Friday, 14 March 2014

Borderline Blog #15 - We Care A Lot

Borderline Press is a small business. It's not blessed with infinite resources; it isn't a shell company standing in front of a much bigger, well known, one. It is me (and a few helpers) and I try to present a professional image. I try to produce professional books. I want people to be happy - honest.

For anyone who ever read this blog in the days when the idea of me returning to comics was as plausible as that Malaysian airliner having been abducted by aliens, you'll know that as an ex-retailer I think publishers - comics publishers - are monumental shits.

I have a friend who is coming to help me at conventions and will do all those jobs I don't want to do and he's not familiar with the inner workings of comics. He thought that comics retailing was pretty much like every other retailing and he laughed - a genuine, honest laugh - when I explained to him that retailers pay for Point of Sale material. You want posters to advertise Marvel's new book? They cost this much - so on, so forth. If you want help selling their product you pay for it. You remember record shops? You might recall all those fantastic displays for new albums in the shop window? You remember video stores? You know all those mega-fantastic displays in the windows? Book shops? The displays for the new Stephen King, John Grisham or Hilary Mantel? Games stores? Every single one of them paid for by the publisher/distributor/manufacturer. Comics publishers (and distributors) give small retailers shit deals and then charge them for the honour of selling their product. It makes you wonder why people would want to run a comic shop with just that little fact? No other division of the entertainment industry treats its Front Line sales people with such utter contempt and they have done so for 30 years.

I said to my partner, "We need to do a free comic for Free Comic Book Day and we need to give it away!" He looked at me like I'd just said, "We need to eat food or we'll eventually starve to death!" Then I explained to him what I meant and his reaction was absolutely what you'd expect - 'Go for it!'

So, back in January when Will was still helping me, I started to put together a free comic. Will designed the cover; I filled the 15 pages with sales pitch, hyperbole and pretty pictures. Things happened; time moved on; different people were spoken to and eventually, yesterday, the free comic pretty much got past the 95% finished stage and there are just 2 pages that bare any resemblance to that original from January.

I'm getting 5000 printed. I'm sending a bunch of them to 50 comic shops across the British Isles and Ireland. I'm paying for the printing. I'm not (like all other publishers) going to charge the shops (because they wouldn't have them off me if I tried because they don't know me from a hole in the ground) and I'm going to foot the postage bill as well. I'm spending a lot of money and I just hope that the comic shops appreciate the gesture and the comics readers like what they see, so they can go into their shops and get them to order books from me.

And, just to emphasise my belief in the UK's comics retailers, I'll give any shop taking these books between now and the end of July a whopping 50% discount and they can have them, during that period, on a Sale Or Return basis - so if at any point between now and August they order books and are not satisfied, they can send them back and I'll even refund their postage.

That's how much confidence I have that Borderline Press is doing good stuff and now the comics press have started to see such gems as 566 Frames and they are getting justifiably good reviews, I don't want you to forget about Borderline Press and I want you to think that our books are what you want.

The extra brilliant thing about the free comic is that in a couple of weeks (maximum), we're (well, Glenn is) going to make it available to download from the website. The amazing thing about this, for me, is that the PDF is around 12meg, which is 12x the size of Borderline Magazine. In 2001, a 1meg file would take around an hour to download at 128kpbs and today, with my superfast broadband, it takes about 4 seconds to download 12meg.

The problem with people over 50 is unless they keep up with the technological world they end up being amazed like a caveman would be at a Sony Walkman - he'd probably understand that music was coming from this strange thing, but he wouldn't understand how or why - that's people over 50 that is.

Anyhow, just to recap. Free comic. Free - not costing anything. Free to the customer. Free to the retailer. Free to download. Free. Like air but with a little more substance, in a virtual kind of way. As free as the bird that Lynyrd Skynyrd sang about.

It will be 16 pages, half of which is an awesome Jamie Lewis full colour Seth and Ghost story - which is free! The other half is lots of what's coming and look how good what's been is. And, in case I didn't mention, it won't cost anyone anything. It will literally be free (unless you count to expel energy as a cost) and there ain't much free-ness about nowadays.

Oh and you really should follow Borderline Press on Twitter - @borderlineEU - I chose that 'handle' because I see the publishing company as a Pan European burgeoning publishing empire forging forward like that Norwegian bloke who discovered Antarctica or maybe sailed the world on a plank of wood or something. I actually chose that name because it was the only one available and everyone said the other one we had would just confuse people (unfortunately I can't tell you what it was as Bono has taken out a court order against me).


Oh and go and be brilliant people today!

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