Nicholson has five new titles scheduled for 2018, including the anthology Gothic Tales of Haunted Love, the all-ages graphic novel Window Horses, based on an animated film by Ann Marie Fleming, and Habibi, an anthology of romance comics and prose stories by Muslim women. We asked her to talk about what she does, how she does it, and what she has planned for the coming year.
What niche were you looking to fill in the market? Did you feel something was missing?
What books have you published so far?
Enough Space for Everyone Else
A Bunch of Jews (and other stuff) by Trina Robbins & various artists
The Secret Loves of Geek Girls
Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time (prose)
The Secret Loves of Geek Girls: Redux
Fashion In Action
Nelvana of the Northern Lights
Wow Comics #01
Polka Dot Pirate
Gothic Tales of Haunted Love (January 2018)
Window Horses (January 2018)
Habibi (Spring 2018)
Work for a Million (Fall 2018)
Science! (Winter 2018)
How do you decide what the catalog will be? Do creators come to you, or do you seek them out?
It is a mix of both. Most of the time, I have an idea of a concept I'd like to make, and then I commission certain artists and writers to be involved. After that I often do an open call, since it's a great opportunity to find new creatives to work with!
But I've also taken on projects people have brought to me. A Bunch of Jews was brought to me by Trina Robbins, Fashion In Action was brought to me by John K Snyder III, Enough Space for Everyone Else was brought to me by J. N. Monk, Window Horses was brought to me by Ken Steacy, Habibi was brought to me by Hadeel al-Massari, Work for a Million was brought to me by Margaret Atwood, and Science! was brought to me by Ashley Robinson.
What does it mean to be a “publisher” in the world of small press comics right now? What functions do you perform: editing? Production? Marketing?
It really varies from publisher to publisher, depending on their strengths. For myself, the main part that I always hired freelancers for, aside from the creative, was production work: layouts and design. On occasion I now do my own layouts though I still need assistance, and I still never do my own design.
I also did all of my own restoration and editing for my first few projects, but often hire editors and restorations now. For marketing, that's something essential for me to do myself. I have hired freelance marketers on occasion, but it's never had strong results. I think really a publisher knows their own work better than anyone else, and it's a lot more useful for them to approach press and opportunities directly if they have that ability.
How does being picked up for full distribution change your business? How were you handling distribution before this?
Previously the majority of my sales were direct to consumer, through Kickstarters, online sales, and conventions, with a handful of retailers who consistently bought stock (which I was very grateful for!) Being picked up for full distribution means that my books now have accessibility to all retailers across the world, which is a big difference. Now, the challenge will be learning new ways to reach them!
Where do you see your audience finding these books?
I'm hoping that I will be able to grow our company's presence in trade publications, and be able to reach a larger community of buyers and librarians. For the average consumer, presence in newspapers still seems to be very effective, and I'm lucky to be able to consistently get some print coverage for my works. I hope this increases with the new availability of my books.
How has the publishing model changed since you first started publishing?
I think that there is starting to be some flexibility about distributors allowing access to small press publishers, where it used to be a very closed system. Consortium for example has picked up many small presses for distribution in the last few years. It's still not flexible enough for my liking though, I was turned down by about 5 distributors I had previously approached. You need to be the best of the best for a distributor to be interested in you and already have very substantial sales. It would be great to see an intermediary to bridge the gap between micropublishers who curate amazing material, and distributors who can provide retailer access to the content. Being a Kickstarter Thought Leader, and one of the first comic people to try Kickstarter when it came to Canada, I've also seen more campaigns run by established publishers in recent years, possibly because of people like me and Spike Trotman having good success using Kickstarter to create our publishing companies? I'd like to think so.
What are you excited about for 2018?
See multiple book covers in the gallery below.