Glasgow indie BHP Comics to wind down business

Glasgow-based indie publisher BHP Comics is winding down business due to “shrinking profit margins and escalating costs, exacerbated by the complexities of Brexit”.

The publisher was set up in 2011 as underground comics collective Black Hearted Press, growing by 2015 into a limited company rebranded as BHP Comics. It was shortlisted for publisher of the year at the Saltire Society Awards multiple times and known for breaking barriers with its Full Colour and Bold comics diversity projects and women in politics anthology We Shall Fight Until We Win, co-published with 404 Ink.

Founder Sha Nazir told The Bookseller the cost of full-colour printing has hit comic book publishers particularly hard. “The margins just haven’t increased at all because you can’t really put the price up of a book” he said. “Most of our books are around £8.99, £9.99 at the most […] and the consumer isn’t going to spend any more money than that, particularly for comic books and graphic novels that aren’t IP related [like Batman or Spider-Man].”

It was the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, however, which first set the publisher’s financial issues in motion. In 2020, BHP had not long moved to the US market. But by April “90% of books got returned” Nazir said. “Just money down the drain […] that really impacted the war chest over the next couple of years in trying to get back to where we were.”

Brexit “was the nail in the coffin” as it affected the publisher’s online sales to Europe. Prior to Brexit “80% of what we were selling online was to France and Germany and to other smaller countries in mainland Europe” Nazir said. “Once Brexit hit we had a few sales and then it just died. It completely died. We just don’t sell there anymore.” Shipping went up from around £3.10 a book to £6.90. There were also more administrative forms to fill in.

Nazir said the winding down of the business has come at “naturally the right time”. He told The Bookseller: “I’ve achieved everything I can do. I’ve hit the ceiling. I don’t have the energy or the resource. I’d need like a quarter of a million pounds to go back in and get us back to where we were in 2019.”

Over the course of the next few months BHP will be selling off all remaining stock. The company will return all creators rights effective 1st January 2024.

Nazir said: “I’ve been the only publisher that’s a person of colour in Scotland for a very long time, and I’ve always been a minority within a minority. Because not only am I a person of colour, but I’ve also then been trying to sell comic books and graphic novels in a book world where it is not traditional at all. It’s always been a challenge but I’m really pleased with the doors I’ve managed to open and hopefully to keep open for other people to walk through afterwards.”

He will not be stepping away entirely from the world of comics. Nazir will continue his freelance publishing consultancy role for the Terry Pratchett estate, which recently achieved success with the Kickstarter for the Good Omens Graphic Novel, as well as his live events company ACME Comic Con. Along with Gary Chudleigh and Jack Lothian, he will continue working on development projects in comics, film and TV under their new collective partnership.

BHP has sold 3,660 books for £37,540 via Nielsen BookScan TCM. The biggest seller was Fiona Gordon and Kate Livingston’s The Mighty Women of Science on 624 units.

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