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Friday, April 15, 2011

Comic Cuts - 15 April 2011

I've been getting a lot of feedback on the various books that I've been involved in that have come out over the past couple of weeks and I've spent much of the week basking in the praise.We've had a lot of astonishingly good comments regarding the latest batch of books from Book Palace Books... I'm even getting some good vibes for Wulf the Briton, which I had nothing to do with bar cheering it on from the wings.

None of the books are going to be bestsellers. Over the weekend I had to write a piece on the late Craig Thomas and his novel Firefox had a first paperback printing of 250,000 and it went through 33 printings in the next 17 years in the UK alone. The highest print run of any of my books in the past five years has been 3,000 and there are still plenty of copies left according to the publisher!

What prompted this line of thought was a little thing on Amazon called 'Author Central', which allows you to track sales of books—not by physical numbers but by the sales position on Amazon's overall chart of the 5,032,000 or so books they list. I thought I'd share with you the sales chart for the book that's currently my "best-seller", Aces High, which came out from Prion in 2009 and still seems to selling the occasional copy. At the time of writing, the book is #40,129 in the Amazon chart and its chart position has been doing this over the past couple of months...

I've no idea what sort of sale you need to get into the top 50,000 but I somehow don't think it's that many. One or two copies can probably make the difference of 150,000 places.

Talking of Amazon, you may have noticed that Hurricane & Champion and Mean Streetmaps are both now listed at You may also have noticed a couple of other things: Amazon claim that they're temporarily out of stock, although they've never had any stock; nor are they likely to ever have any stock, because they demand such a discount that it would actually cost me money to sell them books.

However, as a seller on Amazon I can offer books... but only by slapping a few quid extra on the price. Again, this is down to Amazon's excessive charges and their policy on postage. Just to take the latter as a for instance, they fix the postage price at £2.80 but then they take back 49p in administration charges. Seriously, I'm not kidding! So the vendor (me in this case) only receives £2.31. Well, that doesn't actually cover the cost of posting out a copy of Mean Streetmaps. So Amazon suggests you increase the price of the book to take that loss into account... and that means the fee Amazon charges (based on the sale price) also goes up. So you have to increase the price again to take into account the increased fee! It's a vicious circle that means that Amazon, who offer free delivery, will usually be able to offer the book cheaper than anyone else.

But that's why the prices on Amazon are far higher than would be charged for anyone ordering books direct from the Bear Alley Books site. I'm not actually expecting anyone to order through Amazon, but the books are now listed and available, just in case, and I can cross that task off the list of jobs to do.

At the top of the page you'll see the front cover for Eagles Over the Western Front Volume 2 and, above, is the front for the third and final volume. Both based on artwork by Wilf Hardy, who produced some stunning images of aerial combat over the years for Look and Learn. Both covers have elements that wrap around, but I want to save a little something for when we launch the titles over on Bear Alley Books.

The current situation is that I have volume 1 finished and it's out being proofed, after which I'll get a printed proof. Any corrections that need doing will be done promptly and the finished book—80 pages b/w—will be out at the end of the month, or beginning of next month. I'm working towards an "official" release date of 2nd May.

Volume 2 is almost finished. All the artwork is done, the introduction written and in place and I'm just finishing off the design of the pages; there will also be a couple of pages taking a look at the original artwork which I have yet to put together. This volume will be out in time for the ABC Show in mid-June.

Volume 3 is in the pipeline. Again, all the artwork is done and the introduction written. I still have to do all the layouts of the artwork pages, but I've got this down to a reasonably fine art, so it shouldn't take too long. So we will have all three volumes out before the end of July.

The reason I'm doing this is to make sure that there are no surprises and no delays to the books coming out on time. As I mentioned last week, they will be released with a four to six week gap between volumes for the practical reason that it will spread the cost of printing over more than one credit card bill and, hopefully, give me a chance to recoup some of my costs before the next bill arrives. Currently, Bear Alley Books is running at a loss of about £125, which isn't much and is probably about where I expected to be after the first two books—it's still less than a month since the first book came out, after all. Rome wasn't built in a day and my little publishing empire is going to take a while, too.

I've had some great books through the post these past couple of weeks, with the arrival of Wulf and the two Book Palace books I did. But a couple of other things have also turned up to keep me distracted from doing the work I'm supposed to be doing. About 17 months ago I put together some articles for the Spanish arm of Panini Comics as they have been publishing a remarkable series of books about the history of comics. All in Spanish, of course, although I was able to write in English and had my contributions translated. The whole project is being coordinated by Antoni Guiral who, along with editor Juanjo Sarto, is piecing the whole project together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Del Tebeo al Manga: Una Historia de los Comics will run to 12 volumes, of which the first seven are now available.

My contribution to volume seven amounted to around 21 pages out of 208, and concentrated on the history of British pocket libraries and their creators, along with a couple of pieces about British artists. I only wish I could read the other 187 pages.

Then there was Diario de Guerra: Alberto Breccia, which collects some of Breccia's work for British pocket libraries, namely one Super Detective Library and three from Thriller Picture Library. I didn't contribute to any of the (brief) text introduction but I did do the scanning for one of the stories. I did quite a bit of scanning a couple of years ago - some for Panini and Planeta DeAgostini in Spain and for a company in Norway as well as a couple of bits for Carlton which we ended up not using. The whole things seems to have dried up now.

Also in the post this week was the latest issue of Jeff Hawke's Cosmos, which contains another three Jeff Hawke yarns, 'Cataclysm' (1968), written by Willie Patterson, 'The Bees of Daedalus' (1971), with art assistance from Nick Faure, 'Overland' (1966-67), also written by Patterson. There's the usual bonus material by Duncan Lunan and Andrew Darlington. This 88-page issue brings volume 6 to a conclusion and editor William Rudling is promising that volume 7 will include some of Sydney Jordan's Lance McLane strips. The Royal Mail's recent postage rise (mentioned last week) means that the next set of three volumes will cost £22 in the UK. You can find a list of the majority of the back issues here. More details about the Jeff Hawke Club can be found here, but I'd suggest you contact the editor (william at to get up to date info. about subscription costs in Europe and the rest of the world.

And finally... today's random scans. Actually, these pics are updates for some of the cover galleries that have run in recent weeks, namely the Jonathan Latimer and W. R. Burnett galleries. These turned up when I was looking for more Craig Thomas books, which just goes to prove that if you want to find something, look for something else.

See you next week.

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