New things are percolating at iVerse, the Waco, Tex. company behind the ComicsPlus digital comics app. iVerse is looking to steal some of Kickstarter’s marketshare, as well as venture into DRM-free digital comics.
ComicsAccelerator is the company's new crowdfunding play, a whole new platform for raising money specifically for comics-based projects. Crowdfunding has been a new revenue stream for comics creators and even publishers, with the current record being $1.25M raised for the Order of the Stick webcomic on Kickstarter. ComicsAccelerator is leading with an economic carrot: they charge 5% of the project as project management fee (not counting any PayPal processing fees, so figure the total bill will be 7.9% + $0.30) and, unlike Kickstarter, they cap the total amount of the fee for a project at $2500.
To be fair, although Kickstarter (which also charges a 5% processing fee) has no cap on the total amount of the processing fee, the iVerse cap doesn’t mean anything until a project draws $50,000. That said, hitting over $50K over at Kickstarter is not as unusual as it used to be. In the rare instance of a million dollar crowdfunding campaign like Order of the Stick, the savings could theoretically be six figures. All that is assuming creators can direct their supporters to a different crowdfunding site. It isn’t clear what portion of a comics crowdfunding audience is tied to the creator and what portion is tied to the platform, but it looks like we may be finding out soon.
Since iVerse is a digital comics platform, fulfillment of digital comics prizes could be automated into the crowdfunding campaign. They’re also offering a “Reserve Funding” option which could be used to differentiate between the bare minimum creators would need to pursue a project as a part-time/afterhours activity with a larger minimum representing switching to the project as their day job.
The catch to ComicsAccelerator is that it is only open to comics-related products. They don’t have to be comics. They could be t-shirts with comic characters on them or perhaps financing a comics-based film.
“This whole thing is an experiment for us,” explains iVerse CEO Michael Murphy. “We like experimenting with new ways to do things, and it looks like crowdsource funding has a huge future in changing the way creators make their comics. I've always been a big fan of creator owned material. I got into comics right at the dawn of Image, and—for me—creator-owned stuff has always been the bulk of my pull list. I want iVerse, as a company, to do whatever we can to help accelerate the growth of creator-owned comics...that's where the name comes from. We think there's value we can add there by working with creators to help promote their projects, and help them with the ins-and-outs of crowdsource funding. We have some great people on board who are experts who are here to offer advice and help get these projects funded. “
The service is currently in beta with the formal launch scheduled for later this month.
On the digital comics side of the company, iVerse is taking the plunge to offer a DRM-free version of select comics. The format in this instance will be .PDF. “I haven't received one negative comment from anyone regarding DRM-free options,” offers Murphy. “Those who are excited about it, largely independent creators, are happy we're offering it, and publishers who might not be as interested in it right now know that it's an option, but not a requirement. I think as time goes by we'll see more and more books going DRM-free, but it won't be over night.”
While the .CBZ/.CBR are sometimes referred to as the most common digital comics formats, due to their popularity in torrents, Murphy can’t recall ever getting a reader request for a .CBZ/.CBR format. On the other hand, he had creator requests specifically for the .PDF format.
“From a technical standpoint there are things we can do with PDFs that we can't with .CBR/.CBZ—plus there are many more PDF reading options out there and many of those are free reading options that are well supported,” says Murphy.
Formal announcements of specific DRM-Free titles haven’t been made yet, but the initial offerings are expected to be creator-owned titles.