After six long years of hard graft Dead Girls – The Graphic Novel (that’s the collected set of eight comics, plus a few continuity pages, amounting to 208 pages) is ready to be launched. It’s the single biggest investment that The House of Murky Depths has ever made, and it’s make or break time. We need your support to make it happen. We’re starting the perks at Indiegogo with as little as £3 (a postcard of Jim Burns – that’s right, Jim Burn’s – cover) with the main perk – the graphic novel – being £32 (signed, of course, by Richard Calder and Leonardo M Giron), which will be mailed out well before the launch at the World Science Fiction Convention – Loncon 3 in August. There are lots of other great perks too, all available to see at the Indiegogo page. With a massive investment of £500 (for those with deep pockets, and a friend) you can enjoy an evening down London’s Brick Lane in an Indian restaurant with writer Richard Calder and publisher Terry Martin – that’s me, in case you didn’t realise. But there are lots of other great and affordable perks in between. At the time of writing this we’re a little shy of £400 with ten days to go. We need £5,000. Please contribute or simply pass on the link to all and sundry. The latter costs you nothing other than a little of your time but it might reach someone who appreciates a great story and stunning artwork (weighing in at an estimated 1 lb 6.2 oz (629 grams)! Thank you.
Archive for the Comics Category
Richard Calder had been one of my loved authors from Interzone so when he offered Murky Depths a comic story of his own back in 2007 I jumped at the opportunity. Death And The Maiden, with artwork from Richard too, lasted three episodes in Murky Depths before we moved it to a serialised comic of its own, but then we became sidetracked, so the story never passed Episode V (Episodes IV and V are therefore very collectable comics).
There were two things that came together in Richard’s mind just then; the work of mangaka Leonardo M Giron in several comics in Murky Depths and the film script based on his cult novel Dead Girls that had been sitting unused. He contacted me: How about serialising a comic version of Dead Girls in Murky Depths, and how about using Leonardo as the artist? Leonardo’s work suited the story setting, while the story starts in a dystopian London it’s mainly set in the Far East, and therefore complimenting his pseudo manga style. Leonardo jumped at the chance and we’ve not looked back. The first episode of Dead Girls appeared in Murky Depths #9 in 2009 and ran for four issues as Act 1, with a cliffhanger in Murky Depths #12. Leonardo then recoloured Act 1 and, with additional material, The House of Murky Depths published a limited edition hardback, numbered and signed by Richard and Leonardo, with the intention of publishing further acts in a similar way. While the limited edition was a big success and sold out very quickly we realised a flaw in our planning and decided against issuing further acts as separate entities.
Murky Depths #16 featured the start of the next series of episodes of Dead Girls but it was decided that after five years of hard work that Murky Depths would have to cease publication – at least in the form it then took – and that we would start again with Dead Girls as an eight-comic series, featuring guest cover artists. While our schedule has slipped slightly Dead Girl #8 – Just Like Heaven, with cover artwork from Jim Burns, will be published in February 2014.
So now the sixty-four-dollar question. Will there be a trade graphic novel? Yes there will be, and the plans are to launch it at next Summer’s Loncon, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention. We need to raise funds to do this though and while the KIckstarter route is a possibility we’d like to try to raise the money by customers simply paying the cover price to reserve a copy. If we went the Kickstarter route we’d have the pre-order option amongst the pledges and we’d likely offer an ‘upgrade’ pledge for those who had pre-ordered but decided they’d like to be a part of a pledge that offered extra.
Dead Girls – The Graphic Novel is going to happen regardless of pledges or pre-ordered funding but knowing that we have guaranteed sales makes our tickers a little less susceptible to stopping. So what’s the damage if you pre-order? Well, we expect the cover price to be £24.99 for the full-colour 208-page graphic novel. Higher than you might pay with the big boys like Marvel and DC but they’re printing a mighty sight more than we will be and they reap the rewards of ‘the more you print the less it costs per copy”. There will also be an admin charge of just over £1 and a p&p charge in the UK of about £3. Expect international prices outside of Europe to add about 50% to the overall cost. But all we want for now are pre-orders for the cover price plus admin charge of £26.09 (with your name and address, of course) PayPal’d to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or if you prefer, send a mail to the same address and we can sort out an electronic transfer rather than PayPal.
Oh yes. If you’ve subscribed to the eight-comic series or purchased all eight issues online we’ll offer you the trade paperback at half price. Yep, just £12.49.
Someone spammed me recently. Someone I’d only recently been in email contact with (for a sport I’m involved in). I complained that I get far too much spam already. His response was that I should get real ‘e-mail is the future.’ WTF! I’ve been emailing for over twenty years (having worked for a company at the forefront of computer technology) and have probably forgotten more about programming and protocols than he could even dream of discovering. The future? Pah!
