Two artists! Three Books! Four Prints! The Schultz and Williamson variety fun pack presented by Flesk is now live on Kickstarter!
Our latest Flesk Kickstarter campaign offers three new books! The first is the latest art book by Mark Schultz, Carbon 4. The second book, Xenozoic by Mark Schultz, is a handy to hold and affordably priced new printing of his classic Xenozoic Tales comic series. The third book focuses purely on the legendary Al Williamson, titled Strange World Adventures! Plus, we have four premium prints on offer: one by Williamson, and three by Schultz. Please read the details on our Kickstarter campaign page. Thanks so much for all of your support!
We sincerely hope that you are all doing well and that you are safe and healthy.
The Art of Frank Cho books arrived
at our Flesk warehouse! We entered phase 3 in Santa Cruz County, just in
time, making it open for tourism and for Frank to visit.
All of the Art of Frank Cho books, the prints associated with our Kickstarter campaign and all of the Kickstarter bonus items have been signed. Frank ended up doing just over 7000 signatures.
Kathy, Vicky and I have started packing. Due to Covid-19 we are still
being very cautious. We normally bring in a crew of helpers to pack
books, but we decided to limit the operations to just the three of us.
What this means is greater safety for us, but that means it will take us
a little longer to get you your goodies that normal. We hope you all
As of yesterday, 600 domestic packages of the signed deluxe edition
have been shipped. We are concentrating on mailing out all of the books
first, then we will mail the prints immediately afterward.
I’ll post weekly updates to inform you on what has shipped to date.
A big note of thanks to everyone who has pre-ordered our upcoming Bruce Timm book so far! We’ve had a tremendous response. It is very helpful when people pre-order since not only does it help us to pay our initial printer bill, but it also helps me to determine the print run. I enjoy how many books that we sell direct since we like the relationship that we have with all of you. Thank you!
The Big Teasecollects his three Teaser collections—released from 2011 to 2013 and long sold out—plus Surrender, My Sweet from 2015. In addition, Timm has created new material especially for this collection and delved into his personal archives to share pieces not shown before. These culminate in more than 75 additional pages of material not reproduced in any of his previous Naughty and Nice collections. In all, over 260 women drawn in pencil, ink or color fill these pages. Timm’s art is reproduced at an impressive size and showcased in this oversized format.
The hardcover edition is only available direct from us at Flesk. Save $10 by pre-ordering your book at this special price. This collection ships in mid-June 2020. The book is done and at the printer. All hardcover pre-orders come with 2 free bonus 8 x 10” mini-prints that feature B.T. art found within the book.
I was curious about how long we have been working on this collection. I went through my emails and found the following message that I sent to Bruce on November 5th, 2018. (This is just a small portion of the email.
“I have a little itch to work on something else in the background.
“What do you think of making a new collection of your nudes that would collect the 3 Teaser’s and Surrender My Sweet into a 9 x 12″ collection? We’d be looking at 112 pages of material.”
Bruce’s reply was, “Consider me interested.” (Also, a small portion of his response.)
Since I know how busy Bruce always is I had suggested that this book was something that we could do without him needing to produce any new work, except for a cover piece. Well, here we are 1 year and 4 months later with a 208 page book that has an additional 75 pages of material not reproduced in any of his previous Naughty and Nice collections.
Bruce is a joy to collaborate with. I always work around his schedule knowing that in time we will have a beautiful new collection. For this reason we are grateful for your patience and truly hope you will enjoy this book.
We’ve had a lot of inquiries asking if Bruce can sign the books. His schedule is too tight and busy to allow him to. However, we hope some of you can meet him in person at the San Diego Comic Con where he can sign it for you in person. That’s the one show where he makes an appearance each year.
Here’s the link to pre-order if you are interested.
With everything that is going on right now, I wanted to reach out to
you and wish you all well. I hope that you and your family and friends
are safe and healthy.
We’re all doing good here. Kathy, Vicky and I are working from our respective homes while we are sheltered in place.
What does this mean for us at Flesk Publications? We can run the business from home with the one exception of mailing packages on a daily basis. For the time being we have limited our shipping to once per week until we are given permission by the city to resume our office operations. Only essential businesses are allowed to continue to operate at the moment. Health services, grocery stores and gas stations are examples of essential businesses. Thank you for your patience as our online orders ship slower than usual until the city gives us the safety clearance.
