December 18, 2014
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes

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(image ganked from here)

People who love reading and writing are notoriously (stereotypically) poor at math.

It’s a reciprocal thing!  You love reading?  Probably numbers are not your favorite thing.  (I can certainly sympathize: numbers aren’t my favorite thing.  I certainly do not sit around all day adding columns of them up for fun.)

But it turns out that figuring out one of the main factors in whether you should quit your day job after getting a book deal is a numbers-oriented calculation.

Don’t worry!  The numbers involved aren’t difficult to deal with.  There’s no calculus or statistics or probability math.  It’s just a matter of adding and subtracting.

How much money is your book advance?

How much money do your living expenses take every year?  That’s housing plus food plus heat and water and electricity and internet plus clothes plus medical plus travel plus entertainment plus any other miscellaneous thing you pay for.

How long will your book take to complete?

If your living expenses are $20,000 per year and you get a book advance of $50,000 on a book you expect will take you a year and a half to complete, you’re probably okay to quit your day job!

But!  If your living expenses are $20,000 per year and you get a book advance of $10,000 on a book you expect will take you three years to complete, this may not be the time to quit your day job.

Of course, in addition to just the money, there are lots of human factors.  Do you love your job?  Did you work really hard to get it and don’t want to abandon that?  Is it a job that it will be more difficult to come back to after a year or more of a hiatus?  Do you psychologically/organizationally need the structure of a daily working environment to be able to organize your creative life?  Do you need to be regularly around other people?  Do you have opportunities for freelance work that you’d want to pursue, but have turned down in the past because your day job has gotten in the way, but that a graphic novel project will give you more time for?  Will quitting your job give you the time to go to conventions, sell minis, and original art?  Are you significantly reducing your expenses based on some outside factor (a move, a major diet or medical change, etc.)?

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to quit your day job when you get a book deal is a personal one — and it’s different for every person.  But the math part of the decision is an important factor to consider, even if you’re more of a reading and writing person than a numbers person!

December 15, 2014
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes

It’s essential to clearly put a title and author credit on any work that you do!

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(from Above the Dreamless Dead)

That’s especially the case when you’re part of an anthology!  Because if you’re putting out a stand-alone graphic novel or mini-comic, you probably put your book’s title and your name on the cover.  And if you didn’t put it on the cover, you probably put it on the book somewhere.  No one will look at the title page, which says ‘Book Title by Author Name’ and say, ‘I am so puzzled about who this book is by!  It just escapes me.’

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(from Flight)

But when you’re part of an anthology, it’s a whole different story.  There could be ten . . . twenty . . . even fifty other authors in the book with you!

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(from Legal Aid Comics)

That’s a lot of people!  And if you don’t put your name and the story title at the beginning of your piece, it may be hard for readers to figure out that you wrote or drew it, even if you have a super-recognizable art style.  What if this is a reader’s first comic?

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(from Little Heart)

If you don’t put your name and the story title at the beginning of your piece, it may even be hard for readers to realize that what they’re reading now that they’ve turned the page is a new story than what they were reading on the previous page!

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(from Little Heart)

(Of course, there are always stylistic reasons to do things differently.  Sometimes, that’s 100% okay!  But when you’re making that formatting choice, you should definitely ask yourself, ‘is it more important that the form/style of this pieces comes across well than that people are able to see it’s by me?  I know that it’s an origami cut-out piece, but are people going to be confused about that if it doesn’t say “Origami Dreams” at the top?’)

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(from Nursery Rhyme Comics)

All the images in this post are the first page of pieces from anthologies.  Can you figure out what the titles of the pieces are, and who’s written and drawn all of them, from just looking at the images?

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(from Legal Aid Comics)

That’s why clearly titling your work and putting your name on it is important.

December 11, 2014
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Books

We just got advance copies of Andi Watson’s exciting upcoming graphic novel, Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula!

It’s adorable!  (And presumably also delicious, though I did not myself try biting it.)

Here’s the cover, which features the princess and the count, her chef (specializing in pastry).

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This is the spine!

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And here’s a close-up on the tiny princess head on it.

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Here’s the inside front cover and the front flap.  I love the little grinning skull dude!  He’s great.

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Interior spreads!

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I think the art in this book is so lovely.  And how will the princess be able to resist the power of magical baking?

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To conclude the book, we’ve got some sketches from Andi, which are pretty charming.

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Monster sketches!  And the inside back flap.

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And then the back cover!  It’s a castle!

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We’re doing a hardcover and a paperback edition of this book — they both look great!  (The paperback’s on the right.)

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Here are the two together.

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Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula will be in stores in February!  Prepare yourself for this wonderfully spooky love story of political intrigue and baking!

