October 31, 2014
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Books


(Zack Giallongo is the artist of The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth, and its sequel, The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Romeo and Juliet.)

What was the last book you read?

I haven’t finished it yet, but I love the title (and the book so far). But I’m reading The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill. It’s about the Minotaur, who has survived to modern times, working at a barbecue restaurant outside of Atlanta.

What food goes perfectly with your novel?

You could go one of two ways with this. For SZMRP:Macbeth, I suggest tacos. Or, if you want to go very authentic, Scottish haggis. However, I actually love both of these things, and I’m thinking a little fusion cuisine of a haggis taco would be a great thing to put in your face.

What’s your favorite word?

“Callipygian.” I like the rhythm and the way it rolls off the tongue. It’s also funny. It means “having a shapely buttocks.”

What literary character should your readers use as a basis for their mental picture of you?

Rooster Cogburn from True Grit by Charles Portis. Anyone who’s met me knows that we share many of the same traits: a beard, an eyepatch. Also, I am so way tough. I could totally be a U.S. Marshall with my level of toughness!

What literary character is your favorite Halloween costume?

One year I dressed as Grendel using a series of bath mats. I don’t remember if I won or not. . . .

October 30, 2014
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Books

Halloween is coming up!  It’s a night of pumpkins and candy and other spooky things.

Here are some books for you to read along with your creepiest night of the year.


Anya’s Ghost, by Vera Brosgol

This is not a ghost you want to be your friend.  Sadly.


Friends With Boys, by Faith Erin Hicks

This ghost would also not make a good friend, as she doesn’t ever talk but just wafts around spookily.


The Undertaking of Lily Chen, by Danica Novgorodoff

If you aren’t spooked by grave-robbing and crazy-mystical ancient Chinese customs, I don’t know what to tell you.


The Unsinkable Walker Bean, by Aaron Renier

Magical crystal skulls!  What could be more Halloween-y than that?  Except possibly filling them with candy. . . .


The Zoo Box, by Ariel Cohn and Aron Steinke

This book has costumes in it!  Um, they’re worn by children who are totally running for their life at the time, but still: costumes!

Happy Halloween!

October 29, 2014
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Books

Ian author photo

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

The Ultimate Doonesbury. Doonesbury was really my first graphic obsession. Everything about it is great. It’s smart, funny, and Trudeau always manages to find a unique angle on any subject. And despite Dave Sim’s wild claims for Cerebus the Aardvark, Doonesbury has been following the same characters for 45 years, making it the longest running narrative in history.

What’s your favorite word?

Petrichor. Defined as “the smell of soil that comes with the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.” It’s one of those words that we would normally say, “the Germans would have a word for that.” It’s so evocative. Plus, I live in California, and this drought is so frightening that any hint of moisture in the air sparks wild celebrations.

What literary character should your readers use as a basis for their mental picture of you?

Ichabod Crane. I’m skinny and slightly stooped (note to self: must work on posture). Plus, I have to confess that I am a bit scared of the idea of a headless horseman hunting me down on my commute home from work.

You have one chance to convert someone into a book lover.  What book do you give them?  

Instead of book, I’ll say “graphic novel.” And I would (and do) give them Persepolis. The art is beautiful, the story is simple, the voice and the setting are unique. Last I checked, that’s what  most people are looking for when they open a book.

What would a reading tree house designed just for you look like?

It would be inside of a hollow tree and the pages of the pages of the books would still be connected to the tree, and still alive. I’m not sure it would be practical, but it sounds really “groovy.”

(Ian Lendler is the author of The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth and its sequel, The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Romeo and Juliet, which comes out next fall.)

October 27, 2014
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes


(My currently overflowing bookshelves.)

We get lots of comics in the mail here at First Second.  And we get lots of them handed to us at shows.

They’re from other publishers as a ‘look what we’re doing!,’ by authors and illustrators who’d like to work with us in the future, by agents who want us to get a sense of their clients, by international publishers who are hoping we’ll publish their books in the US, by educators and librarians and booksellers who want us to know what they’re seeing in the market, etc.  Lots of comics.  Lots and lots and lots of comics.  Graphic novels and issue comics and trade paperbacks and mini-comics and art books and all sorts of book-shaped things.

What happens to all of them?

First Second’s offices are in New York City.  As such, they’re pretty small.  I mean, they’re reasonably sized!  We all have a desk and walls and stuff!  But there’s not really extra room to store books and books and books and books.

