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

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(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

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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

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(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.

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Even the volume number is blue!

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And the First Second logo on the spine!

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

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(I think we were right.)

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(Who could’ve guessed?)

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

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Here’s the back cover (also blue)!

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

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

March 26, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes

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(Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang’s short story based on their graphic novel In Real Life over on tor.com)

There’s a lot you can do to promote your book right when it’s coming out, or in the month or two ahead of that.  What are the things that can’t wait, that you should do ahead of time?

There are a few things you should try to plan ahead for, that you can’t wait for the ‘my book’s coming out very soon right now!’ trigger.  And the best time to do that is generally about a year before the book gets published — because that’s early enough that you probably won’t be accidentally missing any opportunities.

What things?  Here are some!

Partnerships

Say you have written a book about horses, and you want to partner with some of the national horseback riding organizations and events.  That’s great!  And what a neat idea.  Who does not want the Kentucky Derby to made better by being full of graphic novels?  When you’re working with organizations that have annual events, they often start planning their next year’s event right after this year’s event is over.  And on top of that, it usually takes some time for you to find the right person to contact within the organization — the one who’s heard of graphic novels before — and get them on board with you and your book.

Large scale events or media

When Scott McCloud’s graphic novel Making Comics came out, he went on a tour of all fifty states.  His publisher didn’t pay for it — he did all the logistics himself, and he brought along his whole family with him.  Doing that kind of traveling to support your book takes some time to plan and figure out the financing.  We recommend that you take at least a year so you don’t kill yourself arranging it the month or two before the book comes out.

Similarly, if it’s your dream to have an author profile in the New York Times Magazine (or a similar publication), tell your publisher early and figure out what they’d need from you to make this happen.  If they don’t think they can do it, start talking to some freelance publicists and get a second opinion.  And meanwhile, make sure that you’re keeping your life interesting enough that these magazines would want to be profiling you.

First serial or book-associated short stories

Your book is coming out in a year!  That’s awesome.  But maybe before it comes out, you want to have a prequel short story come out, or a short story set in the same universe?  If that short story is available in a magazine or for free online, it’s a great way to get readers excited about your new book, which up until that point they had never heard of before.  But for this to happen, you have to write and draw the short story, plus get it scheduled to be published somewhere — and you want it to come out before your book.  It’s good to have lots of time in advance to arrange for this all to happen!  Check with your publisher early; if they can’t make it happen, there are a lot of online outlets that you could contact directly yourself.

Author blurbs

It’s really great to get other authors to say that your book is really good.  Sometimes you can even put that on your book cover and thereby convince readers that they should pick up copies of your book because other people whose judgment and taste they trust think it’s so good.  You basically want to be recruiting these people as soon as the book is done so you’ve got their quotes in time to put them on the book cover (if you so desire) and share with everyone over social media for your publishing process!

And more

Really, anything that you think will take up a great deal of time and energy is something that you should think about starting — or check in with your publisher about — about a year ahead of your book’s scheduled publication date.  Your publisher might say, ‘check back in six months,’ but then you have a date for your calendar and you’re not left hanging on your plan for an awesome thing.

If you start thinking about these opportunities — and arranging your schedule and your work accordingly — twelve months before your book is due to hit stores, you should be in good shape for things to start falling into place right around publication.

Bonus: if you do start to arrange things in advance, it gives you plenty of time for the buzz on your book to start getting out, and for more people to hear about it and start contacting you with new opportunities with less turn-around time.

March 23, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes

When we publish books here at First Second, we generally try to put some art on the spine.

Why do we do this?

Look at your bookshelf.  Go to your local bookstore and your local library.  Look at their bookshelves.

99.9% probability that the first thing you saw when you looked at your bookshelf and the bookshelves of your local library and bookstore were the spines of books.  So we try to put a little art on them to give them some advance preparation for how awesome the inside is going to be.

Here are some examples!

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The spines from Fairy Tale Comics and Nursery Rhyme Comics! (The bears are the most adorable thing.)

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Andre the Giant is on the spine of Box Brown’s Andre the Giant.

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And Richard Feynman is on the spine of Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick’s Feynman.  (So are some Feynman diagrams.)

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I love this mummy on the spine of Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert’s The Professor’s Daughter!

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Bicycling spines on Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki’s This One Summer!  (This spine also has some not pictured milkweed seeds on it.)

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And here’s Lucy the bug scientist on the spine of Jay Hosler’s upcoming graphic novel Last of the Sandwalkers.

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This super-violent young child with a knife on the side of Farel Dalrymple’s The Wrenchies is marvelous.

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And here’s the spine from the upcoming graphic novel by Asaf Hanuka, Tomer Hanuka, and Boaz Lavie — The Divine!

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Mike’s Place, our upcoming graphic novel by Jack Baxter, Joshua Faudem, and Koren Shadmi, is all about documentary filmmaking, so there’s a camera on the spine!

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And the spine for Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang’s graphic novel In Real Life has the main character’s online avatar on the spine.  With an axe!

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When we published Gene Luen Yang’s diptych Boxers & Saints, we put halves of faces on the two books — and made them match up on the spines.

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And for our most complicated trick — George O’Connor’s Olympians series!  The spines all line up and add up to make Medusa.

We’re big fans of having art on the spines of books because it gives them an extra oomph when you stand them on the shelves next to other, less art-full books.  And we want our authors books to stand out!

