Spectrum 26 Awards Recipients! Congratulations to all!
For 26 years Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art has been celebrating imaginative works by creators from around the world.
The Spectrum Awards Ceremony was held in Kansas City, Missouri on Saturday night, March 30, 2019. Entry was free for all Planet Comicon and Spectrum Fantastic Art Live event ticket holders and exhibitors. Nearly 500 people were in attendance.
The celebration included the presentation of Gold and Silver Awards for exemplary art from the previous year in eight categories: Advertising, Book, Comics, Concept Art, Dimensional, Editorial, Institutional, and Unpublished. The ceremony was held in the historic Folly Theater. Presenters included such luminaries of the art community as Patricia Briggs (Book category), Bill Carman (Institutional category), John English (Advertising category), Dan dos Santos (Grand Master award), Gary Gianni (Comic category), Cory Godbey (Unpublished category), Iain McCaig (Concept Art category), Colin and Kristine Poole (Rising Star and Dimensional category), and Zoë Robinson (Editorial category). Spectrum founders Cathy and Arnie Fenner introduced a memorial video devoted to the creatives who had passed away in the previous year. Bob Self and Lauren Panepinto served as the hosts during the ceremony. John Fleskes and Katherine Chu offered a thank you speech to close the ceremony, while “Stand Up Magician” Derek Hughes performed during the evening.
The 5 finalists and award-recipients in each category were selected by the jury consisting of Kei Acedera, Wesley Burt, Bobby Chiu, Edward Kinsella III, Colin and Kristine Poole from over 4000 artworks submitted to the twenty-sixth annual competition. Also presented at the ceremony were the Rising Star Award, created and presented by sculptors Kristine and Colin Poole and intended to encourage a young artist, and the Spectrum Grand Master Award which honors the career accomplishments of a living artist. This year’s Grand Master recipient was Donato Giancola, who was present to accept his award.
The Spectrum 26 awards were designed and made by J. Anthony Kosar and his team at Kosart Effects Studio.
The award-winning art will appear with over 500 other pieces selected by the judges in the Spectrum 26 book, which will be published by Flesk Publications in November 2019.
Congratulations to everyone who was nominated and to the recipients!
On January 22, 2009, I
was called into my managers office at Sun Microsystems. I was informed that due
to the economic downturn I was being laid-off. (Thousands of people lost their
jobs that day.) I remember the meeting vividly. I did everything that I could
to not break into a big smile. In my mind I was doing cartwheels of joy out the
front door of the office building. I was free to pursue publishing full time. A
plan that was put into place in the fall of 2001 had reached fruition. I went
home, sat at my computer and worked on the Al Williamson Flash Gordon book
without any fear or worry about hunting down a new job. On my first day off, I
took my son to Seabright beach and felt the sand and cool ocean air and dreamed
about the future. I didn’t foresee, though, how difficult it would be to launch
a full-time publishing business without the safety net of a salary from my now
absent day job.
This is how it
In 1997 I was employed by
my good friend, Dick Swan, at his Big Guy’s Comics store in Mountain View,
California. For roughly a year and a half I was working on Wednesday’s for new
comic book day, then also on Fridays and Saturdays. We had a regular customer
named Patrick. The first day that Pat came into the shop he asked me if we had
any Adam Hughes comics. Since I was a fan of Hughes, and that we had one of the
largest comic backstock inventories in the area, I pulled out just about every
mainstream and obscure title that Adam worked on to start off Pat’s collection.
We became friends and I looked forward to his visits when we could talk comics
and artists. In the fall of 1998, I had quit Big Guy’s to move to Santa Cruz. This
had been a big goal of mine for years. Before I left, Pat had told me that he
may have a job position to offer me. I had no idea where he worked, or what
this would involve, but he let me know that he would keep in touch.
