August 24, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes


(the candy currently in my office which is not chocolate and which I purchased for myself, I swear)

Sometimes we get asked the question — are there little things that authors can do that will help get a publisher’s attention for their pitch — like send them some chocolate in the envelope?

Now, it’s well known that publishers enjoy chocolate — and also cats, but please avoid sending any cats in the mail to us — but here’s the long and short of how publishing works: sending us chocolate won’t induce us to publish your book if it’s not right for us.  Even if it’s a lot of chocolate.  Even if it’s really good chocolate.

So there’s that.

But!  There is a caveat here — and those of you reading carefully will notice that I didn’t quite exactly answer the question with that last response.

We do open our mail regularly — and we’re only human, so it is exciting when people send us nice things in the mail.  So while chocolate won’t sway our editorial judgment, putting something special in the envelope can sometimes motivate us to remember we have to take a look at your submission.  However, we do prefer to get our submissions digitally, so mailing us anything — even a submission with chocolate in it — is kind of a win/lose situation.

If you’re not a chocolate fan what are some other things you can do to make your submission stand out?

Send us all your mini-comics as they come out so we can see what your writing and art style look like — and how they’re (hopefully) getting better.

Draw a quick adorable sketch on the envelope!

Draw a quick adorable sketch on your cover letter!

Address the editor you want to work with directly by name in your cover letter!

Here are some things you could do to make your submission stand out that we recommend you avoid.

Please don’t send us the original art for your graphic novel as your submission.  What if it gets damaged in the mail?  And it costs a lot to send it back!

Sending us anything perishable is definitely a no — we can be out of the office at conferences for a week at a time.

Please don’t print your submission on special paper — regular printer paper is fine.  No need to go for bright pink or blue or a perfumed stationary!

Elaborate gifts are not a thing we need!  Statuary, articles of clothing, etc. — please keep those for yourself.

And finally — don’t send us a cat.  We like them a lot, but our building has an allergy policy — and also they aren’t the most mailable animal.

Please note that this post is not in any way a request for a deluge of chocolate or adorable sketches!  But doing something to make your submission stand out can sometimes pay off.

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


(here is a photo of my bookshelf at the present time, which is actually a moderately reasonable representation of our publishing, though of course many books are omitted for purposes of being on the bottom of the bookshelf behind some boxes)

Publishers really want to publish books.  It’s practically the whole reason for our existence.  We all love books and think they’re awesome.  And we read them and review them and edit them and work with writers and illustrators to foster their careers and then we also publish a whole lot of books.

But to a lot of aspiring writers and illustrators, it can seem like publishers are gatekeepers who are basically doing everything they can to keep books from getting published.  This tends to be incorrect (because as previously mentioned, here we are trying desperately to publish books with all 100% of our time!), but why the misapprehension?

Here are four reasons why this may be confusing.

Deciding whether to publish a book is not as easy as one, two, three.

Sometimes we’ll get a book submission; we’ll e-mail acknowledge we received it and the response will come right away: ‘so, will you publish it?’

Even though we only have four staff people, we want to talk to all of them about the book: can they take some time and read it?  Do they like it?  Do they have thoughts about how to publish it well, or about things that may be issues?  After that, we want to talk so some people at our parent company — our publisher, our sales staff.  Do they all like the book?  Do they think it will work well for our company?

And all of that is after the editor reads the book and thinks about the book and then reads the book again and then does some research on the author’s background and previous books and possibly reads all of those and thinks about how this could fit into the company’s publishing schedule and the author’s body of work and what exciting things our particular publisher could bring to the table that’d make the book super-amazing and make the author excited to work with us.

Also, math!  How much would we pay for the book?  How much would the production for the book cost?  How are those balancing — do we think we could pay enough to make back the advance and pay for the production and hopefully then make some money for both the author and the publisher?

By then, at the very least, several weeks have passed.  In some cases, several months have passed.

When we decide to publish a book, it’s a commitment of thousands of dollars and years of time from our publisher and our staff, and those are decisions we like to take some time with!  You may know when you’re submitting a book that it’s completely and totally fantastic and a perfect fit with this publisher — but the publisher has to take some time and be sure of that too.

Publishing (like any industry) involves a whole lot of tasks that are mostly invisible to the outside observer, but which still take up a great deal of time.

There are a finite amount of hours in the day.  (Corollary: publishers have a finite amount of staff.)

