47 posts categorized ""Behind the Scenes""

October 08, 2013



I'm very, very, very happy for this book to be released today.


It's October 8th, 2013, the day Paul Pope's BATTLING BOY is cut loose into the world. 


Years ago, before launching First Second Books, before I knew Paul's work, I was at Jim Hanley's Universe, one of America's greatest comics shops, at the foot of the Empire State Building, with Jessica Abel. She was introducing me to some of the luminaries of the indie comics world, some of whom would become star authors under First Second. Among the books she piled in my arms was a self published set of "THB" and "100%" and "Heavy Liquid"—and for me, the revelation of Paul Pope.


What his fans already knew was my thrill to discover. This strangely incandescent, charismatic brushstroke, the high-octane, crazy kinetic energy of it, and the oddly familiar sense in his characters and his storytelling, even when they involved First Contact with an alien life form through an addictive ink drug... I was hooked.


What mesmerized me with Paul's work, everything I could find, was the magical confluence of the three great schools of comics: the American, the European, and the Asian, in some new blend I had never found before. Here was the heir of Jack Kirby, but infused with a Manga sensibility owing to Tezuka, and an artistry steeped in Hugo Pratt and Moebius. And then of course something unique and fresh, reverent and rebellious and exciting of my senses.


I'm writing this some years later, late on October 7th, 2013, in a hotel room in Chicago. Down the hall, Paul Pope is in another room, typing up answers to an interview for The Hollywood Reporter. Tomorrow morning, I'm taking him to three rapid-fire school visits before we head to Atlanta and then to DC the next day, and then head back to New York in time for Comic Con. Paul is at the start of his author tour, for his magnificent BATTLING BOY.


Yes, there's plenty of hype surrounding this one. But tonight at dinner, that's not what Paul was interested in. He was wrestling with a story problem in the later part of BATTLING BOY 2, involving a magical T-shirt, and a relationship development between two characters. 


What a treat to work with someone like Paul. Comics are being transformed, superb pictures are taking form, heroes are being born. And I'm so very, very, very happy you get to start reading them.



May 22, 2012

An 'Imprint'? What's That?


(tree ganked from The Field Museum Library)

Sometimes when I tell people that First Second is an imprint of Macmillan USA, I get blank looks -- and that's about the time that I remember that not everyone spends all of their time decoding publishing family trees (that's right!  That tree at the top of the page?  It's a metaphor). 

So there are some publishers that are publishers, right?  Like Oni Press -- pretty much everything they do (edit, market, and design books, but also permissions, subsidiary rights, some sales, etc.) is done by people they have in house.  And all their books are published as Oni Press books.

But then you've got larger publishers, like Harper Collins.  They publish a whole lot of books -- and many of them are markedly different from each other in audience age, subject, tone, format, presentation, etc.  (Here's a list of Harper imprints, fyi.)  So instead of just being like, 'well, all the books we're publishing are by Harper anyways, we'll just give everyone editing things for us one single person to be editorial director in charge of them all,' they said, 'hey, probably the people who want to spend all their time editing bibles will have something different going on than the people who are editing romance novels.  Maybe we should make those two different sub-companies!'  And they did -- Harper Bibles and Avon (I'll leave to you guess which is which.) 

Another reason to make a distinction like this is the history.  Big companies frequently acquire smaller companies.  But the reason that they've acquired the smaller company isn't just that they want to work with people on the staff, or the authors -- it's the ideology.  So keeping that infrastructure in place within the smaller company maintains the sensibility that was initially attractive to them.

So if you look at the structure of a large publishing company, it really does end up looking a whole lot like the tree up top -- companies and sub-companies all around. 

That's what an imprint is -- one of the smaller companies that's under the umbrella of a larger one. 

Practically, what does this mean for First Second? 