Pick them!

March 19, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Books

We’ve just gotten in advance copies of one of our upcoming spring books — The Divine, by Asaf Hanuka, Tomer Hanuka, and Boaz Lavie!

It looks amazing!  We’re super-excited.

Pictures!

Here’s the cover.

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And a side-view of the spine (complete with magical floating child)!

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And here’s a row of the spines all together.  The French edition of The Divine has the cover in yellow rather than green, but we’re very pleased with our color choice!

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Here’s the inside front cover — and the front flap.  I think the flaps on this book look awesome!

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Interior!

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Everything is very color-saturated and dramatic!

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Here’s the inside back cover and the back flap.

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And the back cover — with a wonderful quote!

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The Divine will be in stores in July.  We can’t wait to share this fantastic book with you!

March 17, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Books

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Today’s the day that The Glorkian Warrior Eats Adventure Pie, the companion to James Kochalka’s wonderful graphic novel of last year, The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza, is on sale!

(Just look at that Glorkian Warrior!  He’s so full of pie-related adventures.)

We think that these brightly-colored, hilarious books are just splendid, and we hope that you do as well.  We further hope that you will be soon embarking on your own pie-related adventures — because adventure and pie; what could be a better combination?

(Especially when those adventures happen in outer space!)

Happy adventuring, everyone!

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

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(some of the books in the hallway outside our offices)

I’m a big fan of publishing, as an industry.  I think it’s fascinating to learn about the history of how we’ve published books in the US (and around the world), and why people have made the creative and business decisions that have led to our current industry state today.  It’s got both historical and sociocultural interest!  How cool is that?

(Yes, I’m a book nerd.  You’ve probably figured that out by now, considering that I work at a book publisher.)

So there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes, through-the-years knowledge about publishing that I have, in part because it’s my job to know about all of this stuff, and in part just because I find it interesting.

But what about you?  As an aspiring author, what things do you have to know about the book and the comics industry to get published?  Do you have to know anything at all?

The real answer here is, if you make an amazing book, you’re 100% set.  We are always in search of amazing books, which we want to publish, whether or not the author has ever heard of a trade magazine or the Newbery Award or Ursula Nordstrom or Jack Kirby.  Even if you’ve never stepped in a library.  (Though we do feel that if you’ve writing books and have never stepped into a library, you should remedy this at once.)

However!  It can be easier for you, as an author, to get your book published and go through the publication process if you know a bit more about how the publishing industry works.  We talk on this blog about publishing things like age categories, genres, book design, distribution — having an idea about how all of those work can be helpful in going through your own publishing process.

There’s definitely a lot of stuff that publishers assume that authors know about about the publishing process that you may not know if you don’t have friends who’ve already been published and walked you through it, if you haven’t been reading publishing blogs, if you haven’t read Dear Genius, etc.

Here’s an example: Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese was the first graphic novel ever to be a finalist for the National Book Award (yay!).  We submitted the book to the award; when a book is a finalist, the National Book Foundation (who gives the awards) calls the authors to notify them the day before they do the actual announcement.  And they want to talk to the author to make sure they know about this before they do the announcement.

So the National Book Foundation calls up Gene Yang; he’s not home and the answering machine gets the call.  “It’s the National Book Foundation and we’d like you to call back right away at any time — here’s our number.”  ‘I’ve never heard of these people,’ thinks Gene.  ‘This can’t actually be important or time-sensitive.’  (They did finally connect, but it took a while.)

Being aware of what opportunities there are — and knowing the industry and the market well enough to have a reasonable sense of where your book fits into the available opportunities — is something that I think can only help you as an author.  It helps you to be able to have conversations with your publisher about your and their expectations for your book, and how those expectations are going to become a reality.  And it helps you have conversations with other people in the industry about how they can help support your book — for example, before meeting up with some librarians, it might be good to know how your publisher promotes and sells books to libraries.

You can definitely get by as an author without knowing anything about the publishing process.  But gaining an understanding of how things work behind the scenes can help you to make sure that your book is being published in the best way possible!

March 12, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes

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(lots of paper)

“I’ll do anything!” is frequently the response we hear from authors when we ask them what they’re interested in doing to market their book.

This is an admirably enthusiastic response!  We appreciate it.  It’s really great when authors are willing to go above and beyond for their books.  Yay that!

However: when you’re talking to your publisher about what you want to be doing for your book, it’s good to be very specific about the resources you’re willing to commit, or else you could end up in way over your head.

“I’m glad to do as many local school visits as you want!”

If your publisher has a lot of school contacts in your area, you could end up doing two school visits a day for the next month!  If that’s what you wanted, great — but if you were hoping to do one or two school visits, that’s less optimal.

“A blog tour sounds great!  I’m glad to do anything for bloggers.”

You were hoping for five blogs to get interested.  Thirty pieces of original art for thirty different blogs later, you’ve developed tendonitis.

“I can get myself anywhere in the US for events, no problem!  All you’d have to do is book the events.”

“Hello!” says your publisher.  “Here’s your fifteen-city author tour that we just confirmed.  Thanks for handling your flights and hotels!”

Hopefully, before you and your publisher get into this situation, both you and your publisher ask each other a few more questions so you guys get a more specific understanding of how much you’re willing and able to commit to.  But making sure you’re really in for ‘absolutely anything!’ before you tell your publisher that tends to be a good idea!