These days, I consume my comics exclusively digitally. I certainly still hold a nostalgic love for enetering my friendly, neighborhood comic shop and picking up a trade or two, but you can’t quite fight the convenience of picking up your tablet and letting your fingers do the walking.
Yet, most digital comics are exactly that — the comic book page digitized onto the screen of your choice. While adequate, it’s, frankly, pretty boring.
NARR8 provides a noteworthy exception to that otherwise stagnant landscape.
Designed specifically for mobile consumption (with more platform support coming down the pipe), the Russia-based NARR8 seeks to open a content channel focused on interactivity and experience, as opposed to merely reading words on a page.
NARR8 hosts almost two dozen various series, each containing a number of episodes, purchasable using in-app currency on the device of your choice. The stories’ genres run the gamut — action, sci-fi, nonfiction, even children’s edutainment are represented among its offerings. Regardless of genre, each story capitalizes on interactivity to keep the reader’s experience engaging: through motion panels, minigames, or other special effects. Given the capabilities of the multi-core tablets/phones all of us carry these days, it’s almost surprising that few (if any) other companies are seeking to maximize on the technology the way NARR8 does.
Darya Trushkina, Senior Vice President of Business Development at NARR8, was kind enough to respond to an email interview with us to talk about NARR8: how it differentiates itself from other platforms, what titles she considers “must read,” and how the biggest winner at NARR8 could be you by generating revenue from your published work.
For those who don’t know, would you please explain what NARR8 is, and how it differentiates itself from other digital content services?
Darya Trushkina: NARR8 is a mobile app that is redefining the way we read, create and share content by presenting an engrossing 15-20 minute interactive reading experience complete with animation, music, sound effects, and gamification and interactive features that bring stories to life like never before. NARR8 features motion comics, graphic novels and educational periodicals in a slew of genres – action, sci-fi, horror, romance, and children’s content. NARR8 is available on iPad, Android, Amazon, Windows 8, Facebook, and now, for web browsers. It’s a completely cross-platform app, so you can create a single NARR8 account, load it up with some episodes, and use and of the above platforms to resume reading exactly where you left off.
Content drives applications like this — you need the comics people want to read in order to grow. What titles offered on NARR8 do you consider as “must read” that traditional comic book readers (such as those in our audience) would enjoy?
DT: JAM is one of our most popular motion comics. It tells the tale of Buster, a plucky young lad whose girlfriend has been kidnapped and somehow imprisoned inside the screen of a mysterious device, which just happens to resemble a certain handheld gaming portable we all know and love. Over the course of the series, Buster takes on a series of epic quests and fights off a slew of enemies—all heavily inspired by classic video games as a loving tribute. There are a lot nods and winks to the world of video games that we think gamers of all experience levels will enjoy.
We have a variety of different series custom-tailored to specific audience interests and age groups. For instance, we have educational entertainment (“edutainment”) series like The Pandas & Boom for younger viewers. We also have more-adult series like Prime Blood, a dark urban fantasy story about a conflict between vampires and werewolves. All of our series have animated elements, interactive features, and audio tracks that make the experience much more engaging than simply reading a book or magazine.
There is clearly a huge demand for bringing comics and stories to user devices, but it seems Narr8 is alone in capitalizing on the devices’ interactive capabilities. In what ways do you think the interactivity enhances the storytelling?
DT: NARR8 encourage readers to interact with the content and characters. They don’t simply read words on a page, they become part of the story by also watching characters in motion, toggling ambient special effects, and following the story with full music soundtracks. We have interactive stories that let readers choose how the next step of the narrative will go, as well as game-like events that let readers actively participate in the story, such as using a touch-based mini-game to reenact a shootout between opposing factions in one of our fiction series.
The quickest way to increase exposure, I would think, is to capitalize on titles that majority of people would already know. Are there any plans on bringing in third-party IPs into NARR8, or are you focused mainly on the in-house and self-published titles?
DT: We’ve already brought in licensed IPs, such as The Secret City, which is based directly on a series of novels from bestselling author Vadim Panov, as well as Qumi-Qumi, based on the popular animated series created by Vladimir Ponomarev. We are also currently open to and searching for partnerships with other licensors, particularly for our educational content.
In addition, NARR8 has a separate series of editing tools called StoryBuilder, which lets users create their own series. Soon, NARR8 will also launch StoryBuilder PRO—a heavy-duty version of our editing tools that will let serious creative, such as teams of indie writers and artists, create and self-publish their own interactive stories onto NARR8, free of charge—in front of a million users.
You give the StoryBuilder tools to let people self-publish their own motion comics on NARR8. Could you explain the process for those interested on how one gets an idea published?
DT: The process is simple – create a NARR8 account at narr8.me, login to StoryBuilder at editor.narr8.me, use the tools to compile your creation, and submit. The content will, of course, need to be approved by our moderation team over a period of about 3-5 days to make sure there is no inappropriate content—then, your creation is released onto the NARR8 app in the StoryBuilder category.
How has the public response been regarding StoryBuilder? Have many authors taken advantage of it? What incentives are you providing for creators to publish on NARR8?
DT: We’ve seen good response to StoryBuilder among indie artists and comic fans. We’re even more excited for the release of StoryBuilder PRO, since we know this powerful toolset will empower ambitious artists to create their very own motion comics and interactive novels.
Incentives include free global distribution of content through the NARR8 app (we are available in four languages in more than a dozen countries worldwide, including key territories in North America, Europe, and Asia) and the option to discuss revenue sharing after a series reaches 1,000 user downloads.
NARR8 is still fairly young, coming up on its 1 year anniversary soon. What plans are in store to expand NARR8 in the future to add content and to reach broader audiences?
DT: As mentioned, our future plans include licensing well-known IPs for new series, with a particular emphasis on educational content, which we have discovered to be a very popular category on our platform. And as we’ve discussed, we’ve just garnered more than a million users, and have expanded onto yet another platform, Web, to increase the platform’s reach. We’re very excited to see what the creative teams of the world will do Storybuilder PRO.
A million thanks to Darya for responding to our questions. Download NARR8 now on your device of choice, and start reading experiencing the story for yourself! For our future authors and artists, start your work on StoryBuilder here, and get ready for when StoryBuilder PRO launches so that you can make your own motion comics on NARR8!