Indy publisher SLG, the home of Halo and Sprocket, Pinocchio Vampire Slayer, and Gerry Alanguilan’s Elmer: A Story About Chickens, will begin publishing all its serialized comics in digital format rather than print. President and publisher Dan Vado summed up the situation rather neatly in the company’s press release: On the one hand, the market for print comics is dwindling; on the other hand, serialized comics allow creators to build up a fanbase before releasing a completed graphic novel. Digital allows the company to bypass Diamond’s quotas and avoid some of the costs of print comics while ensuring as wide a distribution as possible. The first two comics to be distributed this way are Stephen Coughlin’s Sanctuary and Chris Wisnia’s Monstrosis. In both cases, the first issue is available as a free download from the SLG site or through the iTunes store, and subsequent issues are priced at 99 cents each.
SLG got into the digital game early, offering downloads of its comics from its website, and their strategy now seems to be to make the comics available in as many channels as possible: By direct download from their site as well as through iTunes (for the iBooks app), Nook, and the comiXology and iVerse services.
While this is an unusual step, there is a certain logic to it. Phil and Kaja Foglio did it years ago, switching Girl Genius from serialized comics to a free webcomic, and they found that sales of their graphic novels increased, while they were able to avoid the cost of laying out and printing the monthly comics. The Foglios already had a large fan base when they made the move, however. SLG has a diverse set of offerings, so it’s less of a slam dunk, but it’s worth watching to see if they can make digital-first distribution work.