Some anecdotal but interesting evidence that the webcomic-to-trade model may be working. Chris Butcher point us to this interview with GIRL GENIUS’s Phil Foglio who gave up on printing floppies a couple of years ago.

“Our readership is way up,” said Foglio. “At a conservative guesstimate by a factor of ten. Our sales have quadrupled, and not just from our online store. Sales through Diamond have gone way up, and I hear from store owners all the time saying that we’re one of their bigger independent sellers. We no longer have to spend the time and effort to lay out individual issues, and with the time we save, we actually produce more ‘Girl Genus’ material per year. Not producing the periodical comics saves us money – at least $20,000.00 a year. We consider the collections to be the end product, so up until it goes to the printer, we’re flexible. This means that all of our online readers can (and do) act as proofreaders. Because everything is done on the computer, we can correct spelling, rewrite dialog, change coloring or even redraw entire panels if we must, before it goes to print. It’s also nice to be a part of an industry that is on its way up, as opposed to an industry that’s on its way out.

Butcher looks around to see if this is true at his store.

He’s… right. Not about being one of our ‘bigger independent sellers’ or anything, not at our store. But about sales being up? Yupperz! In fact, our trade initial orders are up to around 10 copies from 2, and so far we’ve reordered both of the new trades (since the series moved online) to the tune of around 10 copies each. In fact, just yesterday, a dude I’d never seen before came in, asked for the Girl Genius trades, paid his $51 for volumes 4 and 5, and then walked out. Not that I don’t value the conversations I have with my customers, but if our sales were all 3 minutes per $51, I’d most certainly be earning myself a raise. So, yeah, 20 copies of Girl Genius trades a year is not a couple hundred copies of Acme Novelty Library or anything, but it more than earns it’s spot on our shelves.

There is a LOT to be considered about this. Foglio’s built in following, the type of material he’s offering, that audience’s interest in seeking things out on the web all need to be taken into account. Several people onder if FINDER, Carla Speed McNeail’s great series which she took online over a year ago, would show the same results.


  1. I remember Foglio from old issues of “Dragon” magazine, and from his adaptations of Robert Aspirin’s “MythAdventures”. This is really good news!

  2. I don’t read many comics online, but I do buy the Girl Genius hardcovers as they become available.
    Another author who avoids comicbooks is Larry Gonick, who creates the Cartoon History Of The Universe. As a bookseller, my store sells a lot of his various titles from HarperCollins.

  3. Wow. That’s easily the most talked about article I’ve ever done.

    I’m trying to do a follow up with Carla about that very question.

  4. Larry Gonick used to do comics. Cartoon History Of The Universe was in comic form at first, coming out of what was left of the underground market in the late 70s. But yes, I’m pretty sure the collections are doing very well and there is no need for him to do it as a comic book anymore. He’s also done a bunch of books on other topics (Environment, Genetics, Sex, etc..) in the same style.

  5. I’m also curious to learn of Speed’s results from moving online.

    For my part, I can report that when Big Head Press decided to start serializing The [i]Probability Broach: The Graphic Novel[/i] on-line, even though it had been completed and print-published almost two years previously, our sales of that book doubled.

  6. Oh hush; he produces the best cartoon porn a 15 year old’s money can buy.

    I was disappointed when Speed moved FINDER online, as I’d been buying the book faithfully almost since the start (and indeed have one of the rare #2’s), so it felt like an abandonment of those of us who’d got her to that point. I’ve bought 2 trades (“Mystery Date” and “5 Crazy Women”), but there’ll be an asymmetry to my collection now unless I rebuy the first 30-someodd issues in trade format, which I’m not anxious to do, footnotes or no.

    I think it’s better for a series to begin online than to migrate there, at least in terms of keeping one’s fans, in the vein of the Act-I-Vate and ChemSet cats. I understand the transition from an economic angle, just not the marketing one.