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Tuesday, 15 September 2020

ShortBox Comics Fair 2020



I'm not really sure how to start this post. Well, maybe with the simple bit: next month will see ShortBox holding an online comics fair. Which I hope you'll find exciting- I'm doing my best to make sure there's a lot of very good comics, prints, and special offers available. I've been getting together all the last copies of titles such as The Tar Pit, slightly dinged copies of What Is Left (which will sell at a discounted price), some John Wick (and maybe Pingu) fanzines, Critical Chips 2,  possibly even a few copies of The Whipping Girl,  foil prints from Jon McNaught and Choo, older limited edition prints from Luke Pearson, the last of the Bebop prints from Emma Rios and Ron Wimberley, stickers and pins, - perhaps a couple of 'fair exclusive' items as well... and more. 

And now the hard bit. The reason for the fair is that ShortBox is really struggling. We don't have the means to continue in 2021 at this moment in time, due to a combination of factors. 

Towards the end of 2019, I decided to invest in building a dedicated ShortBox studio space (a separate building in the garden). For the past 4 and a half years, I've been operating out of my home, living with a constant deluge of thousands of books and boxes of stock in every room. ShortBox has a storage space we hire, but a certain amount of rolling stock is still needed to fulfil orders from week to week. And when you factor in that rolling stock in relation to a catalogue of 30 titles, you get some idea of the constrictions being dealt with. When we release something new, like the latest box, for example, that can result in having an extra 4500 books in the house, waiting to be packed and shipped. It also makes it tough to hire help (which I've needed for a long while) when you're working from your living room- working from the living room floor is not a professional environment for anyone to come into. At the end of 2019, ShortBox was in a decent position and even though investing in the studio space made me feel incredibly nervous, I thought it was the right time to do so, to look to the future, to have a semblance of work/life separation,  with a view to hiring help down the road. So, I took the plunge. 

And then Covid happened. No more conventions or festivals wiped out a third of our 2020 expected income. Things may still have been okay, but that old hoary chestnut cropped up again: shipping costs. In May, we ran a kickstarter for the new ShortBox, due to release in September. A couple of things happened in between then: shipping prices went up- which on its own would have been a manageable increase. However- and I fully recognise this as my own fault- a couple of the books in the box got substantially lengthier than anticipated.  When we put a box up for pre-order, our books are close to completion, but not yet finished. A couple of them needed more space and page count to make them the best they could be, and as stupid/romantic as it may sound, I don't see the point in making comics if I'm not going to try make the best comics I can. The jump in the size of the books meant that the thickness of the box no longer fit the bracket of shipping we charged for in May: going from 'large letter' which costs round £10 to send worldwide, to 'small parcel' which costs around £22... Even though the kickstarter had over-funded, with over two thirds of our orders being international combined with the jump in shipping, we've had to use extra ShortBox revenue in order to cover the shipping costs. What was going to cost around £7830 ended up costing £14,500.

On top of *that*, our fine government, while offering small business Covid relief grants of £10,000- decided that if you worked from home, you were obviously not eligible for this. 

So, here we are. The studio building, while still happening, has been delayed until December. In terms of continuing ShortBox, it is, to borrow a phrase, squeaky bum time. And thus, the fair! We've just released 5 fantastic brand new titles, and have an award-winning catalogue of over 30 brilliant, varied comics. My hope with the fair is to bring more people to it, and raise enough money that it will allow ShortBox to go on for another year. If there's a title you've always wanted, or whether you want to take advantage of the special prices and get in some early holiday shipping, now is a wonderful time to do it. Even if you're just able to spread the word about the comics fair or ShortBox, that's a massive help in itself.

Thank you for your support, now and always.