Publishers are only able to publish so many books.  This year, First Second is publishing twenty-two titles.  We have four staff people at our company; this is literally all we have hours in the day to deal with right now.  Because of that, there are books that we may pass on because we already have a lot of books in the pipeline and we can’t actually fit this new project in our schedule without people forgoing sleep and weekends and authors still having to wait six months for editorial notes.

Besides reading books and deciding whether to publish them, our staff also has to edit the books, design the books, market the books, sell the books, and do all sorts of extraneous activities like getting blurbs, organizing author tours, creating series logos, mentoring younger staff members, keeping up with industry news, taking authors and agents we work with or want to work with in the future to coffee or drinks or lunch, going places to speak about how great our publisher is, exhibiting at conventions, keeping an eye on anthologies and the internet and mini-comics to watch for emerging talent; going to company meetings to figure out things like how we will price and schedule and design and market and sell our books; communicating with company staff about all book developments; e-mailing authors and agents to explain to them all of the things going on with their books, producing book-related materials like catalogs, samplers, and buttons, and more.

Since we don’t work in a glass bubble, to someone who is waiting for their book to be read and considered for publication, it may seem like (and feel like) time is crawling by.  And during those days or weeks or months, if they were doing nothing else, a publisher could have certainly read and reviewed the book and made a decision about whether to publish it.  But during that same time period, a publisher could be like, ‘I went to conventions for half the month and didn’t have time to read anything because when I was back in the office, all I did was catch up on the books I’m already working on!’

A book can be a great book — but that doesn’t necessarily mean that a publisher will be able to publish it.

Sometimes we get in submissions and we really like them.  And then we’re like, ‘wait, we just acquired a trilogy about a cave girl for kids ages 6 – 9.  There’s no way that we can also publish this trilogy about a cave boy for kids ages 7 – 10, too.’

And then sometimes we’re like, ‘this seems like a great book.  It’s a really really great book.  Whoever’s going to publish this book has something really good on their hands.’  And then we’re like, ‘because of format/content/audience, this book won’t work at all with our publishing program.’

These are very vague hypothetical examples, but they’re not ‘once in a blue moon’ sort of happenstances.  Publishers really do have all sorts of editorial concerns going on behind the scenes that you may not know about or be able to figure out that can prevent them from buying a book that they like a whole lot and would under other circumstances publish.  Sometimes those factors can be obvious — for example, if a publisher publishes all their books in a standard trim size of 6 x 8.5 and the book under consideration is a foot high and can’t be reduced at all, that’s a clear possible issue, even if that book is 110% awesome.  But something like, ‘we just acquired two different books about the Holocaust so we can’t publish this new one, even though it’s great’ isn’t something an author could ever know beforehand!

Publishers want to publish really, really good books.

Most people who got into publishing didn’t read a terrible book and then say, ‘this!  I want to make a career out of producing things that are just like this!’  Instead, they tend to have had experiences like, ‘This Dorothy L. Sayers author is really amazing — I read this Nicola Griffith novel and it changed my life — Jo Walton’s book made me think about history in a whole new way.’  And then they decide that they want to be part of that process, and that that caliber of books is what they want to be working with.

Those a great origin stories!  But if you are a new author working on your first book, those can pretty high standards to live up to.  Do not despair: editors are professionals at seeing something with potential and nurturing it, so not everything has to be Pulitzer-winning perfect with your first novel.  But with anyone who loves reading, and loves books, there are probably some favorites that they hold everything against — and it can be a challenge to write something that hits those standards.  The last reaction you want to your first novel is for someone to read it and say, ‘oh, this was such a first novel.’  You want to create book that stands up to the best things that the publisher is publishing — and in almost every case that can be some pretty intimidating writers and artists.

If you’re a writer/illustrator who is submitting your book to publishers, it’s good to keep these things in mind during the whole process so as not to get too discouraged!  It may take some time, but you’ll find the right book — and the right publisher.

August 17, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes, Books

You guys!

We have advance copies of our whole list for Fall 2015 in the office.  It is glorious!  So many books!  So shiny and attractive and new!

Here’s a quick preview.

Covers of books (with Human Body Theater being slightly shiny because of spot gloss)!


Also, we’ve got back covers!  These are some attractive back covers.


And spines!  All in a line.


Fall!  It’s coming up quick, you guys.  We can’t wait to share all of these books with you!

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


(my Fall 2015 review copy shelf right now)

Sometimes the books we publish aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.

