Autumn’s to-be-announced ShortBox #13 will be ShortBox’s last. The last curated bundle from Zainab Akhtar’s independent publishing project, more specifically, as ShortBox will be evolving: from delivering longer form work (alongside the minicomics) to publishing their comics individually. In sum, becoming a more conventional micro-publisher.
In a Patreon post on Wednesday entitled ‘The last ShortBox,’ Akhtar detailed how she came to the decision to end the bundles (spoiler: it was international postage related), and also previewed two longer form books that ShortBox will be publishing next year.
“When I made a decision to try and publish longer length comics outside of the box in 2019, the idea was to release one box a year with the 5 shorter books (although they’ve run from 60-100 pages a few times!) and the new longer books alongside, dotted throughout. However, a lot has changed in the past 2 years, and so ShortBox #13 will be our final ShortBox.”
Akhtar elaborates that the price of international postage to the majority of ShortBox readers has risen from £14 [~$19.50] to £22 [~$30.66], and the cost of other inputs following Britain’s official withdrawal from the EU at the beginning of 2021 have also gone up. She had to choose between a price hike or a new model:
“The cost of a ShortBox has been £35 since we began and stayed that price over the last 5 years. I’ve always printed our books, packaging, stickers, prints- whatever was needed- here in the UK to support local small businesses similar to mine, and to maintain quality control and quick turnarounds. Unfortunately, all these costs have gone up significantly, especially recently with Brexit to a point where it’s no longer feasible to keep the box price at £35.
Even if the box price were raised to £38, for the vast majority of our readers, the shipping would be £22, bringing the total to £60 for a box. Although when broken down this still works out cheaper than if you were to buy the 5 comics individually and have them shipped, I don’t think that that is how people process it- they both just look like big lumps of money! My instinct is that with the rising costs, people would prefer to choose individual books they want. So, sadly, I don’t think the box model is viable for us any longer. I’ll be Kickstarting ShortBox #13, our last box, later this year, and from 2022 forwards, we’ll simply be publishing short and long comics in the more traditional way.”
Akhtar said of the change:
“It feels like the right thing to do: there’s a sense of sadness, of course, but I think it’s important to recognise when something is no longer working -for either us or readers- and to not detrimentally persist with it due to sentiment. It’s a familiar refrain, but I had no idea I’d be doing this as a job, or even a year on when I started ShortBox, and it has changed constantly (initially we were supposed to be fancy bistro/curator of mini-comics), so changing and adapting has always been part of this, which makes it easier to accept – on an emotional level, at least!”
In 2022, Zainab plans to run a Kickstarter with a slate of around six titles. Two of these titles were announced in the Patreon post – A Cat’s Plan by Genie Liang, and Luisa and the Beast by Keelin Gorlewski. Both titles emerged from her open submission drive in 2019.
A Cat’s Plan revolves around Sammy, a young woman who’s besieged by work and eager to prove herself- and what happens when she’s gifted a magical diary that allows her to stretch and manipulate time.
In Luisa and the Beast a village holds an annual ritual: each year, the beast descends upon them to select the most accomplished person as a sacrifice, providing its guardianship in return. Being selected by the beast is an honour, and a directionless Luisa is determined to make it her turn. Keelin is very funny and we’re grafting hard on this to capture and measure those funny and emotional beats.
Last month ShortBox celebrated its fifth year of existence. In that time it has released twelve boxes of quality and diverse titles. Many of these titles can still be purchased from the ShortBox online store (in case you missed out). While the boxes will be missed, whatever Zainab Akhtar publishes next will definitely be worth a look.
We at the The Beat wish her luck.
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Rising international postage prices, as well as other Brexit-related price increases, played a factor in the shift.
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