Monday, 23 June 2014

Borderline Blog #22 - Tiger Roars

Back in my days as News Editor for Comics International, I might have written the headline: Leicester Comic Con Roars Into Life, and Dez Skinn would struggle with it, BIG TIME.

"What's the significance of 'roars'?" He would ask, in his Humberside accent, and I would explain that Leicester is famous for having a rugby team called Leicester Tigers. He would baulk at that. I can think of more reasons why he wouldn't have liked it than he would have - it depended on what kind of mood he was in.

How about: Leicester Comic Con: A Crack(l)ing Day Out or Leicester Gets Foxy With Comics or maybe not...

My return to the circuit has been anything but auspicious: Thought Bubble for Borderline Press was held in a half finished, dimly lit building site; I looked and probably sounded like a middle-aged man in an uncomfortable position. Bristol was... well documented. A line has been drawn under that famous old south west city; it is a nice place to visit.

So expectations were mixed about Leicester. I mean, it was new and didn't really have a star name. No disrespect to Ian Edgington (who I really should have gone and spoken to, we have odd things in common), Matt 'D'Israeli' Brooker (brilliant to catch up with him after 12 years!) and the other names on the poster, but you could understand why hardened convention goers might look at Leicester Comic Con and think, 'hmm, looks a bit pooh.' That's where they would have been wrong.

I love Leicester. I live about 40 minutes drive from it and, with no disrespect to Alan Moore, Northampton is pretty much a pile of shit compared to this wondrous city. I just think there's so much to do there, so many places to visit and, of course, it has the Belgrave Road, which, this weekend was the first time I'd been to Leicester in years without going down it and shopping until I'm being wasteful. However, we drove close to it a couple of times, unintentionally.

The Borderline Press Team (me and Chris) left Northampton at 8am. I figured it would take 45 minutes max to get into the city and then we'd have 30 minutes to get to Silver Street (awkward) which would be more than enough time to get set up. We didn't take into account (and possibly neither did the convention) that Kasabian were playing a concert in the park; there was a military parade and roadworks meant some roads were not accessible. I've never been good in Leicester in a car; the last speeding ticket I ever got was on London Road, Leicester. At 9.40, we were just accidentally finding our way to Cank Street and the rear entrance of Silver Arcade. That was the only downer on what was to turn out to be a really fun day!

Specifics? That's tough. We gave away a stack of Zombre books and many of the people who got freebies stood and chatted, bought other books. The day was just a steady trickle of old and new friends, interested people - many just your bog standard members of the public - and do you know, I didn't see one unhappy face. Matt Brooker said to me the only bad thing for him was not bringing some of his books to sign, he thought he would have made a lot more money.

Holding the event in an empty shopping precinct was an absolute stroke of genius and the plans for next year's events look like an improvement and I would have questioned whether a convention has been held in a more ornate and bespoke piece of architecture. The Silver Arcade (Google image it and be astounded) is a real jewel in Leicester City Centre's crown and it is, sadly, undervalued and under used.

Cosplayers were out in force, brightening up an already glorious Midsummer day; the volunteers left no stone unturned; they were great to have around and you didn't want for anything if they could locate it for you.

It was busy at 10am and we were still taking money at 4.45pm. We'd connected with many people; Jay Eales and Baden James Mellonie were on hand to sign copies of Zombre and I smiled, a lot. In fact, we all smiled and laughed and joked and it felt like everyone was happy. I think they were.

I heard a few comments on my travels around the con; very few of them were even remotely negative and possibly the most derisory thing was the lack of star names; but hey, the guy who organised it - Nathan - did so in a short amount of time and needed to convince a few people it was worth doing. He did that.

I sold a Zombre on the strength of the poem in it - that was nice. I did an interview with some people trying to do some coverage for their You Tube channel and I can't remember enjoying myself at a comics convention as much in donkeys years.

Roll on LCC2015.


I should have delivery dates for Verity Fair and Spoko #1 this week, so it's all about gearing up for these releases. I'm planning #2 of the latter and have a tentative line-up in place. It might cause some production problems - it's a mix of black and white and colour this time around!

I'm in talks with the wonderful Kathryn Briggs to publish a Borderline Edition of her story(cycle) book and I'm trying to sort out something that could be our biggest push of a book so far. It's early doors at the moment, but I hope to be involved in something important towards the end of the year.

We've also had a very nice - if slightly raw - script submitted to us. It's been floating around my office for a few months. It looks around the 80-page region and is a dark horror story. I also have something odd (people are obviously being inspired by Seth & Ghost) about a promiscuous hero, her octopus sidekick and a planetary invasion. It made me laugh in places...

The thing is, I'm getting a lot of email and Twitter traffic asking about our submissions guidelines and this is as good a forum to reiterate it as any.

While our intention is to produce our own stuff (not written by me, but using our creations) and pay people to do it, that's still a way off. It was always our intention to produce extant books and projects primarily. Taking Zombre and Spoko out of the equation (because they both feature work that was asked for), the majority of our projects already exist, have been in short print format, foreign editions or web comics. However, I know feel like I'm entering Monty Python territory by adding the caveat, but Seth & Ghost has been produced exclusively for us, but I'm pretty sure Jamie would have had his hand bitten off by someone if Will Vigar hadn't done all the groundwork.