That’s something we’re actually pretty okay with.  We publish a whole bunch of books, over a number of different age levels and genres, addressing lots of different subject matter.  If you are a person who likes both girl outer space adventure and adult nonfiction, that’s awesome — but we don’t really expect that everyone who reads one of our graphic novels will like them all.  And those are two opposite ends of the scale — we know readers whose tastes are even more specific than that, enjoying nonfiction biographies but not political ones; enjoying kid space adventure but only girl space adventure.

That’s all fine!  We’re glad if you like our books — and our publishing program — but liking our books and our publishing program doesn’t mean that you have to enjoy every single thing that we publish.  If you just enjoy some of our books and are completely oblivious to our publishing program, that’s fine, too.

We do send out review copies, and because our books are a very varied lot, that sometimes means a reviewer will get something that seems up their alley, but is not to their taste.  And sometimes they review it anyways, pointing out the flaws.

Obviously, we prefer positive reviews of our books.  But (almost) no book is perfect, and there are lots of different literary tastes out there in the world.  We understand that not liking books is something that happens, and we don’t vow revenge against people who just can’t make that connection with one of our titles, even if we’ve sent them the book in the first place.  Getting a book in the mail does not come with an obligation to like it, or to review it positively (or at all)!

So, dear reviewers, there is no need to e-mail and apologize profusely for reviewing something negatively.  Sometimes it happens!  If you can just refrain from actively insulting us and the author, we promise we will still speak to you in the future.

August 10, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes


(art from Richard Sala’s lovely graphic novel Cat Burglar Black. No publishing idea theft occurs during this book.)

Every so often, someone e-mails or calls or comes up to us at a show to tell us that they have a wonderful book that they’re working on, but they don’t want to show it to us because they’re afraid we’ll steal the idea for it, then get another author and artist to write and draw a book with the same concept behind it.

I’m here today to tell you definitively: if you’re an author, this is not something that you have to worry about.

Because we’re publishers, we’re always on the look out for new authors and new books to publish.  We are constantly wandering around being like, ‘I hope some amazing new author comes and sends me their wonderful new book and then we will give them a contract and publish it!’  It is literally the best day of the month when someone e-mails us with a wonderfully exciting new project that has something in it that speaks to us, or when a talented author we know comes to us and says, ‘let’s work together.’

If you’re a person who’s a writer/artist who has lots of interesting and great ideas that work harmoniously with our publishing program and you e-mail us about them, our response is not, ‘great! Let’s steal those and then we’ll have to go through the trouble of finding and hiring another person who’s less enthusiastic about these interesting and great ideas and we’ll give them some money to develop them; I’m sure that’ll work out amazingly.’

We’d rather work with the person who has the interest and great ideas in the first place!  And then perhaps they’ll have more interesting and great ideas in the years to come and we can publish them for years and years to both of our benefits.  We’re publishers; finding an author/illustrator who has great ideas and can make them into a book for us is an exciting and wonderful and valuable thing!


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

Omaha Beach on D-Day!  We’re so pleased to share a first look at the advanced books for this title, which just showed up in the office right now.

They look super! This book is a new format for us — it’s translated from French.  What it does is take an iconic historical photograph, and tell the story (in graphic novel format) of how that photograph came to be taken.  It also includes a historical essay at the end.

Comics + photographs + history — it’s like peanut butter and jelly and some other sort of delicious sandwich thing, possibly bread!

Here’s the cover for the book — you can see immediately the photo and the comic elements!


And here’s the spine.


Here’s a set of books all lined up together.  They’re very dignified!


And a close-up on the soldier at the bottom!


(Extremely red) title page!


Here’s one of the comics parts in the interior.


And here’s the essay part!


And the back cover!


Omaha Beach on D-Day will be in stores in October.  We can’t wait for this handsome graphic novel!

August 4, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Books

We’re delighted that we have for you a new chapter in the saga of Battling Boy: The Fall of the House of West, the second volume of Aurora’s story!

If you’ve been following along with us and Paul from day one, you’ll know that when Battling Boy descends to the planet of monsters, he finds that there’s already someone there cleaning up the place: a girl a little older than him named Aurora.  The Aurora West books tell her story, which concludes in this second volume.

We just got advance books in the warehouse and they look super!  Here are pictures.

We love the cover of this book!  Aurora West FTW!


She’s on fire!  (But not literally — those are electric jet powered propulsion system things.)

And here’s the spine.


It has a tiny Aurora West on the bottom.


Spines all together!


Here’s the great interior art by David Rubin!


With monsters!


Here is the back cover.


Two books together!  Red and teal.


