“There’s no denying that Double Barrel is perfectly suited for digital” Kevin and Zander Cannon on the pros and cons of digital publishing
Last time we spoke Double Barrel’s Kevin and Zander Cannon they were just setting off on their exciting journey into the wide world of digital comics. They were setting out to change the model of digital publishing by releasing their comics Crater XV and Heck in a combined monthly instalment. Not only would this give fans a regular fix while they were finishing off writing and drawing their respective books but they hoped it would also avoid fans ‘waiting for the trade’ and so giving readers a reason to pick up the book much earlier. With both Crater XV and Heck now released as collected editions on ComiXology we wanted to find out how the Cannon’s journey went and what they had learned about the world of digital comics along the way.
We spoke to you guys back in October about your plans for Double Barrel, and you told us about your mission statement for the book, how do you think the first 9 months have gone? What have been your highlights or challenges and how has Double Barrel been received?
Z: It’s gone well; we are learning what people’s attention spans are for large amounts of material, we’re figuring out what is best done in anthology form and what is best done on the web, how to raise awareness on social media, what kind of additional work builds the digital brand, etc. We’ve loved the coverage Double Barrel has gotten, and we’re looking at what it was that people liked or wanted changed to make adjustments for the next season.
K: There have been some challenges as well. For instance, in wanting to make each issue loaded with bonus content above and beyond the serialized graphic novels, we may have ended up biting off more than we could chew. That bonus content takes a long time to draw, and unfortunately we’re doing all of this in our limited free time. We were able to keep up the once-a-month pace for most of the run, but diehard fans will have noticed that the last few issues have taken longer and longer to produce. That’s not a regret, just a reality, and promising a monthly book is something we’ll have to seriously revisit when looking at Season Two.
What advice would you give to people trying to get into digital publishing now? What advice would you give yourselves looking back? Would you recommend writers and artists followed your lead in this way and would you do things differently? Is anyone else doing things the way you wish you were?
Z: We were putting these together as a way to bridge the gap until our books came out, and I think we did make a compelling argument for indie digital work that inverts the indie business model for print. Indie books can cost less, rather than more, and offer an assortment of work that varies in style, format, and tone, rather than just be direct conversions of what is in comic book stores.
We would love it if people would follow our lead; far from wanting to corner the market, we would love if it there were genre-specific anthologies that could showcase creators and narratives without having everyone have to go it alone. Particularly in indie world where people are used to either putting work up free online or hiding it until the trade paperback is finished, appearing in an inexpensive anthology with other great works can be either (or both) very encouraging, or helpful in correcting some flaws.
And my advice to anyone attempting it now? It’s the wild west, baby; there are no rules, so do what you love and see if it doesn’t catch on.
K: Zander’s right about this being the wild west. Anyone starting from scratch at this point will quickly realize that there are many options for how to put their work out. Releasing Double Barrel through Top Shelf was the perfect choice for us, and we’ve greatly benefitted from Top Shelf’s marketing and digital distribution muscles. But someone starting out might want to try releasing their work through a different platform or even just throw up a pdf on a website. What they lose in marketing and distribution they gain in retaining 100% of sales. For someone with their own established brand and a large social media following, going solo might be an option they want to consider.