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Shifts, Seismic And Otherwise

This page is on the record as holding the opinion that Gina Gagliano is one of the most important people in comics. Her being tapped to head up Random House’s move into graphic novels — less than six months ago! — was a no-brainer, and prompted me to write the following:

Every publishing house in the English-speaking world is mentally re-evaluating how well they’ve treated their key people; when Gina gets to hiring, you’re going to see the absolute best in the business go to work for her.

Likewise, I imagine every graphic novel imprint is frantically looking at their most lucrative creators, wondering if they can sneak in a contract extension a year early; when Gina gets to signing talent, you’re going to see some seismic shifts.

Hold that in the back of your mind for the moment; that’s Thing One. Thing Two involved some speculation on my part at SDCC this year:

Consider: a major publishing conglomerate does not start a new imprint on a whim, or without planning, approval, and confidence at the executive level. More to the point: Random House sought [Gagliano] out to head up this new direction.

Gagliano’s looking to accomplish huge things — at :01 Books she was part of a publishing schedule of 20 books per year, that ran up to more than double that over a period of less than two years; look for Random House Graphic to want to jump into this space with both feet and leverage her past proven abilities, with a publishing schedule at least that ambitious.

And since we’re talking about a massive corporation, they’ll want to see revenue as soon as practical given the lead times in production and printing[²] if there’s stuff in the production cycle now, 2020 would just barely be possible for first releases (and honestly, I’d think 2021 far more reasonable, given that she’s starting from scratch and getting ready to put together a marketing plan for books that won’t exist for at least 18 months, lacking a staffed-up office).

[As an aside, the footnote referred to speculation that a trade war with China could disrupt printing and release schedules, which is still to be determined.]

If you’ve been paying attention to Gagliano’s twitterfeed, you’ve noticed that she’s attacked Thing Two head on, with announcements about multi-book acquisitions for release starting in 2020. And she’s also hit Thing One, as one of those acquisitions is a five-book deal — including a trilogy of autobio graphic novels and two childrens books — with Lucy Knisley.

Who is just finishing up a trilogy of autobio graphic novels at :01 Books. Where Gagliano used to work.

I’d have put money on Knisley being one of the :01 lifers. Ben Hatke, Gene Yang, Faith Erin Hicks … there’s a bunch of folks over at :01 that have been with the imprint since the early days and who I figured would never leave¹, but with Knisley taking her next five books elsewhere, I’d say very nearly every bet is off. Between the books that were already at some part of Penguin Random House² (just not gathered under one guiding vision) and those that Gagliano is bringing in, it’s a new game going forward.

Which is not to say that blood feuds are going to break out and people are dead to each other. I mean, Colleen AF Venable only designed the first 100+ books from :01 before heading up the most creative art department in publishing over at Workman, and now is part of the founding trio of folks at Macmillan’s nonfiction kids publisher, and she’s got a book coming out in March from … :01. It’s a collegial industry is what I’m saying, and having this many skilled shepherds is only making the output better.

Congratulations to Gagliano, to Knisley, and to everybody else in graphic novel publishing. Y’all are good people.

¹ In fact, Yang used those exact words to me once.

² Including, ironically, the Five Worlds series which is co-created by Mark Siegel, the head of :01.

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