47 posts categorized ""Behind the Scenes""

July 28, 2011

Dear Internet, a Quick :01 Update

Internet!  Hello.

SDCC 135

You have not heard from :01 in a while, probably because we have spent the past week going to San Diego and then coming back to San Diego and then dealing with post-San Diego-exploded inboxes (which tend to happen specifically to us because the book industry does not believe in scheduling around San Diego, sensibly for them but not as much for us).  We got back from the balmy climes of the American southwest just in time to experience this excellent hostage situation across the street yesterday; let me tell you, five years in NYC and that was the first time there were gunshots anywhere near me.  So much for Brooklyn being the dangerous part of the city. 

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However!  There was San Diego, we went to it and had much rejoicing with authors Vera Brosgol, Leland Myrick, Dave Roman, Gene Yang and Thien Pham, as they are awesome and our common practice when encountering authors is to have rejoicing with them. 

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Now we are back and New York is much less hot than it was last week -- I feel weirdly guilty for missing 103 degree temperatures; isn't it my responsibility as a New Yorker to bear such things, either stoically or with much complaining, not to leave town during them? -- and regular function resumes.

Publishing comics!  It's good to get back to it.

May 25, 2011

The Publishing Industry II

(a hands-on practical guide to saving the publishing industry by yourself)


(from the US National Archives)

Sometimes we get sort-of disgruntled calls or e-mails from people who are frustrated to find that publishing does not seem to be going down any sort of tube anytime soon, and they therefore cannot single-handedly save us with the power of their minds.

To them, and all of the rest of you whose minds may be filled with the burning desire to do something, we offer some avenues to explore.

Buy Books. 

This is kind of the #1 thing; if you're concerned about the possibility of no more books ever being published again, you should try to buy some books once in a while.  Have a bookshelf in your house.  Put books on it as well as decorative statuary.  When you fill it up, buy another. 

Embrace the philosophy of books as gifts -- in perusing the shelves of your local chain or independent bookstore or the tubes of the internet, you should be able to find a book that is fun or silly or serious or very strange and therefore perfect for the person you need a gift for. 


You may not want to buy every single book you're curious about -- maybe you don't have the room in your house or the space in your budget.  You know what's great for that?  Libraries!  They are everywhere, and full of books.  You can ask the librarians about books they'd recommend for you, and request that they special-order books for you, either through inter-library loans or just buying them outright.  Those librarians!  So helpful.

If you are super-excited about your local library (as everyone should be!), there are ways you can level up in supporting it.  Take a moment to check in with your local librarian about things like book drives, summer reading programs, tutoring, and other outreach they can do.  Most libraries are glad to have competant and enthusiastic help in their mission of getting books into peoples' hands. 

Have Conversation.

Consider talking about books sometimes.  You know the #1 thing that convinces me I should read a new book?  When someone I know tells me I should.  So -- if you've read a book and you're excited about it or interested or have something to say, find someone and tell them about it. 

Pro Tip: you may do this 'talking about books' thing in person or online on book-related communities like GoodReads or LibraryThing.  Try it sometime. 

Pro Tip 2: conversation about books (depending on the book, but still, 99% of the time) makes for completely unobjectionable verbiage when in unfamiliar social situations; at the water cooler at work, when meeting new people, at parties, navigating family dynamics, and talking to small children.  All of those people may be interested in books!  Try out some conversation with them; if you get blank stares, fear not!  You can always change the subject to octopi or data processing. 

Ask People What You Can Do.

This is a bit of a complicated one, because people only think of it infrequently.  So: it turns out that there are many things that go on in the world that you may be completely unaware of, even if they are in your home town or state!  Crazy, right?  But: if you are on fire to do things, try asking people if there are things that are already going on that you could be a part of -- or things that should be going on that you could make happen.

Good people to ask include: friends, teachers, librarians, booksellers, authors, small children, museums, event spaces, and (sometimes) the internet.

Do Nice Things.

Do you already buy books and volunteer at your library and help out with your local book festival and do literacy outreach and your conversation is at least 50% composed of book-related objects?  We advise you to consider your life's balance and possibly take up a low-maintenance hobby like white-water kayaking.  (Though we understand that if you are at all connected with the publishing industry, re-balancing your life thusly may be less-than-feasible.)

But!  If you are still on-fire to help out with the cause of books, take a step back and think about what you read.  Is there an author whose works you particularly appreciate?  A publisher who you think does a great job with the books they put out?  Is there an illustrator whose work just blows your mind every time you see their new picture book or graphic novel?  Is there a book that changed your life?

Take the time to sit down and write those book-makers a letter.  Then send it to them. 

It'll make their day.

