Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Squashed Bugs.

above: Exterminator extraordinare, Elroy Wargle, and entomologist wannabe, Stoss, prepare to take out a colony of space earwigs in Extermination Theory (art by Matt Soffe).

Some disappointing news. The Starscape Comics Storypaper has been cancelled after a single issue. Editor Christian Smilie issued the following statement:

"Thanks to all those who bought the first issue of the Storypaper...unfortunately, there just wasn't enough of you. I do however, appreciate those who dipped their hand into their pocket and, for many of you, the feedback given. With a number of big name artists and writers (both sides of the Atlantic) showing interest in the concept, it's a shame there was not enough appeal to develop a bigger audience.

"The good news: the stories will be switching to the internet to read for free, with collected text stories available in both book form and via Kindle etc.. See 'Prose' to read the first chapters of the Knights of Eternity (sword'n'sorcery) and Extermination Theory (action sci-fi), plus full stories for Identity Unhidden (superhero) and the Metphysical Police (weird sci-fi). Also, comic and television fanfiction plus links to classic sci-fi/fantasy. Stay tuned for more stories too, including Atomic-CALL (feline espionage), the Deterrent (if Spidey was on Battlestar Galactica), the War Dogs (WWII superhero action) and historical war stories (Vikings, Romans, Celts etc.).

"But what happened with the Storypaper?

"Reviews from readers were extremely good but, without distribution, it's just not possible to go on in print form. At £1.50 for over 50 pages, plus terrific spot art and stories that seemed to be popular, there appeared to be a lot of pull but it was just impossible to get it into readers' hands.

"Comic shop distributor, Diamond, rejected the Storypaper (in the nicest possible manner) as it wasn't a comic. A specialist sci-fi book/mag distributor rejected it for not being either a book or a mag. I tried the direct approach. I mailed every independent comic and sci-fi bookshop in the UK I could find. Each got a copy of the Storypaper, plus generous terms, that included the option of sale-or-return. I then followed up with an email after a couple of weeks to gauge interest. Now, I used to run a comic shop myself. I know how difficult it is to sell indie work. However, I also know that replying, which about 90% of comic shops chose not to do, is easy. How long does an email take? So no distribution to shops. That's the biggest shame really. If people didn't take to it, fair enough. Truth is, most potential readers had no chance of even seeing a copy.

"I had also hoped to do more with the pocket-book format. Around 50 pages of comics featuring Vikings, Romans, Medieval and Celtic action for £1.50? In my book, that sounds terrific. But if comic shops won't even countenance this format, there seems little point continuing with it. Unfortunately, almost halving the page count doesn't mean being able to sell 28 page US-sized at £1.50, taking into account comic shops' 50% discount. Its pocket format or small press only.

"Not that I'm having a go at small press distribution but, hopefully, I've moved on from that. With some of the previous work having sold into four figures, selling the odd 50 by mail order, then doubling that at festivals, but losing out via hotels, transport and table costs, is not something I'm interested in doing regularly. I've already written on my thoughts on distribution. It depends what your comic is for. In the case of the Storypaper, it was an attempt at mass-market appeal, rather than fanfiction, vanity press or trying out ideas. The choice then between a few small press readers (where superheroes/sci-fi/fantasy isn't the main interest) or hundreds of thousands of web readers, plus collected print editions seems a fairly obvious choice.

"So, unfortunately, no room in the UK for pocket-books at an attractive price with terrific covers. I did what I could."

above: Earwigs teeming under the surface of Colony Planet Dustworld (art by Dustin Parr).

So that's that. An interesting endeavor, fallen through.

Boo! Hiss!

Extermination Theory, was one of the stories serialized in the Storypaper, and as (maybe) one of you might recall, I was very enthusiastic about the project. Now I wonder if I should submit the story again - at this point there's a very big possibility it's a jinx, and I'd hate for Extermination Theory to exterminate another unsuspecting magazine.

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