April 20, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes


(from this year’s MoCCA Festival!)

We’re at the beginning of this year’s indie/small press convention season, so: it is time for some convention-ing advice!

It can be very difficult to go from ‘aspiring young cartoonist’ to ‘person who is fully engaged in the industry who knows everyone and has lots of friends and connections.’  But it is not impossible!  And in fact, conventions are one of the easiest ways to meet other people in the industry, so if you’re just starting out your career and heading off to a convention, it’s ideal to take as much advantage of it as you can!

Here are some things you can do!

Be presentable

This is the most basic thing to do at a convention: remember to shower, wear clean clothes, and look vaguely professional.  That doesn’t mean you need to wear a suit and tie — but clothes with holes or stains probably aren’t your best option.  Wear something that makes you look good — you’re going to be meeting potential colleagues and friends.


A lot of people are intimidated by the thought of volunteering because they want to spend time at the convention.  But volunteering doesn’t always mean that you’re giving away 100% of your time!  You can volunteer to help set up (before the show opens) or break down (after the show ends) or for a shift that’s part of a day.  And volunteering is great because it means you meet the people organizing the convention.  And you know anyone who’s putting the time and energy into running a convention has to be cool, too!

There are other ways you can volunteer that don’t necessarily involve spending any time at the convention itself — designing the program book, the t-shirts, helping run the website or the social media, helping coordinate run-up events, etc.  If you have skills in one of those areas and you really want to build a connection with the convention-running team, consider volunteering there.

Do your research

Who do you want to meet at this convention?  Cartoonists?  Media?  Convention staff?  Publishers?  Teachers or librarians?  Make a list of all the people who you’d like to talk to; go through the exhibitor list and the programming schedule and see where and when they’re going to be around.  Then look them up!  What are they working on now?  Do they have new comics for the show?  Did they just win an award or write an article or announce a project?  When you see the people you want to meet, have something to talk to them about.  And don’t be shy about telling people you admire their work!

Go to parties

The convention will typically organize an official afterparty, as well as some run-up programming around the city.  Local bookstores and comics stores and other event venues will also organize evening events featuring authors who are at the show.  Give yourself the most possible opportunities to meet cool people and head over to one of the evening parties after the convention has closed for the day.

Bring give-aways

I got an excellent give-away at the MoCCA Festival that was a pro-Free Speech cupcake!  That was pretty awesome.  And it was chocolate.  Home-baked goods are mostly a welcome give-away.

Even more recommended than that, though: you can also print up a few extra mini-comics of your work and bring them to give to the industry professionals you hope to connect with.  Everyone coming to these shows loves comics, and your comics are probably the thing that shows best how awesome you are!  So come prepared with some ear-marked specifically for give-aways so that when you run into Scott McCloud, you can be like, ‘Here is my comic Scott McCloud!’

If there’s someone that you’re super, super excited to meet, you can consider making them some fan art!  Let me tell you: it is always a memorable thing when we get First Second fan art.

Follow-up afterwards

After the convention is over, you’re exhausted and everything is crazy!  You may have to be packing up and going off to a new city!  Things are super-busy!  Take a week for yourself, read some of the comics you got, and don’t try to do everything at once.  But after that, you should definitely follow-up with the people you met who you want to keep in touch with.  Just dropping them a note to say that it was nice to meet them is great; if you bought a comic from them, read it and e-mail to tell them what was awesome about it.  If you don’t have their e-mail, tweet at them or send them a Facebook message.  And if you haven’t already, follow them on Twitter, friend them on Facebook, and follow them on Tumblr and Instagram.

Doing all this stuff takes a non-zero amount of work.  The effort you have to put in to make all this happen is pretty significant.  That’s because building yourself friends and industry connections takes actual work.  You don’t just wake up one day and find that everyone in the industry has become a close friend of yours without ever having talked to you before.

But the good news here is, these personal connections you can make are also professional connections — and when you get published, having lots of industry friends who can blurb and talk up your book is always a boon!  The other good news is, the comics industry is very close knit — so once you know some people, they can introduce you to more people at every show you attend!