The health of our community, our friends, and our families takes
precedence during this time. We’re doing our part by staying at home to
respect the ordinance and to refrain from inadvertently adding to the
During our shelter in place we will use this time to pour all our
energy into being creative and to working with our artist friends. It’s
our goal to use this time of sheltering to make some beautiful new
books, including Spectrum 27, a new Arthur Adams collection, and our
first big book that highlights Rachel and Terry Dodson. We look forward
to sharing these new titles with you once we get through this
The Art of Frank Cho is at the
printer. It’s too early to tell if there will be any delays with the
book, but we will get through this incredibly challenging time and
everything will be ok.
From Kathy, Vicky, Lauren and myself here at Flesk, and from Frank,
we wish for you and your family to be safe and secure and hope that you
all come out of this situation healthy. We’re grateful to all of you for
your support over the years. You have given us this gift of being able
to publish art books. We can’t thank you enough.
With the summer winding-down I am turning my focus toward our latest batch of books. There are five titles that form our next wave of art collections. These will be released between this fall and into the spring of 2020. Each of these books has been in some stage of development from anywhere between 1 to 13 years. They include monograms on Frank Cho, Bruce Timm, Brad Kunkle, Edwin Austin Abbey, and Jeffrey Alan Love. Some of the details for each project is outlined here. I’m including Al Williamson and Mark Schultz as supporting guests as I share some behind the scenes stories.
The Art of Frank Cho
The first book that I
will share the details about is a big Art of Frank Cho collection. Frank has
brought up the idea of a large book for years. During a quiet period about a
year ago I began to assemble this book. Over the course of a few weeks I worked
with Frank to map out a book that spans his entire career that runs over 300
pages. During my visit to Maryland during the 2018 Baltimore Comic-Con I spent
some extra time with Frank and scanned original art from his archives. Then, in
February 2019 I visited Frank again when we fleshed out the book some more and
I scanned a bunch of more material for the book. It was common to work on the
book for 2-3 days, then to take a few months off before another window opened
where we could align and do some more work on it together. I’m looking at the
book now and realizing how close it is to being done. It’s amazing how a few
days here and there over the course of a year or two can result in a book.
Since we haven’t looked at the book over the summer, we have two fresh pairs of eyes on it. We have tweaked one of the sections by cutting back on the Liberty Meadows section and inserting some of his latest works. At the moment Frank is working full time on his upcoming Fight Girls comic for AWA, his regular Harley Quinn covers for DC Comics, and the occasional comic cover for other publishers. This makes his time available to focus on this book limited. We are squeezing in an hour here and there to wrap it up. I never want to stress Frank out by being pushy, so we are working at his pace to get this done. The only thing that Frank has left to do is the cover and to provide the remaining captions. We’re in a good groove and hope to have it done very soon.
The way I work with
every artist is different, yet the same factor of it being very personal is
consistent. With Frank we do everything over the phone. We talk for anywhere
between 1-3 hours at a time, usually chit-chatting about random things as we
both work while keeping each other company. What I’ll do is send Frank a PDF of
the book which he will look over, usually while he is drawing a Harley Quinn cover.
Based on his feedback and our discussion I’ll tweak and adjust things as we
talk about totally random things. I’ll send him a new PDF once I’ve made a
series of fresh improvements. Frank gives it a look, we talk about it, then I
tweak it some more. We go back and forth like this for hours. It’s easy, very
organic, and we are always in sync with one another. It’s a pretty smooth and
enjoyable process. When I work with Mark Schultz and Gary Gianni, it is very
similar to this, with the exception that they are not working on comic covers at
the same time. Frank is always backed up with so many projects, he usually has
to continue working.
With Frank, we usually work and talk late at night. Between 8:00pm to midnight my time, which is 11:00pm to 3:00am his time. We both work best with creative stuff at night—especially since we can focus uninterrupted. For me, the daytime is reserved for running the business and while being on daddy duty. Since we are the same age and in similar family situations, we can relate to one another easily.
Working with Frank is a
good experience. Since neither of us likes drama, and we like to keep things
mellow and easy, it’s always worked out smoothly.
The details and release date for The Art of Frank Cho will be revealed soon. I like to have Frank’s books done, or nearly done, before we announce it. Since he is always slammed with work, I don’t want to make an announcement and then have the book delivered late. But, we are very close to being done!
