47 posts categorized ""Behind the Scenes""

November 12, 2010

Meetings, and Why I Like Them


(This photo was taken by Lewis Wickes Hine and archived with the NYPL.  Our offices are not this picturesque, unfortunately.)

"What do you have on your schedule tomorrow?" friends sometimes ask me when we are hanging out in the small hours of the evening.  (Because the small hours of the morning are too late for me to stay up for.  Mostly.)

My most frequently occuring reply?  "Meetings."

Then comes the inevitable lamentations, pats upon the shoulder, and assorted commiserations.  The general verdict?  Meetings suck.

I don't agree with this consensus.  My job, it turns out, contains a number of generally useful and interesting meetings that are essential to the process of me getting my job done. 

One of them is today! 

For every season of books we publish, we have a meeting called 'Marketing Preview.'  In general, what happens in this meeting is that the First Second people sit down, the sales people who are going to sell our books sit down, and then we talk to them all about our plans for packaging and promoting our upcoming books, with illustrative images. 


(image from Cornell University Library)

And then the sales/marketing people talk to us about new things that have come up in their respective markets that could help us promote our books, things that distributors and retailers are doing differently that will affect us, and, in general, tell us all about what they think will help sell our books better.

You know what?

This meeting is awesome

Any time I get to sit down with all the people in this building who know the market inside and out and work with them to make sure our authors are going to sell the most books possible is an excellent time. 

Even if it does require powerpoint presentations and hand-outs.

November 11, 2010

In honor of America's war veterans

Today is Veterans Day in the United States. Gathering around the Flatiron Building and around Madison Square Park, where the Veterans Day Parade begins in NYC are thousands of war veterans, young and old.

We honor and salute their service. In tribute to them here is ALAN'S WAR, by Emmanuel Guibert—one veteran's voice, from the second World War: Alan Cope, whose voice lives on through this work. And following it is a one-minute piece of artistic magic, from the making of this book.

Alans War_rgb



September 29, 2010

First Second and the Onset of Winter

One of the parts of my job as Marketing Personage at First Second is to get out information about our books.  Therefore we have a catalog (it is here). 

When clicking upon the above link, you may be surprised to come across an entirely new season for us: winter! 


(photo ganked from here)

We heard that winter was cold and full of baby seals, and we had therefore initially determined not to publish books in it.  But upon further rexamination of the whole winter idea, it turns out that fireside hot chocolate makes some people want to read more. 

Therefore we reapproached! 

(And also we've started publishing a few more books, so we needed a place to put them.) 

Going back to my job as a Marketing Personage; one of the things I do to get out the catalog is put it here on the blog!  Another is to send a general e-mail to persons who would have special interest (teachers, librarians, retailers, media, and various other kinds of persons I am doubtless forgetting). 

I sent that e-mail out yesterday; if you are reading this blog and didn't get it and feel that you are a Person of Interest, send me an e-mail (gina.gagliano@firstsecondbooks.com) and I'll put you on my list.  I do catalog mailings extremely infrequently (we only just discovered there were more than two seasons in the year, after all), but they do exist, and tend to be fairly decent at this whole information-providing thing. 

September 09, 2010

What We Did Yesterday

We spent yesterday making buttons (for Americus) and cookies (for The Unsinkable Walker Bean).  Also there were some meetings. 

Americus Buttons 

Ah, the glamorous lives of the inhabitants of the book publishing industry!  

(But now there are cookies and buttons!  So that makes it worth it.)

September 05, 2010

It's Alive!

(or: the trials and tribulations of the First Second Website)

So we have this website.  You may have noticed it: you are at it right now (or else reading this in an RSS reader, in which case that statement was inaccurate; sorry about that). 

Our parent company also has a website.  And when that started to exist, it included all our books and all sorts of other useful things about First Second.  And we said, 'perhaps there is a way to combine these things!'  It turns out there was.  Unfortunately, it's taken a while, but I am proud to say that now we have a functional website!  And it links to all the things at our parent company's website!  And they are actually up-to-date!

Let's take a quick tour, shall we?  

To the left, you'll find:

Contact Us: now with accurate information!  Ways of contacting First Second that have never before been seen!

Creators: pictures and information about our creators.  Including the present day!  Some of them may even be from our future!  That's an exciting thing, let me tell you.

Trailers: things that are videos about our books!  They are cool things.

For Teachers: material for teachers and librarians that we've assembled: this page is chock-a-block full of lesson plans, activity kits, and reading group guides. 

Bookseller and Media Resources: resources!  For booksellers and media!  There are pages about all the books we've ever published, plus catalogs, activities, and all sorts of other things.  Warning: this page contains lots and lots and lots of content. 

Then to the right, you'll find:

About :01: somewhat self-explanatory, but still necessary!

:01 Catalog: our books that are coming out right now!

:01 Collection: all of our books there are so far, with illustrative covers and extensive linking to all our parent company's information about them. 

FAQs: do you have a question?  Perhaps you will find the updated answer here!  If not, you can always try e-mailing someone whose contact information you'll find in the now-updated 'Contact Us' section. 