We do have two bookshelves where we keep our ‘library’ — books by authors that we’re interested in working with in the future, books that do something with storytelling, color, style, format, size, shape, that we’re interested in emulating sometime — books that we absolutely need to do our jobs properly.

With the building that we work in, there’s not space for anything else, unfortunately.

So what happens when these books show up at our office?

We have two staff meetings every week; when books show up, we bring them to the meetings, and they get passed around to anyone in the office who wants to read them.  We read them and talk about anything that seems interesting.  If it’s a person we want to watch, or the book does something sufficiently interesting that we need to keep it around for reference, it gets jammed into our ‘library’ bookshelves.

If not, it goes on the general ‘To Donate’ shelves outside the kitchen, where the rest of the people in the Macmillan offices can come by, browse, and take books for their own reading purposes.

After a few months of circulation, those books get boxed up and donated to Housing Works, one of our local nonprofit bookstores — all their proceeds to go fight AIDS.

We’re not the biggest fans of throwing away books.  At the same time, our office literally isn’t big enough to hold all the books we get without exploding in some terrible way.  We feel that donating them to a good book-related charity is the best option for them — an excellent middle ground.

We love getting books sent to us!  We really appreciate getting the chance to read other peoples work — and all this great work deserves to have another life and find more readers, since we don’t have space to keep it ourselves.

October 23, 2014
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes

(I note that this is a really, really specific set of instructions that will definitely help you out with requesting any First Second requests; possibly not so much with other publishers, depending on their own policies.)


“I love to read.”

First Second uses Netgalley — they’re a galley service that lets people request advance digital copies of our graphic novels (and other peoples’ graphic novels and prose books).  People typically request copies because they’re reviewers, and they need the advance copy of the book to write a review from, or because they’re teachers or librarians or booksellers, and they need to read the advance copy to figure out how many books to buy for their classroom or library or bookstore.

We think Netgalley is great!  If you’re a teacher/librarian/bookseller/reviewer, and you don’t hate digital books, you should definitely head over there and check out what they’re offering (including some excellent upcoming graphic novels from First Second).

When a teacher/librarian/bookseller/reviewer etc. requests a title from a publisher via Netgalley, that publisher has to go through by hand and approve each request.  What that means is, if you’re a reviewer and you’re like, ‘I wish to read this book!’ and you request it via Netgalley, someone in the publishing staff has to go into the Netgalley system and say, ‘yes, this person really should get this book; I’m hitting the OKAY button now’ for every single request that they get.

A lot of the time, this is a really easy decision!  If you’re a bookseller who’s a member of the ABA, a librarian who’s a member of the ALA, someone who the publishing staff person knows professionally, the answer is obviously yes.  Yes, you can have as many books as you’d like!

But sometimes, it’s a much harder decision.  There are lots of people who request books through First Second’s Netgalley account who I don’t personally know.

What a publisher does then is to look at a person’s profile.  Everyone who joins Netgalley has to put together a quick profile; it’s basically something that has a person’s name and their description of why they should be given books.  ‘I’m getting my MLS now!’ or ‘I’m on the teen selection group at my local bookstore!’ or ‘I have a blog that has 2,5000 followers!’

“I love to read!” is something that sometimes (moderately often) pops up as the single sentence (or the leading sentence) in a review copy request.

This isn’t the best statement to lead with if you’re trying to convince a publisher to give you a digital galley.

Netgalley is a site which is primarily used to get advance copies of books to industry figures so that they can take some action that will sell copies of a book when it comes out (like, writing a review that encourages people to buy books!  Or buying copies for their library or bookstore!).  The point of Netgalley is not for non-industry professional readers to be able to read advance copies of books they’re excited about.

We’re really glad that people on Netgalley love to read.  We love to read ourselves!  We feel that everyone should love to read, and that that would make the world a better place.

But as a publisher, we’re actually putting our books up on Netgalley so that they get in the hands of people who specifically have a career in loving to read — people who have become booksellers or librarians or teachers, and who are in a position to affect the sales numbers of a book.

That’s why we recommend that any Netgalley profiles should be constructed around the thesis that there’s something you can bring to the book that can potentially help its sales.  And even if you’re not a member of the American Library Association (or something similarly official), there are lots of things you could already be doing that signal to a publisher that you are the kind of person who has the power to convince others to buy copies of a book.