April 16, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes, Uncategorized


(here is an unrelated picture of some books)

Everyone thinks they know best — especially when it comes to their job, the thing that they do professionally, the job they have because (presumably) they do it better than anyone else.

And in a lot of cases, people do have jobs because they can do them better than anyone else!  So they may sometimes actually know best.

This means that when you’re approaching someone in a professional capacity in the hopes of getting them to do things differently (ie., in the way that would be best for you), telling them, “I know best; you should do things my way!” may not be the best negotiating strategy.  Because instead of responding (presumably as ideally desired) with something like:

‘I see!  You do indeed know best!  How could we have overlooked this?  You are bringing a vibrant and new perspective to this issue that we have never seen before!  We shall change our actions immediately!’

People are in fact more likely to respond with something like:

‘Who is this person who is accosting me to tell me that they know how to do my job better than I do?  No one can possibly know how to do my job better than I do!’

The problem here is not (always) a problem of who knows best; it’s a problem of approach.  If you’re trying to get someone to change the way they do things, opening by telling them that they’re making terrible choices does not tend to make them inclined to listen to you.  In fact, it may instead make them think that you don’t understand their job well enough to know what you’re talking about!

So!  If you’re actually endeavoring to get people to change their behavior, starting out by asking to learn more about why they do things this way — questioning instead of telling or demanding — is often a good strategy.  And maybe in the process of your conversation, you’ll learn that there’s a good reason why they’re doing things the way they are.

Or maybe they’ll learn from you about an exciting different way to do their job and make a change!

April 13, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes


(these are the illustrations in my copy of Mary Poppins — they’re by Mary Shepard!)

Mary Poppins may be “practically perfect in every way,” but she’s a fictional character.  And also magical.

First Second is a pretty awesome publisher, but I have to admit: we are neither fictional or magical, which means that we make mistakes all the time.  (This is not to say that fictional magical people do not sometimes have their own problems; I just feel like they generally have more easily able to get themselves out of any mistakes they make.)

Every single person we work with — booksellers, librarians, teachers, media, printers, designers, letterers, editors, rights agents, freelancers, and even authors — is neither fictional nor magical, which means that sometimes they may mistakes as well.

That’s kind of a crazy thing to admit!

We’d really like to be 100% perfect all the time, and I know that everyone else we work with feels similarly about their desire for perfection in their own work.  But the truth of the matter is, everyone makes mistakes sometimes.  The most carefully copy-edited books and press releases can still contain typos; even when you double-check your schedule, you can still show up five minutes late to an important meeting.

It turns out that it’s actually impossible to be perfect all of the time.  You just can’t do it!

Does this mean that you shouldn’t strive for perfection?  Not at all — it’s great to endeavor to create a wondrous thing (whether it’s an email or a book pitch or a font or a graphic novel).  But honestly, accepting that perfection is something that you can only asymptotically approach may be healthier for everyone in the long run.  Continually demanding perfection of yourself can be exhausting — and disheartening!

April 7, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Books


Jay Hosler’s Last of the Sandwalkers is awesome!

This science fiction graphic novel is full of actual-factual real-life bugs that mostly behave the way that real-life bugs would (besides the talking and having scientific adventures) because the author of this delightful graphic novel, Jay Hosler, is a real-life biologist.

So check out this graphic novel for your daily dose of science (as well as your daily dose of adventure)!

Last of the Sandwalkers hits stores today!  And you should definitely grab a copy.

April 6, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Books


We’re delighted to present the first of a number of Adventures in Cartooning picture book comics: Sleepless Knight, by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost.

We started publishing the Adventures in Cartooning graphic novels back in 2009, with the eponymously-titled Adventures in Cartooning, a wonderful story of knights, dragons, and ice cream adventures.  (It’s awesome — if you haven’t checked out this book, you definitely should.)  The Adventures in Cartooning picture book comics present the knight and her valiant, loyal, packed-full-of-adorability horse, Edward in all new, cuter and tinier forms!  And in these books, they have great adventures with the help of a rabbit and a bear (as pictured on the cover above), dealing with subjects that are perfect for tiny kids.

