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November 4, 2014

CR Newsmaker Interview: Chip Mosher

imageBack in September, I became interested in the comiXology Submit program for self- and small publishers as it was being promoted at Small Press Expo (SPX). I took the time to ask questions of CR readership about the program, and spoke to a ton comics-makers on the floor about their perceptions of and experiences with Submit.

Chip Mosher at comiXology (pictured left, on the SPX floor in 2013) agreed to take questions from me about what I heard.

His catching the worst case of post-con flu I've ever seen and my subsequent health snafus have delayed the publications of this piece until now, where I figure it will have some renewed relevance in proximity to Comic Arts Brooklyn (CAB). -- Tom Spurgeon


TOM SPURGEON: So how did you guys conceive of going through SPX in terms of a sponsorship and your presence there as a way of promoting Submit?

CHIP MOSHER: SPX is one of the best and longest running shows in the mini-comics/self-publishing scene and the Ignatz Awards does a great job of spotlighting talent in that part of our industry, so linking up with SPX and the Ignatz Awards felt like a perfect match for Submit. There are a lot of books sold at SPX that were not available on comiXology before we sponsored last year -- books from the likes of Oily Comics, Retrofit, Andrea Tsurumi, Alternative Comics. Outside Alternative Comics, everyone listed above came on our platform through comiXology Submit.

SPURGEON: What was the difference between year one and year two on the ground?

MOSHER: At comiXology, our mission is to make everyone on the face of the planet a comic book fan and part of fulfilling that mission is to have the most diverse offering of comic books and graphic novels we possibly can. It's why we launched Submit -- to ensure that level of diversity -- and it's why we decided to sponsor the Ignatz Awards. Since our sponsorship at SPX last year, we've certainly seen a great influx of incredible material from the people that attend and exhibit at the show.

imageSPURGEON: Did the move into a relationship with make things different at all perception-wise?

MOSHER: Not at all. During the show this year, we were able to debut this page up on promoting the Ignatz nominees. People at the show who saw the page were really excited about the breadth of support of our sponsorship across both comiXology and Amazon ecosystems.

SPURGEON: For that matter, was there anything at all that changed with the Submit program because of that business deal?

MOSHER: Not significantly. The Submit deal is a non-exclusive deal, with a 50/50 profit split and a five-year commitment. Payments to the creators happen every fiscal quarter. In the past we used to have a $100 threshold for royalty payments, but now if you are set up with direct deposit, there is no threshold. For international creators, it's a little bit more complex depending on where you are based, but that's all spelled out on our FAQ here.

We're dedicated to Submit and you can expect it to continue to evolve with an eye towards making comiXology Submit better for our customers and better for creators and cartoonists.

SPURGEON: Before I get into the questions that came to me from other people, let me ask you a state of Submit questions and let you brag a bit if you want to. Do you have anything to report on how the bundle did? How did SPX participants in Submit do? Tell me about placing SPX on an front page and what effect that has.

MOSHER: We're very happy with how our curated SPX bundle performed and with how all our SPX related merchandizing did. We were excited for the opportunity to bring a "taste" of SPX to people around the globe that might not ever attend the show or be exposed to this type of comics and graphic novels. And our customers were excited as well.

SPURGEON: The first question I got back from people made me laugh, but it was almost a half-dozen folks that asked this: "Why?" And what they meant in every case is why they should bother to participate in the program. That strikes me now, though, as an excellent question. What's the basic pitch. Who is your best-case example? Is there a Robert Kirkman of the Submit program?

MOSHER: When work debuts on Submit, creators and cartoonists can instantly access a worldwide audience. It's a fantastic way for them to get their work out in to the world and for customers to have access to the most diverse material anywhere.

In 2013, the first year of Submit, we debuted Joshua Fialkov's and Joe Infurnari's The Bunker on Submit and it went on to become our top selling Submit comic book. Oni Press later picked up The Bunker for print distribution and it's currently an ongoing series at Oni Press.

imageBecky Cloonan put up her mini-comics and was a close second to The Bunker in the top selling list during the first year of the program. While both Josh and Becky have a big following in mainstream comics, their work with Submit was more in the spirit of SPX -- meaning it was more independent, more individual to their visions. Seeing those kinds of comics become wildly popular says a lot about the potential audience for work that might be considered off the beaten path.

SPURGEON: The second-most asked question was about the concerns some folks had who have already participated with some books have had concerning the grueling length of time it can take to work one's way through the program. Why does it take so long, Chip? Is there something being done to speed up the process?