We're part of one of the large NY publishing companies called Macmillan.  There are a number of other companies that are part of them, too -- like Tor, St. Martin's, FSG, Henry Holt, Scientific American, Palgrave, Picador, Nature, etc. etc. etc.  Macmillan is responsible for:

The rent on our building.  We work in the flatiron building; it's entirely populated by Macmillan staff.  No one at First Second is responsible for paying the rent every month, making the lights go on, making sure there's toilet paper in the bathrooms, etc.  That's all handled centrally. 

Mail!  We've got a mailroom in the building, and our mail guy comes by three times a day to pick up any mail I've got to send out straight from my desk.  This is a godsend.  Think about doing a 200-copy book mailing and then having to drag it to the post office.  In New York City.  And I don't have a car. 

(Also our computers and our website and our tech support!  Which is extremely helpful.)

More than that, Macmillan is responsible for a number of things that help us to be able to spend our time focusing on publishing books.  There are people at Macmillan who handle (in consultation with us):

Permissions -- dealing with people who want to use pages of our books in articles or textbooks.

Subsidiary Rights -- like selling chapters of our books to magazines or anythologies, or the foreign-language rights, or the film rights.

The Budget -- we've got people to: pay royalties to our authors, handle taxes on our convention sales, project how much money we'll have to acquire new books and spend on marketing in the current year, pay website or ad or book designers, pay our actual taxes every April, etc.

Contracts -- once we've figured out the parameters of a book deal, our contracts people step in make sure that we've got all the appropriate legal language.

Managing Editorial -- our parent company is kind enough to lend us their Managing Editor to deal with our copy-editing and to make sure books get to the right place at the right time -- thanks, Jill!  We couldn't do it without you.

Production -- once we've figured out how we want our books to look, the production group prices out the paper and the cover we want to use, figures out the best printer for the book, and handles the whole process of liasing with them to get the book printed perfectly.

Sales -- we've got in-house and out-of-house sales teams that have personal relationships with the bookstores (and other stores that sell books, like museum stores) all around the country.  They're responsible for getting all of our books into those stores. 

And Macmillan is also a resource if we get a crazy-awesome opportunity and we can't necessarily figure out how to make it happen on our allocated budget.  If we can convince them it'll definitely pay off, they can back our crazy-awesome opportunities.

And that's what it means to be an imprint. 

April 04, 2012

Around the :01 Offices: Bookshelves

I've got a lot of books in my office.

It's not as many as I expected to have when I was a small child thinking about working in publishing -- that envisioning had books carpeting the walls (and possibly even the ceiling).  There are actually a few editors in our Macmillan-owned building who have offices like that -- books and books and books everywhere.  But it turns out for marketing, I don't need to have a whole lot of books that aren't published by First Second on hand, so I keep those at home where I have time to read them.


This is my active bookshelf -- the one that I pull books from on a daily basis, for mailings, review copy requests, to send to our sales department.  Most of the books on this shelf have come out in the past year -- we have another whole bookcase where we keep other titles from the more distant past.

This shelf is also the place where I keep the limited advance copies of books that aren't out -- those are mostly the stacks you see: Marathon, Baby's in Black, and because I sometimes work on graphic novel-y books from our sister companies, The Year of the Beasts and Take What You Can Carry.  And yes, the exciting stack all the way at the top is Diamond's Previews catalog. 


Also I have this bookshelf that spins!  It is mostly for display, though -- and the problem with spinning bookshelves is that the books tend to fall out with the exciting spinning action. 


My desk also has shelves that are immediately above my desk area.  On this one, I try to keep a copy of all the books that we publish, so I can have them for reference.  (This is mostly not successful, because people tend to request them for review, and I cannot resist sending books to them even if I only have a single copy.)  Also I keep stuff there that Cal at Strange Adventures sends me -- that would be the water glasses and the mug.


I also have this other shelf above my desk where I mostly keep labels, coffee cups, and our extremely sporadic promotional materials.  And I probably can get rid of that SDCC binder from 2009, right?  But I also keep the fiction and non-fiction I read that's going to get donated to charity (that's the large stack you see on top) and miscellaneous reference books -- always useful. And disorganized -- it turns out that my need for Harrap's Shorter French and English Dictionary (the blue volume on the far left) is extremely sporadic. 