You’re going to be seeing more of these Adventures in Cartooning picture book comics coming up fast, starting in the fall, with Gryphons Aren’t So Great, a lovely story about friendship and flying!  And in the meantime, we hope you enjoy Sleepless Knight, which hits stores this week.

April 3, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Events


(pictured: our MoCCA Art Festival table last year)

First Second will be exhibiting at this year’s MoCCA Art Festival!  You can find us at table 404.

We’ll be there with amazing authors Box Brown (Andre the Giant), Jillian Tamaki (This One Summer), and MoCCA Art Festival Guest of Honor Scott McCloud (The Sculptor)!

Here’s our signing schedule:


12:30pm — Scott McCloud In Conversation (at the High Line Hotel)

2:00pm — Jillian Tamaki (This One Summer) signing

2:30pm — Scott McCloud (The Sculptor) signing with the CBLDF


12:00pm — Scott McCloud (The Sculptor) signing

2:00pm — Box Brown (Andre the Giant) signing


We hope you can stop by the :01 table and check out our latest crop of books.  And we’ll have some early copies of the spring 2015 titles for you to get an advance look at, too.

See you at the show!

April 2, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes


(The premise of Box Brown’s Andre the Giant, from the flap.  Nonfiction is pretty easy to grok, premise-wise.)

The premise and the plot of a book are two different things.

The premise is the concept of the book.

The plot, on the other hand, is what happens in the book — all the events that make up the story.

It’s pretty easy to get mixed up between what the premise of a book is and what the plot is — especially if you’re dealing with a book where the plot is very premise-driven — like a murder mystery with a twist ending where the twist is the point.  Or a non-fiction book, where the premise and the plot can be the same thing — ‘Here’s what happened during WWI!’

But here’s a good thing to know: it’s good to have a premise for your book that is easy to explain — and one that doesn’t ruin the reading experience when you know it.  (Exception here if you’re Stephen King; the premise of your books can then become, ‘the latest novel from Stephen King.’  But this is extremely difficult to pull off if you’re not Stephen King.)

Here’s why: people have to sell your book.  Your publisher has to write copy about it that intrigues people enough to buy it; booksellers and librarians have to recommend it to their customers.  “I can’t tell you anything about this book because it’d spoil the reading experience — but it’s awesome!’ is not the best selling line unless you 100% trust that person’s judgment.

To explain what the premise of a book is, it’s sometimes necessary to reveal key parts of the plot.

The premise of Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor is, ‘Main Character gets offered 200 days to live in return for magical sculpting powers — he takes the deal and then promptly falls in love.’  That’s about a third of this story — and do you know what?  We told everyone that this is what happens in the book!  Why?

You can’t keep everything about your book a secret!  Because then no one will know enough about it to want to read it.

March 31, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Books


The Stranger, by Bastien Vives, Michael Sanlaville, and Balak comes out today!

This book is super-rad, you guys.  It’s something that we don’t do a lot — a series — in a very fast-paced, action-packed style.  If you liked The Hunger Games, this is definitely a book for you!

We’re delighted that we’re able to offer these books at a pretty fast clip, something else you don’t typically see from us!  So you’ll be seeing the next volume, The Royal Cup, in June, and the following volume, The Chase, in October.  Then next year, there will be three more volumes!

These authors collaborate on the artwork and story for the Last Man series in a really unique and intertwined sort of way — they even share a studio!  And I think the story is all better for it — more fun and dynamic and tightly plotted.

We’re excited to share this first volume with you now, and the other books very soon!  Happy reading, everyone.

March 30, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes


(from The Shadow Hero, by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew)

It can be very difficult to say no to your publisher.

After all, they’re paying you money AND publishing your book.  And clearly they don’t think the things they’re asking you are crazy, or they wouldn’t be asking you them (or at least they’d be prefacing them with ‘this might sound crazy, but is there any chance. . . .’).