May 18, 2011

The Publishing Industry

(not dead today, but thanks for asking)


(from Cornell University Library's collection)

Because I live in New York and associate 50% - 75% exclusively with people involved in the publishing industry in some capacity, sometimes I forget that people outside my professional and social circles have less of an inside track on this doom&gloom the media is currently projecting on the book industry.  Luckily, I occasionally end up leaving New York for a dose of reality, and while at TCAF I was confronted with several people speaking of publishing in the hushed tones one typically only hears in a funeral parlor. 

Two cents from me about this whole situation: 

Publishing: we're in a time of change!  It's becoming easier to self-publish, to self-promote, to work with the internet to make cool things happen.  And: how neat is that?  More people are reading in different platforms, doing different things with storytelling to adapt to new ways information is being conveyed.  We are all for it. 

So: with many people jumping on the self-publishing bandwagon, how will readers figure out what books work for them?  How do they know something is worth their time and money? 

That question has a number of answers, but one of them is this.

Publishers are a quality-guarantee.  We stand behind every book we publish and say to our readers: we believe in this.  And we back up that guarantee by working with teachers and librarians and retailers and media and conventions and authors and illustrators and readers and all sorts of other kinds of people to make sure that every book is the best book possible and that it gets out to the most people possible. 

I work in publishing because I love books; I don't know anyone who works in this industry who doesn't.  And you know what all of these publishing people, teachers, librarians, retailers, authors, and illustrators work together to do?  Make good books and get them into the hands of the right people. 

If you took my job description and distilled it down into one sentence, it'd be that: putting books and people together.*  The way I do that has been changing, but we're adaptable -- we'll figure it out.  We learn new things every day. 

At the end of the day, you know what?  People still want good books.  And that's what we're here for. 


*I note that is an awesome job.  Because it is.  And also because I have been reading David Foster Wallace and boy, is that a good book, and also his footnotes are contagious. 

April 20, 2011

Course Adoptions


(from the Keene Public Library)

One of the things we talk about infrequently that generates quite a few book sales is course adoptions. 

What is a course adoption?  It's when a teacher decides to include one of our books in their course curriculum.  They'll say, 'Wouldn't this make an interesting springboard to discuss the war in Afghanistan in my Georgraphy of Internal Conflicts course?' and include it in the list of books they require their students to read.  As you may imagine, this generates some sales. 

(And then it tends to continue to generate sales, because if the book they adopt works and the students like it, the professor will continue to teach the class the next year [or on alternate years], and an entirely new group of students must acquire and read the book.  Students, it turns out, almost always like graphic novels!)

I honestly don't know how much this avenue of revenue-generation would be working for First Second without American Born Chinese -- the Printz Award being given to a graphic novel was such a landmark event for the children's book world that lots of the MLS courses (Library Science degrees) and Children's Literature courses added it right on to their next semester's required reading. 

Then the next semester they came back again to us saying things like, 'We should really have a class day dedicated to graphic novels!  What do you recommend?'  Usefully we had Laika and Robot Dreams to give them at that point -- and many more books down the line. 

Since then we've been publishing books like Drawing Words and Writing Pictures and The Photographer and Koko Be Good that have been adopted in more topical classes -- things like drawing and politics and women's studies. 

The people in the Academic Marketing department at our parent company, Macmillan, who kindly keep track of this sort of thing for us, tell me that we've had over 1,000 course adoptions for our books.  Multiply that by the number of people/class, and that adds up to a very solid amount of books.

First Second's graphic novels: coming soon to a classroom near you.

(This blog post was inspired by the fact that we got our first course adoption for Americus today.  Yay that book!  It is not even published yet and already it is being picked up for classroom use.  Huzzah!)

(P.S. If you are a teacher and considering adopting one of our books for your class, we give desk copies!  Just send me e-mail: gina.gagliano@firstsecondbooks.com.)

March 23, 2011

Everyone Loves a Parade

(this is not the kind of parade we at First Second really do, but it looks like all sorts of fun nonetheless!)


One of the most interesting parts of marketing is watching things happening. 

When we're putting out a book, there's a limited number of people who are at the zeroth point, right?  It's all of us here at :01 and also the author.  And (presumably) if we never told anyone that the book existed, no one would know.

(Of course this would be sort of a silly and self-defeating way to publish a book, presuming that your point of publishing books is for people to find out about them and read them.)

When you're in the first stages of promoting things, it is fascinating to watch things happen because most of everything you can draw a direct line between the things you know you or your author did to what happens.  So -- I pitch an article, the people at the magazine know about the book because of the pitch I sent. 

Later in the game, it becomes more difficult to draw those lines, and therefore even more interesting!  So -- was the rush of review copy requests I got last week for Vera Brosgol's book because Booklist Online featured her starred review as their Review of the Day?  Or was it because people named Jess like to talk about Anya's Ghost on the internet? 

Unfortunately as information becomes less privledged, it's less fun to watch.  But I love those first two stages.  Information dissemination in action!

