Monday, 26 January 2015

Borderline Press Blog #29: Limbo Dancing on Ice

This time last year, Will and I were hard at work getting a new anthology title ready and sending print files off to China for the first time. The difference between last year and now is simple; there's nothing on the schedules for the next few months. I'm doing very little.

The stark reality is that we've hit a cash flow wall. The reason I'm even telling you about it (apart from the sense of drama) is simple - we knew it would happen; we (my partner and I) even talked about it when we set up the company. The good thing is that it's happened at exactly the time we both expected and wanted it to happen - while our existing stock is touted through new places.

Now, this is purely to do with our new distribution deal and the solicitation of our existing books to new markets. We are soliciting our existing stock through new outlets and the publishing company was created on the basis of 'once the investment starts to turn over cash there will be no more investment'. It isn't rocket science; my partner isn't a bottomless pit of money and this business was created, like all other businesses, to do exactly that - invest, hopefully reap the rewards and then reinvest. Well, we're halfway there; we're in the middle of the 'hopefully reap the rewards' phase.

Therefore bringing new stuff out isn't an option during this first quarter.

That's not to say we haven't got things planned. A look at what we have deals for and what we're negotiating should tell you that, in my eyes, that we're looking at a good 2015.

One thing I've learned over the last year has been that websites are not even a recognisable revenue stream. In fact, there might be a plethora of new, independent publishers out there, all doing, ostensibly, what I'm doing, but I'd bet very few of them are actually making money from their independent revenue sources. You do need distributors and as a result you pay through the nose. The irony is Borderline Press and a heap of other, more established independent comic publishers, offer loads of discounts, special offers and treats if you buy stock directly from them, yet people would rather go into a comic shop, pay the full asking price, and possibly get insulted by the holier-than-thou comic shop owner/employee. If it made any sense I'd happily have a go at explaining it for you.

So, after extensive investment in stock, we're at the mercy of a distributor and the tenuous security that involves. As we hurtle towards our, important, second anniversary and third year of trading, the landscape of comics retail is considerably different than I presumed it would be when I came back to comics. I'm very glad I'm no longer a retailer because I think it takes a special kind of person to do it and I'm not that person now (and because of my failure at it, I obviously wasn't then).

Here at Borderline Press, I have nothing on the schedules until March and then the print jobs and shipping will add another 6-8 weeks before they arrive (if I choose to go back to China for printing) for retailers and fans. I am acutely aware that the longer periods of time you have between releases increases the likelihood people will simply forget about you; but I would counter that fair question/observation with - Borderline Press books don't really have a shelf life, do they? It's not like 90% of our stuff won't have some relevance in 2115. The beauty of all of us niche market publishers is we all tend to publish stuff that has timeless qualities about it (or it's so naff you forget about it quickly).

So, with the prognosis extremely positive, I have a number of projects that are being prepared for the day I get the expected money from 'Peter' to pay 'Paul'. Some are finished and ready (Santa Claus versus the Nazis and story(cycle)), some are still being worked on (Agata Bara's trio of stories; The Happy Ghetto) and others are in pre-production (Lord) and, I'd like to think, the list of creative people lined up for 2015 is comparable to 'big' publishers - O'Moore, Smith, Briggs, Dickson, Mitchell, Karpowicz, plus a bunch of newbies with massive talents such as Bara, Thorpe, Gamester, Sztybor, and then even more - I get slightly priapic about all this talent...

Therefore because I have nothing much planned, I've been looking for a job. A real job. Back in the real world. Back in social care where I forged a successful career after comics. It's to stop me from going bat-shit crazy. There is maybe an hour, possibly two, worth of work a day to be done for Borderline Press at the moment. The majority of the current work is being done by the accountant as it's annual returns times. I cannot afford to sit at home doing nothing and earning nothing in the middle of winter. The boredom alone would have the strongest willed person reaching for umpteen bottles of scotch or a return to some illegal drugs; but the fact we're about to experience 'proper' winter again means that heating needs to go on and as I've discovered on several occasions in the last two years; if you're not doing anything - are inactive - your f**king house could be burning down around your ears and you'd still feel cold!

As you hopefully can see, I'm not sounding too concerned about the future (unusually for me) and I am one of those people who hates having overtly optimistic moments because falls often come harder in their wake, but initial sales (from the USA) seem to have vindicated certain decisions and I know how much money we're expecting to get come March onwards and provided it doesn't take a substantial hit, I should be sitting here in January 2016 telling you about that forthcoming year's schedules.

And that, my little chickens, is that for another month. Hopefully next time I will be able to confirm Rachael Smith's latest project (or I will have surreptitiously deleted this reference by then) and give you a rough outline of what the late spring and summer brings.