tell us more about how you got your first book published/proposed/whatever the first step is??? (also sorry if you've covered this before i tried to google a bit!!!) (also i am a huge fan HIII I LOVE YOUR WORK AND YOUR ATTITUDE)
i’ve definitely talked about it before, but i know my /answers tag is… very full of things… so i don’t mind!
Anyway, my understanding is that typically you would look for a book agent first, pitching them on your concept or making the case for your book idea, then work with them to fine tune, nail down a solid pitch, and then work with them to pitch many publishers and specific editors. you benefit from their professional relationships to make something happen.
in my case, i was doing what i still do, which is share art online (mostly tumblr back then), self-publishing zines and my unsolicited advice weekly planners. an editor at penguin spotted my work, and reached out to me. editors are under pressure to spot writers and artists for books too, so they’re just out there hunting too and you never know. i got an email out of nowhere around january 2013 that was like “hi i’m an editor at penguin books and i think we should meet for coffee” and that was kind of it. i tried very hard not to die.
so we met, talked about ideas, and my first thought was like OMG A POSTCARD BOOK??? (at the time i was making and selling lots of postcards). she helped me focus in, identifying the interactive parts of my planners as a potential book idea, though it’d need to be undated so it would have a longer shelf life. even then it wasn’t a done deal, she had to go back and think about it and other people weighed in, and i mailed her a bunch of zines and other stuff from my shop (which was at the time even weirder). eventually i guess it worked and they offered me a contract! she essentially brought her world of knowledge – concepts that work, positioning that might help it cross over, and an eye for content – that helped me make 1 Page at a Time happen. I had a lot to learn and was also much more up my own ass about “my art” at that time. she reminded me that for most people it’d be the first they heard of me, that it was okay to lean into work I had already made and to be as me and weird as possible.
anyway that book did super well in brazil pretty much immediately because of the current trends there at the time (”wreck this journal” had just become really really popular but there were no other interactive journals like that yet). they released it before the USA release date and it was on bestseller lists before the english edition even came out. that success helped penguin’s foreign rights team sell the book to many other foreign publishers and combined it meant that my book was able to end up in a lot of hands. and it is still going, maybe even going stronger now that it’s in more places, has been around long enough for people to see it and think about it and then maybe decide to buy it.
for book 2 (Pick Me Up) i got an agent (i’m represented by LGR) and now i work with an amazing woman there who helps with negotiation, helped me set up meetings with different publishers when i wanted to do a stationery collection, and otherwise works as my advocate. because i already had the first book i could have continued to work without an agent but it’s nice to not be alone and also to benefit from someone’s, you know, wealth of knowledge about tiny details and industry people that i just don’t know anything about. she definitely knows the right questions to ask and understands all the intricacies of the contracts and percentages and all the different sales channels that effect how authors get paid.
so that’s sort of it for me, it was a little backwards. decently-popular book first, then an agent, then more stuff. it’s going ok so far!!!!! but there are so many paths. self-publishing is way easier than even 5 years ago and people make real money doing it themselves if they already have an audience or just have a concept that’s really strong or they sort of game amazon’s category ranking system (amazon is like its own world basically). people get book deals and huge advances and then if the book doesn’t meet expectation and the publisher has already spent a lot of money on them, they might not take a chance on a second book. there’s a lot of guessing and expectations and i guess i really benefit from being a pleasant surprise.
which isn’t to say i am killing it because literally, i am not, i am not rich i am not selling millions of copies, but i am grateful to just get to make books at all. zines i know how to do, and now i guess i do know how to selfpublish my own books, but i’m grateful to benefit from the scale and production and distribution i have, and also penguin merged with random house so now i literally have a contract with the biggest publisher in the world so i don’t really plan on breaking that!
there are tons of different kinds of publishers but it does still come down to actual individual people buying the book and telling their friends and that’s the hardest part. please tell your friends i made some books lol.