(this is original art from Matt Loux’ upcoming graphic novel The Time Museum!)
Is it important for you to know what size to make your original art before you even start on your graphic novel project?
(As with all things) It depends!
Why would it be important to make your original art a specific size?
What size you make your original art can affect your final book in a lot of ways.
If you’re printing a physical book, it’s important to make all your pages consistently the same size (or the same proportions) so that you’re not ending up with some pages that are 6 x 9 and some that are 9 x 6. Because those two dimensions are not going to be compatible in the same book, unless some sort of crazy fold-out thing is happening with it.
It’s also typically a good idea to make your original art at size (the same size the book is) or larger, so that you’re not ending up with pages that have to be enlarged to the point where the art isn’t crisp. Some authors like working with larger pages a lot because it can be easier to draw details when they’re bigger than they’re going to look!
If you’re including elements in your book like full bleeds (where the art goes off the edge of the page), and spreads (where the art goes through two pages), knowing what the dimensions for those two effects are is important so that you don’t end up having accidental white space around the edge of your supposed-to-be-full-bleed art, or having art disappearing down the center gutter of the two page spread.
So when in the graphic novel creation process do you need to know what size to make your art?
Are you self-publishing your book? Then you need to know what size your original art should be as soon as you start making final original art! Once you get past the script/thumbnails/character sketches stage and start penciling/inking/painting final art, it’s very important to know what size to make your original art. Sometimes this can be a real challenge, because if you’re printing your book professionally, how do you know what your printer’s specs are? But you can generally call or e-mail printers and ask them for a quote with general guidelines about bleeds and gutters and art size, then use that as a guide.
Are you planning to publish your book with a publisher? Then you’re in a bit of a complicated situation, because every publisher may have different art guidelines. That’s kind of a pain in the neck! You may have to draw ten to twenty pages for a submission sample that goes out broadly to a lot of publishers . . . and then have to redraw them later, when you sign up with a publisher who has a specific size in mind for your book.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that can be done about that, because not all books everywhere are standard sizes. We’re pretty happy about that fact, but it’s pretty tough on an author trying to figure out art sizes. You can try, for a sample, to do nothing tricky with the art — all six-panel grids with no bleeds or spreads or anything, at a moderately large size — but that doesn’t affect the fact that you may end up getting editorial comments that make you have to rewrite (and then redraw) the scene later.
If you do sign a contract with a publisher, you can ask them for art dimensions first thing! They’ll probably have a one-sheet or some standard text to send you about what size all your art should be to work with their formats.
If you’re planning to write and draw your full book, then pitch it to a publisher, you’re in a tough spot! You may want to take the self-publishing route of calling up a printer and asking them for specs to draw your book to so you have some numbers for a guide and you’re not just flying blind. Most printers don’t require you to commit to paying them money before they give you specs like that. You can also take the low-tech route of getting out your ruler and measuring the books on your shelf that are similar in size to what you’d ideally want your book to be, then extrapolate basic dimensions and proportions from that.
In all of these options, making art takes lots of time, so having to redraw perfectly good art because of proportion/dimension/bleed/math errors is the worst! We recommend measuring twice and cutting once. And also, running your first few pages of original art by your publisher or by your writing group to double-check that you’re not making any mistakes.
(We received this question by e-mail. Thanks for the suggestion!)
(this is a calendar — it’s actually the calendar on my desk)
How far ahead are the graphic novels we publish planned?
It’s early winter of 2015 right now. (I’m writing this piece on Wednesday, January 28th, as it says in the calendar above.) Right now, authors are turning in the books (or have already turned in the books) that we’re going to be publishing next winter, between January and April 2016. We’re finalizing up our lists for Spring 2016 and Fall 2016, figuring out who’s going to be delivering books to us in the next six or seven months so we can publish them next year.
Next year! That’s pretty far away.
2016 is indeed pretty far away! And the fact that the books coming out next spring and fall need to be turned in no later than six or seven months from now means that if you submitted a graphic novel to us tomorrow and it was wonderful, needed no edits, and completely finished, probably it could come out next May at the earliest. If you submitted a graphic novel to us tomorrow and you’re going to need some time to work on it, it probably won’t come out until at least 2017 or 2018 or even later.
In the meantime, we’re starting to put together our schedule for 2017. It’s not a very final schedule yet, because there’s still time for books to be late — or, in rare cases, early. But we’re taking a look at the books that seem like they’ll be done a year from now so we can make sure we have enough of them and that they balance well as a list.
We have all sorts of books signed up that are contractually scheduled to come out five or six years from now, but we typically don’t look more than two or three years out when we’re actually planning schedules. That’s because after that, everything gets pretty wibbly. When we sign contracts with authors, we put a due-date for their book in their contract, and we expect that they’ll turn their book in on time unless they notify us to the contrary somewhere along the way. But being a month early or a month late can be time enough to slide to a different season, and we frequently have authors who turn a book in saying either, ‘this took me six months less than expected’ or ‘this took me three years more than expected.’ Provided we have some notice about these things, we can figure out how to deal with these scheduling problems, but it makes planning further than two years out a bit like building castles on shifting sands.
