All around seems doom and gloom. We are about to be plunged back to the Stone Age as a result of the unrestricted greed and downright fraud of the world’s bankers – a great many of them at least. For once I can stand as a contrarian however and say that whilst the world burnt – it’s been a great 3 weeks for Blank Slate.
Firstly the books began to sell, maybe all the good reviews they received finally started to generate customer requests. The order that went through Diamond for the US comics trade was quite a bit larger than I had imagined it would be, with Mawil’s We can Still be Friends book selling a third more than Trains are…Mint. Pretty much the exact opposite of how the books have sold in the UK. I guess Trains has a hefty US price tag – due partly to at the time it was priced the £ was sitting at 2.05 – so that probably held it back a bit – and Oli is a complete unknown to most folk and the book is pretty ‘british’ to boot. Still I was really quite pleased at the numbers for both books.
Then Oli got nominated for an Ignatz award. That was a complete surprise to both of us and actually one of my best moments in comics even after some 22 years in the biz. He was nominated in the ‘Promising new talent’ category. I sent the books for consideration so long ago that I had pretty much forgotten about it when the nominees appeared on the comics blogs – what a delight. Now I know awards in comics can be ten a penny with nearly every convention of any size seeming to think they can produce one which carries some kudos. Mostly outside of the big SDCC award and Angouleme’s I pretty much tend to ignore them. Things like the Eagles in the UK are so ‘rigged’ that they become pretty meaningless as a bellweather for what might or might not be good. The Ignatz seems like a different beast though – it’s something you would want to win. If you look through the nominee list it’s littered with many of comics most inventive and left field talents. Given that we think of ourselves as being something that would aspire to be a UK Fanta, Top Shelf or D&Q (long, long way away of course) it’s a great list to be part of. The thing that tops it off is that it is a jury nominated prize – for me the only type of award that really has a chance of sidestepping the problems with mass votes – and what a jury it was this year. Gabrielle Bell, Farel Dalrymple, Eleanor Davis, John Hankiewicz and Andy Hartzell. A pretty stellar bunch of talent – so to be noticed by them was a terrific feeling. My heartfelt thanks goes to you all. We won’t win of course – neither Oli or I can be there – and it’s an award that is voted for by the attendees so those working the floor will, and probably should win. Still, just to be noticed and all…..
Then I got to feel like I was a ‘real’ publisher when a box of recent Top Shelf books arrived through the mail from the lovely Brett Warnock. We sent him copies of the books to have a look at partly as I knew he was a big Mawil fan. That he sent us some of his books and generously gave a load of his time to Isobel our editor at SDCC – giving pointers and tips on how we might sell more books – goes to prove that comics is still one of the friendliest of businesses. A little thrill – I’ll try to review the books soon.
Finally today Waterstones – the UK’s largest book shop chain – put in an order for Trains are… Mint (we are working on them taking the Mawil also). Not quite sure why, it came a little out of the blue but now Oli’s book will be in bookshops up and down the land. Of course they may all come back unsold but for the moment it feels like a little but significant triumph.
A big thank you to anyone, anywhere, who asked a book or comics store to order in our books. In the end, word of mouth for a small outfit like us, who can’t throw money at marketing but hope to produce good work, means that we could have a future which will see some great new cartoonists find an audience.