At the same time I am working with Bruce Timm on his new book. This will be a collection of his three sold-out show Teasers, then Surrender My Sweet, and will also include a lot of new material. At 208 pages and 9 x 12 inches, there will be a paperback and a hardcover edition available. Bruce is another artist who is very easy to work with. We started on this collection last year. Like with Frank Cho, Bruce can get very busy with his day job. We tend to work a little at a time in-between other projects. Sometimes when he has the time, I may be fully engrossed in my Spectrum duties. Then, when I’m free, he may be tied-up in a new film. Eventually though, we align and get it done. By not setting a deadline it takes the pressure and stress off of us, while allowing for a book that we are proud of.
Bruce and I work
exclusively through email. Like with Cho, Schultz, and Gianni, he is easy and
professional, with the process being very organic. The way we work typically
goes like this. I’ll shoot him an email with a book idea that includes a full
outline to get the brainstorming sessions started. Bruce replies after each of
my paragraphs with notes and thoughts of his own. We go back and forth like this
as the book begins to take form. This is a very enjoyable part of the process.
I’ve written this before, but Bruce has been very impactful on me in terms of
how I design a book. I’ve never worked with him at Warner Bros., or seen him in
action there, but based upon my experience while working with him on his books,
he is very good at bringing out the best in me, while allowing me to be
creative and to try new things.
If you are wondering
how I started working with Bruce, it was as simple as my meeting him at a
Comic-Con in San Diego and giving him a 2-minute pitch. Since I didn’t know him,
I forced myself to keep my book idea with him to just a few minutes. I knew he
was a big name, and I was well aware of his stature in the industry and all
that he has accomplished. I don’t get nervous or feel intimated when I meet
people, so I didn’t practice, or prepare (since both rob me of feeling
comfortable—I’m best when I don’t rehearse in advance), but I simply had a
general idea of making a book on his personal “after-hours” art. I let him know
that I wanted to make a “Bruce Timm” book and never mentioned any of his
superhero or daytime work. A handful of follow-up emails over the next 6-8
months resulted in about 200 originals showing up at my house one day. Suffice
it to say, I feel very fortunate that he continues to work with me.
Back to this new
collection, it is about 95% complete. As soon as Bruce is wrapped up with his
latest film we can wrap it up. I’ll make an announcement once we have a release
A third book that I am
working on is with Brad Kunkle. Working on three books at a time serves a few
purposes. The first is that it is practical. Many of the artists that I work
with stay very busy. Between commercial assignments, private commissions, event
appearances, exhibits—we all share passion for our dreams and work hard to
achieve our vision. When Frank Cho has a Harley Quinn cover deadline or he is
attending a show, I may jump over to the Bruce Timm book. Then when I am caught
up on Bruce’s book, I’ll send him an email with some notes. Rather than wait
for his reply, especially since it may be a week or two since he is involved in
a new film, I jump over to Brad’s book. The three books keep me moving and I’m
not sitting idle.
Another reason why three
books is the magic number is because it keeps me creatively excited. Each book
has a different tone; each one features different subject matter; and, each is
handled differently. By jumping back and forth between the three, I feel that I
can have continually fresh eyes. Rather than serving as a distraction or
impeding my flow, the variations help with my flow. My goal is to have
contrasting books with different designs so that there are no templates being
Getting back to Brad, I
first met him in 2006 or 2007 (I have to check my notes to confirm the year) during
my first trip to Pennsylvania to visit with Mark Schultz. Mark had invited me
out to visit Al and Cori Williamson. Having the chance to see Al at his home
was a special moment for me. I’m a huge fan of the EC comics line that came out
in the 1950s. Al did a lot of artwork for the Weird Fantasy, Weird
Science, and Weird Science-Fantasy titles. He collaborated with Roy
Krenkel and Frank Frazetta at times, but it was Al’s work that excited me the
most. (This all ties into Brad, I promise.)
After I arrived at
Mark’s house, and after we visited with Al and Cori, Mark and I drove back to
his house. The next day Mark asked me if he minded if a guest joined us for
lunch. Sure, I didn’t mind. This guy pulls up the driveway and Mark introduces
Brad Kunkle to me. It turns out that Brad is related to Mark’s wife, Denise. Brad,
at the time, was in a band and was doing dog portrait paintings on the side. I
recall that he was still deciding which direction to go in.
