(image: Box Brown and Andre the Giant in the Philly Daily News. Media attention is one of the best ways to get publishers to notice you.)
A few months ago, we talked a little on our blog about ways to get publishers to notice you so that they’d buy (and publish) your book. And then we talked a little about how being shy (or not having a lot of time to do all those things) is fine because you can get a book deal even if you don’t go over the top in getting a publisher’s attention.
Since then, we’ve gotten a few inquiries along the lines of, ‘As a publisher, aren’t you searching every nook and cranny of the country to find talented new writers and artists? If someone is really talented, won’t you just find them?’
Unfortunately, the answer is no, not always.
If you are Our Favorite Author Since Childhood or The Author Who Wrote That Book Everyone’s Talking About, that’s pretty much a guarantee that we’ll know who you are. And since we are people who professionally work in the comics industry, probably if you are a person who professionally creates comics and graphic novels that are published here in the US, we’ll know who you are, too. Because we spend our spare time going to book and comics shows and looking at the internet and reading comics and graphic novels that are available at our local bookstores and comic book stores and libraries, so we’re pretty well-acquainted with the people in the industry already getting published.
If you are one of those professionally published already people, that’s great! It’s great that we probably know about you, and it’s great that you’re working in the comics industry, which you presumably love. Yay those things! Maybe we’ll see you at a show or an event or or you’ll e-mail us sometime and you can mention that you’d like to do a book with us.
However, if you are not one of those people who is professionally published already, it’s going to be a little harder for you to get a publisher’s attention — especially if you’re not making mini-comics, going to shows, or putting your work up on the internet. We only have two editors here at First Second; it turns out that it is not physically possible for them to visit every MFA program in the country . . . especially when they have to get books published as well.
If you are a person who wants to publish a graphic novel with us, but whose creative sphere Venn Diagrams with ours not at all, then at the very least, you are going to have to e-mail us to tell us that you’d like to do a book with us. Because otherwise, how will we know? Telling a publisher that you would like to work with them is key. (Having some work to show to the publisher you want to work with to display your manifold talents is also helpful.)
Here’s the thing: if you’re spending your time making The Best Graphic Novel Ever whilst also sequestered in a small cabin in the woods that has no connection to civilization, and you never leave your cabin or tell anyone about your book, we (and everyone else) are pretty much incapable of finding you and publishing your work.
We would love to have some sort of eagle eye system that spies out the best as-yet-unpublished creative people around North America and points us to them. Maybe there would be a large glowing arrow above their houses or something that’s only visible to publishing eyes! (This is kind of actually creepy in an invasion-of-privacy sort of way, so I don’t think we would support it in non-hypothetical real life.)
As that sort of option does not (currently) exist, if you are a writer/artist who wants to get published, it’s important to do something to get a publisher’s notice. What you do — social media, events, anthology work, actively submitting your book, etc. — is ultimately up to you, and you should only do what you’re comfortable with.
But if you’re not comfortable with personally sharing your creative work outside of your secluded cabin in the woods, perhaps it’s time to look at getting an agent. They are invented just for this situation! And, bonus: they understand contracts, too.