December 8, 2014
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes

If you’re a person who is a creative professional, it’s generally a very good idea to be contactable.  Specifically, it’s a good idea to have a clear method on your website for people to contact you.

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It can be a direct e-mail address or phone number.  It can be your agent’s e-mail address or phone number.  It can be an e-mail form.

But here’s the thing: if you don’t have a clear way for people to get in touch with you on your website, how will they get in touch with you?

If you’re like, “my dream job is to draw covers for The New Yorker!” or “I want to illustrate J.K. Rowling’s next novel for kids!” or “one day, I’ll be a Penguin classics cover artist!” that’s great!  Those are all wonderful — and not necessarily impossible to achieve — dreams.

But you need to put some contact information on your website, because when the art director of The New Yorker discovers your art and wants to talk to you, you don’t want her to have to read your entire blog, go through your twitter, facebook, and tumblr posts, and look at your portfolio and not find an e-mail address anywhere.

Having an e-mail address (or form, or whatever) on your site does tend to mean that you get a little more spam.  And you may get e-mails from fans (this can be positive or negative, depending on your taste in e-mails from fans) and other random people (family, acquaintances you’ve lost contact with, your college, etc.).  Sometimes that’s kind of aggravating.

But!  It can all be worth it, when you get that one e-mail you want.

(If you’re sitting there and reading this on the First Second website and saying, ‘well, they don’t mean me‘ — just think!  If your dream is to draw a graphic novel for us, how will we get in touch with you?)

December 4, 2014
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Books

We just got advance copies of out latest Adventures in Cartooning graphic novel in the office — Sleepless Knight, by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost.

That’s exciting!

What’s also exciting is that Sleepless Knight is one of our picture book comics; it’s a book for young readers, but it’s also full of speech balloons and panels!  It’s a great transitional story for kids who are just beginning to read.

Here’s the cover.  It’s a square!

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And here’s the spine.

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It has a small bear on it!  (The bear features largely into the story.  As does Edward, the adorablest horse.)

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The endpapers for this book are also adorable — and educational!  Each gives you a lesson in drawing one of the main characters from the book.

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Here’s the title page.

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And here’s a spread!  Each page tends to be broken down into three to four large, easy to read panels.

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This spread also has marshmallows!

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And here’s the back cover.

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Sleepless Knight will be on sale in April.  We’re excited!

December 1, 2014
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Books

It’s December!  We’re officially at the end of our publishing season for 2014.

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We published some books this year!  We’re extremely proud of them all.

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They’re attractive outside and full of delightful meaningfulness on the inside!

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Happy 2014, you guys!

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We hope you enjoyed this year as much as we did.

November 27, 2014
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Books

Today’s Thanksgiving!  It is time for the giving of thanks.

Here at First Second, we’re thankful for many awesome graphic novels — and the wonderful authors and illustrators who write and draw them.

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We’ve had a really great year here at First Second, filled to the brim with fantastic books!

And we’re looking forward to another one coming right up.

Here’s to comics and comics creators being amazing!  We’re very thankful for that.

November 24, 2014
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes

 

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We’re so pleased to welcome our new designer, Danielle Ceccolini, to First Second!  You will all get to know her better in the coming months and years, but here are a few questions to get you started!

What book would you take with you to a desert island?

Probably one of those “Edible Plants” books. Not the one Chris McCandless was using.

Flight or invisibility?

Flight! Because FLYING, obviously. And to play Quidditch.

What was your favorite book as a kid?

The Hobbit! I was in 4th grade when I read it and it felt a little bit like “Where have you been all my life?”. It was my first “adult” book and I couldn’t figure out yet why this was so much better than anything I’d ever read before haha.

What literary character is your favorite Halloween costume?

Mystique! The whole costume is a test of dedication — Blue body paint! Hair dye! Contacts! I’ve only ever seen three brave this experiment and they killed it. One day I will join them.

Who’s your favorite author?

Since childhood: Roald Dahl and Alan Moore. I guess I’ve always had a thing for fantasy and adventure.

You will find Danielle in the :01 offices, furiously designing all things First Second!

November 21, 2014
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: News

From Calista Brill, Senior Editor:

We got some sad news recently.

We lost a member of the First Second family…someone who had a crucial role in bringing more than half our books to print. None of our authors or artists ever met her, and few of them even knew her name. I’ve worked at this company for six years, and I only met her once, and fleetingly.

But Manuela Kruger, in her phenomenal work as a copyeditor, contributed as much to the making of our books as any of the rest of us. And beyond her sharp eyes and thorough care, she brought something even more invaluable to the process:

Her wonderful personality and excellent taste.

