New books for Christmas

There must be something about my books and Friday 13th, but I believe my first delivery of Painting Stories arrived on a Fri 13th too, a couple of years ago. This morning my preferred printers, InkyLittleFingers earned another glowing review from me by printing, binding and dispatching my books on the same day and the courier rang my doorbell early this morning with the much-anticipated booty in a small, well-packed box.

So here it all is, all 75 copies of Cabaret Voltaire Issue Two.

I will update my website SOON so anyone can buy copies of this book from the website at a special, lower website price. Next week I’ll be heading to Foyles to talk to the good people there about stocking copies of this book. Just in time for Christmas!

Off to the press!

Cabaret Voltaire issue two has been sent to the printers, just a little bit ahead of schedule, but my head was whirring with anxiety last night thinking of all the last minute things I had to do before I could hit the relevant buttons and upload the PDF files to InkyLittleFingers. Painstakingly preparing and checking the final A5 book itself, getting the PDFs of the inner pages and the outer cover ready used to be a fraught and stressful process as I was learning as I went along. This time it was surprisingly easy, as I now understood what ‘bleeds’ meant and how many millimetres to add to the cover artwork to prevent unsightly white edges in the final product. After tossing and turning for what felt like hours last night, wondering whether I should select 115gsm off-white recycled paper or a similar bleached white paper, this morning I awoke somewhat refreshed despite only 5 hours sleep, and pencilled in the new final frame that I felt should replace the rather shoddily-inked one of a few days ago.

I feel that one at least should finish with a bang and not a whimper.

The final inked page still suffers from a slightly misshaped brush (the new one from Cass Arts wasn’t so good to start with!) but it is still better than the original version. Admittedly, I am a bit tired of drawing/inking and I suspect it shows.


And this is the cover of the Cabaret Voltaire issue two – [edited post for colour correction] if all goes well, it will be ready in time for Christmas gifts. Place a pre-order by emailing me now, or wait a week or two for the relevant shopping links to appear on my website – just like magic! The book will be priced at £5.00, full colour cover and B&W illustrations inside. 90pp. I think when I get Foyles and possibly other shops to stock it, the price may well be slightly higher.



The Cabaret Voltaire is born!

The mini-comic is here at last! And the Cabaret Voltaire is born! Ah yes, possibly a pretentious name for my periodical comic of assorted short stories but this is also the name of a MUD that I set up and administered way back in the mid-90’s when, among my responsibilities as a test lab engineer, I was also doubling up as a bored system administrator in a laboratory full of Unix machines. That was in another life, one I can barely recognise now. This MUD never took off beyond alpha-testing by another administrative user and myself (Fernando, where are you now?). I suppose, like many art-obsessed young people, I was fascinated by the Dada and Surrealism art and literary movements because of their preoccupation with the absurd and meaningless. Having moved on a long way since then, I still find the name of the Viennese nightclub somewhat catchy and apt for my comics journal – I intend to publish 2 short stories in each issue and print them from time to time, for comics festivals and such so I can keep my material fresh. And “cabaret” suggests a sort of variety show and these short stories are definitely varied, if nothing else! And quite appropriately, one of my short stories here is called “The Dream”, which is pretty self-explanatory.

Cover of the Cabaret Voltaire

I haven’t decided whether I should try and stock a few of these books at Gosh Comics and Orbital next week or just release them to the public the first time at Comica Comiket London in early November. I’m tending towards the latter at the moment, but I’ll also put them on sale right away on my website via mail order, and they’ll probably be priced at £2.80 a book with much cheaper postage and packaging prices, since they are rather slim volumes (30pp). Details will be on my website soon once I update the relevant pages.

Anyway I am very pleased with the printing and overall binding quality of these books. I’m very much happier with the paper (off-white, recycled, 120gsm paper) and the quality of the binding, which seems more robust. These printers InkyLittleFingers were recommended to me and they’ve definitely met their high expectations, I received my books exactly when I expected to, everything was easily done through a web interface online and the packing was also excellent, ensuring no damage in transit. Definitely a stellar first experience and I would recommend them to anyone.

So maybe I should be breaking out a bottle of bubbly tonight….

‘Ash Wednesday’ on Emanata

Excuse the silence on this blog! I’m not in a habit of updating blogs and telling all and sundry about the latest happenings in my life, but I have been working on a short story since sometime in early June and finally released it to the Emanata iPad comics reader app in early August. Yesterday ‘Ash Wednesday’ was released to the public on Emanata – a short, 8-page story about a man who has a nostalgic trip back to the city where he used to live, on a somewhat unusual mission.

My free postcard advertising 'Ash Wednesday'

At the Small Press Festival earlier this month, I gave away some free postcards from my table to advertise this short story and my own work in general. I will publish it eventually in another collection of short stories but for now, it’s only available on Emanata (download it if you have an iPad, it’s FREE! And it’s great for discovering new, indie artists that you may never hear about otherwise!). I don’t  know yet if I will put this story up on my website. It will depend on other projects I have in my pipeline, and of course, upgrading my 2006 iMac to a new Mac setup which may suck up a good portion of spare time over the next couple of weeks. Of course, if I decide to put it up on my website, it’ll be announced on this blog.