Are you a blogger?  Do you review for Amazon VINE?  Do you write for your school or local newspaper or literary magazine?  Are you part of a book club?  Do you volunteer at your local library?  Do you have a book-related twitter, Facebook, tumblr, youtube or instagram account?  Do you pick up the occasional shift for your local bookstore?  Do you belong to an organization like SCBWI or PEN?

Those are all things that should be included in your Netgalley profile, and which will encourage publishers to think, ‘THIS is the kind of person I want to have reading our advance digital galleys.’

Any other information — religion, marital status, professional degrees, non-book-related careers you’ve had — don’t need to be included in your profile.  Even book-related information like the age you were when you first learned how to read, whether or not you read to your children, how big your book collection is, etc. — aren’t necessary.  Including not-as-relevant things like that may just distract a publisher from the fact that you are in fact a person who should be given an advance review copy of their book — especially if they’re getting 50+ review copy requests via Netgalley every day that they then have to go through one by one.

Utility!  Conciseness!  These are our Netgalley watchwords.

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

Not all books that First Second graphic novels are the same dimensions, have the same color palette and use the same paper stock.  We do have a few sizes that are more or less ‘standard’ for our books, the truth is that the books we publish are a number of different shapes and sizes.

Our two ‘standard’ sizes here at First Second are 6 x 8 1/2 and 7 1/2 x 10.  Here are two books in these sizes — The Wrenchies and The Unsinkable Walker Bean.  Generally, the larger size is for younger titles, while the smaller size is for teen and adult books.  Both of them are trade paperbacks, rather than hardcovers.


We choose these two sizes to work well within the book market — so that they could fit on the shelves at schools, libraries, and bookstores.  We also want them to create a reading experience similar to reading a novel — in that they should physically feel just like ‘regular books’ (ie, prose books) for readers — and parents of readers! — who are just getting into graphic novels.

But we also publish a lot of books in other sizes as well!


Big books!  Small books!  Sideways books!  Hardcover and paperback books!  Books with and without flaps!  Books in boxes!  Etc.

Why so many sizes, given my previous statements about standardization and echoing the book market?

Well, it turns out that all books are different!  And sometimes, that means what’s going to work best for the book is to publish it in a different size than our usual.

This is something that’s come up when talking about one of our recent graphic novels, The Rise of Aurora West, by Paul Pope, JT Petty, and David Rubin.


Last year, we published Paul Pope’s graphic novel Battling Boy, in our standard 6 x 8 1/2 trim size.  It’s a sci-fi adventure book for kids ages 10 and up; we thought that this size was good for children that young (it fits in their hands as well as on their bookshelves!) that’s still big enough to show off how gorgeous Paul’s artwork is.

This year, we published The Rise of Aurora West in a smaller trim size — 5 x 7 1/2 — and in black and white.


Why the difference in sizes?

The two books are set in the same universe, but they’re pretty different!  The Rise of Aurora West is a book for young adults, featuring a teen character with a coming-of-age story.  It’s also a noir mystery, and it’s drawn by a different artist, David Rubin.

To play on those differences (and to make it clear that there were differences between the two titles), we decided to change the format of the book itself.


We think both books look pretty great!  And we hope you do, too.

Our number one priority when we publish a book is to publish it as well as we can, and part of that, for us, means choosing a format that we think best fits the material, while at the same making the book accessible to the ultimate audience: the readers.

October 15, 2014
Posted by: Mark Siegel
Categories: Uncategorized



One of the freshest, loveliest children’s comics I’ve come across this year is from Oni Press. In a format akin to Luke Pearson’s HILDA books—also beloved of my own children—COSTUME QUEST is pure reading pleasure. There’s a joy and clarity to the storytelling in every aspect that makes this little universe a rare treat. Funny enough, it’s tied in with a video game. Makes me want to give it a try. But more than that, I hope more books are coming. First rate.

October 15, 2014
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Events

This weekend, we exhibited at New York Comic-Con!


One of the most important things we do at shows is just to show off how attractive all our books are.  (Hint: they are extremely attractive.)  You can tell from these pictures!








I am afraid that the vicarious photo experience is not as good as the one in real life, but you get the idea!

The show was pretty crazy.


Lots of people came!

(You can see our booth [and our Senior Editor Calista Brill’s hair] in the middle back of this photo.)

We had a number of excellent authors come by and sign books and talk.

Ben Hatke!


Ben also had some of his original art to show off to us (and passer-bys).

