Gerimi Burleigh Talks about Alternative Indie Comics Distribution

Morningstar from Gerimi Burleigh

Morningstar from Gerimi Burleigh

Maybe the best thing that came out of this year’s WonderCon for BuyIndieComics.com was talking to Gerimi Burleigh at his artist alley table.  The man is seriously talented on top of being a super nice guy and forward thinking – he’s destined for great things – check out some of his work at OpticHouse.com.

The big thing that Gerimi and I talked about at WonderCon was how he’s trying to distribute his comics digitally and eventually that turned into the interview that you can see below.

Dale Wilson
So, Gerimi, why don’t you talk a little about yourself and the projects you’re working on (don’t jump right into the new sales method just yet if you don’t mind).

Gerimi Burleigh
My background is in fine art. I received a BFA from UCLA w/ a focus on drawing and painting. After that, I started, like most artists, taking whatever gigs I could get. They tended to be in Web Design, Flash Animation, General graphic design.

I didn’t get into publishing comics until relatively recently…

I published my first graphic novel, Eye of the Gods, in 2009. It’s a psychological thriller about a man cursed with remote viewing.

I’m currently working on an 8 issue series about Lucifer’s fall from Heaven, told as a Western, called Morningstar…
The only other published work I have is a short story in an Anthology called Samurai, the Graphic Novel, published by Hyperwerks.

Dale Wilson
OK – as a self-publisher, indie comics champion, and someone that has himself made this choice, I always have to ask, why did you go the self-publishing route?

Gerimi Burleigh
There are a couple different reasons. Primarily, I like having control over the entire process, the story, the art, the book design. The publishing/marketing side is far more challenging, but as I learn more about it, it seems to me like it’s an extension of the work, itself…

Secondly, the life of a full-time professional comic creator is very hard, from those that I have talked to. The financial rewards can be few and far between, with little security and long hours. I would be very fortunate to be offered a gig at one of the major publishers, but…

Gerimi Burleigh
My long term interests are in telling my own stories, not necessarily contributing to the canon of X-Men and Batman stories. There are many comic creators far better suited to that job, and given the hours required for a monthly book, it would leave little time to pursue my own work. It made more sense to me to get a day job that I find fulfilling, but still has reasonable hours, so I can do my own stuff in my free time.

Gerimi Burleigh
Self publishing is really the best scenario for that, as most publishers do’t want to wait for you to produce work in your spare time

Dale Wilson
I get that answer a lot – that people want to own/control their properties. Do you think that indies can really get their stuff seen and read without the money of investors like the big 2?

Gerimi Burleigh
Yes, but has tended to be the rarity, instead of the norm. Comic creators joke about it, but it really is true that non-comic fans are still surprised to find out comics are still being published, because they disappeared from bookstores and newsstands… and now the bookstores and newsstands are disappearing.

Dale Wilson
So – where do you think that we can be seen/found?

Gerimi Burleigh
Marvel and DC have trouble getting their stuff read, and they’ve got much deeper pockets than the average creator.
I think it comes down to outreach on an individual AND community level. Comic conventions are huge for that. I always ask people at comic cons, what they’re into and what made them check out the show. In the past two years, I’ve encountered way more first timers

Gerimi Burleigh
Also, sharing work with non-comic readers, on your social media accounts, giving books to friends as gifts, etc
That’s one of the reasons, diversity of genres are so important.

Someone who’s a fan of gritty crime shows would probably love Ed Brubaker’s Criminal
Even better, if you know an unknown indie creator, who does similar work and you can put that book into somebody’s hands.

If a non-comic fan reads a book of any genre and really enjoys it, they will come back for more.

Dale Wilson
I love that I see so many spins on the same concept when I talk to indie comics creators – we all seem to have this belief that comics are only limited by our own lack of aspiration as an industry.

What made me really want to sit down and talk to you was something we briefly discussed at WonderCon this year – you have a marketing tool that you had literally just launched and I found it fascinating – tell me more about it.

Gerimi Burleigh
I recently released the first two issues of my comic Morningstar as a pay-what-you want DRM-free download. There were two things that inspired it. I was looking at putting them on Amazon Kindle, but I noticed that the KDP select program requires exclusivity for 90 days. I really wanted to make it available on multiple platforms (iBooks, Comixology, Nook).

Gerimi Burleigh
I also watched a TED talk video, by Amanda Palmer, on the power of asking (people to support and value your work)
That video hit me at just the right time, as I had resigned myself to the exclusivity period with Amazon and was about to start formatting pages for Kindle.

There so many platforms people can consume media on, but just about everyone can open and read a PDF on any device. That’s the kind of flexibility I want.