Aw, Battling Boy.  So many books!


The Fall of the House of West will be in stores in October.  We’re excited!

July 28, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Books

Hey guys!

Winter is slowly creeping up on us (in the dead heat of summer that it currently is).  So without further ado: our upcoming season!

The Nameless City, by Faith Erin Hicks


The Show, by Bastien Vives, Michael Sanlaville, and Balak


The Glorkian Warrior and the Mustache of Destiny, by James Kochalka
(the final volume in the Glorkian Warrior trilogy!)


Sweaterweather, by Sara Varon


Apollo, by George O’Connor

Apollo RGB

Delilah Dirk and the King’ Shilling, by Tony Cliff

Delilah Dirk and the King's Shilling RGB

Click the links for more!

We’re delighted to be publishing these marvelous books.  Winter can’t come soon enough!

July 13, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Books

New book!

We’ve just gotten copies of the third volume of the Last Man series, The Chase!  They’re officially in the office, and they look splendid.

Here are pictures!

The front cover — featuring our excellent female protagonist, Adrian’s mom!


The spine (also featuring Adrian’s mom)!


(And here are all the spines together.  You’ll notice the numbers and the logo are in red — we’re alternating between red and blue for this series!)


The title page — also featuring guess who?


We’re so pleased that Adrian’s mom gets a bigger role to play in this book.


That’s because she’s awesome!


She’s on the back cover, too — with Adrian!


We’re so excited to see the first three books together at last.  Here are covers!


Back covers!




Spine graphics!



The Chase will be in stores at the beginning of October.  We’re excited to share it with you then!

July 6, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Events


(This is totally our booth from NYCC.  But we swear our SDCC booth looks very similar.)

First Second Books will be exhibiting at San Diego Comic-Con at booth #1323! We’ve got lots of books and authors and programs at the show – and please stop by the booth and say hi.

(And for more details about these panels, check out the SDCC website.)


Panel: From Fan to Creator: Making the Dream a Reality
Time: 10:00am – 11:00am / Room 23ABC
With :01 Author: Gene Luen Yang

Time: 10:30am – 11:30am
Asaf Hanuka and Boaz Lavie Signing in the :01 Booth #1323

Panel: Breaking Into Comics Right Now
Time: 12:00 – 1:00pm / Room 28DE
With :01 Staff: Gina Gagliano

Time: 12:00pm – 1:00pm
Gene Luen Yang Signing in the :01 Booth #1323

Panel: First Second Presents, ‘What’s In a Page?’
Time: 1:30pm – 2:30pm / Room 4
With :01 Authors: Scott McCloud, Asaf Hanuka, Aron Steinke, Gene Luen Yang

Panel: Eisner vs. Eisner: The Spirit at 75
Time: 2:30pm – 3:30pm / Comics Arts Conference Room #4
With :01 Author: Scott McCloud

Time: 3:00pm – 4:00pm
Aron Steinke in the :01 Booth #1323

Panel: Banned Books
Time: 4:00 – 5:00pm / San Diego Central Public Library / The Auditorium
With :01 Author: Mariko Tamaki

Panel: The Nerd in the Classroom: Sci-Fi as an Educational Tool
Time: 4:00pm – 5:00pm / Shiley Special Events Suite, San Diego Public Library
:01 Author: Gene Luen Yang

Time: 4:30pm – 5:30pm
Jen Wang in the :01 Booth #1323

Panel: Capturing Teen Angst in Comics
Time: 5:30pm – 6:30pm / Room 8
With :01 Author: Jillian Tamaki

Event: B&N Pop Culture Month Spotlight
Time: 7:00pm – 8:00pm / Location: B&N Mira Mesa / 10775 Westview Parkway / San Diego, CA 92126
With :01 Author: Mariko Tamaki


Panel: Spotlight on Scott McCloud
Time: 10:00 – 11:00am / Room 9
:01 Authors: Scott McCloud; moderated by Gene Luen Yang

Panel: 21st Century Creators
Time: 10:00am – 11:00am / Room 28DE
With :01 Author: Jillian Tamaki

Panel: Publishers Weekly Presents: The French Comics Invasion
Time: 11:00am – 12:00pm / Room 29AB
With :01 Staff: Mark Siegel

Panel: Spotlight on Dave Roman
Time: 11am – 12:00pm/ Room 4

Time: 11:30am – 1:30pm
Scott McCloud at the First Second Booth #1323

Panel: Hopey, Israel, Skim, Oafs, and Beyond
Time: 1:00pm – 2:00pm / Room 28DE
With :01 Authors: Mariko Tamaki