Brad pulled out a
painting from his trunk. It was of a recent portrait that he did of his
girlfriend at the time. It was stunning! I looked at his dog portraits online
and was amazed at how he captured the personalities of the dogs. We even
discussed possibly doing a dog calendar at the time. But, basically, from that
fortuitous lunch during a time when I was starting to get my publishing career
off the ground, and Brad was beginning to become a painter, we developed a
friendship. Over the years we would meet up in various locations during our
travels when our lives would intersect such as in Santa Barbara, New York City,
and in various cities in Pennsylvania, but never in the same place twice. I was
able to congratulate him as he had his first sold-out exhibit, followed by his
second, and watched how his notoriety and fame grew, while he always remaining
a humble and good guy. Each time we saw one another, we would discuss working
together on a book project when the time was right. Well, 13 plus years later
after our first meeting, we finally decided that the time is right.
At the moment we are
working on his first art book collection. Our main emphasis is for the book to
be an art object. There may be more discussion going into this book than any
other project that I have worked on before. I want this to be something very
special, and unlike anything we have published before. Like all of the books
that we do, there is no rush on this. It will get done when it is done. But, I
can guarantee that it will be beautiful.
Edwin Austin Abbey
A fourth book that is nearly done is an Edwin Austin Abbey pen-and-ink book that is reproduced from old magazines. I recently pulled it off a hard drive and dusted it off. I had done the majority of work on this book 10 years ago. It is in a similar format and style to the Franklin Booth and Joseph Clement Coll books that I did from 2002-2004. I had lost interest in the Abbey book when I was working with living artists and direct from original art full time. The chance to work with Al Williamson was more exciting! After looking over the Abbey book I realized that it was about 80% done and I liked it a bunch. I asked Kathy to finish cleaning up the remaining art that I hadn’t got to yet, and she put the final polish on the book. All that’s needed is for me to write an introduction or essay. I just need to find the time to write a brief piece to open the book. I’ll leave a detailed essay on Abbey to a future historian. Taking the time to research and write extended essays is not available to me at this stage in my life.
Jeffrey Alan Love
A fifth book in development is a Jeffrey Alan Love sketchbook. Jeff ran this idea by me last year, which I liked and agreed to publish. The concept is simple in that Jeff would paint a piece in his sketchbook of whatever idea came to his mind that day. Once the sketchbook was full, he passed it along to me. Rather than scanning the pages I took it to my friend Greg Preston to get photographed. When scanning art, it projects a bright flat light against the art surface. This works fine in most cases, however I wanted to have more control over the lighting for this object, rather than treating it as a flat surface. There are textures and variations in the way Jeff applies his paint and I didn’t want these nuances to be lost in the scanning process. Jeff was the one who initially suggested that the sketchbook be photographed. My mind immediately began spinning with ideas and techniques for a unique approach to reproducing his sketchbook. With the photography done, I’ve been playing around with two very different approaches to the book and will make a final decision soon. There’s not too much work left to do on this book. I simply need the time to focus on it. My goal is to have it done in the next few months, then I’ll plan a release date.
Making a Book
Publishers typically make new book announcements 10-12 months in advance, then work hard to hit their target dates. I prefer to work in a different way. I like to either finish or have a book 95% done before I advertise and offer a release date. This allows me to take my time and to let the book dictate its own schedule. I can pull this off since I am a small publisher. Once a publisher gets to a certain size and has a larger staff–mapping out schedules is imperative to making sure the business runs smoothly. I can work in both environments, however, lately I’ve been focusing on the book first, followed by advertising it once it is complete.
The high majority of
the book work is done by me, although Kathy is quickly growing as a fine
bookmaker and will be running her own projects as soon as we can find a new
office manager to free up her time. Currently, Kathy runs the office and
assists me throughout the week. Some books, like Spectrum, she plays a major
role in and does most of the heavy work, and other books, like the Bruce Timm
collection where she has a very small hand in. Then, there are other books
where we work side-by-side like this new Frank Cho book. The new Tran Nguyen
book Kathy did not see until I asked her to give it a final review before I
sent it to the printer. We work very organically and fall into a smooth groove
based on what is going on in the office and what book work needs to be done.
When we start a new
book, I’ll take the first step which is to make something which I call a book
map. I do a rough layout with no design in place. It looks as simple as art
placed on pages just to get an idea of the flow and placement of how the tone
and order of the book will look. Actually, before I do this, I visually scroll
through the artwork quickly on the computer to take a mental snapshot and to
memorize all of the imagery. I shuffle and organize the images in my head, then
place them in the order that I want on the pages. Once this is done, I’ll send
a PDF to the artist for them to look at for feedback. This avoids wasting time
and effort by streamlining the book early, before the design stage begins.
