(photo from The Smithsonian. This is a general rather than a specifically problematic example of rudeness.)
One of our favorite questions that we got at NYCC this past week was:
When you’re considering acquiring a project, do you care whether the author of the project is rude to you?
Let’s think about this in terms of numbers for a minute, okay?
First Second generally publishes between fifteen and twenty books a year. That means that every year, to keep up this publication rate, we have to acquire between fifteen and twenty books.
That’s not a lot of books. It’s not a lot of books on the order of, ‘perhaps on a busy month, we shall acquire two new projects.’
This year, in 2012, we’re publishing sixteen titles.
Out of those titles, nine of them are by people we’ve worked with before. Because, you know, when we publish books by people and we enjoy working with them and they make good books and the books do well, we typically wish to work with them again.
That leaves seven slots for books by new people.
And that’s not even saying that all those seven books are by authors who we had never heard of before their submissions showed up in our inbox — in fact, with four of those seven books, we’d known the authors for several years before they pitched something to us.
Of the remaining three books: one was a foreign import that our editor Calista Brill found at Angouleme; one was an adaptation of a science fiction novella we loved; and one was pitched to us by people who we’d never heard of before who came by our booth at a convention.
So basically, last year? We published one book that was by someone we didn’t know before we got their proposal. (Congratulations, Giants Beware! authors! You are the exception in this game.)
There are a number of different factors that play into us deciding to work with someone on a project. These factors may include:
1. They’ve pitched us a project that we’re very excited about.
2. They have previously published work that we enjoy.
3. They’re nice to us.
“Why is being nice even a factor?!” you may ask, outraged. “It’s the work that counts!!!”
And we believe that it’s the work that counts! But.
As we’ve discussed before, it generally takes us about three years to make a graphic novel, from acquiring the book to the publication date. During that time, we talk to our authors regularly — and there will be a few months where authors will probably be hearing from us every day we’re in the office with questions about cover design, copy-editing, proof changes, availability for events and interviews, etc.
If we sign up someone who spends time while they’re still in the submission process being rude to us, we may be signing up someone who will be spending every day of the next three years continuing to be rude to us. Even if they’re only rude half that time — or a quarter of that time — that’s too much of a rudeness-induced headache for us to deal with.
The editorial and the design and the marketing processes are all collaborative processes at First Second — they involve a lot of back-and-forth between the author and all of us who are employed here at First Second. We want to work with people who are happy to have that collaboration, who want to hear our thoughts and work with us to make their book the best possible.
If you’re rude to us while you’re submitting us a book, that’s a sign that you’re thinking, “Whatever, publisher. I don’t care about you or your thrillingly collaborative process.”
(Also, seriously? Being rude is not the way to convince anyone to give you thousands of dollars. It is not a winning strategy. We promise.)