ShortBox in Dire Financial Straits, Announces Shortbox Comics Fair

The indie darling and Ignatz award-winning publisher ShortBox announced on Tuesday the ShortBox Comics Fair 2020 to raise funds to continue publishing in 2021. They previously ran a Kickstarter for Rosemary Valero-O'Connell's Don't Go Without Me (which we looked at here) to get the publisher into bookstores and libraries.

ShortBox in Dire Financial Straits, Announces Shortbox Comics Fair
Art for the ShortBox Comics Fair 2020

At the online Comics Fair scheduled for October 24th and 25th 2020, ShortBox will offer prints from Emma Ríos, Ron Wimberly, Jon McNaught, and Choo, as well as John Wick fanzines, and dinged copies of Valero-O'Connell's What Is Left.

Unfortunately, it's "squeaky bum time" for ShortBox, as Zainab Akhtar (ShortBox publisher) goes into detail about the company's financial troubles on her blogspot site. A combination of 50% shipping increases from their last Kickstarter, building a separate space for ShortBox outside of Akhtar's living room, and larger than expected comics are to blame. By virtue of Akhtar's running ShortBox out of her living room, she was ineligible for the UK's £10,000 small business relief due to COVID.

Bleeding Cool's Favorite Debuts Of 2020
Don't Go Without Me cover by Rosemary Valero-O'Connell

From the blog post:

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 4,500 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.