Publishing is often accused of being a very slow business — probably because it is! There are a lot of systems in the publishing industry (the mills of God, etc.), and that makes it difficult to have an author turn in a book today and to have it in stores next week. And sometimes that’s a problem!
But sometimes, that’s the opportunity to give a book the best chance for it to be promoted broadly to everyone possible.
(thanks to Twitter for this question!)
(Cory Doctorow talks to the LA Times Hero Complex about his graphic novel with Jen Wang, In Real Life)
So now you’re a published author! And the marketing/publicity person at your publisher e-mails to say that there’s a publication who wants to do an interview by e-mail with you; here are some questions. Could you answer them and send them back?
(That’s great! Yay! It’s always exciting when people want to talk to you about your book.)
So you write your answers and send them back to your marketing/publicity person. Mission: accomplished!
But: now that you’ve sent your answer back, you start to worry. Is your marketing/publicity person going to take what you said and rewrite it? Is it going to be published in a form that bears to resemblance to the answers you initially wrote? What should you do?
The first thing to do is, don’t worry! All the people who you work with at your publisher love words and books and writing and understand the importance of the written word. No one’s going to completely rewrite your interview and not tell you, not in the least because it’s a lot of work — and your publisher is working with you, publishing your writing, because they believe you can write well.
If this is something you’re worried about, the easiest thing to do is ask: no one’s going to be upset if you send your questions back with a, ‘If you see anything that should be changed when you look this over, please let me know!’ That way your marketing/publicity person knows you want to see any edits they make.
What are some situations when a marketing/publicity person might make a change?
If you say something inaccurate: ‘My book comes out in June!’ But it actually comes out in July. ‘Pi is a delicious pastry!’ Not that pi.
If you say something that could be taken as offensive, a publicity/marketing person may do an edit, on the premise that it’s better not to offend people. Typically this will be followed up with a note to the author saying, ‘this answer seemed problematic in the following way; did you want to edit it yourself?’ But if the author comes back and says, ‘no, I actually meant for that to be a death threat,’ your publisher may say, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t support death threats here’ and not send that part of the interview. (Situations like these tend not to be a huge problem because no one we work with is really out to horribly offend people; if there’s an error of this kind in an interview, it’s generally an easily fixable mistake that a publisher and author can quickly work together to rewrite.)
If the Q&A needs to be turned in by a deadline. So you submit your Q&A at 4:56 on the day when it needs to go to the media outlet by 5pm. Just enough time for your publicity/marketing person to look it over and notice . . . something is inaccurate, or could be construed as offensive, or is a problem in some other way! But now it’s 4:59 and the media outlet is on the phone saying that they need this right now, and there’s no time to check back with the author before sending it. In this case, a publicity/media person might do a ‘better safe than sorry’ quick edit before sending the Q&A off . . . followed by a note to the author to say, ‘I was confused by your answer to question #7, so I took that out — if you want to edit it, I can send it back to Media Outlet X and see if they can still get it in.’
And: maybe you want your marketing/publicity person to make some changes. Are you absolutely sure you spelled everything correctly and made no grammatical mistakes? Did all those sentences that made sense in your head make sense once they came out on paper? Did you really want to be offend someone when you said that? Sometimes it’s really nice to have another set of eyes look everything over to make sure you didn’t type too fast and mix up ‘their’ and ‘there.’
But still: depending on which media outlet you’re working with, they may rearrange or cut your piece! So you may see a final article that looks very different than what you submitted . . . even if the publisher doesn’t change a word.
So yes, your publisher may edit your media interviews — sometimes in ways you may want, sometimes in ways you may not. But if this is something you’re concerned about, it’s easy to prevent it from happening — just tell your marketing/publicity person about your preferences and they can adjust their working practices going forwards.
We’re delighted to have a new picture book comic by Dominique Roques and Alexis Dormal, Anna Banana and the Chocolate Explosion! This is the sequel to last spring’s Sleep Tight, Anna Banana, a story of a girl and her stuffed animals and their difficulties in getting to sleep.
Advance copies just came in from the printer, and they look marvelous! Pictures!
Here’s the cover. Clearly there is a mess happening here!
And the spine, with tiny Anna Banana on it!
Spines together! This book is very handsome.
And here’s the inside front cover and flap.
You can see that there are adorable stuffed animals under it!
Baking a cake can be fun!
It can also be pretty stressful.
But at least at the end, there’s chocolate!
Even if there is a mess.
And here are the two books together!
Anna Banana and the Chocolate Explosion will be in stores in June.
(maybe our most trivial blog post topic yet!)
We print most of our four-color (and most of our two-color) books in China.
The vast majority of them get shipped here on container ships, but some extremely limited quantity of them we do air-freight so we (and our authors, and some key media and booksellers and librarians, and the internet, etc.) can see copies as soon as they come off the press.
