We’re going to try something new – not like we’ve perfected what we were already doing but a rolling stone gathers no cash, and let’s face it we aren’t in this for the money.
I think we’ve produced some lovely new books this year and we have a slate scheduled for next year which I doubt we will fully get into print by years end. We have 13 or 14 books scheduled for next year and really only have slots for 10 or 11 of them to come out – unless I want to bust the bank (which that many may do anyhow). It means we are at the stage of just saying no to everyone, or saying yes or maybe but not before 2012 earliest. Given the amount of talent who are now submitting work to us that’s a situation I could easily become frustrated with and it means turning away artists who deserve a chance in print.
So we are going to try a different format in an attempt to keep the door open and stop me biting of more than I can chew. I’ve always been hugely enamoured by the Fantagraphics Ignatz series, beautifully designed and produced comics/mags. If you don’t know them they are roughly A4 in format and feature French flaps and a dustwrapper – they usually run 30 – 40 pages. We are going to try and produce almost exactly the same format – although we will have to think about the dustwrapper when the time comes.
The advantage of this format is it’s cheaper to produce in a run of 1000 (which will be our print runs on these so they will be, in some form, limited) than a book format whilst it maintains a classy presentation. We hope to have a retail price for these of no more than £5.99 – and they will be 24,36 or 48 pages in length. At that price there will be almost no profit for Blank Slate (in fact probably a small loss) but we would hope to reap a later reward with collected editions or a bigger book from some of the creators involved. As it is a wafer thin proposition financially for us we aren’t paying advances against comics that will feature in this programme – something I regret but inevitable to get this going. After that we have a split of 70/30 in the artists favour on revenues after we recover the print cost. In simple terms it means that if your book doesn’t sell well – you will likely see nothing but your 50 free copies and your work in print with a barcode. If the print run sells through you should walk away with around $750. So no-one is getting rich here – but it seems to me like a project that opens a door that might otherwise be closed.
We have already signed agreements with two UK creators and are hoping that the first releases will be around April 2011.
Joe Decie – a stalwart of the UK small press scene for a number of years – Joe has had his work appear in a number of printed collections including Side B and has been heavily featured on Top Shelf’s TS2.0 webcomic initiative. This will be his first solo collection. For now we have the working title of “Everyday Stories” on our schedule (back of my notebook actually) but that will change. I think Joe is one of those creators with a voice uniquely his own. His work incorporating straight comics and often the pay-off you would expect from a gag cartoon. Here’s a sample of Joe’s work nicked from his site
The second comic is called Pablo Apple Tree and it is by an artist I hadn’t been aware of previously called Luke Astorigin. Luke’s story will run across 2 volumes so there will be two issues both running around 48 pages. It’s one of the nicest submissions I’ve ever had and has a very interesting hybrid aesthetic which melds Manga stylings with a more western comics style. I think it shows a great sense of design and for a first comic is outstanding. I’ve been told by Luke that the material is actually strongly philosophical in nature although many of the sample pages so far feature action sequences.
It’s a little off the path we have pursued so far but this is, I think, work that needs to see print. Have a look at Luke’s work – including some great Doctor Who over on Luke’s Flickr account, there are 6 or 7 pages of PAT towards the end. Here’s a page for you to feast your eyes on from that photostream.
I’ve been told by a few people this is not a format that stores like – and it may have trouble getting into bookstores – I hope you will all give it a chance and give it your backing. It’s a project for the future and we can only get there with our reader’s support. We think it’s quite exciting – hope you do too.