During my first few
months in Santa Cruz I was strongly considering a few options for my future. I
had been buying and selling old and collectable books on the side for years,
and the idea of starting my own book business or opening a comic shop were on
my mind. Another option which I was thinking about was becoming a fire fighter
or joining a search and rescue team. These latter options would put into
practice my experiences and knowledge gained while working at the commercial bungee
jumping business for 5 years, Bungee Adventures (this is a whole post in itself
for a later time), and from my years of rock-climbing. Plus, it would give me
an opportunity to help people, which is a huge motivator for me. I was leaning
heavily toward a book business on the side, then fire-fighter as my day job.
Then, in October or
November of 1997 I received a call from Pat that he would like me to come in to
his work and meet his colleague, Colleen. The two of them managed a group
together. As I drove in from Santa Cruz to Cupertino to meet with them I had no
idea what the significance of this moment was about to place on my life. Pat
and Colleen managed the Java Sustaining engineering team at Sun Microsystems.
At the time there was only eight people in the group. I was being brought in to
be a Quality Assurance (QA) tester for the Java Development Kit (JDK) and Java
Runtime Environment (JRE). As the engineers would create a patch (to fix a reported
bug) for Java, a pair of us would run a series of stress tests to verify that
the patch corrected the reported issue.
I had no college degree
and had a very basic understanding of computers. I had no idea what Java was,
or why people would be shy when this guy James Gosling would walk by. (Inventor
of Java, if you did not know.) I was teamed with an incredibly brilliant
engineer, teacher and mentor there, Selvi, who was patient with me and guided
me as I learned the basics of the tech on hand and the corporate work
I was brought in as a
contractor. I had three months to prove myself. If I did well, I would be
converted to an employee. If Pat was wrong about his gut feeling about me, I
would be let go. I had three months to learn everything that I could about
Java, Sun Microsystems, computer software and hardware (primarily for Sun, PC/Windows,
and Mac platforms), Solaris (including Unix and Linux), the corporate world, basic
scripting, you name it! Whatever Pat saw in me to take me from a comic book
shop to sticking me in the Java sustaining group was something I did not see in
myself. I ended up being there for 10 years and two months.
Just a couple of years
after I started working at Sun, in 2001, I began working on my first book Franklin Booth: Painter with a Pen. My
passion for books and art needed an outlet. I wasn’t content buying, collecting,
and selling books on the side for fun. (I’ll write a separate long version of
this at some point, but for now I’ll keep this part of the story brief.) I
never intended to be a publisher. I was simply making one book. There was no
big vision to have a line of books, work with living artists, or to even do a
second book. I was just working on the one book. I self-published it, then
decided to work on a book on Joseph Clement Coll for 2003, then a second Coll
book for 2004. By 2005, when I published Mark Schultz’s Various Drawings Volume One I realized that this may actually turn
into something. That’s when the vision of actually being a publisher started to
cement itself. I suppose it was already there in 2001, but now it was tangible
and not just a dream.
As I worked by day at
Sun, I was working nights and weekends on books continuously. The nice thing
about having a day job was that I could channel my salary into the books and
not worry about profits or loses. I was able to learn the publishing business
slowly on the side and let the tree and roots grow into a solid foundation.
While I was at Sun I was working with incredibly brilliant people, so I had growth
by day, and a creative outlet by night. Most importantly my confidence in
myself was growing. It was going well.
By the midpoint of my
decade at Sun I had shifted over from the QA team to the systems administrator
team that supported the Java engineering and sustaining teams. Our sys admin group
managed thousands of computers and dozens of labs. I supported hundreds of
engineers and was fortunate to work with some of the smartest people who I have
Our sys admin team grew
from a small handful of people to roughly 15 individuals before layoffs began
chipping away at us. By the time I left there was only 6 of us, and that was
the leftovers from two consolidated teams. It was brutal. As an aside, a year
after I was gone, I saw the news that Oracle had bought out Sun Microsystems on
January 27, 2010. Many of those who I had worked with for years lost their jobs
due to redundant positions. I felt very lucky to make it out and to have publishing
waiting for me.