March 21, 2011

a submissions thank you


(mysterious pile of paper ganked from here)

I just wanted to send out a quick thank-you to everyone who's been e-mailing us submissions lately.  Because everyone has been reading our website guidelines and e-mailing to tell us how they want to be published by us because they know who we are and they like other things that we're doing.  And we really appreciate that.  Yay you all!

A (very very) quick refresher on submitting things for everyone whose fingers are just now hovering over the send button on their e-mail:

Everything you need to know can be found on our FAQ page, including links to the (much more in depth) two posts our lovely editor, Calista Brill, wrote for our blog. 

Thanks again to everyone! 

March 08, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS and the First Second Roadshow

I just returned from Minneapolis and St. Paul, and a whirlwind of presentations to all kinds of friendly book lovers. The Twin Cities has joined the top ranks of America's "book towns" and I had been very eager to go there with our First Second roadshow... 

In Minnesota I met a great many librarians, booksellers, writers and artists—and quickly became convinced the place is poised to take a key position in America's comics community.


I was very impressed with Brian Malloy of THE LOFT literary center, and Eric Lorberer, Editor of the RAIN TAXI Review of Books (indispensable, lovingly fashioned, and some of the best graphic novel reviews to boot). (Link at bottom of this post for more photos from Sarah Morean.)


(The Loft is a temple to the Gods of the book!)


Then there are terrific comics stores, like BIG BRAIN COMICS right in the heart of things, DREAMHAVEN, and SOURCE COMICS...


Big Brain's owner Michael Drivas, and below, Clarence—super friendly, knowledgeable staff—the kind you can send non-comics readers to and know they will be in good hands. 

And the comics and graphic novels selection is impeccably curated—for every age and temperament.


Nice mural on the back of Dreamhaven books, another fine comics shop to find the best of the best.


Famous bookstores—like Magers & Quinn, and Common Good Books (owned by Garrison Keillor!) both with select, fine graphic novels, too.



Libraries in Minneapolis are to die for. Does your local branch include a drive-through café?


There are a couple of small Comic Cons in Minneapolis as well, but best of all the Minneapolis Indie Expo (MIX) run by Sarah Morean, of the excellent Daily Cross Hatch blog. MIX is appearing on many a radar these days, and should interest American comics authors and publishers.

And The Twin Cities are clearly bursting with talent. Besides the Neil Gaiman-Minneapolis connection, there are some exceptional creators like Sam Hiti, Zak Sally, and Tom Kaczynski, and a legion of students brewing a comics revolution of their own in schools like MCAD.

Speaking of the Daily Cross Hatch—special thanks to Sarah for this lovely write-up of my visit to Minnesota.

And more photos from her here.


February 04, 2011

Minnesota workshops!

Minnesota, here I come! . . . For a whole bunch of workshops and lectures. Some for writers and artists, some for librarians and educators.This one is the first and is sponsored by the great Rain Taxi Review of Books, MCAD, and the inestimable Big Brain Comics, and is open to the public. Tell a friend in the Twin Cities?

The Graphic Novel Today
a talk by Mark Siegel, editor of First Second Books

Friday, February 25th, 6:30 pm
Minneapolis College of Art and Design 
2501 Stevens Avenue, Minneapolis

Come learn about the blossoming medium of graphic novels with a renowned editor, who will talk about the history of the art form, current trends, and the future of comics, which are now in their new golden age. Reception to follow!


December 17, 2010



Leaked cables and snapshots of BATTLING BOY, from Paul Pope's studio

A new regular feature on the First Second blog!

The closely guarded secrets of Paul Pope's studio, released in a controversial leak, include cell-phone snapshots by an unnamed intern, taken at great risk!

This is the first such photo, with ink barely dry on the BATTLING BOY original page.

We are threatening to release more if, uh, you want.


November 16, 2010

Book Trailers (and also Zita)


from the US National Archives; photo by Lyntha Scott Eiler

This is a quick post about book trailers, and why they are hard.

Trailers are an interesting thing because (for the great majority of books out there) their task is to translate text to visual.  And that's difficult!  Especially since we're so used to seeing movies with elaborate casting and costuming and all of that jazz.

Some people who make trailers get around peoples' expectations of seeing movies by actually making all of that jazz for the trailer.  Which makes for fun trailers -- if you do them well -- but they're also expensive and complicated.

Another way to do approach trailers is just to do it with words.  I actually like these better, because who doesn't like storytelling with words?  They feel like they're puzzles or something. 

Usefully for comics, when you've got art in a book, that makes trailers work much better than when all you have to start out with is one cover image and 300+ pages of text.  (This works for picture books, too.)  The fact I work in comics makes me feel lucky whenever anyone down the hall (where MacKids lives) is grappling with teen novel trailers. 

Also, here's a new trailer for our upcoming Zita the Spacegirl.  Warning for slighly earworm-y* music!


*The internet tells me that in Portuguese the term for this translates to 'ear chewing gum.'  That is just awesome!

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