On the eve of the release of the first titles from SmarterComics’ line of graphic adaptations of bestselling business and motivational prose titles, book packager The Round Table Companies, which produced the titles, joined with SmarterComics to announce that five of the nonfiction comics titles will be released as e-books. The books will be available to download for free for 90 days beginning April 1; another, an adaptation of Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail, will be available as a free download beginning April 16.

Corey Blake, president of The Round Table Companies, said the books have been so well received by retailers that he’s launching Round Table Comics, his own line of nonfiction comics based on bestselling motivational titles as well as classic works of nonfiction, among them, Machiavelli’s The Prince.

Late last year Round Table and SmarterComics announced a lineup of five nonfiction comics works, Larry Winget’s Shut Up, Stop Whining & Get a Life; Robert Renteria’s Mi Barrio (based on From the Barrio to the Board Room); Tom Hopkins’s How to Master the Art of Selling; Chris Anderson's The Long Tail; and Dr. John Eliot's Overachievement. Now, to promote the release, the firms are offering the free downloads of the books through the Round Table Companies and SmarterComics websites, as well as through the SmarterComics Android applications starting April 1. Anderson’s The Long Tail comic will first be excerpted in Wired magazine before the free downloads begin. The free downloads will be available until July 1, print editions will be available beginning April 16; priced from $12.95 to $14.95 and iPad editions will be priced at $6.99.

Blake negotiated the rights and put together the veteran cartoonists and writers that adapted the prose works into comics; given the great reception for the first releases, he's eager to get going on his own line of nonfiction graphic novel adaptations. Besides The Prince, the upcoming RTC line includesEverything’s Okay: My Journey Surviving Childhood Cancer by cancer survivor and motivational speaker Alesia Shute with drawings by Nathan Lueth; and executive career coach Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get There, all coming in the Fall and Winter of 2011; the line will expand in 2012.

Both lines of comics are distributed to the trade by National Book Network and will be also be available through 65 Hudson News Bookstores in U.S. airports and train terminals and Canada’s Indigo bookstore chain. Blake is also targeting the direct market and has hired independent comics sales rep Tony Shenton to target comics shops, “We’ve sent out more than 200 samples to comics shops, we’re offering free shipping and we’re excited at the response we’re getting,” said Blake.

The books have also developed into great outreach items for the orginal authors. Robert Renteria’s Mi Barrio, which tells the story of his rise from an impoverished Hispanic neighborhood in L.A. to successful entrepreneur, has already been adopted as a teaching tool in the Illinois public schools and is in much demand for reaching troubled teens in the youth prison system. Renteria has Launched a Mi Barrio Foundation, that has created school curriculums based on the graphic adaptation and delivered more than 10,000 copies of the book to both schools and youth prisons. “The foundation raises money to buy and donate the comics,” said Blake, “Renteria knows we can reach kids at an early age using comics. He has devoted his life to this and he’s become a celebrity to a lot of kids.” Shute’s foundation—she’s given nearly a $1 million to cancer research—has also embraced the graphic novel adaptation for her work, using the book to help the victims of childhood diseases and 100% of the proceeds from the graphic adaptation will also go to research.

The launch of the SmarterComics line has been so well received, Blake said, that Round Table is looking to aggressively expand the range of nonfiction comics it produces. The company is in talks STM publisher John Wiley & Sons and Hachette about a deal to package nonfiction comics and is in talks with health publisher Amber Allen.

“By providing existing titles in a familiar format, but in a new way that’s never been done before, Round Table Companies is creating a more powerful and memorable experience for a new generation of nonfiction readers,” said Blake. “We work with accomplished artists, producers and talent like Chris Anderson to bring our partners’ visions to life. We believe the power of stories impact lives and look forward to continuing future partnerships in other markets like sports and entertainment, which can also benefit from this creative medium for delivery messages.”