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THE UKs LARGEST INDEPENDENT COMICS PUBLISHER Between 1984-1994 I worked freelance as a writer/artist/editor/agent in comics as well as comics journalism for MU Press,Blue Comet Press,Fantagraphic Books,Eros Comics,Dorne,Fleetway,IPC and others in the United States,UK and Europe. During this period I also produced large numbers of single panel gag cartoons for agencies in Germany such as Boiselle-Lohmann and Baaske Agency –these going to magazines and publications around Europe. I also worked as a freelance editor in comics and publications ranging from wildlife,astronomy and science fiction magazines. From 1984 to present I've been self publishing comics as well as publications on a wide variety of subjects under the Black Tower banner. I have also produced packages of work for companies in India,Hong Kong and China. I have also been working as an industry advisor for smaller companies in countries such as India,Canada,Singapore,China,Europe and the US. hoopercomicsuk@yahoo.com

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Monday, 18 August 2014

Black Tower Online Store Deletions & Deleted Books

F. 1984

It struck home pretty hard yesterday that it is pretty much best to only work with yourself and publish your own material.  Creators can be a funny lot.

First a few words.

Black Tower Comics & Books is the largest publisher of Independent Comics in the UK and, I'm told, Europe.  The "World Mystery" books cover everything from UFOs, Sasquatch, Yeti, Sea and lake monsters, ghosts, Spring Heeled Jack and even what some might call "cryptozoology" -tracking down the first gorillas brought to the UK before they were allegedly 'discovered'.  The Girt Dog of Ennerdale, the Beast of Gevaudan...they tend to be over 300 pages and contain maps, rare or recently re-discovered photos and more.

There is a book on pioneering hot air ballooning.  Canids is pure wildlife research that covers over 35 years of research and takes a look at the history of foxes, coyotes, wolves and other 'mystery' canids in the UK and Ireland.

The Hooper Interviews takes the best interviews from the 1980s to 2000s -lots of art included.  Big, chunky book.

We have illustrated prose books such as Osaka Brutail -English Haiku, a version of Aesop's Fables, ghost stories and with Western and Japanese Yokai a look at western and Japanese spirits and demons with some great art.  I could go on but will leave it there on the books.

The comic albums range from horror, science fiction, super hero -I think most genres including "slice of life". We even cater for the adult market with Shafts Of Time and Maeve.

There are some great creators including Tom Elmes, John Erasmus, David Gordon and so on.  Creators own the rights to all their art.  I have never approached creator comics in any other way.  Here is the problem, though. Some creators simply will not give their home address -just an email or Face Book page. You then find they are no longer on FB and emails come back as "undeliverable" and as a publisher you cannot work that way.

I send creators a printed run-down of ALL Black Tower sales -quarterly or yearly.  No email or postal address how do I send those out?  Then you get the "You have seriously not sold any of my books?" even the print out of sales can receive a "Well...."  And, of course, the classic creator who just says "I don't want you to publish my book anymore!" You ask if there is a problem? No response.  You delete the book. Three months later you get "Sorry bout that but I was really ***** off at my girlfriend and I decided not to bother with comics.  If you want you can re-publish it now" to which my response is a polite "NO".

Then you have to consider the financial side of things. My deal is always that after profit the creator gets 50% (in the past I've actually given creators all the profit which is NOT good business). Here is how things work.

I want 10 copies of, say, The Cross Earths Caper to sell at an event.  Each book is £8.00 ($13.38) but I can buy them at £3.74 ($6.25). So 10 books are going to cost me £37.40 ($62.57).  Not bad? Then I have to pay the cheapest postal charge which in this case would be £11.99 ($20.00) so it's going to cost me £49.39 ($82.62).  So I would need to sell all of the books at £8.00 each which, IF I sold all of them would bring in £80.00 ($133.83). Which is £30.00 ($50.18).

No.  You see, there is the travel to events but the biggest financial drain are the costs of tables.  So that 'profit' is gone...in fact, so is the money you made back. You would need to sell one heck of a lot of books to cover your table AND printing/postage charges.  Most Independent publishers in the UK have very well paid jobs or very good finances available because if they treated publishing as a business rather than a hobby (and I am NOT saying that is a bad thing!) they would not last.

I try to make all of this clear to creators.  You will find no one in UK/European comics who is as open as I am -everything is in the full glare of daylight and scrutiny.

In this age of Print On Demand I think it easier for creators to publish and promote (another expense) their own books and see how they do.

As of Wednesday, 20th August, 2014, the following books will be permanently deleted from the online store and are therefore no longer available.

Because of major problems involving a late creators family as well as other problems it looks as though the adult orientated Dark Childe Trilogy will never be completed (it began in 1991!).  Scripts are all done but...so Shafts In Time and Maeve will be deleted.

The Tall Trees by Paul Ashley Brown will be deleted.
Autopsia by Jemma Webster will be deleted.
The Independents anthology which contains both of the above books will be deleted.
With VERY heavy heart Denizen Ark and Dervish Ropey, both by the great John Erasmus, will be deleted.
Equally sad, both books by Tom Elmes Descent and Post War Funnies will be deleted.

Other books are being looked at.

This will mean that there can be no accusations of my doing what publishers I have criticised have done as there will be no "stable of creators".  I have never misinformed, lied to or cheated ANY creator in all my decades in comics and this will insure that no such unfounded criticism can be laid at my feet.

A sad day but at least I am still publishing!

5 comments:

  1. Why don't you print in the UK - cheaper and much better quality control!

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  2. Hi, Steve. The quotes I had from UK printers were much the same in fact some were a little higher and even the postage increased with some! Besides, the main problem is the creator side and that decision was made so that all I have to worry about now are books the rights to which belong solely to me. Comics are a funny business. ;-)

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  3. Ummm... what ? Where does that leave me ? I'm not sure what 'status' I am here... well... I'll keep plugging away and sending on the work I do.

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  4. Have no fear! A letter is on its way to you. I'm posting the package BEFORE I go into the doctors as not sure what mood I'll be in when I come out!

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  5. Package sent to you yesterday and at over £10 it better get to you!! Grrrrr Angry.

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