Either through email or over the phone we’ll go over the PDF together. Based on
their comments and reactions I’ll tighten up the book further, shift pages and
art around, and I may group things differently, until we have a solid book map
to work with.
At this stage I’ll start inserting text, if any. Again, I’m not paying any attention to design. I’m simply dropping text on pages next to the art that it is associated with. Before the text is dropped into the book it is fully edited and finalized. I don’t write in the design program, or make changes to the text after it is inserted into the book. I want to be efficient and not waste time by repeating unnecessary steps. I’d rather spend time with my kid than do something a second time. Once the text and art for each page is finalized, then I’ll start designing the book. I’ll only design a handful of book spreads first, then send it to the artist for their feedback. That way we can nail the theme and design elements early, before applying it to the full book. After we settle on the design, I’ll go in and apply the master design to the full book. I’ll send PDFs regularly to the artist to give opportunities to make changes and to provide feedback in the early stages. The last thing I want to do is to make big radical changes after I’ve already applied the theme to the book. It’s about doing the heavy lifting early on, really paying attention to the early mapping and design foundation to make sure that the rest of the process is smooth and easy. I actually enjoy the heavy creative lifting in the beginning stages, then fall into cruise control for the middle stage. The final stage includes all double checks on the art and text to look for mistakes. Then I package it up and send it off to the printer.
That brings you up to date on our next five books. Lots more to come! I have a backlog of 10 more that I am pretty excited to move forward with after these. They include the next Arthur Adams, J.A.W. Cooper, Terry Dodson, Mark Schultz, William Stout, and Al Williamson titles—along with Spectrum 27.
I’m thrilled to announce that we have launched our Ambedo: The Art of Tran Nguyen Kickstarter campaign. This book is available as an affordable signed hardcover. In addition, limited and open edition signed prints are on hand, plus enamel pins and original art are also available.
A comprehensive visual overview of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series—plus A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms and Fire and Blood—through over 275 drawings and paintings by the award-winning illustrator Gary Gianni.
Art of Gary Gianni for George R. R. Martin’s Seven Kingdoms This new premium art book is now available for pre-order at www.fleskpublications.com.
This hardcover edition and signed deluxe edition are only available direct from Flesk.
Shipping in July 2019
Afterword by George R. R. Martin Introduction by Cullen Murphy Art by Gary Gianni Designed and edited by Marcelo Anciano The Hardcover edition is 304 pages The Deluxe signed edition is 326 pages and includes a gatefold 9 x 12 inches Over 125 pen-and-ink drawings Over 100 pencil drawings 19 paintings, plus color studies $49.95 — Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-64041-022-0 $200.00 – Deluxe edition signed by George R. R. Martin and Gary Gianni ISBN: 978-1-64041-023-7
About the Deluxe Signed Edition: The deluxe edition comes signed by author George R. R. Martin and artist Gary Gianni on a unique signature page that is highlighted with the reproduction of a pen-and-ink drawing by Gianni. This version is limited to only 500 copies in slipcase. It features a bonus 22-page section with a gatefold highlighting bonus artwork that is reserved specially for this edition. This premium hardcover book with slipcase is wrapped in an exquisite custom-ordered cloth. The front side of the book is treated to a color plate that reproduces a new oil painting by Gianni. This special edition is receiving the full Flesk treatment to serve as a treasured book for the sophisticated collector.
About the Art of Gary Gianni for George R. R. Martin’s Seven Kingdoms
This book contains all of Gary Gianni’s artwork for George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Over 300 pages of beautifully illustrated scenes from the five novels in the series—A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast For Crows and A Dance With Dragons—are featured alongside passages from the books themselves. Also included are illustrations from the two prequels of the series, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms and Fire and Blood. All together, the paintings and hundreds of drawings in pencil and pen-and-ink provide a unique view of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros as seen through the eyes of the award-winning illustrator. Describing Gianni’s artwork, George R. R. Martin says it’s “as if I am looking through a window into Westeros, that I am there with Tyrion and Daenerys, with Ned and Arya, with Dunk and Egg.”
All of Gary Gianni’s previously shown pencil sketches and paintings have been tightened up and polished for this collection, making them appear as new works. In addition, over 35 pencil drawings appear for the first time. The artist draws on his longtime experience in comics and illustration to offer a unique perspective into Martin’s universe.
