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As Long as We Remember...

December 9, 2015

The "Borneo Boys"...again

Tom McLaughlin

My wife and I have designed, written and printed a comic book called "Borneo Boys." It was an effort to increase the English language skills and a love of history to the students and parents. We wanted to give it free to the children.


To be brief, the first part introduces the characters, the second part is a history of Sarawak from 100,000 years ago to 1840, written in easy English while the third part tells about a Chinese temple in town. The research took hours and hours, visiting libraries and the Internet Google Scholar section.


It is, and was, a disaster.


My first job was to contact corporations who would advertise to help defray costs. They, after all, had a stake in the future of Sarawak.


I contacted over 250 commercial ventures via e-mail. We were in contact with them for three months. Then I called them. I expected at least one or two would purchase an ad. The result was zero, zip, nada. We personally visited several of them and could not get past the gatekeeper.


I cannot understand why. These corporations served the people of Sarawak and are responsible for extracting the wealth from the nation, yet they wouldn't give a few dollars for the children. We did not make a cent from the endeavor.


The next thing, which I did not know about, was getting a PPK number. This value was from the federal government who made sure we would not say anything against Islam or the country. It entailed filling out endless forms and required us to send in a mock copy of our publication. It was a comic book for Pete’s sake! We received our number after a four month wait and send in about $75.


The next problem was distribution. We hooked up with a store called "Smart Bookstore" and, bless ‘em, they sponsored our publication for a 30% fee. We are now in five bookstores in Sarawak including Miri and Bintululu. But, they are not selling. We are also in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Still the same thing, very few sales.


Probably the thing that hurt the most was we sold only two when we returned to the states. A month before I left, I advertised on Facebook and other on line ventures for people to send $5 to my daughters address in Montana and we would mail them. Two, only two. I even contacted a friend’s list with 50 people on it. Nothing.


The artists have been a pain. We started out by asking a guy on the boardwalk in front of the river. His drawing of people were not the pre-adolescent students we needed. They looked as if they were in their mid-20s. The next guy returned on his motorcycle two weeks later and said he couldn't do it. The next guy had all the software. He agreed to perform all the chores, but we haven't heard from him since and that was two years ago.


We finally found three artists who put the first issue together, but they took eight months to make the second one. It is still sitting on my computer. We are not going to print the second one until we sell the first one.


I am selling them on the boardwalk in front of the river each evening. I am the only white guy there. Before, there was just me but now large tables selling sarongs, t-shirts, salt, key chains that have a person’s name and other tourist products have joined me. Some nights I sell eight to 10, others, none at all.


School starts in January, so we are having 30,000 flyers printed up to give to the students and charging them about $3. My English teacher sister-in-law is coming over this afternoon to help us design the advertising piece. If 10% return with the money, then we will break even.


Wish us luck!


...Life is good. . . . .


[Editor’s Note: To obtain a comic book send $5 to Mary McLaughlin, Box 514, Malta, Montana 59538]


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