1 What's your company called?
Bog Eyed Books.
2 What do you publish?
Children's comic books.
3 What's the story of the company?
Bog Eyed Books was founded by Gary Northfield, creator of comic series including the Beano’s Derek The Sheep and the Phoenix’s Gary’s Garden, and author of the bestselling novel series Julius Zebra; and me [partner Nicky Evans]. I’m a whizz at social media and work in communications as a British Sign Language interpreter.
Gary wanted copies of his much-loved but out of print comic book Derek the Sheep to sell at comic and book festivals. We decided that if we were going to publish we should do things properly, so approached designers Bailey and Baxter for a logo and arranged printing with a comics specialist. We were up and running quickly, and word soon spread. Comic writer and illustrator Jim Medway spotted a copy of Derek the Sheep in Gosh! Comics in London, and asked whether we would publish his own comic strip from the Phoenix, Sgt Chip Charlton and Mister Woofles. We are huge fans of his work, and after a brief conversation—which we won't repeat as it will make us look like total amateurs, but went along the lines of ‘Cor! Jim's asked if we want to print his work… WOOHOO!’—we said yes.
Suddenly we were getting approached by the cream of the crop from the comic book world, and it became pretty clear there was a gap in the market for us to fill. We are now over the moon to have a contract with Turnaround Distribution and are preparing to relaunch Derek The Sheep and Chip Charlton, plus launch Useleus by Wilbur Dawbarn and Alexander Matthews… eek!
4 How's business?
Hold your horses! Our official launch will be in October, though our first runs of Derek the Sheep and Sgt Chip Charlton both did very well in independent comic shops. We are very excited to have distribution in place to get a wider reach in mainstream bookshops.
5 What do you enjoy about being independent?
There are no rules! Gary has more than 15 years of experience in the industry and can spot talent a mile off, so we already have our eye on some new and upcoming artists who we think are amazing. We have the freedom to try different things and are probably more willing to take risks than larger publishers who have formal structures in place.
6 What do you think is the biggest single issue in publishing right now?
Our major issue is bookshops simply not knowing how to shelve children’s comic books. They are very often categorised with adult graphic novels, and while he is a grumpy character, our Derek the Sheep doesn't really sit well alongside dark teenager angst or gun-toting comic creations! We want to seriously tackle this: children's comic books deserve their own shelf!
7 What one piece of advice would you give to a fellow independent just starting out?
At risk of being sued by Nike, it’s ‘Just do it’. If you have a good product and are able to build a reputation based on quality and consistency, people will trust in what you do. We have had tremendous support from our peers and independent comic book shops. Our friends at Gosh! Comics in London deserve a special mention here—thanks guys!
8 What do you get out of belonging to the IPG?
As a new company the information on the IPG Skills Hub
has been invaluable. We are hoping to get some help from the mentoring scheme next. As a support organization the IPG is fantastic!