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For some time now we have published two book projects annually: The Inkwell Awards Donation Drive and Results Book (which debuted as a sketchbook in 2009 by committee member Bob Shaw and was further developed and enhanced in 2010 by committee member Jim Tournas) and the Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge book (which debuted in January 2010 as conceived by me and produced by Jim). You can see every edition’s covers in our website Store and all regular editions are still available. The initial printing expenses of these books were usually sponsored by an advertiser whether it be Harrison’s Comics & Pop Culture, Blaq Books or Rhode Island Comic Con. But sometimes there were additional costs to us like when and advertiser couldn’t be found, errors were made and the book had to be printed again. Or when the initial run, sometimes minimal, ran out and we had to print up more. Jimmy looked into different routes of funding for the program over the years but nothing materialized. Sure, we’re “non-profit” but, c’mon! We’re still a business;-)
The expenses wouldn’t have been a significant problem if we sold a lot of copies but we never sold a lot of the Donation Books that came out at the end of every season. These books consisted of a collection of the season’s new art donations for fundraising, a summary of the organization’s highlights and results on the award recipients for the year. The only exception was when Writer Ron Marz plugged the 2nd Inking Challenge book at his CBR forum “Shelf Life” and sent his fans over who bought up almost anything not nailed down at our site’s Store page for a short period of time. But the Donation book seemed to be most-appreciated only by our organization’s members who received an annual comp copy of it, which acted as an end of the season album as well as a Thank You for their volunteer work and dedication.
The Inking Challenge book seemed to have slightly more success and that could be for two reasons (well, three if you count the fact that it’s about and for the legendary Joe Sinnott!): it was further recognized because of the annual, traditional Inking Challenge event that took place in the comic book artist community. And it was an educational book that explained in before & after, clear, visual terms what inking was and what each artist brought to the table. You’d get an intro by the likes of Terry Austin or Mark Sinnott, a word from Joe, text from resident writer Danny Best, and bios, photos, and comments of/by some of the best classic and contemporary ink artists around. But the Donation book was just a collection of donation pieces. Some were magnificently rendered by the masters. And some were by lesser-known, fledgling artists who believed in what we were doing, generously donated and we hoped some exposure would further help them out. While these books had nice Ms. Inkwell covers by Randy Green, Craig Rousseau, Louis Small Jr., and Mike McKone, I suppose the overall package simply didn’t inspire supporters to add them to their home collection shelf.
So Jimmy and I talked for some time about what to do about the Donation book. Getting sponsors for two books a year was tough. The producing of two books was tough on Jim. We finally discussed going out with a bang with the 5th volume of the Donation book which sported two covers for a regular edition and a special edition, all in the hopes that we could raise more interest and sales and extend the series’ life. The regular edition image of our spokesmodel by Ed Coutts was a tad more tantalizing than our usual covers (the art was originally intended to be a Ms. Inkwell Gallery book piece-more on that later) with a design by Dave Beaty. And the Franchesco cover (amply delineated by Scott Hanna) on the special edition had a flip cover with the top half of the image on the front and the bottom half on the back, with all elements designed by Franchesco. We normally created signed & numbered or multi-signed collectors editions of each volume to help raise funds and interest, but this time we even came up with a centerfold poster of the full Franchesco Ms. Inkwell image inserted into 25 limited copies of the special version, with all posters signed by him. We all promoted it and…wait for it….nothing. More of the same low sales. It was a valiant attempt but we decided to call it.
So for 2014 we have a new plan: consolidation. There will be one title that will appear following the Heroes Con awards ceremony every year and that’s it. We will produce the Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge book (with his pencil art of Hulk and Black Panther) and we’ll take the text from the Donation book and add it along with the award results. And there will still be an introduction by various industry ‘rock stars’ who love Joe and support the art form of inking. Jimmy has moved on from both the book program and the committee (don’t fear, he’s still a Senior Contributor) but writer/editor/self-publisher Enrica Jang, President of Red Stylo Media, has agreed to inherit the program and try to match if not exceed the standards set forth by Jim and Bob. She’ll find the funding for expenses and now that our organization membership has expanded much beyond our humble beginnings, we will be limiting the comps that are sent out. And after two years of plans and collecting contributions by our best and favorite artists, I’m hoping that 2014 is the year of Ms. Inkwell with the debut of the one-shot Ms. Inkwell Gallery book. A personal passion of mine, I will work closely with Enrica to make that finally become a reality after my work schedule clears up in the spring. I’ll share more info on that project as we get closer.
We’re really pumped about this plan. And so is Joe Sinnott. We sincerely hope to have your book donation support.