But having been in at the birth of PCs (not even dos in those early days) I can’t claim to have kept up with new technology. I did that far better when I was working for someone else. Working for myself has meant time is precious and I’ve not allowed myself the luxury of keeping anywhere near up to date with what we can do with computers (from phones to servers).
I do miss that though and I do wish I had the time to develop the databases that I know could make the Murky Depths and Dead Girls websites (to name two) so much more user friendly. But we have to make do with what we can afford (that’s me typing away at my CSS, php and HTML oblivious to the interactive content that might bring in new customers and keep the current ones coming back).
But whatever can be done at websites, if no one knows about them and doesn’t visit them, they are a waste of electronic impulses.
Marketing, marketing, marketing. There’s no secret formula. Just luck.
And me? Luck’s never been a great companion.
With Murky Depths still in hiatus I’ve been able to get back to my own writing and have two short stories already accepted this year, which is pleasing, and another one guaranteed. I’ve been working an extra day at the school, where I teach art, which helps us keep our heads above water, although the extra day has been to work on projects around the school; murals and such like. Music had taken over a bit this year with our little trio, which we formed last September to complement the awesome Comedy Night that Donna Bond (nee Scott) helped to arrange for our village social club, testing the waters of local open mic nights and getting favourable responses. Not sure my guitar playing is improving though!
In The House of Murky Depths office things have been up and down. The ups being the publication of Matt Wallace’s The Failed Cities, the on-going Dead Girls 8-comic series, a reprint of my short story collection Probably Maybe Perhaps, and a couple of other projects that I’m not in a position to divulge yet. The downs? Well, one of them is an up really. My wife, Liz, has been looking after our granddaughter, Freya – and she’s a real gem (about nineteen months now); cheeky and charming – which means I’m constantly distracted, the office being just off the kitchen/diner. And I just can’t say no to her demands. Otherwise the downs have been a few disagreements with printers, and I was a bit hard on MPG Biddles’ staff recently not knowing that they were on the verge of collapse. So, actually, thanks for getting the books to me before the administrators came in!
Hopefully, now that the summer holidays are here, and my daughter, April, is no longer at college, I won’t have the distractions of Freya to stop me from catching up with all things Murky Depths. We’ll still see her but just not so often. Having said that, there’s lots of jobs around the house and garden that also need attending to and I took on the editorship of the local village newsletter last December which, because I have to do it properly, takes up about a week of my time each month, and playing bowls for a club that barely has enough members for one league let alone four means my evenings are all allocated in the week. Life!
Thought Bubble is the biggest comic (only) con in the UK. Of course, it’s never going to be as big as a US con, but, then, we haven’t quite the same audience size – and there’s likely a growing percentage who can’t read English, or is that a contentious statement to make? Whatever.
I wrote the following for someone else’s blog in reference to Thought Bubble, with some minor amendments in this version:
It’s very difficult for those of us who have tables at conventions to fully appreciate the success or otherwise of a particular convention, particularly if you’re the only bod manning the tables. Dealers tend to gauge success purely by sales, and one dealer can do well while the next dealer has a bummer. Thought Bubble has to be the biggest comics-only con in the UK and is blessed with a multitude of amazingly talented people, both famous and aspiring. I don’t think there’s any other comic con in the UK that has such a huge yet somehow integrated mix. You can’t help but respect the time and commitment that the creators have put into projects whether it’s their own or commissioned – and, as a publisher, the amount of money! I challenge any other con to equal the Thought Bubble party on Saturday night in the awesomely breath taking Corn Exchange. That has to be the icing.
I was then asked my views on how the downturn has affected publishers:
Well, starting a publishing house as a recession hits (that was back in 2006) is probably not a good business plan, but to even think about starting a business you need optimism in gargantuan proportions, and a bottomless wallet. You hear tales of small press publishers mortgaging their houses, and I could have saved up and been able to buy a brand new BMW with what The House of Murky Depths has cost me, but we struggle on with our dreams. Marketing is the downfall of the small press – we just don’t have the budgets – and social media isn’t all it’s cracked up to be for the majority who try to use it for promotional purposes, unless you just hit lucky. High quality limited editions still seem the best bet for small press, but then production costs are higher and margins lower, but talk to a small press publisher, after a few drinks, and he’ll boast about all the boxes he has stacked away somewhere with unsold stock. Most of us talk ourselves up when in fact we’re all struggling. The downturn has certainly a lot to answer for but I think it’s always going to be difficult for small press publishers. We still struggle on with paper too, when online content is beating us down. Bottom line? If there hadn’t been a recession there’d be a lot more comics around but we probably wouldn’t be that much better off (or should that read, we might actually be breaking even).
So, what does all that mean for The House of Murky Depths?