And that's all the bookshelves I've got for today.  Hope you enjoyed the tour!

March 28, 2012

At the First Second Offices: A Day in the Life

(A set of Cost-of-Living offices, from the University of Washington's Digital Archives)

A Day in the Life of :01 Marketing

So I thought as an exercise, I’d write down all the things I do in a day and share them with the internet.  I occasionally do talks at colleges about what in the world is involved in my drama-filled publishing life –- I did one last week at Pratt –- and people are generally curious and confused about what’s involved with marketing.  It’s not –- as I thought when I initially got this job -– about coercing people into liking things that they otherwise would not; there’s more of an awareness-raising M.O. 

Anyways: so this was the Tuesday that was yesterday.  I’m doing this report in the middle of the week that I’ve allocated to focus on the internet –- and we just started a Twitter account last week -– so this day of things is much more heavily focused online than my days usually are.  But nonetheless still represents a fair sampling!


(My actual desk, but last week.  I have since eaten that particular apple.)

9:05: Got to work, late.  WHY is it so much harder to get out of bed when it’s freezing cold out?  Especially when it’s freezing cold out after it was eighty last week?  Not fair!

9:06:  Tea, and apple (granny smith, because those are the best).

9:07: Tweet

9:08: E-mail.  Much of my job is responsive – answering author questions, answering retailer questions, answering questions from our sales team or editorial team, answering librarian questions, answering press questions – and then working with all those people to get them the material they need so that they can do their respective jobs.  So I get to work and find an inbox full of e-mail from all those people which all needs to be dealt with.  Sometimes there are even fan e-mails!  But none today -– sad.

9:23: Write the introduction to this blog post.  I try to have at least three posts per week on the First Second blog (more of that awareness-raising stuff), and I spent part of yesterday trying to figure out what in the world I could write about this week.  Yay inspiration!

9:25: My e-mail tells me (courtesy of Shelf Awareness) that there’s a library that used to be a roller rink!  How cool is that?

9:26: NetGalley check-in.  First Second works with a company called NetGalley that posts advance pdfs of books online for reviewers to request.  Then we look at the requests and approve them (if it’s a bookseller or librarian or media person or someone who seems to have a good reason) or decline them (if it’s someone who’s like, ‘I’m a person, I’d like to read this book possibly I think’).  Someone from Diamond requested one of our titles this morning!  Someone from Diamond I’ve never heard of!  That’s a good morning.

9:28: What’s going on with our GoodReads account?  We keep an account to talk to people about what we’re reading, about our books, and to do give-aways through – we’ve currently got one up for The Moon Moth.  Someone new wants to be our friend!  Yes, please.  Also: people seem to be liking Baby’s in Black –- we just did a giveaway and the people we gave the book to are reading it!  And I see that some of them have complicated feelings about the book related to their feelings about The Beatles. . . .

9:40: More e-mail.  Release dates, release countries, authors being e-mailed by Piers Anthony, donation questions, review links, etc.

9:56: ALA flights!  I’m going to this year’s American Library Association conference (which I'm absolutely thrilled about), and it’s time to get on the phone with our parent company’s travel agent and book my flight.

10:03: It’s internet week here at First Second, one of my least favorite kinds of weeks.  We’re on the cusp of spring (our spring season starts in May), which means our website needs to be updated with all sorts of new spring books and information.  And while we’re at it, I need to put in the list of all the awards our books won last year.  And deal with our new twitter account – probably we should follow some people, right?  Oh, happy updating!  I actually did most of this yesterday (except the twitter stuff) but now I need to check our website to make sure it all transferred over from the staging site to the live site correctly. 

10:07: Drat, I forgot to link a cover and one of my sets of spacing came out wrong.  Time for yet more coding!

