Friday, 17 April 2009

Last Gasp for Lulu

I received an email from a loyal fan of the "Last Gas Pump on the Left" comic the other day. He was pleased with the product and really enjoyed the story but was mystified by the presence of blank pages in the middle of the book. He'd sent me photos explaining the problem, and I realised then that I've now had enough of Lulu's outsourced cowboy printers to abandon them completely.

It's impossible for me to understand how a 28-page PDF file can be turned into a 32 or 36-page book with blank inserts, unless somebody at the local print depot was physically plugged into the mains power supply while setting up the print job. Even then, it's unfathomable.

As this is now the fourth serious issue I've had with Lulu, it's time to move on and take my business elsewhere. The last problem, that with the "Black Flag" pencil art printing too faint to be usable, I can almost, just about, write off - although the fact remains that identical artwork in the "Mandrake" book has printed perfectly across two separate batches.

It's not like I'm making a huge profit at Lulu either. Although a full-colour interior comic would normally be prohibitive for a tiny indy comics outfit to produce, a cover price of £3.99 is as low as I can go while still actually scratching a few pence profit for myself (in this case, about 37p per copy). Add the cost of three useless proof copies, review copies and shipping, and the "Last Gas" project has made a terrific loss to date. However, it has its fans from the days when it existed as an online strip over at Drunkduck, an enthusiastic amateur website for free webcomics (which also currently hosts the complete "Black Flag" graphic novel), and projects such as this were never about the money, anyway.

I've submitted my formal complaint to Lulu regarding this botch so my customer can be provided with a product that isn't a complete disaster, and in the meantime am considering my options for future comic works. With the "Black Flag" graphic novel still good to go, plus forthcoming comics projects "The Sword of Lochglen", "Gruoch" by Frang Mchardy and "Arf & Mo" by Frang and I, Fenriswulf will be putting a lot of comic printing business to Lulu's replacement very soon. We've already discussed getting comics into Forbidden Planet stores and other local comic shops.

The two companies who stand out at present are

Comixpress, and Ka-Blam. Ka-Blam have no set-up fee but seem overall more expensive, while Comixpress have a set-up fee (unlike Lulu) but have a correspondingly lower individual price on single issues.

For me, and Fenriswulf, I think Comixpress have the edge when it comes to print on demand comics. They have a decent attitude, though it seems both companies have their fans, and their good qualitties. A very informative web page: Comixtalk describes it in better detail than I have time to do so here.

Looking at the comments on this page, I'm also glad to see that I'm not the only one affected by the sloppy quality of Lulu's European (Spanish-based) printers. I'll begin talks with my assistant art director (Frang) soon, and once my customer has received a copy of the "Last Gas" comic he actually wanted, it'll be time to move on to the next print company.ka-

Tuesday, 14 April 2009


Well, things went a bit Pete Tong last month, finally. Unfortunately, at the worst possible time. After author Lesley-Anne & I scrambling around like mad thing for a week or more trying to knock her "Medieval Medicine" book into perfect shape, we pushed through a bulk order from Lulu to get to us in time for her historical talk on the 27th. Unfortunately, a strange and not-very-well-explained Lulu-induced FUBAR concerning the front cover put paid to that project.

I felt pretty rotten, in fact. Hated myself for having to tell Lesley the news, especially after all the effort we, and one of her friends, put in to get the text fully up to scratch. Complaining at Lulu wouldn't get us the cover fixed, nor the order in time. Of all the things to mess up, it had to be the one project that really mattered, the one that I had someone else counting on me for...and so on.

As if that wasn't enough, my printed proof of the "Black Flag" graphic novel was a loser, too. The interior inks printed beautifully but the pencilled artwork...well, to say it looked like a bad photocopy is being polite. My complaints were heard but not upheld. I didn't have the energy or the will left to fight it after the failure of the medicine book, though I couldn't understand how "Mandrake", which contains many pencil illustrations, printed out fine across several batches and "Flag" (which strangely, was sent from Spain) fared so badly.

No matter. I'm currently seeking a new printer for the "Flag". All this, plus some on-the-side commission work (and a birthday) explains why I haven't posted here in 5 weeks. I needed some time out from printing, editing, and publishing. However, being positive, I'm determined to bounce back. A long chat with old-time collaborator Frang at the weekend has rejuvinated my interest, and a new comic-strip series will soon be unveiled.

Added to this, some rather startling news from Borders. While continuing to chase up my royalty cheques, I was informed by the way that apparantly they have had some customers in recently, asking about my next book, and suggesting that we discuss my next title later in the month...

...which would be wonderful if I had actually completed it. "Venus in Capricorn" is still in production, but I've been inspired of late, and currently have over 160pp of prose finished. The overall backstory is still developing and I doubt I'll have anything of any finished quality ready by the end of the month when Borders' sales manager returns, but it's a target to aim for, nonetheless. After all, the first draft of "Maranatha" was written in 4 months flat.

The intermission is now over, and I've just picked up the baton again. Keep watching this space...

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