Here’s the original cover of Zita the Spacegirl!


And some concept art for Ben’s adorable upcoming graphic novel, Little Robot!

FullSizeRender (1)

And here’s Ben doing a sketch of Julia, the protagonist of his new picture book comic Julia’s House for Lost Creatures.


Jillian Tamaki!


Jillian signs books so attractively!


Cory Doctorow!


Cory was a featured guest of the show; here’s him getting ready for his spotlight panel, with Eric Smith of Book Riot.


And here’s Cory with Emily Carroll, Kazu Kibuishi, and JP Ahonen, after talking about comics for everyone!


Danica Novgorodoff!


Danica was drawing excellent horses in her new graphic novel, The Undertaking of Lily Chen.


And while she was at the booth, our former designer Colleen AF Venable stopped by, so we were able to have an ‘all the designers who have ever worked at First Second’ reunion!


Box Brown!

Who does not love this book?  I ask you.


I hope you all got to come by and say hi!  This show was a lot of fun — I think that every year, we get to meet new and different people — and show off our books to them!

October 14, 2014
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Books


Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang’s new graphic novel In Real Life comes out today!

We’re big admirers of Cory’s work, and Jen’s debut graphic novel Koko Be Good was so wonderful that we were thrilled to get the chance to pair them together on a great story about this world and the world of the internet.

In Real Life tells a story with two sides — digital and real life.  But what it makes absolutely clear is that our digital lives — not only gaming, but also just making friends and meeting people online — have a real effect on peoples’ lives outside of the internet.  People may still say that anything done online is not ‘real life,’ but those boundaries are becoming so blurred that it’s harder and harder to distinguish what makes things count for people as ‘real.’  The relationships, emotions, and interactions people engage with online can be more significant than anything that happens in the more-physical world.

Anda, the main character of In Real Life, is able to make friends, find confidence, and learn how to relate to people better when she’s online.

But she’s also able to change peoples’ lives — and the way that they think about money and exploitation — with the power of the internet, and the friends she’s met and the skills she’s learned online.  You can’t say that’s not a ‘real life’ effect!

Jen’s art in this book is absolutely fantastic; the way that she depicts movement and dynamism is unique.  This book is just gorgeous!  Even if you aren’t interested in video games or economics, you should check In Real Life out just for the art.

In Real Life is in stores today.

October 8, 2014
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Events

We’re going to New York Comic-Con!

First Second will be exhibiting at booth 2237.


Many of our excellent authors will be there!  Here’s a list of who you’ll find at the show:

Andrew Arnold — Adventures in Cartooning
Box Brown — Andre the Giant
Cory Doctorow — In Real Life — SHOW DEBUT!
Zack Giallongo — The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth
Ben Hatke — Julia’s House for Lost Creatures
Danica Novgorodoff – The Undertaking of Lily Chen
George O’Connor — Olympians
Paul Pope and JT Petty – The Rise of Aurora West
MK Reed — The Cute Girl Network
Jillian Tamaki — This One Summer


Thursday – October 9th

Panel – with Danica Novgorodoff
The Mary Sue Presents – Fight What You Know
Time: 2:15 PM – 3:00 PM
Location: Room 1A14
Description: The geek world needs better representation in media, but aren’t you supposed to write what you know? Truth is, the whole “write what you know” thing is a load of bull honkey. A writer who can’t appreciate the perspectives of others is no kind of writer at all. Writers from all backgrounds and experiences join to talk about research, listening, soliciting criticism, and how to make sure you’re writing well when you’re outside the comfort zone of your own perspective.

Signing – with Danica Novgorodoff
Time: 3:00 – 4:00pm
Location: 01 Booth 2237

Panel – with Paul Pope
Coffee Talk with Monsters
Time: 3:00pm – 3:45pm
Location: 1A18
Description: What makes a monster something to be feared? A force to be reckoned with? Or just misunderstood? Join R.L Stine (Party Games), Caitlin Kittredge ( Black Dog), Lou Anders (Frostborn), Barry Lyga  (Blood of My Blood), Paul Pope (The Rise of Aurora West), Ethan Reid (The Undying), Ransom Riggs (Hollow City; Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children) and moderator Ali T. Kokmen (Barnes & Noble / Nook) as they discuss the “monsters” in their books and what makes them truly something monstrous…

Post-Panel Signing– with Paul Pope
Time: 4:00pm – 5:00pm
Location: Autographing Area, Table 19