Dale Wilson
OK – sounds interesting – theoretical and something a little more than just the art for entertainment value, right up my alley. What are the pros and cons?

Gerimi Burleigh
I’ll start with the cons. I always like to end on a upbeat note.

Gerimi Burleigh
Once I release the work out there, in a digital DRM free format, the genie is out of the bottle. I may decide later on to put it in a pay format on some other service, but if someone doesn’t want to pay for it, they don’t have to.

Monetizing your work as an indie comic creator is incredibly difficult, whether in print or digital, and allowing your work to go out the door for free can be painful, when you’ve sweated blood and tears of this stuff. True, artists don’t become artists to make money, but having your work financially validated feels good. What feels even better is making enough that you can afford to put more time towards creating, instead of earning a living some other way.

Gerimi Burleigh
There are probably a few other cons that I’m not thinking of of the top of my head. If you think of any, feel free to pose them to me as a question.

On the Pros side…

People have been debating the pricing of digital comics for a while. On one hand, some die-hard print fans see no value in zeros and ones, and refuse to pay for them. On the the other, the $0.99 price point frequently cited for iTunes doesn’t necessarily cover the cost of paying the creative team, once the digital distributor gets their cut, unless you’re selling a large volume of work. This problem is true for both print and digital.

Letting someone name their own price, empowers the reader. If they want to pay $5 because they really believe in the work and want to support it, they can. If they want to pay $0 and read it for free, at least you got someone else to read your work, who hasn’t read it before, and will hopefully come back for more, down the line, or maybe buy the print version if they see you at a convention.

Gerimi Burleigh
There’s the reach that digital comic have. I’ve been paying close attention to what Mark Waid has been doing with Thrillbent and greatly admire that model. The only reason I don’t do a webcomic, is that my work schedule doesn’t allow me to keep as regular a publishing schedule as I’d like.

Gerimi Burleigh
Everyone has a comic store in their pockets these days, if we can just get the tantalizing content under their noses.

Dale Wilson
I love it. I’ve talked about reach as an indie for years now and I like seeing people try new things. So – the big question is: how successful has it been so far?

Gerimi Burleigh

Here’s where things get disappointing. I’ve had a few downloads of each issue since I put them up… people can download them for free, if they choose not to pay. it”s been a little over two weeks and I still don’t have any paid downloads.

I still feel optimistic, but I also accept that this is an experiment. Since I’m the publisher, no one says I have to put the entire series online for free. I still intend to, but my plans may change if I encounter an option that allows me to generate some revenue.

Mostly, I think it’s a matter of continuing to put work out and getting it in front of people enough time that they decide to try it, then getting enough tries until there are a number of people that want to put money into it. I don’t see it that much different from Kickstarter, except people are getting the content up front, and can to choose to donate afterwards.

Gerimi Burleigh
It would work way better if I were publishing on a weekly or monthly basis. Regularity is the key to building an audience.

Dale Wilson
That last statement is right on key with my last question: What would/will you change about the setup or process?

Gerimi Burleigh
The only thing within my power is to work faster, produce more content, and work harder to get that content in front of people. For a while, I was producing youtube videos every week, showing my inking process as I worked on issue two. I stopped for a while, while I’ve been doing layouts for issue three and re-writing dialog, but that’s something I need to get back to doing. As a self-publisher, I’m constantly trying to school myself about better ways and new avenues to promote my work. Unfortunately, there’s only so many hours in the day. I also don’t want to spend all of my time promoting and none of it creating.

However, if I were all-powerful…

I would have all digital distribution platforms offer a pay-what-you-want model to creators.
I would love to have the reach of putting my work on Graphicly, Comixology, iBooks, Amazon, Nook, as well as having my work on my own site. Hell, Letting comic retailers sell my work directly through an iPad by their register. Distributors get a percentage of whatever the customer chooses to pay. If they pay higher than $0.99-2.99, then they make that much more over the work.

Dale Wilson
Well, if you’re interested, I’d love to come back to you every so often for conversations about how things are going and maybe some additional discussion of marketing ideas.

That having been said, thank you taking some time to talk, answer my questions and promote yourself. I look forward to seeing you at shows and talk about comics more with you.

Gerimi Burleigh
No problem. I’m more than happy to talk any time. These days, I find most of my comic conversations are about the business side or the creative process, as opposed to staying current on events at the Big Two.

Dale Wilson
All the power to us as creators. Thanks again Gerimi and good luck.

Gerimi Burleigh
Same to you, Dale. Cheers.

Literally Saw This on Facebook While Gerimi and I Were Talking

Literally Saw This on Facebook While Gerimi and I Were Talking

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