So that’s all, folks… for maybe another few weeks or months, depending on when I feel inspired to blog something again, hopefully sooner rather than later. I’m already pondering over a second short story, ideas are pretty vague at present.


Staff review of ‘Painting Stories’ at Foyles

After wandering into Foyles about once a week to check whether my books had sold (and always finding the copies tucked away, hidden from view, behind another similar sized book in the Nobrow small press shelf), I had an email from of the staff at Foyles, incidentally the person I first spoke to when I approached them about stocking a few of my books for sale. He had read through my book and thought it deserved to have some commercial success, most importantly, he enjoyed it and it was one of the very rare nuggets of feedback I’d ever received from someone I didn’t actually know as a friend. He said he’d write a staff review for my book and this is what it said:

“Painting Stories takes paintings by well known artists and
constructs short graphic stories around them. The stories
are beautifully written, stylish, dialogue-based tales drawn
in an elegant noir style. Like the paintings they are inspired
by, these stories have a kind of magic to them that makes
one want to return to them again. A highly accomplished
debut graphic novel.”

I don’t actually know where to even find the little review in the shop, but he told me that a copy went almost immediately after the review went up. So, thank you so much, Patrick, for a really invaluable helping hand! Seeing how slowly these books go, and how rarely they even attract attention, is discouraging me from working wholeheartedly on my second book. I think a big problem may be that people have preconceptions about the book when they read the blurb on the back cover, and unless they give it a chance and actually read a story or two, they will just find numerous reasons to dismiss it – I know the cover isn’t attractive and the production quality is amateurish at best; I’m still a bit disappointed with the glossy pages.

So.. on to book sales. My copies at Orbital Comics still haven’t shifted and the staff member I spoke to there was the least enthusiastic about my book, suggesting that I should move it on if it didn’t sell within 3 months. Well, I returned a week or so later and discovered my book had been put in a really inconspicuous bottom shelf, it took me more than 10 minutes to actually spot it in the little room even though I was actively looking out for it. No one would ever find it in there – it didn’t even look like the small press section was well-patronised anyway because the room was usually empty whenever I was there. So I expect to be collecting my books at the end of summer. Gosh Comics on the other hand, gave it a fairly prominent position on their small press shelf near the window. I sold my first copies there fairly quickly, possibly after the publicity of Comiket, but subsequently, sales have stalled there too… And Foyles, dear Foyles, in which I had placed so much hope… well, we will see if the review succeeds in shifting any books!

The books are here

The books arrived exactly on schedule, auspiciously on Friday 13th! There were five very heavy boxes awaiting me downstairs and the delivery man was reluctant to bring them upstairs so I had to haul them up myself, box by box, in my creaking vintage lift. First impressions… the cover was matt, as I had requested, but the colours were very slightly off. I had saved my cover image in CMYK mode, but perhaps my iMac screen calibration was slightly out of kilter, as the tan colour had a greenish tinge while on my screen, it had looked rather more yellow. Inside, the pages were very white and the printing itself was deep black and glossy. This was the ‘satin’ sheen and the printer had assured me it would not be too shiny. I was taken aback by this and admittedly, this took some getting used to. I had hoped for a matt finish and slightly off-white paper, not glaring white. I was afraid that this sort of printing was rather more suited to a different genre of comics and this detracted from the pleasure of holding my finished book in my hands for the first time.

Eventually I got used to the glossiness of the pages and in daylight, it did not look too bad. Still, the paper felt a little stiff, the paperweight was 150gsm while I would have happily settled for anything between 100gsm and 120gsm. It made the book feel hefty but I suppose the weight also gave it a sort of gravitas. Happy and relieved that I finally had my books, I set about changing my Facebook status, like a good internet citizen, announcing the arrival of my books and telling my friends that they were ready for sale. I am grateful to have many good friends who are so supportive of my own scatty artistic ventures.

Which brings me to the prickly issue of … postage and other costs of selling one’s books online!

Royal Mail have been increasing their prices over the years and have just announced a dramatic price increase in 1st class stamps, beginning from 1st May. I think 1st class stamps were about 17p or 19p when I first arrived in England back in 1990. Price rises like these make it uneconomical for small-time sellers to do business via Royal Mail. I do not know how eBay’s small traders are faring with these price increases. To send my book to a buyer in the UK, it will cost £3.05 in postage. This means I will have to absorb the packaging costs to stop my book from becoming prohibitively expensive. Worse still, sending the book to the USA (where many of my friends are based) will cost £7.60 for simple air mail. This doesn’t even include having the insurance and security of Air Sure, so I am not sure what I’ll end up doing if one of the packages goes missing. I have no doubt that many of my potential sales will evaporate because of the postage costs, even after discounting the book heavily for friends. Then later, I found that Paypal also takes a 5% cut of any money transfers, which diminishes my margin even further. How does anyone make a living these days?