Panel: Comics and the Real World: Using Graphic Novels as Tools of Tolerance
Time: 1:00 – 2:00pm / Room: 30 CDE
With :01 Authors: Aron Steinke, Cecil Castellucci

Time: 2:00 – 3:00pm
Dave Roman signing at the :01 Booth #1323

Panel: Creative Storytelling: Choose Your Own Adventure
Time: 3:30 – 4:30pm / Room 8
With :01 Author: Aron Steinke

Panel: Spotlight on Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
Time: 4:00pm – 5:00pm / Room 29AB

Panel: Spotlight on Asaf Hanuka and Boaz Lavie
Time: 5:00 – 6:00pm / Room 9

Time: 5:00pm – 6:00pm / Location: AA09
With :01 Author Aron Steinke

Time: 5:30pm – 6:30pm
Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki in the :01 Booth #1323


Galley Give-Away
Time: 11:00am / at the :01 Booth #1323
We’ll be giving away copies of Faith Erin Hicks’ The Nameless City!

Program: Kids Comics Publishers Library Day
Kids Comics Summit
Time: 11:00 – 12:00 / Location: San Diego Central Library – Shiley Special Events Suite / 330 Park Blvd / San Diego, CA 92101
With :01 Staff: Calista Brill

Panel: Working Together: Writers and Artists
Time: 11:00am – 12:00pm / Room 28DE
With :01 Authors: Jillian Tamaki, Mariko Tamaki, Asaf Hanuka, Boaz Lavie

Panel: Comics in the Classroom – Real-World Ideas for Engaging Your Students with Comics!
Time: 12:00pm – 1:00pm / Room 30CDE
With :01 Authors: Dave Roman, Cecil Castellucci

Program: Kids Comics Publishers Library Day: Age Categories
Time: 12:00 – 1:00 / Location: San Diego Central Library – Shiley Special Events Suite / 330 Park Blvd / San Diego, CA 92101
With :01 Staff: Calista Brill

Time: 12:30pm – 2:00pm
Scott McCloud Signing in the :01 Booth #1323

Program: Kids Comics Publishers Library Day: Librarian/Educator Fall 2015 Graphic Novel Buzz
Time: 1:00 – 2:00 / Location: San Diego Central Library – Shiley Special Events Suite / 330 Park Blvd / San Diego, CA 92101
With :01 Staff: Gina Gagliano

Panel: Diversity
Time: 1:00 – 2:00pm / Room 28DE
:01 Author: Mariko Tamaki

Program: Kids Comics Publishers Library Day: Contemporary Issues in Graphic Novel Publishing for Educators and Librarians
Time: 2:00 – 3:00 / Location: San Diego Central Library – Shiley Special Events Suite / 330 Park Blvd / San Diego, CA 92101
With :01 Staff: Gina Gagliano

Time: 2:30pm – 3:30pm
Asaf Hanuka and Boaz Lavie Signing at the :01 Booth #1323

Time: 2:30pm – 3:30pm / Location: Autographing Area 09
With :01 Author Mariko Tamaki

Panel: Kids Comics
Time: 3:00 – 4:00pm / Room 23ABC
With :01 Author: Dave Roman

Program: Kids Comics Publishers Library Day: Events for Community Engagement
Time: 3:00 – 4:00 / Location: San Diego Central Library – Shiley Special Events Suite / 330 Park Blvd / San Diego, CA 92101
With :01 Staff: Gina Gagliano

Time: 4:30 – 5:30pm
Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki Signing in the :01 Booth #1323

Program: Kids Comics Publishers Library Day: Librarian Talkbalk
Time: 5:00 – 6:00 / Location: San Diego Central Library – Shiley Special Events Suite / 330 Park Blvd / San Diego, CA 92101
With :01 Staff: Mark Siegel

Panel: Storytelling
Time: 5:30pm / Room 8
With :01 Staff: Calista Brill


Panel: The Girls Are Alright!
Time: 10:00am – 11:00am / Room 30CDE
With :01 Authors: Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki, Cecil Castellucci

Time: 11:30am – 12:30pm
Cecil Castellucci Signing in the :01 Booth #1323

Panel: Push Fun Forward: All-Ages Comics Have Arrived
Time: 1:00 – 2:00pm / Room 24 ABC
With :01 Authors: Dave Roman, Cecil Castellucci

See you at the show!