Er, so, well, I seem to have a success on my hands.
I mean, only within the very narrow parameters of my previous self-published comics, but the Protest book has been flying off the shelves. Or more accurately, out of the cardboard box, since I didn’t have time to put them on a shelf before they started selling.
And so it is that within a week of their receipt, I’m ordering a second print run, double the size of the first. Thanks, everybody who bought a copy! And special thanks to those of you who ordered one and then came back to order another one, which feels like a real endorsement.
The big news is that I am now offering my books to buyers outside the UK, albeit with the caveat that shipping is pretty steep, and that in the EU you might be hit with local import taxes (bloody Brexit).
At this point, I did originally write in detail about all the fairly boring admin stuff I’ve been up to, in the spirit of knowledge-sharing. But it’s so dry that I’ve now moved it to the end of this post, just in case anyone else is treading the same path and my experience might save them some time.
Really exciting times
As well as all the dry stuff, there have been various exciting things happening this week.
I’ve been setting up two events for the Draw The Line UK launch in March. The first will be online and open to anyone, anywhere in the world, via the wonderful LDComics. You can’t book yet (but you could book for their February event, which also looks good, and tick the box to be kept informed about future ones).
I have assembled what feels like a dream international panel: Siiri Viljakka, Kate Evans, Joan Reilly, Beata Sosnowska, Kane Lynch and myself will all be talking about making social and political change through comics.
Honestly, it’s amazing what you can get set up just by… asking people.
By the way, if you want to feel special, grab a Draw the Line book before the launch: I still have a few available.
Further into the future, but still this year, it looks like I’ll be exhibiting at a small gallery, and possibly selling at both the big comics festivals, the Lakes and Thought Bubble. So, loads and loads to look forward to.
Not all about me
I’ve been mentioning for a while to my daughter, who’s 17, that she should make a zine, and I’d happily sell it along with my own comics. She’s always been reluctant, in that way that kids are when their parents are into something and therefore it’s automatically uncool.
But I think she’s coming round to the idea. As well she ought! One of her main complaints is that she has no-one to talk to about her niche enthusiasms, which is practically the definition of what a zine is for. She’s been asking a bit about the mechanics of comic-making and I’m trying not to jump down her throat with too much information.
Today the winners were announced for the Observer/Cape/Comica prize, something I’ve been pretty obsessed with in earlier years (see blog posts past, in which I would round up every link I could find to people’s entries) but have now largely abandoned as a lost cause.
It was really nice to see fellow Brightonian Tatt Effby given a well-deserved placing. But oh my goodness, I see the Observer hasn’t got any better at displaying full page comic strips online. I am sure the winning entry is excellent, but reading it on a mobile involves enlarging it and pushing the screen from frame to frame, while on a desktop I can’t enlarge it enough for the lettering to be legible. I know, I’m getting old, and my current prescription mean I’m always moving from normal glasses to reading glasses – but I’m sure I’m not alone on this.
On recommendation, I’ve started listening to the Autonomous Creative podcast from Jessica Abel. I will return with more thoughts when I’ve had time to digest it all, but so far my main takeaway is that making comics is so time consuming that an industry is building up around coaching people on how to fit them into your life.
Also that I suspect Spike Trotman, despite her assertions otherwise, is on the brink of a huge crash: her lifestyle sounded entirely unsustainable.
Fairly boring admin stuff
OK, here’s the adminny stuff. This week has been all about toiling over spreadsheets, scanning help pages and filling in registrations, and nothing about drawing comics.
First: I did figure out how to put people back on a ‘thank you’ page after a successful PayPal transaction (for anyone with the same question, it’s in your PayPal account settings, and you don’t need a Business account to implement it).
New shop platform
But, having cracked this, I don’t need it any more. At the recommendation of my friend Michi, I’ve now moved my entire store over to Big Cartel, and have chosen to use Stripe instead (Big Cartel integrates with PayPal or Stripe, but you do need a business account to use PayPal there. It’s free to transform your PayPal into a business account, but I also use my PayPal for personal transactions and I couldn’t be bothered to jump through the hoops to set up a new account so I just went with Stripe).
Big Cartel is free if you have five products or fewer, and I went with it because it allows more flexibility. With the PayPal buttons I had on this site (basic ones, because that’s all that my cheapo WordPress subscription allows) I could only offer one book at a time to one location at a time.
If I wanted people to be able buy two copies of a book, I’d have had to have a button specifically for that – and another for three, or four, or five. If I wanted to charge different prices for those living in different countries, I’d have had to have a button for each postal zone, and so on.
Big Cartel is basic but it does allow you to specify different shipping rates for different buyer locations, and it lets shoppers put items into a basket before calculating shipping as a whole. So, all good (I hope… I haven’t actually had a sale through there yet; I’ve stopped promoting the book for a while in case I sell out before the new print run gets here).
While I’m getting more professional, I’ve taken the plunge and bought some ISBN numbers. It looks like I’ll be selling my book at the Cartoon Museum and at least one other gallery, and an ISBN makes it easier.
The economies of scale for ISBN numbers are a very steep cliff: you can buy one for £89, or ten for £164, or 100 for £369. I figured I might put out another nine books in my lifetime, should I live so long, so I opted for 10. I am spending a lot of money at the moment – we’re also having our kitchen remodelled, at long long last – so it does feel a little reckless, but I am telling myself that it is good to invest in my practice. The cat agrees.
Nielsen will also generate barcodes that you can place on the back of your book so that shops can scan them, but at similarly expensive prices, so I was glad when Simon pointed me towards a free barcode generator.
After a quick chat with my pals, I’ve put the ISBNs under the name of our informal collective, so anyone in the group can buy one from me (ISBNs have to be connected to a publisher, although that can be oneself being a self-publisher).
As I remarked at the time, this is presumably the first step to accidentally finding yourself running a comics publishing house.
Talking of our informal collective: I won’t say anything quite yet, but we have been sitting around a pub table and planning some quite ambitious things. More when those things become more concrete.