It makes me ponder where our future as artists/creators is heading; if it is so expensive for a product to move from creator/artist to his/her audience/buying public, with each party in the chain taking its (disproportionate) cut, then how is the artist ever going to make a living? Making a book is not quite the same as going through one’s daily work, delivering a parcel, fixing a car or painting a house. It will be the biggest companies like Amazon who will manage to survive and keep prices low because of their economies of scale and monopolistic tactics, designed to drive their competitors out of business. Is this truly good for the consumer? They will get cheap goods – but at a high price. Will the average consumer ever realise that, when mostly they just want the latest Playstation device or another execrable bestseller from Dan Brown? When independent publishers and bookstores can no longer survive because of spiralling costs and cutthroat competition, the end consumer will ultimately lose out. It’s not a level playing field, it must feel like being a helpless 5 years old again and being pounded into the ground by a 6-ft tall playground bully.


Comica Comiket poster

I signed up to attend my first ever comics/graphic novel festival, as either an attendee or an exhibitor. Not having been to these things before, I’m at a loss about what to expect and how best to get noticed if one happens to be flogging a book. I decided that one must have a poster of some sort to draw attention to one’s meagre table space. I’ve already ordered my business cards from VistaPrint a while back and they will be delivering sometime this week, as long as the postal service doesn’t let me down…. So after the Easter break, I sat down yesterday morning and used Photoshop CS4 to tinker around with and came up with this poster design, utilising similar colours to my book cover, but using photos of the actual paintings since I don’t expect any major copyright issues would arise from just this one publicity poster! The extra colours do make it look a tad better than my original book cover design, but alas not a lot can be done about that now. If I am lucky enough to have to order a reprint…. it will have a different cover! I went to FastFlow Printing, a fantastic little shop in the Covent Garden area and got a couple of nice, glossy, A3-sized posters printed ready for Comica on 21st April. I also considered doing a T-shirt but decided against it in the end. So the ball is slowly rolling. The books have yet to arrive from the printer’s but since I haven’t heard a peep from Rich, I can assume (against my usually neurotic vein) that all is well.

My publicity poster for Comica Comiket

Publishing, finally

I should have written this entry earlier but too many things got in the way. First of all, after finishing the 6th and final story, I felt I finally had a reasonably substantial book to finally send off to a printer. But I didn’t have a clue about publishing. Another time consuming project had got in the way of my drawing endeavours and I had not done the necessary ground work. A foray to the Laydeez Do Comics monthly social on the evening of the 19th provided me with a contact to use, and I dutifully emailed both the next day for quotes. It took a few days, an interminably long time when you’re floundering and desperate for any sort of response, so I was very glad when one of them got back to me and that got the ball rolling.

So, in a nutshell, I don’t have any illusions about getting a comics publisher interested in my work (it’s true to say I haven’t tried but then again that is against my diffident nature!) and I am self-publishing my first collection of short stories. Its working title was always “Painting Stories” but now the name has stuck, and “Painting Stories” it will be. I spent a morning designing a cover in Photoshop for  it, woe is me, design was never my strong point. But still, I think I came up with a 1950’s retro-looking cover that may go well with the anachronistic stories within. I felt ready to be done with this project, so I did not want to spend too much time poring over the design and fretting over my lack of Photoshop skills. I do realise that some people may hate my cover, but you really can’t please everyone…

The finished book is 96 pages long and will have an initial print run of 100 copies. I can’t wait to see the finished product, which may be in my hands just after Easter if all goes well. I’ll try to keep you posted, dear neglected blog.


Making a small printed book

It certainly took a while but I’ve done it at last – got all my scans redone (which was painstaking!) and put into separate PDF files. Not exactly the size I had originally envisaged, but it turns out that all my comic pages actually fit nicely onto A4 paper and the text isn’t too small to be unreadable. I purchased Apple’s latest Pages software in order to get a simple layout manager to make up this little book when I decided that InDesign was much too expensive and probably overkill for my relatively simple needs. There are 5 stories so far and 73 pages in total, so I am mulling over the idea of writing and drawing 1-2 more stories to pad out the final book. I’d like my first book to be about 100 pages in length. When printed on double-sided paper, that will still merely feel like a slim volume in one’s hand.

I went to this little printers in Covent Garden (, at 10p per side, it wasn’t too unreasonable at all and they bound the little book for me too, all for less than 10 quid. The printing quality wasn’t superb and the paper they used was cheap photocopier paper, but one can’t complain too much about a proof copy! In fact it was a joy to hold my work in my hands as a completed book, and the stories were far easier and more enjoyable to read in a printed format too – it was too tricky to get many people to read whole stories on the web. But at nearly 10 quid per copy, it’s still too expensive for me to be running off copies for friends. My new Epson Stylus printer at home still can’t cope with printing this without a blueish cast, even on a b+w setting.

At any rate, I will have to start hobnobbing around, searching for ways to get published, or self-published even – if it comes to that.

Note to oneself: I rewrote some of the dialogue of The Cafe Terrace and used the Ashcan BB font instead of the original Chalkduster. Just in case I need to remember this for the future….!