Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

In The Digital Driver's Seat with Conor McCreery

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In The Digital Driver's Seat with Conor McCreery

On September 26th, visit The Word On The Street's newest venue, the Digital Drive Stage, where you can expect a lively discussion on the future of reading, writing and publishing. In anticipation of the event, Open Book: Toronto checks in with some of the panelists with a new interview series, In The Digital Driver's Seat.

Conor McCreery, whose wildly popular adventure series Kill Shakespeare just won Telefilm Canada's Pitch This! contest at TIFF, will take part in the panel "The Big Issue: Magazines and Comic Books in the Digital Age." Visit the website for more details.

Open Book:

You are among a group of writers and publicists that has fully embraced electronic publishing. What made you decide to “grab the wheel” of the industry’s digital revolution?

Conor McCreery:

It was really a no-brainer, especially when you consider the comfort that younger readers have with the digital space. They are not going to be nearly as nostalgic for physical printed matter because it isn’t something they grew up with in the same way. I look at digital as a way to compliment print for some of our target readers, and as the primary way to reach another group. I think if you dismiss the digital world out of hand you are likely hurting yourself.


How has your involvement in e-publishing changed the work you do? Have you adapted your creative process?


Not too much yet—although in the sequential art world there is a big discussion over how some of these ereaders may change the storytelling process. Usually in a comic, as a reader, I take in the entire page layout first. So there is an art to how you put that layout together. But many of the readers give you a panel by panel experience. So that changes how information is revealed and how that layout can psychologically affect the reader. I think we will see more comics being written specifically for the panel-by-panel reveal. And that creates some interesting storytelling opportunities and challenges.


What aspect of publishing do you think will change the most as a result of the digital drive?


I think we’ll see fewer physical books, magazines and comics being sold, but perhaps greater numbers overall. Especially if publishers are smart and lower the cost of the digital versions. It really helps publishers take less of a risk per publication, so maybe it will also see a greater variety of authors being given a chance, especially if you pull back advances and up royalties.


Do you feel differently about online publications versus print publications? Do readers have different expectations?


I think online publications are still lagging. I don’t want to have the same experience in print as I do online. I want online publications to use the power of the web—the colours, the ability to use sound and video, the ability to be interactive. I think we’re just scraping the surface of what is possible there. And I think the evolution of tablets will bring that forward.

I envision a day where I will pay $0.25 a day for the Globe and Mail on my iPad or gPad. I’ll do that because of the freedom of movement, and because that online edition gives me an experience the paper version can’t.

And I hope that revolution stops the steady slide of word-rates for journalists and helps revive journalism, which is in a frightening place to me right now…


Tell us about your online comic series Kill Shakespeare. Would you have achieved a similar level of success through traditional print publishing?


The online success is growing for us. What is frustrating in the comic world is the lack of a unified format, like MP3s for music. Right now every company has its own reader, and every company is also tied to one or another web-based service. So it is tough to put your collection in one place.

As that changes I think appetite for smaller books will increase. But one thing it definitely allows us to do is to forge forward into markets where physical distribution is tricky. For example, schools in India teaches more Shakespeare than anywhere else in the world—but try to find a shop selling Western comics…

For us that market could be very rich, people who love Shakespeare and are starting to become very web savvy. The ability to sell our comic online, at a more manageable price, could really make a difference for us in getting that part of the world on board with our story.


What do you think comic “books” will be like twenty years from now?


They will still look like what we have today. There will be even fewer “floppies” (single issues) because the digital market will grab more of that, but I think the trade paperback/graphic novel world will be similar. I think many people will still want a physical copy that is easy to trade with friends.

Ideally, because of tablets, the market will have grown because of the greater ease of collecting comics for the fans, and more importantly the greater ease of dipping your toe in the water for those people who still have the erroneous belief that “comics are kids' stuff.” I think tablets will help North America catch up to Europe and Japan, who are far more sophisticated in how they consume sequential art.


Thank you, Conor. And congratulations to you and Anthony Del Col on your recent win at Telefilm Canada's Pitch This! competition at TIFF.

Conor McCreery has served in both creative and business positions for film and television companies, and has contributed over 1,000 stories and articles for media outlets including The Globe and Mail and Wired online. He is the co-creator of Kill Shakespeare, a new fantasy-adventure comic book series taking Canada by storm.
Read about their win at Telefilm Canada's Pitch This! contest here.

See Conor on the Digital Drive Stage at 2:00 with Matthew Fox, Brian Joseph Davis and Emily Schultz.

The Digital Drive Stage is launched with the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation. The stage is hosted by Stuart Woods, editor of Quill & Quire, and Quill & Quire book review editor Stephen W. Beattie. Read more about it at

Want to hear more about publishing's digital revolution? Check out the CBC Book Club, where this month's topic is The Future of Reading.

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