There’s never been a more exciting time to be an Australian comic creator. Thanks to the internet, our works can reach an audience far beyond the shores of our island continent. But as freeing as the internet is, there’s still opportunity to make your mark in the real world. This can be difficult for independent creators, but help is on the way in the form of the BentoNet, an upcoming online retail hub for Australian creators and publishers, created by local comics superstar Queenie Chan.

I first discovered Queenie Chan through her 2004 series The Dreaming, published by TOKYOPOP. Since then, she’s collaborated with creators like author Dean Koontz, in addition to publishing her own works like the ongoing Fabled Kingdom series. I absolutely loved The Dreaming so being able to meet Chan through the comics guild was practically a dream come true!

Chan was inspired to create the BentoNet after she realized that there was no centralized place for people interested in reading Australian comics, and no way to involve bookstores even if such a location existed. “Involving bookstores in an online bookstore may be sort of strange,” says Chan, “but the fact remains in that in this day and age, anyone can publish and print a book online, and there’s very little respect people pay to self-publishing.” There’s also the fact that bookstores stock based on perceived demand, which means that small publishers and self-published works can be locked out.

But with the advent of the internet, surely these publishers can find their audience online instead? It’s not that easy. Books in stores are more likely to find interested readers than they would online or at a convention. Thus, Chan created the BentoNet, to connect small publishers and bookstores while mitigating the financial risks involved for both parties.

The BentoNet gets around the problems of limited distribution and sales described above by requiring that listed books be available through print-on-demand. In effect, this means that creator’s works can be printed anywhere in the world, negating the need to spend big on import costs. Additionally, the centralised retail hub of the BentoNet will create a national network of bookstores to handle the orders. This will ensure greater exposure for works that sell well, encouraging other retailers to take interest and so provide a wider audience for these works.

The BentoNet can be found at: http://www.thebentonet.com/ and is due to launch very soon! Instructions for getting involved as publishers and retailers can also be found there. We hope to see many SCG creators on the BentoNet soon!

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