Awards and Honors: we don't like to boast, but sometimes we get them. 

and that's it.

Let us know what you think!  If you don't like how we're doing this, perhaps we can make some changes. 

August 23, 2010

on Characters and Backstory

This post comes to us from the desk of Alec Longstreth, who did the coloring on The Unsinkable Walker Bean.  He works up at the Center for Cartoon Studies, so that's a very exciting place to have a desk!

There are a lot of characters in Walker Bean, and every one of them has a backstory.  Before I started coloring the book, Aaron sent me a massive email with the names of all the pirates on the Jacklight, their jobs on the ship, and where they lived originally, before they set to sea.  It's quite a diverse crew!  On just one ship there are sailors from Japan, Africa, Ireland, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Mongolia, Hawaii, and India, to name a few.  Aaron also included dozens of reference photos for me to work from, so that I could create a unique color scheme for each character.  The following character sheet helped me keep the characters' colors consistent throughout the 200 plus pages of the book:

When you read Walker Bean, most of these characters are never mentioned by name, but if you keep an eye on them in the background, they are always attending to their duties for the Jacklight.  For example, let's look at the ship's blacksmith, Tibca.  When the ship pulls in to Spithead to get some supplies, Tibca heads straight to a blacksmith's shop to pick up some new tools.


Then, later, when the Jacklight hits some trouble, Tibca jumps right in and lends her skills to the rebuilding effort.

Every panel of Walker Bean is packed with this level of detail.  You can read this book over and over again, and each time you will notice something new.  I colored every square inch of every page, so I'm confident that I've seen everything there is to see in the book, and all I can say is that I'm excited to see what comes next!


See more from Alec:

illustration: http://aleclongstreth.com/ blog & comics: http://alec-longstreth.com/

March 03, 2010

Author Self-Portraits

I wanted to share a few of my favorite creator self-portraits.  We ask everyone for some form of image of themselves: some people send photos, and some of them send art.  I like art the best, because it's the most fun to get in the mail -- I already know what the vast majority of our creators look like, but everyone always does something interesting with a self-portrait. 

(Not entirely drawn, but super-awesome anyways!  This is Sara Varon.)


(Joann Sfar!  Clearly Little Vampire should be in everyone's self-portrait.)

Cyril Pedrosa
(Cyril Pedrosa!  Adorable and funny both!)

SalaSelfPort copy2
(I've got another version of Richard Sala's self-portrait where he's menacingly drawing an extremely cute cat because of Cat Burglar Black.)

February 01, 2010

Inside the :01 Offices, Marketing Edition

This is a picture of my office bookshelf:


I keep copies of all the books we publish on it, so when someone calls to tell me that they need a particular book, right now, there's one on hand we can overnight.  It is an excellent bookshelf!  But with the amount of books that we're publishing in the coming year (you can see some of those teetering on the edge of the fourth shelf down), I suspect I may have to lobby for a bookshelf expansion. 

(Want to see more of the insides of our offices?  Here's a piece I wrote for our parent company's blog.  There are pictures!)

October 09, 2009

Texture Field Trip: The Making of the RESISTANCE, BOOK 1 Cover

Wrap Around Cover for RESISTANCE, Book 1

I've always been a big fan of wrap-around covers. I have a habit that whenever I get a new book I always take off the cover and open it flat, look at the case, look at the spine...see it the way the designer did on screen, flaps out, all of the pieces together...a visual conversation of the whole package. 

Color Variations on Resistance When Leland Purvis sent along a thumbnail concept of this great art for RESISTANCE, BOOK 1 (a SPRING 10 book written by Carla Jablonski, with some pretty incredible art by Leland telling the story) our entire floor was buzzing over it. Playful, strong, and sets the tone of the series which chronicles the French Resistance during WWII and the children who got involved in the fight.

Realistic coloring wouldn't have made the cover as strong so I started to play around, inspired by the palette of the book which is a lot of beautiful blues and browns. I made over 20 until I had pushed myself too far. Got to the point of "world's ugliest color scheme" and then worked my way back. (You guys don't get to see THAT one, though I blame that fourth one down in the image on the left on me watching GHOST DAD earlier that week. NOTE TO OTHER DESIGNERS: Don't watch Bill Cosby movies and design at the same time. Listen to someone who learned the hard way.) After all the variations, I realized I had been on the right track in the beginning. Something quiet so a shock of red for the band would be impossible to ignore.

But it still felt too static and flat for a story with so much action, spying, running, disguises, and danger. It wasn't working, so I decided to add some texture. Sure I could have made fake bricks in photoshop or thrown a simple filter in, but what fun is that?! This was an excuse for a Texture Field Trip!

If you live in NYC and haven't yet become a wanderer, you're doing it wrong. I could argue it's the greatest place in the world for people watching...and texture hunting. A few hours of walking around NY and brooklyn and I had over 60 new textures on my camera. I'm a firm believer you should always have a camera on you, especially if you are a designer or tend to run into Hulk Hogan a lot. (I swear that guy is stalking me.) There's just something so beautiful about naturally aged architecture, broken concrete, bricks who have seen a lot of things...though if they could talk, I'm not sure I'd want to hear the stories. That first wall below was stunning close-up. The picture didn't do it any justice.

