the template is a bit funny. The templates that I downloaded from Createspace weren’t quite right, so there was a bit of trail an error there. But I felt better uploading a PDF than uploading a word document, which might get reformatted in processing. That was my choice, although you can upload a word .doc and there will be an online proofer available in just a few minutes. But I have some images in the back of the novel, so I went with the PDF. Now, when you publish, you have the option of sending your novel to Kindle Direct Publishing, which is part of Amazon but different. They will transfer your PDF over to Kindle Direct, so I hit the button and sent my book over.

Over in Kindle Direct, you have to set up an account with your tax info, just like you do in create space. But it’s a different branch of Amazon, so you can’t see your sales and royalties on the same dashboard, it’s a different interface. They have a really cool online proofer that lets you see what your book looks like on different devices, so I opened that up to finish the process. My PDF looked terrible, just as they warned me it had. The PDF was formatted for a printed book, with different left and right margins, gutters, page numbers etc. So I went into the word document and stripped away all the formatting. I made the document one long continuous scroll – all the margins are the same for odd and even pages, no page numbers (they’re not necessary) and no name and book title in the header. All gone. I uploaded that word doc, and in a few seconds I could see it in the online proofer. Looks great. I hit publish, and it was approved by Amazon in about a day.

Now, Amazon accidentally linked my novel with my graphic novel, two totally different products. Not their fault, as my products are very similar. I created an author account through Amazon Author Central, made a profile, and then emailed customer service. Wow. They unlinked the novel from the graphic novel and relinked it to the paperback in less than 24 hours. Their email was detailed and courteous, and even though they said it would take 2-3 days to update on the website, it updated on the US website in just a few hours. Wow. Wow. Amazing. When I brought the Kindle edition online, Amazon accidentally linked the Kindle novel to the graphic novel. Again, I sent them an email and they fixed it in about 12 hours. So while there’s no way to tell Amazon to link editions of products, they do take this very seriously and fix the problems quickly.

ipad

Kindle lets you see your sales in realtime. You can earn royalties in two ways, either where you get %70 after taxes and download fees, or where you earn %30 but there’s no local taxes or download feels. Basically, my Kindle book is very small since I deleted the bonus material for the Kindle edition, so it’s only about 700 kb. Kindle charges a download fee, but since my books has no images, my download fee is negligible and I went with the %70 option. This is important to us comic book creators however, as it means you would not want to put any large files on Kindle, meaning NO comic books or graphic novels. You’d either pay a huge fee for each download (taken out of your profit) or you’d only earn %30. Plus, they would not look good on the traditional Kindle.

Now on to iBooks. I put the same novel on iBooks. You must use the iBooks Author software to make a fully interactive iBook, and then export it to iProducer to upload it, then people can buy it in iBooks, which is connected to iTunes. Sound complicated? It is, actually, and there were some frustrating moments in the process. I couldn’t upload my book with Garramond, the most popular font for novels. Some of the images had file names with spaces in them, which causes iProducer to reject your book. My screenshots were not the right size, so I had to delete them. These errors only come up when you are actually in the upload process in iProducer, and once you get the errors, you have to re-open your project in iBooks, then re-export, then upload, only to find more errors. A real pain! But once I learned how to do a screenshot on my iPad (push the home button and power button at the same time, fun!) and made all the changes, it was worth it. My iBook starts off with an introductory video. The bonus materials are in full color, and look fantastic. And the final page of my book has 3 hyperlinks that will open in Safari, cause, we know they’re reading your book on an iPad. Every iPad comes with iBooks, so you know for %100 that everyone with an iPad can read your book. No fees to upload, no fees for people do download, and you get 250 coupons that you can give to anyone so they can read your book for free. And if I had know how cool it was (AKA did some research), I would have put my book on pre-release for a good 6 months prior to release. Apple will do promotions leading up to your book launch. Very cool. So, I can upload my graphic novel, right? Well not really.

promopic5

My iBook has 11 pages of comic book art in the bonus materials section. Unfortunately, you can’t zoom. You can zoom in momentarily by pinching and opening your fingers, but as soon as you let go, the image goes back to normal size. There’s NO WAY you could read a comic book like this. As a test, I downloaded a sample of Avengers Disassembled to my iPad. It was free.  Wow, was it hard to read. You can zoom, and the zoom stays in place in this one, not sure how they did that. But going from one panel to the next is a pain, and going from one page over the next is infuriating. Not an option. I repeat, not an option for reading comics and graphic novels.

So now on to ComiXology. I have 2 issues of my comic book there, with a third on the way. The good stuff: ComiXology is a great way to read comics on your tablet. The best way, really. I just bought a few comics written by my friends, one by Joe and and the other by James. All the issues have a guided view, which takes you from one panel to the next with the flip of your finger. And they do so in an artistic and often dramatic way. Sometimes they’ll zoom in tight on a caption so you can’t see the whole panel, then zoom out to reveal the panel, as not to spoil the surprise. They put thought into guiding you through the comics. And you can always double tap and zoom out so you can see the full comic book page. There’s nothing else like it. Many of the comics are $0.99 cents, and they have bundles and sales all the time. Very cool.

But ComiXology isn’t all perfect. After Amazon bought the company, they removed the ability to buy comic books in the app. You have to buy them through your browser. This is probably to save money – iTunes and Google Android both take a significant cut if you buy anything through an app on their platforms, so from a business standpoint it makes sense. But, in the app, you can’t even browse titles or put them in your cart. You can’t bookmark and save stuff. I didn’t think this was a huge deal until my own comics when online. Now that I’ve bought several titles, I can see how much of a pain it is. It makes the easy $0.99 cent impulse buy into a huge hassle.

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Another problem I have with ComiXology. Even though it’s owned by Amazon, they don’t seem to be integrated with one another. When a book is in both print and Kindle editions, the two formats are linked. So far, I haven’t seen a link on an Amazon graphic novel that says ‘read on ComiXology!” And the reverse is true. The ComiXology website is pretty sparse. No blogs, no reviews, and no links to related products on Amazon. If I were reading a Batman comic book on ComiXolgoy, you’d expect there to be a link to Batman toys and T-shirts that go with that specific comic book series. As a seller, I’d want that cross marketing. Sadly, there’s none.

Right now, ComiXology doesn’t tell us the release dates of our books until a few days before. We have to guess roughly when they might come out. My issue #0 was released on June 3, the day that DC comics released their largest digital sale. Ever. 1200 digital books. Sigh. On top of that, we get our sales numbers quarterly. Not sure why, but it makes real time marketing impossible. In this day in age, with Google analytics in real time, it makes their system look archaic. I’m not sure why these numbers are hidden from us, but it hurts the sellers and creators. What if there’s an overnight boom in sales in a certain part of the States, or overseas? I’d want to know right away, not three or four months later.

So that’s my journey. Two products, five different formats. Can’t wait till this thing hits Netflix!

 

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