The book also includes an introduction by Cullen Murphy, who discusses the art of illustration and adds context to the pictures by providing an overview of Gianni’s career. Notes from the artist reveal insight concerning his methods and the creative process of working with Martin, a relationship that has spanned five years to date.
About Gary Gianni:
Gary Gianni began as an illustrator for Chicago newspapers and as a courtroom artist for television. He has received the Eisner and Spectrum awards and has illustrated books by authors ranging from Melville and Stevenson to Robert E. Howard, Michael Chabon and Ray Bradbury. His comics include The Shadow with Michael Kaluta, Batman with Archie Goodwin, Tom Strong with Alan Moore and Indiana Jones. He is also known for his own mystery comic book The MonsterMen. Gianni teamed up with Mike Mignola to craft the graphic novel Hellboy: Into the Silent Sea, and he drew the syndicated newspaper comic strip Prince Valiant with Mark Schultz for eight years. Gianni has produced the paintings for George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire calendar as well as illustrations for Martin’s novel A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. He continues to work with Martin to illustrate future collections.
About George R. R. Martin:
George R. R. Martin sold his first story in 1971 and has been writing professionally ever since. He spent ten years in Hollywood as a writer-producer, working on The Twilight Zone, Beauty and the Beast and various feature films and television pilots that were never made. In the mid-’90s he returned to prose, his first love, and began work on the epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. He has been in the Seven Kingdoms ever since. Whenever he’s allowed to leave, Martin returns to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he lives with the lovely Parris and two cats named Augustus and Caligula, who think they run the place.
About Cullen Murphy:
Cullen Murphy is the editor-at-large of The Atlantic. For twenty-five years he wrote the comic strip Prince Valiant, working with his father, the illustrator John Cullen Murphy. He is the author of Cartoon County: My Father and His Friends in the Golden Age of Make-Believe.
Frank finished the last piece of art for the book on March 21st. Kathy and I then ran our series of final checks and delivered it to the printer on March 24th. The printer has already output the proofs and sent them to me. They should arrive any day now. The book will go on the press as soon as I review and approve the proofs.
The printer gave me a tentative shipping date of mid to late June for its arrival in our warehouse, depending on any customs or dock delays. This would start to put the book in your hands in early July since we will begin to ship immediately once they arrive. That’s a little later than I initially expected, (sorry for the delay!) but we hope you won’t be disappointed once the book arrives. I’ll update you all just as soon as I learn more.
I want to thank you all again for your patience and support. Frank truly outdid himself on this book. The final eight pieces of art that he completed over these last two months are stunning. We can’t wait to get this book into your hands.
In January 2009 I was facing a major challenge. The Stock Market Crash was devastating to individuals and businesses. It was, hands down, the worst time to go into publishing full time. (During 2002-2008 I had a full-time day job when I launched, built and ran Flesk.) While scores of people were losing their jobs and as I watched neighbors around me lose their homes, I was determinated to go full time into publishing. When people were scared to spend, scared that they might lose their jobs, scared to lose their retirement—I was sitting at home working on the Al Williamson Flash Gordon book while putting a 10-year plan in place. I then began to follow it without question. Grit, determination, stubbornness—call it what you will. It was hard. It almost didn’t work. I came very close to losing the business. But it all worked out in the end. Here’s some insight into how it happened.
I’ll start with some background information. I tend to keep book projects under wraps for months, or even years, before they are ready for the printer. This allows me the opportunity to work at my leisure without any outside influences dictating my schedule.
It’s common practice for publishers to announce books anywhere from 8-12 months in advance of its street date to help ascertain the publics interest. This allows the publisher to determine the initial print run of the book. It’s a tried and true formula that is a historically good model to follow. This is especially necessary when working with titles that depend mostly upon the book trade for a successful sell-through. It’s also imperative if you are a new publisher. By garnering its initial demand while promoting the book months in advance you can best set yourself up for success. Or, this can be an opportunity to cancel a book if the interest looks weak, such as if I determine that the buying climate has changed.
I have a different approach to making and releasing books than most. I set my style into place in 2009. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing things like I do, but I have been very deliberate about creating an alternate and unique method that has proven successful for us. In 2008 I was acutely aware that the demand for tangible books, and the way that they would be sold, would be greatly affected by the mass adoption of the internet. There was also the possibility that tablets could replace, or greatly reduce, tangible book sales as e-books became more accessible. In addition, it was obvious that Amazon was changing how people bought books. Brick and mortar stores were closing because of the economy coming to a halt, but also due to the ease and accessibility of online shopping.