My first 5 years at Sun
Microsystems I truly enjoyed. I was working hard and thrived in my role. I was
very grateful to be there. I was in a position where I was helping people,
whether it was the Java engineers to test a recent patch, or as a sys admin to
keep the engineers going as we maintained and fixed the labs and machines. We
handled the network, the lab environment, hardware, OS’s–everything that you
could imagine. It was a very diverse job that pulled and stretched you in all
directions. I enjoyed the variety and the constantly shifting duties. It was
perfect for feeding my brain that craves off of challenges, growth and change.
I had eight managers in
ten years. In this order, there was Pat and Colleen, Rose, John, Sheryl, Bruce,
Rajan, and my final manager who I won’t name. Most of these managers were short
term, lasting just a year or less. I worked for Rajan the longest. While I
liked and learned from all of them, (except my last manager), Rajan was my
favorite. He was recommending and prepping me for a management position before
he left, but that plan dissolved when he found a new position with another
company. His direct manager took over our team. This is when things changed
quickly for the worse.
All of my managers I
liked, respected, learned from, and felt privileged to work for, except the last
one. As cold and harsh as the corporate world can be, I always had managers who
supported me, turned me loose to do what I do, and who trusted me to get things
done. I was, for the most part, completely left alone to do my job. That’s when
I thrive. I’ll work to the bone to please my managers, team and those who I
support. But, if you try and assert control over me or don’t support me, I
leave and use it as an opportunity to find something else that motivates me and
where I can thrive mentally. I don’t stay in hostile or negative situations.
My last year at Sun was
painful. Moral was low and stress levels were high throughout the groups due to
the company doing poorly and the economy beginning to tank. I heard through the
grapevine that a new round of layoffs was coming. I made it clear to my final
manager that I was no longer interested in working there. I was essentially
volunteering myself to take the hit. I had Flesk running in the background. I
had something to fall back on. I had a vision to pursue. I wanted to follow my
own passions and utilize my own creativity. I never told anyone, except for a
couple people at Sun that I had a publishing business on the side. I was very
careful to keep Flesk and Sun separate.
Long story short, I was
laid off that January in 2009. I was grateful to be gone, and I was also happy
that the rest of my team could stay and was not laid off. As far as I knew, I
was the only one with a backup plan. I did this since I knew how volatile the
tech industry was. I’d seen dozens of co-workers let go. I knew I needed to
take care of myself since Sun was showing signs of problems. At the same time,
I was never a good fit for the corporate structure.
So, on January 23, 2009
the dream began, but the realities also began to set in. For those who worked
through 2008 and 2009 you will not forget just how tough this period was. For
me, book sales dropped significantly, and book returns were high. Book stores
ordered large quantities that I delivered, then months later the stores would return
mass quantities. I was left with printer bills and piles of boxes of unsold
inventory. Within a year I was seriously in debt and in a tough spot. By 2010 I
took a significant loan and got a little smarter about making decisions. I
believed in myself and thought that if I just kept on working it would all work
out. Then I spent three years essentially chipping away at the loan and debt to
get back to a stable place. I was doing what I loved, but it came with a lot of
stress. None of this was easy, and it was a very difficult time. I made a lot
of mistakes, which is not a crime. It would have been a sin to not get back up
and learn from those mistakes. My passion and determination got me through in
Benefits to running my
own business included my ability to raise my son, to be with him every day and
not put him in day care. I get to live on my own terms, fail or succeed based
on my own actions, and I get to work with artists and do things for others. I’m
not driven or motivated by money, but instead by doing something that I think
benefits others and that I enjoy being a part of.
Despite all of the
struggles, hardships, difficulties, disappointments, and setbacks—it was all
worth it. I wish it was easier, but I never expected it to be easy. I don’t
expect handouts. I don’t expect anything to be given to me, and I don’t expect
that I should get a pass. I have high expectations of myself, and believe that
I should not feel pity for myself when something bad happens. I think all
experiences are lessons to learn from and to use to move forward to something
better. I see every instance as an opportunity for improvement and that I was
meant to experience it for a reason. That reason is oftentimes unknown to me
for years, but eventually I learn the reason why—even if it’s 5-10 years later.
