The AE Index At Five Years

On July 10 2017 I moved the AE Format Books Index page from Comic Book Daily to this domain and was born. I started that page on Comic Book Daily in October 2014 after becoming more interested in this format of printing original comic art at full size. I started writing about AE format books in 2011 with IDW’s announcement of Walter Simonson’s The Mighty Thor Artist’s Edition. I did my first review in 2012 with John Romita’s The Amazing Spider-Man Artist’s Edition but settled on the current format in 2013 with Will Eisner’s The Spirit Artist’s Edition.

AE Index Featured

This is a look back at the past five years: what has been accomplished, what has worked and what hasn’t. It may be a bit rambling as I try to see the forest and the trees.

I started the Index and this site because no one was providing reviews of AE format books with photos of the books themselves. Because of that, I’ve focused on what I call picto-reviews, with the emphasis on interior photos so readers can make their own determinations. I’ve reviewed every AE format book that has been published in North America and shipped from a major distributor. I’ve also reviewed mainstream artists who have released AE format books via crowdfunding. All site photos were updated when everything was moved from Comic Book Daily. I’ve tracked publishing information, ship dates, sales data, aftermarket sales and the occasional interview. When the AE format market imploded I added “not quite an AE” reviews and foreign language AE format reviews.

Some stats. I’ve used WordPress with Jetpack since the beginning and their stats are not as good as Google but I find them easier to work with. Visitors and total page views have increased year over year, with 2021 having 43,028 visitors and 164,379 page views. That’s 3.82 page views per visitor. Google tells me 66% of visitors come from web searches, 25% come direct and 5% from email. The top five searches are derivatives of Artist Edition and Index; people know the format and an inkling of this site. The top five countries in order of visitors are the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, and Spain.

It may be my age, but I still enjoy email newsletters and my weekly newsletter provides readers with a quick way to see what’s new on the site. Clearly, people do click as it’s 5% of my traffic. Well, that’s 2151 visitors in 2021 from email, about 43 clicks per newsletter. I currently have 308 newsletter subscribers, and can’t seem to get that number much larger; it’s hovered around 300 for the last three years. The most popular hour on the site is 3 PM Saturday, the hour I send the newsletter.

From my experience with other sites, I knew there would be no comment section. I didn’t want to worry about moderating and negativity. There was already the pre-eminent forum for AE format books from Collected Editions via Tapatalk and from the get-go, I linked there. It’s the most polite group of people I interact with on the internet. The Tapatalk forum link is the second most popular external link on the site, after eBay, so people do want to discuss what they read about here. The site automatically posts to Facebook and Twitter when there’s new content, and I really could do a better job there. I respond to all comments, but there isn’t a lot. This year I’ve had 1234 clicks on Facebook and 294 on Twitter, so they are driving traffic.

It was never intended as a moneymaker, but I’ve tried to generate income from the get-go. So far I haven’t received a single complementary or review copy of an AE format book. I did receive one “not quite an AE” book which I was thankful for. I gave up asking early on as publishers offered digital review copies, but I will gratefully accept any free AE format books! Affiliate links are my monetizer of choice and don’t require anything from the visitor, since having links to retailers benefits them and me. By a large margin, eBay is my most successful affiliate, since the AE format publishing crash. Patreon has been interesting: I greatly appreciate the support but have come to realize I don’t have anything extra to give patrons. I started with exclusive interviews but that could only go on for so long. I openly publish what I can about AE format books and Patreon patrons give their thanks for that information through their monthly support. The store is fairly new and not terribly successful. It’s the fifth most visited page of 2022 on the site, but something is holding people back. Almost everything is cover price, and those above cover I try to keep at eBay pricing. All funds generated by the site go to buying the books reviewed here.

I don’t remember why I started the podcast; maybe to create a fourth weekly item. In the beginning, I had something every Friday: out-of-print sales, Diamond sales numbers, Diamond solicitations, and the podcast. It’s taken years for me to get comfortable with the podcast, talking about whatever comes to mind and rambling for 30 minutes. The audience stayed at about 110 listeners until I created a YouTube channel and added it there as well; the podcast audience has stayed at the same level but I’m at 136 YouTube subscribers now.

And that has always been the question in the back of my mind: how big can an AE format audience be? I believe there’s a hardcore audience that visits this site most days, goes to the forum to discuss and generally loves the format. But the bulk of my visitors are interested in looking at one book from a particular artist and buying only that AE format book. They may find an interest and pick up a few, but they don’t want to collect them. It’s a big book and a novelty. But as long as people continue to discover new comics and comic artists, I will have new visitors.

The AE Format Books Index page has had a few names as I struggled with what to call it. It started as a single point of information and thus AE Index made sense, but when it moved here I usually end up referring to it as the index proper. Again, it’s well established and I would hate to make a drastic name change.

My photos and videos can use some work. Maybe a lot of work. I’ve always used whatever iPhone I had at the time and a lot of my photos are lacking a professional look, with colour or focus issues. My next upgrade will be professional lighting and then maybe a decent digital SLR. And I need a better video format: I only intend to flip through the book, but perhaps I need some music instead of just the sound of pages turning. I’m not a fan of videos and prefer to stick with written reviews.

I would have preferred .COM instead of .ORG but that was the only mainstream TLD left that used aeindex. I wanted a short URL so that’s what I went with. Looking at Google’s search information AEINDEX and AE INDEX are in my top five hits from Google to the site, so .ORG isn’t mainstream enough. I thought about .CA but that’s more obscure than what I have now.

Sadly, my closet can’t hold all my AE format books anymore. I had to move the foreign language books into my home library as a jumble of leaning cardboard boxes.

I’ve been worn down a little by my constant focus on this format. I no longer hope for certain books to be made: I wait and see what the publishers will provide. Interviews and news about upcoming volumes don’t excite me: at this point, I want to know about the process of the book. I still love books of original comic art and look forward to what is still to come.