566, ZCS, HH, CoC, VF - all existed prior to our editions and that is ostensibly what we do, at the moment. If there's a finished project with no home and we like it, then we can talk. If there's a partially complete comic/book, then we can talk. It's just, at the moment, we'd rather spend our money ensuring there's great product out there with our name on it; we're not Marvel or DC or even Jonathan Cape.

So if you're a writer and you have the best idea in the world, we're not likely to commission you unless you have an artist and a fait accompli. The same if you're an artist looking for work; hey, I'd love to give you all a job - if I win the lottery, I might - but surely it's better for all concerned if we're still here and publishing good books in 2017 and 2022 and 2030?

There's also that thorny issue of just what does Borderline Press specialise in, if anything? I've said before, I want to publish the things I think you will like; the things that float my boat (and I think will make us all some money). If I had to be deadly serious for a second, we make books that appeal to women... No, seriously, we do. I've analysed all the sales data - web site, Amazon, conventions and book launches and 65% of our customers are female! More than half the sales on Zombre have been to girls! 566 Frames is split (which surprises me a little). Hunger House, Zombies Can't Swim - both sell to women! Only City of Crocodiles has a male leaning. I expect Verity Fair will continue to be a hit with the girls and I also think Spoko will appeal. It's no good, we're sexist...

Look at our schedule; see what we've published and what we're publishing. If you have a superhero book, it's unlikely I'm going to be that interested (unless it's something really special). Use your brains. Think outside of the box.

Due to all manner of 'problems', we're unlikely to be at LFCC in July; changing printers has been beneficial but has meant that we'll take delivery of Verity Fair and Spoko about 10 days after it; so their official launches will be at ICE in Birmingham on August 2nd. I know a lot of people have been waiting patiently, well, the wait is nearly over.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Borderline Press Blog #21 - Limbo Dancing

Since the laughable Bristol Comics Expo, the month has been almost deathly quiet. I don't know if it's the June doldrums or just that I haven't seen anything going on. yes; there's been lots exciting news in and around the world of comics (if you like that kind of thing), but for me it's been a period of heel-kicking and ponder.

Borderline Press took on a Commercial Manager in the form of my old friend Christian and he has, I hate to admit it, been great at doing the jobs I hate doing and he's been cutting costs; but this has been at the detriment of Verity Fair...

Terry Wiley's collected edition was originally supposed to be out for May, but production problems (at our, then, printer) put it back a month. Chris came on board, immediately looked at the costs of printing VF and said, 'Hold your horses.' The upshot is that Verity Fair should arrive in shops for July. I'm hoping it will be for the LFCC at Earl's Court or at the latest ICE in Birmingham. Spoko #1 will arrive at the same time, as will a bunch of promo posters - top quality posters - we'll be giving away to shops and people who buy our products.

After that we have another (publishing) lull, while I get Santa Claus versus the Nazis and Seth & Ghost away for a late September delivery. I also hope to have Robotz, but that depends on Jo's schedule. She's got June and July set aside to work on the book and it'll all be down to me to get the thing finished and to a printer for an October release. These three books are the backbone of Borderline Press's Christmas Onslaught (and the least said about that before Midsummer's day the better!). Plus we have Nathan Castle's Seamonster, a collection of Agata Bara's stories and two other projects; both by women, one from Scotland (via the USA) and the other - another - from Scandinavia. As I lost a couple of projects, the least said about those, also the better.

Oh and there's Spoko #2, which at the moment has stories from Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany and, hopefully, the UK. That should be out in November (if I can assemble it all, get a cover, and get it finished by September).

It's the Leicester Comic Con next weekend; we're hoping this is considerably better than Bristol (but, to be fair, you could hold a convention in a rotting crab's arse and it would be better than Bristol), then a summer of travelling around, meeting people and generally getting all of you people to see how great we are!

There is a change in the personnel for one convention, however. Because of a family engagement, I can no longer attend The Lakes in October. So Christian, along with Ben Dickson, Gavin Mitchell, Terry Wiley and a few others will be at the Borderline Press table in the Clock Tower. I will be taking Borderline Press to the brand new Leamington Spa Con, which is on the Saturday of the Lakes weekend (the family wedding isn't until the Sunday). I have high expectations for this new convention, because Dan Mallier - one half of the team behind it - is full of confidence and Lisa, his partner, seems to be approaching it from the direction a proper (non-comic) Convention organiser might. I expect it will impress many people and could well be the start of a much needed Midlands convention (now that Caption is moving and the MCMs at Birmingham aren't really about comics fans).

The other news involves my intention to get the website working more for us. Initially we had intended to have a rolling load of all manner of stuff, but, you know, running a comics publishing company - even part time - consumes so much time and energy that sitting down and thinking of frivolous and interesting nonsense to keep the web pages moving suddenly becomes much harder than the original idea seemed.

And that's about it; very much a month in limbo, waiting for things to start moving. However, you need to watch this space; things are always just close to the surface with anything I do...