I have trust in myself that everything will work out and that as long as I
don’t quit or give up, that what I do will make things better for my son, for
others, and for myself. For those reasons (and more) I refuse to quit.
Life has always been
about the journey for me. I love it. The time we have, the options we have, the
chances we get, and the opportunities that are presented to us. I like that I
am just discovering my gifts, and knowing what I can do with them, and how they
will provide opportunities to others who I will never meet.
This is just the
beginning for me. I’m greatly looking forward to the next 10-20 years.
The jury for Spectrum 26: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art has nominated the top five artworks in eight categories for consideration for either a silver and gold award. Judges Kei Acedera, Wesley Burt, Bobby Chiu, Edward Kinsella III, and Colin and Kristine Poole debated the merits of hundreds of pieces of art before finalizing this list on Saturday, February 9, 2019 at the Flesk Publications offices in Santa Cruz, California.
Established in 1993 by Cathy and Arnie Fenner, the first Spectrum annual appeared in 1994 from Underwood Books; for over a quarter of a century it has attracted participants from around the world and has set the standards for excellence in fantasy and science fiction art. John Fleskes became the Director and Publisher of Spectrum in 2014 with volume 21.
The recipients will be announced at the Spectrum 26 Awards Ceremony that will be held at the historic Folly Theater in Kansas City, MO on Saturday, March 30, 2019 . The 2019 Spectrum Grand Master Award honoree will also be announced during the ceremony.
Congratulations to all of the artists who have been nominated!
Text only list is followed by the list showing the art.
Justin Gerard – Lair of the Firebreather
Donato Giancola – Reach
Valentin Kopetzki – After the Flood
Victo Ngai – Earth Species Project
Greg Ruth – Annihilation variant
Jaime Jones – Winter Road
Vanessa Lemen – I am the Light
Yuko Shimizu – Japanese Tales 1: The Invisible Man
Chase Stone – Dragon Lords: Bad Faith
Francis Vallejo – Charlie Florida
Alex Alice – Castle in the Stars: Book 4, page 1
Thomas Campi – Joe Shuster: The Artist Behind Superman cover
Paul Davidson – Blue Vortex 1
Kang Minjung – Kang Hearts Out 1
Jeffrey Alan Love – The Thousand Demon Tree
CONCEPT ART CATEGORY
Te Hu – Golden Temple Through Time we Converge: End
Carlyn Lim – Dwarf
Danny Moll – The Banner Saga 3: Juno in the Black Sun
Abe Taraky – Submerged Statue of Tyr
Zhengyi Wang – Big Hunt
Matthew Corcoran – Vivicus
Paul Komoda – SwampThing
Patrick Masson – Reflection
Mark Newman – Gallevarbe
Dug Stanat – Justice
Chris Buzelli – Structure
Qiuxin Mao – The Remains
Victo Ngai – Human: Opener
Tim O’Brien – Stormy
Leonardo Santamaria – How to Collect Customer Feedback the Right Way
Ed Binkley – Mantis
Bastien Lecouffe Deharme – Etrata
Jesper Ejsing – Slippery Bogle
Tyler Jacobson – Opt
John Jude Palencar – The Nights Watch
Julien Delval – The Stranger
Konstantin Marinov Kostadinov – A Walk in the Woods
Ronan LE FUR – Sent by the Gods
Eric Pfeiffer – Racing Season in Empire City
Annie Stegg Gerard – The Serpent
CONCEPT ART CATEGORY
Congratulations again to all of the Spectrum 26 nominations!
The complete list of artist names selected for inclusion into the twenty-sixth volume of Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art is now available!
The five member jury selected over 600 works works by 335 artists that will make up Spectrum 26. These creators that work in every style and medium–both traditional and digital–represent the finest in the fantasy, horror, science fiction and the surreal genres from around the world. You will find top industry names who serve as the current definition of excellence and discover the rising stars who are being published for the first time.
