An Interview with Queenie Chan; The BENTONET: The Future of Indie Comics Publication

This is Dodgy, a proud advocate of indie comics and Host of the indie focused podcast, Flipside Focus, on UCPN and this is very exciting for indie creators!

I meet Queenie Chan, the founder of “The Bentonet”. She is an Australian con veteran with her manga-style comic book art, her first published work was “The Dreaming” which was in TOKYOPOP back in 2004. She also worked with best-selling authors Dean Koontz on the “Odd Thomas” graphic novels, and with Kylie Chan on “Small Shen”.
Right now, she is working on her own fairy-tale inspired fantasy series called “Fabled Kingdom”.
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Check out her website : http://www.queeniechan.com/

Queenie is the co-owner of the Bento Net with Kylie Chan the best-selling fantasy author of “White Tiger” series, which has just published its 9th and final book.
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Kylie Chan (L) and Queenie Chan (R) ready to meet fans.

With the official launch of The Bento Net being on June 25th, Queenie was very kind to answer a few questions.

CC: What is The Bento Net?

QC: The BentoNet is an online retailer with a twist – it’s built to be an infinite bookshelf for independent bookstores. The BN takes orders from its customers, and funnels them to participating bookstores to handle, whether it’s a store pick-up or direct shipping to the customers. This has the effect of ensuring that bookstores can become aware of the books of small press publishers that is normally too risky for them to stock in their stores – if you’re a self-publisher and someone buys your book through the BN, a publisher will become aware of your name and book.

The BentoNet also runs entirely off print-on-demand, namely IngramSpark’s. A copy of a book is printed only when it’s needed and paid for, so this eliminates the need for warehousing and double-shipping. A bookstore need only ever order from Ingram, whether it’s shipping to their store or store pick-up or direct fulfillment. The publishers are automatically paid through Ingram each time a book is sold.

CC: what inspired you to make The Bento Net?

QC: Bernie Sanders, or all people. It was his interest in worker’s co-ops that got me thinking – there’s no reason why Amazon has to be sole model for online book retail. The BN is about spreading the wealth around and benefiting a community of readers, authors, publishers and bookstores.

That, or I just wanted a cheap and creative way to get my books into bookstores. *laughs*

CC: What does it mean for creators?

QC: Through print-on-demand services like IngramSpark, creators don’t need to worry about printing 300 copies of a book, shipping it to them, storing it in their garage, and then shipping it out again when someone wants it. Shipping is soon going to be the MOST expensive thing in book distribution – and it already is. By printing a book only when it’s needed, you only need to ship ONCE, and there’s no waste, so it’s environmentally friendly. It’s also a lot cheaper to print only as you need, not to mention your books never go out of print (unless something happens to IngramSpark).

Also, you can get people to pick your book up in a bookstore. To readers, this lends your book an air of legitimacy. The bookstore also becomes aware of you and your book if you sell more than a few copies. 😉

CC: How many titles do you curently have in your library?

QC: It’s low at the moment, because not many people are aware of IngramSpark in the comics community. Our library catalogue, compiled last month in May 2016, only had 15 comics on it so far out of a total of 20 I knew about. There are a number of enthusiastic users already, and most of the spec-fic community (prose fiction author) already uses it, but there are still issues with IngramSpark’s colour printing. This is an issue that applies only to colour comic creators, of course – the prose people and the b&w comic creators (myself included) seem to be fine with it.

IS prints GOOD books, not GREAT books. Some comic artists are okay with the print quality, some not. POD technology is improving all the time, but it’s still a while away from the high-quality of offset printing for colour. Which is a problem that I hope will be overcome, but it’s really up to the creators what they want to do. The BN is not just for comic creators, but for all books that cna go through IS, so this is not a huge problem from my perspective.

CC: How can indie creators have their books sold through The Bento Net?

QC:
a) List your books on IngramSpark
b) Make sure it’s available in Australia with $8 minimum pricing (do NOT list it with GST on IngramSpark)
c) Make sure it’s 50% wholesale discount in Australia, and 40% wholesale discount elsewhere. The higher discount in Australia is due to the high cost of shipping here.
d) Make a regular customer account on “The BentoNet”
e) Contact “The BentoNet” site admins to upgrade to a Publisher Account
f) Enter your Publisher Panel to buy a tiered membership ($20 for all tiers in the first year), and start adding books!

CC: Do you have plans to expand overseas?

QC: Sure! IngramSpark is a cloud-based storage system that has multiple printers in multiple countries. That means an American customer can buy a book off the American storefront, have it handled by an American bookstore, and have it printed and shipped in America through Ingram’s American printers.

We will have to wait a little while to make sure everything goes well before we attempt to expand overseas though. It will have to be a big operation.

CC: Thank you Queenie and best of luck with your launch!

QC: Thanks for doing this interview! 😀
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If you wish to sell your books in Australia, please don’t hesitate to contact Queenie & Kylie at The Bentonet:

THE BENTONET Connecting Small Presses with Indie Bookstores: http://www.thebentonet.com/
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