However, as an author, sometimes you do have to say no — for the sake of your wallet, your family, or even your sanity.

Here’s the first thing to know about this: publishers get told no all the time.  Seriously, you guys: all the time.  Authors are always e-mailing us to say no, they can’t turn their book in on the date we want it; no, they don’t like our cover direction ideas; no, they’re not comfortable doing interviews about their books; no, they can’t get X person to blurb their book.  Publishers are used to authors saying no to them; saying no to your publisher doesn’t have to ruin your relationship.  In 99.9% of occurrences, it will not!

And here’s the second thing: say no as soon as you can.  If you have agoraphobia and can’t do an author tour, your publisher can work with that.  But the time to tell them is when they call or e-mail and ask you about doing an author tour — not the day before you’re supposed to get on the plane.  Publishers are pretty flexible, and there are a variety of ways to get a book from concept to publication.  Them knowing about any issues or concerns you have any being able to plan for them beforehand is essential to making a book a success.

Here’s the third thing: try not to say ‘no’ frivolously.  If you’re seriously uncomfortable with something that your publisher is asking you to do, tell them no — and explain your problem with the situation.  The last thing a publisher wants to do to an author is make their life harder than it needs to be.  However, there’s a flip side to this, and that is: don’t just say no because you haven’t had your morning cup of coffee yet.  If your publisher is asking you to do something relatively serious (turn your book in earlier than planned! consider a cover direction you have reservations about! be a guest of honor at a festival!), they probably have a good reason for it.  Try to understand their point of view — and if you need more information or clarification to make your decision, ask them about it.

And here’s the fourth thing: be polite.  (Most) publishers aren’t evil!  They aren’t asking for something because they’re trying to screw you or your book — if a request from a publisher is making you feel upset, it’s likely that there’s been some sort of misunderstanding.  If your publisher asks you something that you have to say no to, ‘to hell with you — I hate you!’ is probably not the best response; neither is treating them like you just learned they’re a serial murderer.  Explain yourself; be apologetic (even if you’re really not).  Maybe even try getting on the phone instead of e-mailing.  Your publisher is an expert in their field — maybe there are factors that are causing them to make this request that you don’t understand or know about.  Maybe they don’t understand your concern.

Here’s the last thing: sometimes, your publisher may say ‘no’ right back to you.  In some cases, the thing your publisher is asking is absolutely essential to publishing your book well.  For example, if we write someone the e-mail —  ‘Hi Author!  Thanks for the design files you turned in — this art is looking fantastic.  But I see that these are laid out so that the dimensions of the book are 12 by 18 inches, instead of the 6 x 8.5 inches that’s specified in your contract.  I’m afraid that your book does have to be that smaller size — I hope that’s okay.  Let me know what you’re thinking here, sincerely, Your Publisher’ — we mean it.  We actually can’t publish a book that’s over a foot tall because it’s not going to fit on bookshelves.    Sometimes when an author says no to a publisher about something they can’t compromise on, it means the end of a book project.  But you’re never going to get into that situation over one e-mail as long as you’re being polite and not seriously threatening violence.  And there are only a few things that are serious enough that would lead to a publisher considering cancelling a project.

So: don’t be afraid to say no!

March 30, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Books

New book!

Just in time for the publication of the first volume of the Last Man series, we got in the advance copies of the second — The Royal Cup!  This book will be out at the end of June.

It looks great.  Pictures!

Where the first book was predominantly red, we’re going for a more blue feeling on this second volume.


Even the volume number is blue!


And the First Second logo on the spine!


Here’s the title page.  From this adversarial character pose, we forsee fighting.  Lots of fighting.


(I think we were right.)


(Who could’ve guessed?)


As with the first book, at the very end, we have a preview of the next volume!


Here’s the back cover (also blue)!


And . . . here are the first two books together!  (At last!)



The Royal Cup will be in stores in June.  See you then!