Individual emails to those artists accepted will begin to go out this week. Full details regarding the next steps will be provided.
From everyone here at the Spectrum and Flesk offices, we would like to thank all of the artists who submitted to Spectrum 26. We couldn’t do what we do without your support. This includes putting out the Spectrum annual each year, organizing and running the Spectrum Fantastic Art Live event, putting on the Spectrum Awards Ceremony where we hand out the Spectrum awards, and making the artist feature videos that we post online. You have our most sincere gratitude. Thank you!
Steven Russell Black
Thomas Haller Buchanan
Matthew J. Corcoran
Olivia De Berardinis
Andrea De Dominicis
Peter de Steve
Bastien Lecouffe Deharme
Dan dos Santos
Axel Rangel Garcia
Annie Stegg Gerard
E. M. Gist
Kevin Zamir Goeke
Michael C. Hayes
Limei Z. Hshieh
Tyler Jacobson Mate Jako He Jie (Mona) Jaime Jones Romain Jouandeau
KARAKTER Design Studio
Edward Kinsella III
Fernanders Koak Chan Sam
Konstantin Marinov Kostadinov
Ronan LE FUR a.k.a DOFRESH
Jeffrey Alan Love
Juan Pablo Corredor Martinez
Victor Adame Minguez
Sean Andrew Murray
David Auden Nash
Yin Shian Ng
Roberto Ribeiro Padula
Lucas Pina Penichet
Luisa J. Preissler
S. W. Rand
Tim Von Rueden
Shawn E. Russell
Audre Schutte ‘Charamath’
David R. Seeley
Gavin Gray Valentine
Beatriz Martin Vidal
Owen William Weber
David Thorn Wenzel
Chieh Ying Yu
Mark Zahaczewsky Eytan Zana Amir Zand Luye Zhang Aaron Zonka
Thank you again to everyone who submitted artwork to Spectrum 26 this year! We are excited to present your work to the judges this upcoming Saturday, February 9that our Flesk offices in Santa Cruz. We will be hosting this year’s panel of judges consisting of Kei Acedera, Wesley Burt, Bobby Chiu, Edward Kinsella III, and Colin and Kristine Poole who will be reviewing the Spectrum Call for Entries submissions.
The first phase of the day consists of the judges voting
anonymously on the works they feel have achieved a standard of excellence for
inclusion into the book. A majority consisting of three of more votes from the
five member panel guarantees the art for inclusion into Spectrum 26. This year,
Colin and Kristine will be voting as a pair.
Phase two of the day brings the jury together for a group
discussion to determine the silver and gold awards nominations for each of the
We feel that it is essential to have a group of diverse and
exceptional artists working together to select the art for Spectrum. Together,
they represent all aspects of the art industry and community. This is important
because the jury is an example of what Spectrum stands for: a community working
together to help create a collection of art to inspire others.
We have spent the last few days cleaning our office and
turning into a studio space for our judges. We will have everything set up in
time to welcome the judges and will be excited to share the day’s activities
with everyone during the event as well.
When I took over Spectrum Fantastic Art with Spectrum 21 I never imagined the friendships that would form. With the annual books–as well as with the Spectrum Fantastic Art Live (SFAL) event—there was a bonus beyond seeing all the amazing art and learning about the artists. There is a welcoming within the community that is open to all. New and inspiring friendships were quickly formed when I started, and they continue to strengthen with each passing year.
The list is far and great,
but just a few people who I met through Spectrum is Daren Bader, Petar
Meseldzija, Bill Carman, and J.A.W. Cooper—all of whom I had the privilege to publish
books on. Then there are the Spectrum judges, such as Cory Godbey, Justin Gerard,
Annie Stegg Gerard, Allen Williams—all of them! All the judges have been wonderful.