Despite never having had a conversation with her, I felt like Manuela and I were friends, communicating across the written page. Manuela would return her copyedited printouts of our books to us with a cover letter sharing her thoughts—always perceptive, and sometimes very funny—about the book she had just marked up. The notes and asides she added to her copyediting corrections often made me laugh—made me feel like I had a friend reading along with me.

There are a lot of people whose work goes into making a graphic novel see the light of day, and a lot of them are pretty invisible to the reader and even to the person who wrote or illustrated the book in the first place. But their contributions are invaluable, and it’s a very sad day when you lose one of them.

Manuela Kruger was born October 7, 1939. She copyedited somewhere around 100 of our books, and we all miss her scratchy cursive handwriting—always in the same erasable red ballpoint pen.

It won’t be the same without her.

November 20, 2014
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes

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(The second printing of two of our Spring 2014 titles — Andre the Giant and This One Summer.  You can tell that they’re second printings just from looking at the cover — we didn’t print the first printing with ‘New York Times Bestseller’ on it.)

Figuring out when to reprint books is always a challenge for publishers.

When a publisher does their first printing, they take a lot of different factors into account.  These include (but aren’t limited to):

How many copies of a book does the imprint generally sell?

How many copies of a book does the author generally sell?

What are the company sales expectations for this particular graphic novel?

How good is the book?

How commercial is the book?

Is the book likely to win an award, hit the New York Times Best-Seller list, or get a lot of media attention?  Or all three?

How many copies of the graphic novel have the different distributors and bookstores the publishers work with estimated that they’ll buy?

How accurate do the distributors and bookstores the publishers work with tend to be?

Is the author doing a lot of events that will boost book sales?

How many months or years of sales is the first printing meant to cover?

Despite carefully taking all of these factors into account, publishers do sometimes find themselves in the situation where they have run out of books sooner than expected.

That’s great news, because it means the book is selling really well!  But it’s also not great news, because the publisher can’t sell any additional books (and therefore no new stores and readers can get their hands on copies) until it gets some more copies printed.

So, how do publishers figure out when to reprint a book?

Ideally, careful monitoring of stock levels ensures that each book is reprinted with enough time that the new copies get to the warehouse just as the previous printing runs out.

Unfortunately, in the real world, this is often a challenge, no matter how carefully you monitor how many books are sold each week or each day.  That’s because the different things that drive book sales — like a feature in the New York Times or winning the National Book Award — are often very difficult to predict.  And in addition to that, depending on what the book is and who your author is, a feature in the New York Times or winning the National Book Award can indicate drastically different sales for different books.

Consumers are another X-factor!  Until the book is published and out in the world, it’s really difficult to answer the question, ‘how much are people going to like this?’  In publishing, we use our extensive knowledge of the industry and of books being awesome to try to figure this out, but sometimes, people like books much more than we predict.  (Those are good times!  Except that generally means we’ve run out of books and need to reprint them.)

This consumer factor is especially difficult to figure out before the book is published.  Six months or a year after the book has been published, it’s a lot easier to look at sales patterns and have a good idea of how many copies people will buy of a particular book each month.  But before a book is published, who can tell?  This book might be everyone’s next favorite graphic novel — and no one knows.

Because of this, a lot of books end up being reprinted in the first month of publication, some even right before the book comes out.

How soon will the new books come in?

The timing of the second reprint arriving in the warehouse depends on a number of factors.  These include:

Is the book black and white or color?

Is the reprint happening in the United States or in another country, where it may take more time to ship to the US?

Do corrections need to be made to the book?

How extensive are the corrections that need to be made to the book?  Is this a matter of fixing one typo on the copyright page or changing whole pages of art?

Does the book design need to be altered to include new information (like, ‘A New York Times Best-Seller’)?

Do the author and the publisher need to see and approve proofs of any changes?  Are digital proofs okay, or are printed proofs needed?

Does the printer have the correct paper in stock?

How busy is everyone at the publisher?  Can they drop everything and deal with this situation?

How busy is everyone at the printer?  Can they drop everything and deal with this situation?

The answers to these questions can produce a widely variable situation — with the time involved being anything from two weeks to four months.  (The two weeks is a situation where the books are reprinted in the US as is; the four months one where the books need lots of corrections and are reprinted overseas.)

That’s a pretty big difference!

Because no one likes books to be out of stock, publishers try as hard as they can to print a first printing that won’t run out immediately.

But, mixed blessing!  Sometimes books are more popular than a publisher expects, and then they’ll go out of stock temporarily while the new reprint is on its way.  If this happens, a publisher will do everything they can to get the reprint as quickly as possible, without sacrificing the quality of the book.