Joey Manley, publisher of Modern Tales, the leading online comics site, announced today that its WebcomicsNation initiative has begun in earnest, with the launch of SmallPressSwapmeet.com.
This online marketplace for independent comics, minicomics, graphic novels, and related merchandise is open to any cartoonist or small press publisher with items for sale who wishes to reach Modern Tales’ large online audience.
Manley continued: “Over the past twenty years or so, the field of small press comics has been the site of an explosion of entrepreneurial energy — there are historical reasons for this, but they are too deep to go into today (and are the subject of much controversy besides). But the inarguable fact is this: unlike, say, prose fiction, or poetry, where self-publishing is still considered shameful, a sign of vanity and mediocrity, many of the most respected names in comics have built their careers mostly, or entirely, through self-publishing: Jeff Smith (Bone), Dave Sim (Cerebus), Donna Barr (The Desert Peach) and Paul Pope (Heavy Liquid) spring to mind. In the past two or three years, the phenomenon has quickened, with hundreds of popular webcomics artists moving into the self-publishing world, either by collecting their online strips into book form, or by selling t-shirts and other merchandise related to their work. Modern Tales has tens of thousands of daily visitors, and approximately four thousand paying customers, representing the most valuable and most willing-to-pay group of customers for non-corporate comics you are going to find, anywhere on the Internet.”
Manley continued, “The small press comics ‘industry’ is fed by a series of small conventions scattered around the country: Maryland’s Small Press Expo, San Francisco’s Alternative Press Expo, New York’s MOCCA and a few more. Unless you live in one of those cities, though (or one of a few other cities with quality comic book stores carrying a wide variety of non-corporate material), your ability to plug into the scene has been limited — and even those who regularly attend those kinds of gatherings may find it difficult to stay on top of what’s going on in the field more than once or twice a year. The Small Press has a healthy presence on the web, but that presence is scattered across thousands of websites, blogs, forums, and webzines. There is no one, good place to get the kind of comprehensive experience that can be obtained at, say, APE. Until now.”
Manley described SmallPressSwapmeet.com as a sort of ongoing “convention floor” for independent comics creators, allowing them to find their customers (and vice versa) every single day of the year. “It is not meant to replace, or even compete with, the real-world convention experience, but to strengthen it, by attracting new people (artists and readers) to the scene, and by reinforcing and extending the excitement already felt by hardcore Small Pressers by allowing them to keep in touch with the field on a constant and comprehensive basis.”
SmallPressSwapmeet also represents the first of the company’s new branded “WebcomicsNation” business applications to go public, according to Manley. “WebcomicsNation is simply the catch-all name we’ve given to the next phase of our business — specifically, we’re taking the online applications and business-building tools we’ve built for ourselves over the years, and are opening them up to any cartoonist or small press publisher. You can think of WebcomicsNation as the cartoonist’s equivalent of Salesforce.com, or Quicken’s online business services — except very tightly targetted toward the professional cartoonist. The Swapmeet is only the first of these online applications. Look for the rest of them to launch in the coming months — including, most significantly, a means by which cartoonists without any programming expertise can launch their own subscription-based online comics websites.”