10:20: Okay, coding was relatively easy.  Back to e-mail again. 

10:21: But first!  Faith Erin Hicks did a comic about The Hunger Games for tor.com that I want to check out.

10:24: Okay, I really should get on this twitter thing.  Probably we should follow some people?  Like our authors and bookstores we do events with and magazines we read and people we know in person?

11:00: Tor.com meeting.  Tor.com is a Macmillan-owned company, so they’re just upstairs – I go to one of their meetings every week, because they publish excerpts of our books and do reviews of our books and I run the short story program they do with First Second’s parent company, MacKids.  Also, who doesn’t want to sit around and talk about science fiction/fantasy geekery for an hour every Tuesday morning?

11:45: Tweet.

11:45: Meeting e-mail follow-up!  Why does it always exist?  You go to meetings and there is productive discussion after which you have to do stuff to make everything you want happen. 

11:51: Back to figuring out twitter

1:08: E-mail again.  I see that the American Library Association is sending out Artists Alley table confirmations for ALA Annual 2012 already.  We’re confirmed!

1:15: And back again to twitter.  Let me say, I am SO happy that twitter is not like GoodReads, where they only let you be friends with around thirty people in a day.  That first month of having a GoodReads account was nail-biting!  At least it turned out that we know a month's worth of people?  So that was positive.

1:21: Twitter temporarily broken.  I guess this is a sign that I should figure out what’s going on with the Cute Girl Network project in my e-mail -– it’s an early e-mail about a book that’s coming out in 2013!  It looks like there is neat art for me to look at.

1:35: Hey, twitter works again!

1:48: Meeting at 2:00!  I should put together an agenda.

2:00: I report directly to the Director of Publicity at First Second’s parent company, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, because the people at Macmillan thought it’d be useful for me to have someone to talk to who knows about marketing.  This seemed like a sensible thing to me as well, so I have a meeting with Allison Verost (MacKids Director of Publicity) once a week to check in about what things Macmillan needs from me (like BEA schedules) and what things I need help with (this time of the year, book festivals and any exciting spring-related adventures).


(My afternoon snack: recipe from Epicurious.)

2:32: Short meeting!  Clear it is time for afternoon snack (and tweeting about aforementioned afternoon snack). 

2:38: Hey, books!  This morning we got in copies of Boaz Yakin and Joe Infurnari’s Marathon, which comes out in June.  It looks good!  The copies I got are the advance copies –- the first ones off the printer, which the printer sends directly to our offices (instead of to our warehouse) so that I can do a mailing to the trade magazines, like Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, etc.  All those publications like to review the books in advance of publication, so we try to get the books out to them as soon as the copies hit the office. 


(Books! How exciting.)

2:42: Mailing step 1: find and acquire the envelopes (across the building in the envelope storage).  (This process was temporarily hijacked by an editor who wanted me to answer some questions about a series of e-mails about contracts I was privy to.  I think contracts and mailings probably hit equally high on the 'fun office tasks' list.)

2:55: Mailing step 2: make labels.  (Simple and easily explicable.)

3:02: Mailing step 3: make pub slips.  These are half-sheets of paper that go in books that tell reviewers what the title is, who the authors are (things that can be easily discovered from looking at the books), and more complicated information like what the trim size is, what age reader the book is intended for, and when it’ll be in stores. 

3:19: Mailing step 4: the pitch letter, also known as ‘the hard part.’  This is the part where I do my best to convince the people who are getting these letters of exactly how awesome the book is in three paragraphs. 

4:00: Break for root beer freeze-flavored custard at Shake Shack – clearly a necessary part of the day. 

4:30: Back to mailing!  Now it’s time for steps 5678910 – addressing the letters, printing the letters, and mailing the books.  We’re lucky enough to have a mail room in our building, so all I need to do is print address labels and stick them on my packages and someone comes to pick them up.  Some small publishers have to deliver all their mail to the post office -- not fun! 

