(or, why a publisher almost never responds to a book pitch at a show by saying, ‘sold!’ and producing a contract right then and there.)
(us at last week’s MoCCA Festival, at which we saw lots of great writers and artists — but did not agree to publish any books by them at the time)
Buying a book is a very serious decision for us here at First Second.
Buying a book is a serious decision for pretty much every publisher! Here are some reasons why we take it especially seriously:
Graphic novels are time-consuming! They can take two or three years to write and draw (sometimes more!) — and then another year to produce. That’s a significant commitment of time.
Our advances can be thousands of dollars. That’s a significant amount of money.
At First Second, we have an extensive editorial process, with our editors weighing in on every step of the creative process. If you do a book with us, that means you’ll be talking to — and working with — your editor a whole lot. Getting along with each other well is an essential part of this relationship — and not the easiest thing to tell from a five-minute meeting on the floor of a convention.
We only publish about twenty books a year — that means that we only buy (on average) between one and two graphic novels a month. In contrast to that, we get at least five submissions a day.
We have a really great publisher — and a really great sales team. They are almost always never at conventions to look over our shoulder and get excited with us.
On top of that, while we’re at conventions, we’re probably hot, cold, tired, hungry, dealing with a currently-happening author signing or setting up for one, talking to teachers/librarians/booksellers/media about our graphic novels, saying hi to our authors not having author signings who have stopped by, talking with other publishers about their books being awesome or about the state of the industry, going with our authors to panels or off-site events, coordinating our staff at the booth, or re-stocking/re-organizing books at our booth.
That’s a lot of stuff to do!
When we look at a graphic novel proposal, we want to sit down with it — to read it several times and to think about it. We want to fall in love with it and then read it again to make sure that we still love it. We want to discuss it with our colleagues and have an extensive conversation with the author about their vision for the book to make sure we’re thinking the same things. We want to think about the art direction and the age category and the audience and the price point. Then we want to do some math to make sure that we can publish the book at that price point. We want to think about the format and the design of the book. And we want to take all of that information and think about how this book would fit in with the rest of the books we publish here at First Second.
That’s a lot of stuff to think about — especially while you’re trying to run a booth at a convention. It’s a lot of time-consuming, challenging, thoughtful thinking that it’s probably best not to do while you’re simultaneously trying to make change or hang signs or run off to a panel.
So — if we see you at a convention and we tell you that we like your work and that you should stay in touch, that’s not us giving you the brush-off.
That’s us telling you to stay in touch with us — the first step towards an author/publisher relationship.