Over the last year, ComiXology has emerged as the leading digital comics distributor by working with both comic industry giants, Marvel and DC.
Now the company is taking the next step toward allowing smaller publishers and independent creators the chance to be part of its network on the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and the web by launching the Guided View Authoring Tools program.
"You know, we started with smaller publishers when we launched ComiXology in 2008," said David Steinberger, CEO of ComiXology. "Then we established ourselves by being the only people with Marvel and DC on the iOS, and we weren't able to give as much attention to the smaller publishers and indy creators. We have a bunch of stuff under creator-owned comics in the app, but it truly slowed down.
"Now that we're established and have a leadership position, we want to give the same, even footing to everybody that wants to submit and have their stuff distributed digitally," he said.
The Guided View Authoring Tools program, which is currently only in the "Alpha" stage, gives publishers and creators the tool-set to prepare their comics for ComiXology's format. The company's patent-pending viewing technology enables readers to experience comics either in full pages or panel-to-panel.
"The idea is to open up our digital distribution network to all those creators who sell great content at the cons and are very passionate about comics, but haven't been able to connect to the right people or land the right deal with a publisher who already works with us," Steinberger said.
The first step of the release, the "Alpha" stage that is being announced today, is invitation only, with participants including TOKYOPOP, Devil's Due, Arcana Comics and Scott Admunson, creator of Barbarian.
"There are a couple other creators we'll be adding in the next week or so, that we've already talked with," Steinberger said.
But the company is also today opening up a Beta test program through its website at ComiXology.com, where interested publishers and creators can sign up.
"This is part of a much bigger, full submission process that we'll put out early next year, at some point in 2011. Right now, this is simply the guided view piece of it in Alpha," Steinberger said. "I'ts probably going to be a three-part process. First is this Alpha, which is completely private. But we have a url to sign up for the Beta, so when we're ready to go to the next stage, we'll pick out a bunch of people to help us do that. And then we'll go open."
Steinberger said the reason ComiXology is doing this is two-fold: "The first reason is that we get a lot of submissions every single day from people who want to distribute their comics through ComiXology," he said. "These tools will make that submission process work much better."
The second reason, Steinberger said, is that there just isn't enough staff at ComiXology to handle the volume of digital comics that are being added to the company's various storefronts. Every single comic has to be prepared for digital viewing.
"I mean, we put out over 200 comics last week," he said with a laugh, "so it's not like we aren't moving a lot of volume here. But there are lots of publishers that want their full back catalogs available now, and we're just not equipped to do that.
"So putting these types of tools out allows everybody to take advantage of how much they want to do," he said. "It's much better to be able to put the tools out there and allow anyone to submit and prepare the comics so that we can get them out."
Steinberger said the submission process allows ComiXology to review the material to see if comics meet the professional quality the company requires.
"I mean, we're not going to be too hardcore about it, or censor anything," Steinberger said. "But obviously, we want it to stand up to the great content we have now. And then they'll be able to do the guided view, and we can submit it to Apple for them to get approval. And then we can post it to the comics.comixology website, and to the apps, and to any other place we end up on."
Small publishers looking to get in on the action can sign up for the beta by clicking right hereWhat small publishers do you hope use these new tools?