Books are heavy and expensive to ship.
That’s because they’re basically made out of wood!
Books are especially heavy and expensive to ship when they are graphic novels, because the paper we print on has to be thick enough to have a lot of heavy ink coverage without bleeding through to the other side of the paper, on which is printed something else.
A box of graphic novels can be twice as heavy — or more — as a box of prose books (much to our mail guy’s dismay).
(Fun fact: this is even more the case when you publish paperbacks — which is most of our list — instead of hardcovers. Because the cardboard that makes a hardcover hard takes up significantly more space than the cardboard in a paperback cover — but the hardcover cardboard is much, much lighter. Lighter + taking up more space versus heavier + taking up less space and therefore leaving more space for more books means our book boxes tend to be super-plus heavy!)
Frequently, as an author, it’s really difficult to tell when you may need books ahead of time. Multiple friends and family may miscellaneously stop by your house asking for copies! Local stores may run out suddenly and check to see if you have copies that can tide them over until they get a new order! Suddenly you have no books, and the local indie comics convention that you’re exhibiting at is just around the corner!
Figuring out how many copies of your book to keep in your house can be a really difficult balancing act.
But! When it’s possible, we recommend ordering books you need at least a week in advance of the date you need them (especially if you live far away from our warehouse, which is in Virginia). Because books are so heavy and expensive to ship, next day or two-day shipping can be terribly expensive.
If you have some occasion when you know you’ll need books coming up in the next thirty days, we recommend sending in an author order to the warehouse as early as possible, so you don’t get stuck with the shipping costs! It sucks to be like, ‘I could’ve made a decent amount of money at this indie show I exhibited at . . . except that profit was completely eaten by the shipping!’
(Pictured: First Second’s Winter 2016 season)
Publishers divide their books up into ‘seasons’ within the year.
This is so that, as well as dealing with all their books one at a time on an individual basis, they can deal with them in clusters for purposes like conventions, bookstore visits, and catalogs.
First Second publishes our books in three seasons — Winter (January through April), Spring (May through August), and Fall (September through December). We generally publish six to eight books every season.
How do we build our list for a season?
When we acquire a book, we put a final art due-date in the contract, and assign it a season accordingly, building in time for the production process. Frequently, however, this contract-assigned season ends up not being the actual season we publish the book in, because the book is early or late or our printing and production dates have shifted.
So now’s the part of the piece where you probably expect me to say something like: we build a season by balancing all the aspects of all the books that we’re publishing and creating a perfectly structured list that has no overlap in age category and genre and structure and format. The individual snowflake-ness of every single book on the list is emphasized as much as possible! We couldn’t possibly publish two middle grade fantasy-adventure books on one list!
But really, the biggest factor in figuring out our seasonal schedule is: what books are done?
Because we print most of our books in China, our production process tends to take a significant amount of time. It may take an entire year from the time you turn your book in from the time that it comes out in stores because of important steps like designing, lettering, cover design, copy-editing, proof-reading, and reviewing printers proofs of the book. And also shipping books from China takes forever, too. (They come on a boat! It’s the craziest.)
We try not to make that gap between an author turning in their book and the book going on sale any longer than it has to be!
Of course, sometimes there are reasons why we might put off a book to a future season, even if it’s done. If an author somehow manages to turn in two books within a few months of each other, we may delay one to give each the proper promotional space. If an author’s spooky, monster-y, perfect-for-Halloween book is ready to be published in February, we might hold off a few months so that it comes out closer to Halloween. If an account like Barnes & Noble or Amazon comes to us, saying, ‘this book is perfect for this promotion and we would like to buy lots! But can it be published at X time?’ we’ll definitely consider moving it to a different season. If we’ve somehow managed to construct a season that has ten books being published on it while the following season has five, we may move a book or two so there’s more balance.
Once we’ve balanced all those factors with what books we have in and ready to go to the printer, we’ve got our catalog.
And that’s how a season comes together!
(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!
It’s essential to clearly put a title and author credit on any work that you do!
(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.’
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!
(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?
(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!
(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?’)
(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?
(from Legal Aid Comics)
That’s why clearly titling your work and putting your name on it is important.
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).
This is the spine!
And here’s a close-up on the tiny princess head on it.
Here’s the inside front cover and the front flap. I love the little grinning skull dude! He’s great.
I think the art in this book is so lovely. And how will the princess be able to resist the power of magical baking?
To conclude the book, we’ve got some sketches from Andi, which are pretty charming.
Monster sketches! And the inside back flap.
And then the back cover! It’s a castle!
We’re doing a hardcover and a paperback edition of this book — they both look great! (The paperback’s on the right.)
Here are the two together.
Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula will be in stores in February! Prepare yourself for this wonderfully spooky love story of political intrigue and baking!
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.
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?)
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.
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!
And here’s the spine.
It has a small bear on it! (The bear features largely into the story. As does Edward, the adorablest horse.)
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.
Here’s the title page.
And here’s a spread! Each page tends to be broken down into three to four large, easy to read panels.
This spread also has marshmallows!
And here’s the back cover.
Sleepless Knight will be on sale in April. We’re excited!