Black Sands Entertainment, an African American owned publisher and media company focused on content aimed at African American consumers, launched the Black Sands Publishing app, a digital comics platform, over the May 1 weekend. The BSP comics app has been created following the business model, gaming features, and vertical-scroll display of app-based digital comics platforms such as Webtoon.

The BSP Comics app is the latest move by a Black-owned publishing venture that has used social media/crowdfunding platforms to sell its books and to raise more than a $1 million in investment over the last year. The new app offers access to a variety of digital comics series created by Black Sands and about 16 independent publishers and artists. The app launched with about 20,000 downloads, according to BSE, and is currently available for iOS devices. The company has about 18,000 pre-orders for the Android OS version, which is still under development.

Black Sands Entertainment was founded in 2016 by the husband and wife team of Manuel Godoy, Black Sands president, and Geiszel Godoy, who is publisher. The couple, who wrote much of BSE’s early content, have been successful building a publishing platform using a variety of social media platforms. BSE’s initial financing came from crowdfunding via Kickstarter, and BSE has used Facebook successfully to target consumers interested in its books

More recently, Manuel Godoy has been prominent on TikTok pitching BSE publishing plans, using the short-video platform to issue entertaining and sometimes wacky appeals for investment. Over the last year, BSE has raised more than a $1 million in crowdfunded equity investment from more than 2,000 investors on WeFunder, a crowdfunding site that allows the public to make small equity investments in WF companies, and, they hope, get a return on it.

Initially, Black Sands published a mix of comics, graphic novels, chapter books, DVDs, and picture books aimed at Black parents and their children. The house’s main publishing series is Black Sands: The Second Kingdom, a two volume (a third is on the way) graphic novel series about a young boy destined to become king of an ancient African kingdom.

The App

Much like such platforms as Webtoon or Tapas Media, the BSP Comics app lets fans read comics for free via a vertical scroll with plans to also offer a premium access level for a monthly subscription fee. Later, Godoy said, the app will accept micropayments, like a videogame, that will unlock chapters or new content. Chapters can also be unlocked by completing missions and adventures around the African kingdom. And Godoy expects to introduce opt-in advertising—users will have the option of watching an ad to unlock content. BSE is also supported by a Patreon account, which is a subscription crowdfunder that allows supporters to donate money on a long-term monthly basis. Godoy says BSE has about 1,550 patrons that collectively donate about $20,000 a month to the company.

The funds raised via BSE’s WeFunder campaigns, Godoy told PW, were used to develop the BSP Comics app, support the BSE book and digital publishing program, and to develop a series of animated pilot shows based on the Black Sands: The Second Kingdom, graphic novel series, and Cosmic Girls, a comics series about a 13 year-old girl space bounty hunter. Both series are in production and Teunis de Raat, former Bron Animation v-p, is now head of Black Sands Studio, which is producing the animation. And Godoy said that BSE backlist titles continue to sell well via its website and online retailers. BSE books are distributed to the book trade by PGW.

Godoy said the company is focused on securing more financing (he’s looking to raise $3 million in the next round of WeFunder campaigns), using the funds to add new functionality to its app (version 2 is in development) and grow the number of Black publishers and artists on the BSP platform.

BSE’s plan, Godoy emphasized, is to create a Black entertainment media company that can deliver all kinds of content to Black consumers. “There’s no support for Black creators on Webtoon or Comixology,” Godoy claimed. “We’ve built a platform designed to support Black art that enables Black creators to attract their core audience: black consumers.”