MOSHER: When we launched Submit, the response was overwhelming. ComiXology co-founder and Director of Submit John D. Roberts and his team have been working hard to drop the wait time, and streamline the submission process. While common file issues like artifacting and pixilation can slow down the process, currently, if you submit a PDF and there are no file problems, it takes about 6 to 8 weeks to get released. We encourage any one submitting to please take a look at our guidelines page before they do so to make sure the review process is as smooth as possible.

There is just nothing like Submit out there in the marketplace in that we curate all submissions for file quality and quality of content.

SPURGEON: Talk to me about the digital/check minimum. My understanding is that in reaction to people concerned with there being a $100 minimum for a check to be disbursed, any amount made can be disbursed if there's a direct deposit option?

MOSHER: As I mentioned before, one recent change we made is that if you choose direct deposit as your royalty payment option, there is no $100 threshold. This is different for creators and cartoonists outside the U.S. depending on where you are based.

SPURGEON: Can you encompass all formats? All sizes? Is there anything different about getting a downloaded work that's in a non-traditional format in terms of the reading experience involved?

MOSHER: We can encompass pretty much anything any creator or cartoonist throws at us. I'm really excited that we have work by Warren Craghead through Submit, which is certainly not traditional in form.

imageAlso, when something like Andrea Tsurumi's Andrew Jackson Throws A Punch comes through the system -- which in its print form has a multi-page pullout -- we can take that submission out of the queue and work directly with the cartoonist to create a Guided View Native version that is respectful to the artistic intent of the original work. We're actually still working with Andrea on this book and it should be out soon. It's really something.

SPURGEON: What are your policies about extreme content? How are they facilitated and enforced? Are you interested in a wide range of material, some of it potentially upsetting? What do I do if I'm a creator that has extreme material or what might potentially set off some of the more conservative alarms out there?

MOSHER: If you look at our Submit catalog, you can see that we carry a little bit of everything and we strive to have a catalog that has something for everyone. And while we don't see Submit as the "go to" place for extreme content, we do have a selection of work that would be considered extreme. My advice to anyone thinking of submitting content is to do it!

SPURGEON: From what I've read people writing to me, comiXology doesn't really afford a way to sort directly by creator without a lot of extra noise the way it provides those browsing opportunities for publisher, title and I think character. is that coming? Because a lot of these minis depend on being sold to drive attention to the that creator.

MOSHER: It's definitely possible to browse by creator on our site and creators and cartoonists can easily promote their creator page link to their fans. People can find the creator section in the "Browse" tab on the top-level navigation of our website and apps. For instance, Andrea Tsurumi's creator page is here.

Creators can contact us directly on social media about updating their creator page info.

SPURGEON: How does one get to participate in promotions like the bundle? Are those opportunities available to everyone?

MOSHER: Yes. For the SPX Bundle, we reached out to all the people participating in Submit via email and asked if they were attending SPX. From there, we curated the bundle based on responses to that email. More and more, we're conducting similar promotions for Submit with different focuses each time to promote as many Submit titles as possible.

SPURGEON: How does one not get lost amidst the massive wave after wave of material you're uploading?

MOSHER: The first step is to make your comic, the second is to get it on comiXology Submit, the third is promote, promote, and promote. Every entry on comiXology has a link that can be used to promote that book or book on social media. And having that dedicated link where your work is available 24/7 is a great resource for creators and cartoonists to share with as many people as possible.

We also offer a few additional features as part of being in the Submit program. We send out review copies every week to select press contacts; we also feature the books each week with dedicated prime real estate on the comiXology platform as well as in the weekly comiXology newsletter that promotes that week's Submit books. We also have a dedicated monthly email spotlighting the best of what Submit released that month.

SPURGEON: What should our expectations be going in? Say I'm a small press comics creator with six comics, standard sized. I'd like to try Submit, but I don't want to continue with it if I'm wasting my time. What is a decent threshold number for a comic like that? Ten sales? 200? What's the best seller?

MOSHER: We've had people sell thousands of copies and we've had people sell one or two copies. People have told me they've paid their rent with money from Submit. Or they were able to work on more comics with the money they made from Submit. It's great to offer our customers such diverse comics from the program and at the same time be able to support the creation of more diverse work

SPURGEON: What's the key to speaking successfully at the Ignatzes?

MOSHER: Make sure you speak last. [Spurgeon laughs]


* photo of Mosher
* appropriate samples of art from Jillian Tamaki, Becky Cloonan and Andrea Tsurumi
* logo for Submit program




posted 10:35 pm PST | Permalink

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