Here’s a look at how intensely the printers package the books they’re sending internationally by air freight to make sure that they’re safe. (Please note: we don’t package the books we send within the US like this because that would be crazy.)
So here is a box! It looks like an ordinary box . . . but inside: lots and lots of packaging!
When the box is opened, we find several thicknesses of cardboard between the book packaging and the sides of the box. On all sides, even the top and bottom!!
When the cardboard is taken off, the book package is revealed — and it’s wrapped — and cornered — in plastic and taped shut!
When the plastic is opened, something is revealed . . . it’s the brown paper packaging for the books themselves!
These are wrapped and taped together — so well that it’s frequently difficult to get them out of the packaging intact, as you can see from this picture. (Mostly we just open them up inside the box.)
Then finally: the books themselves, once the brown paper is opened! They’re all packaged with a sheet between them, so that the covers don’t smudge or scuff each other.
You guys: so much packaging! There are honestly days when I’m like, ‘I’m sorry, box from China that needs to be unpacked and put away on the bookshelves, I just can’t deal with you right now. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow because unpacking you is just too complicated.’
And then we recycle it all! (Except the books, obviously.)
Today is the day of George O’Connor’s latest volume in the Olympians series, Ares: Bringer of War!
Are you a fan of the Trojan War? I am a fan of the Trojan War! After all, it has involvement of the gods, treachery, prophecy, violent and needless death, (probably unnecessarily) complicated hijinks, a giant (fake) horse, and several books of Greek epic poetry based on it! Where can you go wrong with all that?
I was pretty excited to learn that in George O’Connor’s latest volume of the Olympians series, Ares, he takes on the story of the Trojan War . . . but tells is from the perspective of the gods, rather than the humans involved. It’s an all-new way to learn about this classic war! It’s the behind-the-scenes politics of an already pretty fraught and complicated war . . . which gives the whole thing a new dimension entirely.
If complicated political deific drama doesn’t do for you: this book includes lots of dudes getting stabbed and dying violently! How can you resist?
Ares: Bringer of War is in stores today! We recommend it to you.
We’ve just finished up First Second’s full season of cover reveals!
In case you missed any, here’s the complete line-up of what’s in store from First Second this fall.
The most recent in the Last Man series, by Bastien Vivès, Michaël Sanlaville, and Balak: The Chase! The adventure continues (and gets more dramatic)!
Fable Comics — with super-fun fables by twenty-six awesome cartoonists!
The Fall of the House of West, by Paul Pope, JT Petty, and David Rubin — the latest in the Battling Boy saga, featuring the girl science hero Aurora West!
The next Adventures in Cartooning picture book, Gryphons Aren’t So Great, by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost! With gryphons! And friendship.
Maris Wicks’ Human Body Theater takes you on a dramatic and awesome and fun tour of the human body!
It is difficult to resist the adorableness of Ben Hatke’s new graphic novel Little Robot. This book is super-good.
Off to the trenches of World War II with Omaha Beach on D-Day, told in comics and photos.
Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes introduce you to coding with Secret Coders!
And we go back to the zoo for another Shakespeare performance — this time of Romeo & Juliet, by Ian Lendler, Zack Giallongo, and the animal inhabitants of the Stratford Zoo!
We’re excited! September doesn’t seem far away at all. . . .
We just got advance copies of Jay Hosler’s wonderful upcoming graphic novel Last of the Sandwalkers in the mail, and it looks splendid! We can’t wait to share this book with you. It’s full of beetles! And also science.
Our main beetle-character is named Lucy, and adorable! And she’s right here on the cover.
She’s also on the spine! Spine beetles. In this spine picture, she is being a scientist and recording data.
Here are the spines all lined up! What an attractive book this is.
The flaps are blue! I think they are very handsome. (They’re also full of beetles.)
Our protagonist-beetle-scientist Lucy heads out to the desert to explore.
What she finds there is not what she expected.
Jay Hosler, the author of Last of the Sandwalkers, is a biologist, so he has included lots of actual science in this book! There are even annotations.
Here is the back flap! More beetle-science is occurring.
And the back cover . . with an excellent quote from Stan Sakai!
Last of the Sandwalkers will be in stores in April.
We’re excited to have early copies of Penelope Bagieu’s graphic novel Exquisite Corpse in the office — it’s looking fantastic! This book is about a young woman named Zoe who becomes friends with a famous author . . . and accidentally falls into a hilarious literary conspiracy.
Here’s the cover.
And the spine!
Here are the spines all lined up together.
The flap! (The famous author is a bit of a recluse, as you can probably see from these images.)
Interiors! I think that Penelope Bagieu’s art style here is really charming.
The mysterious author approaches!
Here’s the back flap.
And the back cover!
This book is a jacketed hardcover, so it also has a hardcover case! Here’s what that looks like.
Exquisite Corpse will be in stores in May. So exciting!