Texture Field Trip: Union Square NYC AKA the most beautiful brick wall in the worldTexture Field Trip: Greenpoint BrooklynTexture Field Trip: Union Square NYCTexture Field Trip: Greenpoint BrooklynTexture Field Trip: Greenpoint Brooklyn Texture Field Trip: Union Square NYCTexture Field Trip: Union Square NYC AKA THE WINNERTexture Field Trip: Union Square NYCTexture Field Trip: Union Square NYC

Can you spot the winner? Click on any for larger versions and feel free to use them, since it will give me an excuse to go on another Texture Field trip in the future. Though honestly...wouldn't you rather go hunting yourself? There's a lot of beauty if you look around you a bit and everything can be a texture if you use it right.

Hand-lettered Resistance Cover Paint Logo Up Close

I didn't want the wall to look like a photograph in the end and I definitely didn't want it to overpower the art. I'm really happy with how it turned out and proud to have this as my second :01 design. Despite the fact I am constantly drooling over fonts, I've gotten really into hand-lettering lately. (Note if you are a fontophile and don't subscribe to these newsletters you are missing out.) But there's just something about hand-lettering that makes me connect more emotionally with a book. This is definitely not a light book. Sure there are funny and sweet moments, but it's dark, real, and inspirational. Creating the logo by hand made me feel connected with the kids in the story. My own attempt to say "take that" against the oppression France faced during the dark times of their Nazi occupation.

August 31, 2009


by Richard Sala

 SalaSelfPort copy2

When I was twelve, our family moved from a bustling Midwestern city to a relatively small town in the Southwest. It’s never much fun to move away from friends and neighbors you’ve known your whole life in the first place -- but to make matters worse, we moved in the middle of a school year. So not only was I the “new kid”, but I was plopped right down in the middle of classes that had already been in progress for months.

I stood out with my pale complexion in a sea of tanned faces. And it wasn’t as if I’d merely moved to a nearby town where things were changed but still recognizable. This was a completely different environment and culture.

It had been November when we left our old town, but in our new town it was still summer. Instead of 100-year-old house we’d lived in, filled with nooks and crannies and all kinds of strange and antique details, our new house was a year old with no personality whatsoever (yes, places can have personalities - but they take time to develop, just like people!). But I’m not saying one place was better than the other. They were just – different. Instead of Oak trees there were Saguaro cacti. Instead of squirrels, there were lizards. Instead of suits and ties, the teachers wore short-sleeved shirts, bolo ties and cowboy boots. Instead of nearby museums cluttered with dinosaur skeletons and mummies, there were modern galleries with paintings of grizzled, horse-ridin’ cowpokes or Indian squaws, usually with a little papoose on their shoulder. Instead of nights filled with the sounds of whooshing buses, snippets of music and distant train whistles, the nights were filled with – silence.

Ah, the nights. The sky was so big. And with no high buildings or the bright lights of bustling night time activity to obscure the view, you could see so many stars – millions and millions – in a sky so huge you felt as if you might suddenly fall upwards into it… Even before we’d moved, I loved to read and get lost in my imagination. Now, instead of watching TV after dinner, I’d go outside, into the quiet, peaceful dark of our street and go for walks around the neighborhood. You could see lights on in the windows or the glow of TVs in the dark. Sometimes the warm desert winds would stir the bushes. Or headlights from a lone car would create giant moving shadows across the fences that enclosed every house on our block. Occasionally something might fly by above my head, black against the night sky. Was it a bat? Or some sort of nocturnal night bird? It was all very mysterious. And that’s what I loved. That’s when I fell in love with mystery and with imagination.

I’d imagine all kinds of things – usually based on whatever books or comics I had been reading or movies I’d seen. Maybe those glows were not TV screens – maybe a mad scientist lived there and was conducting secret experiments. Or maybe it was an alien, disguised as a human, contacting his home planet by interplanetary video-phone. And maybe that house at the end of the street with the one lighted window – perhaps there was a meeting of a secret society, a masked gang gathered around ancient maps, plotting ghastly deeds. I’d imagine dark avengers or cat burglars creeping up the sides of the houses, sprinting across the rooftops…

Then, eventually, I’d realize I had better get home – often to face the “don’t ever wander off without telling anybody where you’re going!” lecture. Which is, of course, good advice, but the pull of the night was irresistible and a much-needed cure for the confusions and humiliations of the daytime where I was just that pale new kid. Those night walks ended eventually. I made friends and became less of a loner. I was no longer “new”, but the memories of having once been “new” never really leave you.

Now, as a writer, looking back, I realize how important those days were – and especially those nights. I love writing mysteries and thrillers, ghost stories and horror stories – stories about the night and mad scientists and aliens and dark avengers and cat burglars and even “new kids.” In a way, all the stories I’ve ever written, including CAT BURGLAR BLACK – and all the drawings I’ve ever done – are an attempt to recapture the magical way I felt, just letting my mind wander and my imagination go nuts as I strolled along in the dark.


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