How Comics Came to Humble Bundle, with Director of Books Kelley Allen [Interview]
Digital comics have grown in several different directions over the last few years, but one of the most interesting developments is how they've enabled people to try new ways of distributing comics, marketing to readers, and building an audience. The Humble Bundle is perhaps one of the most fascinating new models; a pay what you want program that works with publishers to offer huge collections of comics in one go.
From the very first Image Comics bundle last year right through to the new Gamer Comics bundle with Dark Horse, companies have seen incredible sales through this system, expanding audiences by staggering degrees. With Humble Bundles now a routine mini-event for comics readers, ComicsAlliance spoke to the company's director of books, Kelley Allen, about how so much has changed over just one year, and where she sees Humble Bundle heading over the next few years.
Comics Alliance: When did Humble Bundle first set up, and where did the initial idea come from?
Kelley Allen: Humble Bundle is a digital distribution platform that started as an experiment in 2010 by independent game developers Jeffrey Rosen and John Graham to promote indie games and raise money for charity. The first bundle was so successful, they decided to re-focus their energy on putting together similar bundles and spotlight more indie creators while partnering with additional charities.
CA: How do you view yourselves as a company? You’re a mix of charity, retailer, and marketer, in some ways?
KA: Humble itself is not a charity, but we work closely with multiple charitable causes and as of today have raised over $60 million for our charity partners. As a company we strive to not only provide great curated content that customers want, but also help make the world a better place while doing so. We offer time-limited bundles that puts the power in the hands of the customer.
Customers can pay what they want and choose how their purchase dollars are allocated between the content creators, charity, and a Humble tip. Humble Bundle has since expanded to not only offer PC games, but Android games, e-books and digital comics as well.
CA: How and when did comics first come to be involved in Humble Bundles?
KA: In April of 2014, we launched our first comics bundle, Image Comics Book Bundle. It earned $399K.
CA: What do you find works best in a bundle? Are they most effective when focused on characters, or publishers, or...?
KA: We review each bundle, case by case, looking for a combination of different factors such as strong brand, authors and series, good publishing partners that have a track record of strong promotion, and content that will resonate with our user base.
CA: How does the curation process work?
KA: We work very closely with our publishing partners and will spend a lot of time discussing their lists in order to identify potential bundles. It’s a collaborative joint effort between Humble and the publishers. I also like to run bundle ideas past my colleagues in-house for their ideas. Some of our book bundles took months and months to curate.
We also receive a lot of suggestions from our customers too.
CA: The last year has seen Humble Bundle become a regular ‘event’ feature for comics fans. Have you seen a growing market and interest, yourselves, with each new comics bundle you curate?
KA: We have. The comic publishers love Humble since we provides discoverability to their titles. Whenever I meet someone who is a fan, I always ask them what do they think. Quite often, they will state that they discovered a new author or series that was unknown to them before because of the way we curate our bundles.
CA: Are there any publishers you have yet to work with, but want to have involved?
KA: Yes.They are a few small select group of publishers that we are currently in discussions with. However, we have the awesome problem of having our hands filled with all these other top notch publishing houses that already work with us and wish to continue to do so. Our bundle calendar is already booked through February of 2016!
CA: With the 'pay what you want' concept, do you find that comics fans have been open and willing to pay the higher rates for comics?
KA: Yes, we curate the bundles to be a very good value proposition. On average, our book bundles will retail at least for $150. So, paying $15 for a bundle is a great deal!
CA: How does the money raised break down? It splits between the publisher, yourselves, and various charities?
KA: Yes, the default is 65% to publishers, 20% to charities and 15% as a Humble tip. Those percentages are the defaults since the customer may change the percentages using sliders and could choose to give all the money to charity or the publisher if they want. We put the power in the hands of the customers to decide where the money goes.
CA: Who decides which charities benefit from which Bundle? Is that up to each publisher?
KA: For book bundles, we usually select up to three charities. The publisher will usually select at least one or nominate a completely new organization to support. We attempt to pair the theme of the bundle with the appropriate charities as closely as possible.
CA: How much have the comics bundles raised for charity so far?
KA: Over $1M to date.
CA: What’ll the next Bundle be?
KA: Our latest comics bundle, the Humble Gamer Comics Bundle presented by Dark Horse, launches today. It will run for two weeks until July 15th and benefits the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
Some of the titles include comic book adaptations of Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Halo, The Guild, Fallout: New Vegas, and Plants vs. Zombies, to name a few. More titles will be added to the bundle mid-promotion so keep an eye out for those!