5:15: I see my e-mail is full of e-mails about the current draft of our website revamp.  Time to compose more e-mail to our long-suffering webdesigner!

5:23: Time to check in with our Editor Calista Brill (always one of the most fun parts of every day!).

5:31: I should probably start putting this post into Typepad and linking everything – that’s clearly going to be a fun task!

6:01: Well, THAT only took half an hour. 

6:02: I know that our Giants Beware! authors are working on an Activity Kit for their book (which I expect to be super-cute) that I've had sitting on my desktop for a few days.  I should review that before I take off for the day. 

6:11: It was super-cute!  Time to write an e-mail to my authors to that effect. 

6:12: Okay, how's my e-mail looking? 

6:33: Perhaps today is over! 

(Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 -- at the First Second Offices)

October 24, 2011

Flatiron Snacks: The Pretzel Croissant


The pretzel croissant: it is like a croissant, except that it is also like a pretzel (possibly this is magic, but it is also possible that it is salt-covered and delicious).  It is the absolutely perfect thing to eat at that in-between breakfast and lunch time when you have not eaten breakfast but are wanting something less sugary than your typical pastry.

We are lucky that City Bakery (only five blocks away!) makes them and has them around all the time.  We can have croissants that are also pretzels at any point we want!  How awesome is that?

October 18, 2011

BB LEAKS: Paul Pope hot off the scanner!

Some days are just too good to keep to ourselves... Imagine receiving these originals—just-inked pages from Paul Pope's BATTLING BOY... Care to gasp with us?


October 12, 2011

Between the Panels

(a free download of interesting things)


For New York Comic-Con this year, we worked with FSG and with Tor to put together a free, downloadable piece called Between the Panels.  It'll be available at NYCC, but you can also download it at that link.

What is in this free downloadable piece, do you ask?


It has essays and art and comics from people like Orson Scott Card, Jonathan Case, Chase Conley, Chris Duffy, Jonathan Hill, Thomas LeBien, Leland Myrick, Stan Nicholls, Jim Ottaviani, MK Reed, and Sara Varon that take you behind the scenes and into the process of how a comic gets made. 

And that amazing cover is by Joe Flood, of course!

Check it out

October 10, 2011

Flatiron Snacks: The Shake Shack


Whatever else you have to say about the Shake Shack, you have to admit: they have an excellent graphic designer.  Look at that hamburger graphic!  Is that not all the things you wish for a hamburger to be?  (Yes, it really is.)

But I specifically wanted to recommend their custard before it gets too cold to recommend cold outdoor things to anyone.  So: instead of ice cream, the Shake Shack makes custard (which is like ice cream, but with egg yolks, which makes it richer and creamier).  It is delicious!  And, if you're just getting a custard order, you can stand in their B line, which is much shorter and more convenient than the regular line; you're generally out in between five and fifteen minutes.

What's not to like? 

They do chocolate and vanilla (and you can get mix-ins; I am especially fond of the peanut butter sauce, which I wish every ice cream place would have) and a special daily custard flavor.  My favorite so far this year?  Basil!


September 12, 2011

Sara Varon's Cookie Party


If you haven't read Sara's latest book, Bake Sale, you should check it out!

August 18, 2011




We have FIVE PAIRS OF FREE INVITATIONS to the New York City private screening of GAINSBOURG: A HEROIC LIFE—Joann Sfar's first feature-length movie!

WHEN: Wednesday, August 24th @ 7 PM

WHERE:  New Museum — 235 Bowery (between Stanton + Rivington), NYC

 This is a private, invitation-only event. IF YOU ARE ONE OF THE FIRST FIVE TO RESPOND (in comments, below) you will receive an invitation for yourself + a companion. Be sure to leave your name in your response.


(A Serge Gainsbourg-Brigitte Bardot scene)

 GAINSBOURG: A HEROIC LIFE opens in NYC on Wednesday, August 31st at Film Forum.


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