State of Black Rose 2018November 15, 2018
Hello, old friend!
As you can probably tell by the dates on the prior posts, Black Rose has been on hiatus so long you probably thought we had all died. Surprise, I guess?
We’ve been working slowly but surely behind the scenes, and rest assured we’re still determined to finish this story we’ve started.
Nobody wants to write a blog post explaining that they’re stepping back, so I kept putting it off for way, WAY too long — which was actually worse, because now it looked like we were ghosting on our fans. You guys are the best and deserve better than that!
Here’s where we are, and where we’re headed.
We spent a good 5-7 years working full steam ahead on Black Rose: brainstorming, writing, drawing, self-publishing, and travelling to various conventions to sell books. Then shifting to publishing and selling online. It was awesome, exhausting, and all-consuming.
We tried to keep up an aggressive online posting schedule, but it wasn’t sustainable; we eventually worked through our print backlog and hit a wall on getting new pages done with the regularity an online audience expects. So we decided we’d take a step back and post the rest of the issue when it was done. Turns out that was longer than we’d thought.
I’m proud of the fact that Black Rose has always managed to pay for its own expenses, that we’ve turned a profit at every show we attended. But the three of us have never personally seen a dime from the project. The profit we make goes back into the project fund to pay for shows, print runs, and other expenses.
And our personal and professional lives have become infinitely busier since we started this journey — marriages, kids, becoming homeowners, personal crises, new jobs, grey hairs, promotions, and more. Our love for Black Rose is still just as strong, but our availability to work on non-paying side projects is not what it was in those simpler times.
So weeks turned into months turned into years. We continued to work on the project, but at a much slower pace. We’ve finished Issue 10, are working on Issue 11 art, and are reworking the Issue 12 script based on some new direction for Book 3. But that progress has been so sporadic that we haven’t wanted to post anything online, knowing that we couldn’t promise when the next batch of pages would be done.
Which bring us to now!
Creatively, our task ahead, while large, is fairly straightforward. Chris and I have developed an outline for the rest of the saga, and are looking at fleshing that out so we can write Book 3 with complete foreknowledge of where we need to build to.
Additionally, while our outline is for a 5-book series, we may look into truncating that, if we can do so without adversely affecting the story. Our original (and very loose) plan was for a 7-book series, and the slower-paced storytelling in Book 1 and especially in Book 2 had that goal in mind. I love the slow burn those arcs have, but speeding things up as we head toward the climax will help us get there sooner. Fantasy franchises have a tendency to get overly long in the tooth, and I want to make sure we can actually finish this thing!
(Incidentally, one of the other major tasks on my list is redoing this website. This was one of my very first WordPress websites, back almost a decade ago when I still did mostly print design. Now designing and coding WordPress sites is what I do all day every day, and boy howdy this code needs a fresh coat of digital paint!)
The main challenge we have on the creative side is working around Aaron’s schedule. Some of our peak years for Black Rose productivity were due to slower periods in Aaron’s illustration gigs. His workload has gotten much busier over the years, with his work on Black Rose helping land additional comic projects (that can actually pay him a page rate like he deserves!). Aaron loves drawing Black Rose, but paying gigs have to come first, so committing to a regular update schedule will remain a challenge. (If you’ve ever worked the feast-or-famine world of freelancing, you’ll understand!)
Which brings us to the main challenge: publishing. At this point, what’s our best publishing avenue? Continue releasing pages online as we complete them? Hoarding our pages until we can release an entire issue at a time, Netflix binge style? Moving away from the free webcomic model and try to increase revenue by releasing exclusively as a digital comic instead? Doing more conventions? Doing fewer conventions? Adopting a crowdfunded approach with Kickstarter and/or Patreon? Or stop trying to self-publish and doing another round of submissions with major comic publishers?
Obviously, we don’t know yet. And while I had wanted to wait to say anything until we did know, I think some honest transparency that we’re still looking — and still working — is helpful for you, our loyal fans, to know. I should have communicated that, and much earlier, and for that I apologize.
Honestly, we’ve had a very good run so far. Not a lot of self-publishing comics do break even financially, or have as long a run with (IMHO) as high a quality. I’m grateful to Aaron and Chris for their incredible creative partnership and friendship — and to everyone who has bought a copy of Black Rose, shared our website with their friends, or otherwise supported us over the past few years. Our fanbase is small but dedicated, and we want to thank each and every one of you for your interest and support. The least we can do is be open and honest about where we are and what’s next.
Expect more news and progress to follow — I can’t tell you when, but I can tell you it’s coming. As always, thanks!