Then being able to meet artists who I’ve idolized. When you meet them they are
the best of human beings, such as Paul Bonner. It’s staggering to think about
everyone who I’ve met and talked to since I have had this honor of being the current
A couple who has been an
absolute pleasure to get to know and to call friends is Colin and Kristine Poole.
They attended one of the early Spectrum shows without ever having taken part in
anything Spectrum before. We met, we talked, we soon became friends, I inquired
if they would like to make the new Spectrum awards, they did, then they
suggested a Rising Star Award, I said yes, and they have been on the stage of
the Spectrum Awards Ceremony ever since to present the award. All this from two
people who decided to check out the Spectrum event with no expectations or connections.
It just goes to show how everyone is welcome.
I’m so very pleased to
host Colin and Kristine here in our Flesk office next month for the Spectrum
judging event. These two greatly care about the individual artists and the
community. They will do a wonderful job as judges.
When people learn that I’m an art book publisher, the number one question that they ask is if I am an artist.
The answer is that my gifts lie elsewhere. Instead of being an artist, I have this fortunate position to be able to bring people together, to help raise the awareness of the art community, to be able to make books on the artists whose work that I love, to share who these artists are with others, and to raise artists up, while playing a part in putting the spotlight on them. In addition, I am humbled by being able to participate in running the Spectrum awards ceremony. This ceremony goes far beyond simply handing out awards. We get to recognize the entire fantastic art community on stage, in a prestigious theater. This was a dream for Arnie and Cathy Fenner to be able to to one day. And now this vision has become a reality where hundreds of people can participate.
Fantastic artists, on stage, in the spotlight, being recognized for outstanding achievement, among their peers, the fans, and the community. It’s unlike anything else.
So no, I’m not an artist. I was not given that gift. But, I’m ecstatic that so many others have this gift and that I can help share your gifts with others.
I hope you can join us at the Spectrum 26 Awards Ceremony that will be held on March 30, 2019 at the Folly Theater in Kansas City, MO.
Thanks for making so much beautiful art, and thank you for allowing me to be a part of this community.
If you are interested in submitting to Spectrum 26, you have until Thursday, January 24th.
This is an invitation to all professional and student artists, art directors, publishers and artists’ representatives to submit entries to the 26th Annual Spectrum International Competition for Fantastic Art. All artworks in all media embracing the themes of science fiction, fantasy, horror and the surreal are eligible. Fantastic art can be subtle or obvious, traditional or off-the-wall, painted, sculpted, done digitally or photographed: There is no unacceptable way to create art, and there are no set rules that say one piece qualifies while another does not. Imagination and skill are what matters. Work chosen by the jury will be printed in full color in the Spectrum annual, the peer-selected “best of the year” collection for the fantastic arts. Click here to submit.
The Spectrum 26 Call for Entries Poster was created by the renowned artist, Tyler Jacobson.
To join our mailing list to receive your complimentary poster, please click here.
The Spectrum 26 jury is comprised of a five member panel of some of the most exceptional artists working in the industry today consisting of Kei Acedera, Wesley Burt, Bobby Chiu, Edward Kinsella III, and Colin and Kristine Poole. Find out more about the Spectrum 26 jury here
“It is an honor to assemble such a prestigious group of artists for the Spectrum 26 jury,” shares John Fleskes. “I greatly admire the art that these six individuals have created during their careers. I also have a high regard for the educational opportunities that they have provided to others while giving back to the community. I look forward to bringing them together to view the call for entries submissions in February 2019.”
For over twenty-five years the Spectrum annual has been a showcase for the best and brightest creators of fantastic art from around the globe: it serves as an invaluable resource book for art directors, art buyers, publishers and agents world-wide. Our purpose and singular agenda is the promotion of the art and artists. We believe that Spectrum functions as a cost-efficient promotional forum and provides a bridge between creator, client, and aficionado as well. Spectrum is all about facilitating opportunities for creators, about growing the audience for imaginative work in all its forms, without pretension and without prejudice.
Thanks to everyone for your continued support of Spectrum! Please let us know if you have any questions.
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.