We’ll be looking a lot closer at what conventions we attend. We won’t be attending the likes of Fantasycon (World Fantasycon next year) and Eastercon unless there’s a big upturn or organisers make their table deals more attractive. Sure, you’ll most likely achieve greater sales at these cons … but at a cost. Of course, there’s always an optimistic dealer who’ll take up a table, if you don’t, so it’s unlikely that table prices will go down, and organisers have to pay their bills too. The main difference between a comic con and a literary con is that the former has the dealer room as its main attraction whereas the latter tends to just tag the dealer room onto a busy panel schedule.
Another option we’ll be investigating is more one-day events or conventions that allow us to book just one day (many don’t), thus avoiding additional hotel costs. Each one will be weighed up against the pros and cons (snigger). Of course, you never can tell from one year to the next how a convention is going to pan out. A good con one year can be a disaster the next, and vice versa. Have no fear, you’ll be seeing us somewhere next year. In the meantime we’ll be a feature in the Lincoln Artists’ Network shop from 6 December until 9 December (18 – 20 Sincil St., LN5 7ET). Lincoln has a lot going for it, so if you haven’t visited this city yet, pop along and say hello.
The House of Murky Depths has supported Bristolcon since it started, and the first year there was virtually just Murky Depths in the dealer/panel room, so unusually I was at all the panels and talks. A bonus. There was I believe around 60 people at that event. This year it was nearer 250; I sign of Bristolcon’s success, and I think one of the reasons is that it runs for just the one day and therefore makes it possible for people living within a few hours journey to avoid the problems and added cost of staying in a hotel – though missing some of the evening entertainment. A reason why I liked Thought Bubble in Leeds which has now gone to a two-day event. Great for visitors, not so good for dealers.
For me it’s a chance to visit my son, so the stay-over at his amazing new pad was worth the visit and a few bevies catching up on his achievements and plans is always enjoyable. Aside from that it’s good to meet old con friends for a drink in the Ramada bar, and leaning on it and sharing whiskey tasting with Jim Burns was the Friday night highlight after some quick catch-ups with Robert Harkess and Kim and Del Lakin-Smith. This year I set up the dealer tables on the Friday night so it was a casual ten-minute stroll in the morning for a Colosseum (just around the corner from the Ramada) breakfast – something I always look forward to, though this year the two pissed young ladies with wine and lager alongside their platefuls made me feel a little queasy.
The dealer room at Bristolcon has never been huge but spills out into the corridors, and I sometimes think the corridor might be a better place. At least everyone passes you, whereas some people never visit the dealer room itself. This year Murky Depths was at 90 degrees to Forbidden Planet, who invariable have the best spot – directly facing the entrance – with Danie Ware promoting her new novel Ecko Rising amongst other best-selling book.
From a dealers point of view, well mine anyway, Bristolcon has never been a viable proposition. I rarely sell enough to cover travelling costs let alone anything else. Initially I’d made the excuse it was a promotional exercise but, now that Murky Depths is no longer published, plugging the publishing houses, that’s The House of Murky Depths and the new YA imprint Murkee, and new titles alone doesn’t seem to excite me so much.
Despite being unable to visit the panels and reading – I’ve always been there on my own – I know it’s a good con from the attitudes of the people who speak to me at the table, or maybe my ukulele playing just makes them smile! There were several con virgins who seemed to be having a good time and I’d suggest Bristolcon for anyone unblooded at a con. It’ll give you the right vibes.
It’s a hugely well-organised con. And how many cons have you been to where tea and coffee is available all day for free! I hope everyone who picked up a goody bag on the Saturday were pleased with their free copy of Murky Depths and a big thank you to everyone who purchased a signed copy of my new short story collection Probably Maybe Perhaps.
Will The House of Murky Depths be at next year’s Bristolcon? We’ll have to wait and see what next year brings. Cons are beginning to be a liability as far as finances are concerned – maybe they always have been – although some are still a good earner. There will always be traders willing to take up tables so organisers rarely feel any obligation to dealers who have supported them from the off (Bristolcon’s an exception there too), but if more organisers don’t help us out with deals then you won’t be seeing The House of Murky Depths at so many cons in future. Shame, but that’s the way it is.
The Cult Publishers Expo was an interesting little gig yesterday. In the dark depths of Kennington at the Cinema Museum (even the locals, hah!, didn’t know where it was). But, heh, worth the trip if films is your thing (even without the expo). It was well organised so I’d like to thank Dexter and Fat Bird in particular. Financially lucrative? – who else but me gives a flying frak about that – Paid for the tables and half the travelling costs (parking was free!) and I didn’t pay myself for leaving home at 7am and getting home at 9.30 pm including the six-hour round-trip drive. Then, I never do (pay myself, that is).
Good to have Richard Calder at the table signing the first three Dead Girls comics, and Lavie Tidhar rushed back from his Croydon (Osama) signing to be on hand to sign Going To The Moon.
My brief interview in the panel room seemed to go okay, and that should be available online soon.
Asked by the organisers if I’d be back next year I probably hesitated too long, but I would like to return. Needs a bigger footfall but it was the first one so fingers crossed.