Huge discounts on books through Amazon contributed to publishers going into scramble-mode. When stores closed, there were less outlets for people to find our books, which meant lower print runs in a market where profit margins were already small. Lower print runs increased the per unit costs and cut back on the return of investment making it harder to recoup money and put it into future books. Another factor that came into play was it became tough to sell our own books on our website and at art shows since you could get it on Amazon at a 35-40% discount with free shipping. Adding to this, if you look at the 2008-2009 time period, there was a mass influx of returns that publishers received due to unsold stock. This increased inventory fees beyond the loss of funds from overprinting. Stores would order certain quantities in advance that set our print run. By the time we printed and delivered, those stores could be out of business, or they couldn’t sell what they had initially projected 4-6 months prior. All of those unsold books came right back to us instead of receiving a payment. It was brutal for everyone.
Another major shift in the 2000s was the lost ability for people to see the book in person and flip through its pages. This was historically the way people used to buy books. Now, people buy books more sight-unseen. Their purchase is based upon online reviews and the faith the “X” publisher, author or artist is desirable and has a good reputation. Additionally, people outside of the hardcore collectors at shows are more apt to buy items for delivery. That was not as common when I started publishing in 2002.
I’ve always been one to like challenges, to never ever make excuses, and to see what kind of positives can come out of change. I was determined to figure out a new business model that would allow us to thrive.
Ultimately, in January 2009, I believed, by creating consistently high-quality art books that people would want to hold in their hands was necessary to beat e-books. Also, creating a direct line of specialty books that could only be bought through us was necessary to beat Amazon. And finally, we needed a website with a proper shopping cart where people could place their orders direct from us while having good service and a reliable shipping system in place. I stopped wholesaling certain new titles as we launched our line of event exclusives. It only took a couple of years for them to become very popular for us.
Overall, I was excited. I knew that there was a big potential to be successful as a small publisher by doing things in a new way. The internet allowed for self-promotion through social media. Instead of paying $2000 for a full-page advertisement in a magazine, or spending thousands of dollars exhibiting at an event such as Book Expo in New York, now we could reach people directly in a one-on-one fashion. I loved where things were going and how technology was bringing us together.
I remember walking around at Book Expo in New York in the mid-to-late 2000s and realizing that the conventional way of doing things at the time was short-lived. It seemed so old-fashioned to me. I benefited from having no experience in the industry since I was not stuck looking at how things typically ran. Since I was small and a new publisher I could quickly adapt, see where the future was headed, and go after it.
To summarize quickly, in 2009 I put into place a new plan that would beat Amazon and beat e-books, while increasing a direct interaction between our collectors and ourselves. As I look back on the last 10 years, our direct sales exceed our distributor sales and we have a core group that supports us directly. The best part is that young people did not tire of tangible books. I’m incredible grateful at how things turned out for us.
How about the next 10 years? I noticed a new big shift start to develop four years ago. I started to put something new in place and am ramping up to grow along with where I predict things are going. I’ve already put things into place where I feel we will be ahead and thriving in this new world that is coming. It’s as exciting as it was for me in 2009. I’ve set some major goals for myself and for the company so that in the next decade it can hit the milestones that I foresee. I look forward to writing about it in detail in 10 years from now! I’ve never been one to boast or talk about what I’m doing. I enjoy the work and prefer to be recognized for what I’ve accomplished rather than tooting my own horn. Plus, I feel that talking too much jinxes’ things. I’ll just say for now that good things are coming.
Now, let’s touch upon 2019. Typical me, I’m going to be vague here. Besides the Ballpoint Beauties book by Frank Cho and Ambedo by Tran Nguyen (spring 2019 releases), then Spectrum 26 (fall 2019 release) we have three other books that are almost done, and three additional books that are in the early stages of production that I will publish this year. I’ll most likely be announcing two to three of these new titles in late-January. I’m working with our usual artists, along with some new ones. The only thing that I can guarantee is that we will put all our passion into these titles and do our very best to make 2019 the best ever for Flesk books. My commitment to the individual artists and this community is my focus. I’ll let the other publishers chase after the latest pop culture craze. For me, it has always been and always will be about the people.
I remain enthusiastic and grateful to be in this position to make books for you all to enjoy.
Thanks for reading. I look forward to sharing more goodness soon.