Signing – with Paul Pope
Time: 5:30 – 7:00pm
Location: 01 Booth 2237

Friday – October 10th

Create Your Own Monster – with Andrew Arnold, Ben Hatke, and George O’Connor
Time: 10:30am – 11:30am
Location: Family HQ – 1C03
Details: Three authors enter…and with your help, they’ll each create a monster who embodies everything that you think monsters should be! Which will be best? It’s up to you!
Moderator: Jack Baur

Signing – with Andrew Arnold, George O’Connor
Time: 12:00pm – 1:00pm
Location: 01 Booth 2237

Signing – with Ben Hatke
Time: 1:30pm – 2:30pm
Location: 01 Booth 2237

Panel – with Cory Doctorow
Bryan Lee O’Malley Spotlight; in conversation with Cory Doctorow
Time: 3:00pm
Location: Room 1A21

Post-Panel Signing– with Cory Doctorow
Time: 5:00pm
Location: Tor Booth #2223

Saturday – October 11th

Panel – with Cory Doctorow
Spotlight on Cory Doctorow
Time: 1:00pm – 1:45pm
Location: 1A10
Description: Cory Doctorow is awesome!  Moderated by Eric Smith from Book Riot.

Signing – with Jillian Tamaki
Time: 1:00 – 2:00pm
Location: 01 Booth 2237

Signing – with Cory Doctorow
Time: 2:30 – 5:00pm
Location: 01 Booth 2237

Signing – with Box Brown
Time: 5:30 – 7:00pm
Location: 01 Booth 2237

Panel – with Cory Doctorow
Breaking Good
Time: 7:15 – 8:00pm
Location: 1A05
Description: This panel explores how comic books, video games, and novels are addressing world challenges.  Perhaps the most inspiring content for our panel audience will be to hear about how you are using popular entertainment to address the issues that you care about.  We’ll have about 10 minutes each to talk.  It’s an exciting lineup of panelists which includes an FBI Victim Specialist, the dynamic Alexis Krieger, who was involved in creating the comic book Abolitionista! that is being used to empower young people to protect themselves from predators.

Sunday – October 12th

Panel – with Zack Giallongo and Ben Hatke
Create Your Own Magical Creature
Time: 10:00am – 11:00am
Location: Family HQ – 1C03
Description: Two authors enter…and with your help, they’ll each create a magical creature who embodies everything that you think is awesome! Which will be best? It’s up to you!

Signing – with Zack Giallongo, Ben Hatke
Time: 11:30 – 12:30pm
Location: 01 Booth 2237

Signing – with Cory Doctorow
Time: 12:30 – 1:30pm
Location: 01 Booth 2237

Panel – with Cory Doctorow and Paul Pope
Comics and Graphic Novels for All Readers
Time: 2:00pm – 2:45pm
Location: 1B03
Description: Join graphic novelists JP Ahonen (Sing No Evil), Emily Carroll (Through the Woods), Cory Doctorow (In Real Life), Kazu Kibuishi (Amulet), and Paul Pope (The Rise of Aurora West) for a discussion of the graphic novel form, its place in the literary canon today, and their exciting new books, moderated by Scott Rosenberg, AM NY.

Signing – with Box Brown
Time: 1:30pm – 2:30pm
Location: 01 Booth 2237

Signing – with MK Reed
Time: 2:30 – 3:30pm
Location: 01 Booth 2237

Post-Panel Signing– with Cory Doctorow and Paul Pope
Time: 3:15pm – 4:00pm
Location: Autographing Area, Table 19

Panel – with Zack Giallongo, Ben Hatke, and George O’Connor
Build Your Own Adventure
Time: 3:15 – 4:00pm
Location: 1A01
Description: In this interactive panel perfect for kids and families, top-tier graphic novel and comic authors and illustrators will work with the audience to write and illustrate an original adventure story! It will be an exciting ride, great for aspiring writers and artists. Featuring George O’Connor (Olympians), Matt London (The 8th Continent), Zack Giallongo (The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth), Frank Cammuso (The Misadventures of Salem Hyde), Scott Campbell (Hug Machine), Ben Hatke (Julia’s House for Lost Creatures).

Post-Panel Signing– with Zack Giallongo, Ben Hatke, and George O’Connor
Time: 4:15 – 5:00pm
Location: Autographing Area, Table 19

See you at the show!