A good friend of mine, Jim Reid, often provides me with sage life and business advice. One such Jim-ism–that I am paraphrasing here—is as follows: “Most people try to force things to happen when they would be better served to let things happen.”
I was spinning my wheels trying to force certain things to happen in 2021. I normally thrive when issues arise since I enjoy the creative process in overcoming them. But I was struggling with the reality of the supply chain issues that had driven up the costs of printing and shipping to unprecedented levels. As we entered 2022, I realized that I was not following one of Jim’s golden rules. I needed to ease back and abandon what I wanted to happen, and then to accept what was happening.
I aimed to reduce my anxiety and stress by focusing on what I enjoy doing most—making books. I was working from 10:00AM to past midnight each day all through that January and into early February 2022. We sent the Franklin Booth, Brad Kunkle, and Lupente books to the printer in February. Then Vicky and I focused on the Arthur Adams, and the Rachel & Terry Dodson titles. We were having fun again.
Between that February and the end of the year I did not send any books to the printer. I stopped making announcements for new books. I stopped putting pressure on myself to make 2022 a big and exciting year because it was our 20th anniversary. I realized that if I continued to send books to the printer–that if I tried to force things to happen–that it would hurt the business.
With the Booth, Kunkle, and Lupente books at the printer, and knowing we may not receive them for 8-10 months, I accepted that these would be the only books that I could release that year. This long wait affected my cash flow. I could only tie up a certain amount of money for a specific time frame. I knew what I had to do. And I was not looking forward to it.
I had a talk with Kathy Chu in early 2022. (Kathy, if you are not aware, worked here at Flesk starting in August 2015.) I showed her what money we had. I reviewed the current pricing for getting books made and that it was taking over 8 months for delivery (instead of the usual 3 months). I told her that I was unsure how long I could continue to pay her and highly recommended that she seek out a new job. We had plenty of projects going on. We had, and continue to have, so much goodwill from the community and our customers. We had everything going for us, except the ability to get our books printed and delivered.
Fortunately, I had savings, and the business carries no debt. I was able to pay Kathy until late-June 2022. After nearly 7 years of amazing work to help us succeed and grow, she was off looking for a new job. Kathy asked that I not say anything publicly at that time. She did not want anyone to feel sorry for her and Kathy is a private person. I wanted to respect her wishes. You’ll be glad to know that Kathy found a new job working for another publisher. She loves working in the industry and is doing well. I’m so happy for her.
As a brief segue regarding savings, I follow the advice from Jim Reid to always have $20,000 in a savings account to have available in case of an emergency. I treat this number as zero. Let’s say I have $23,000 in savings. I view my savings as being $3,000, not $23,000. Another Jim, James Bama, taught me the importance of not carrying debt. I believe in working and savings toward something, rather than borrowing and becoming weighed down by debt. Now, back to our main topic.
For the remainder of 2022, and the early part of 2023, Vicky and I kept the business running by selling our existing Flesk books. Plus, through warehouse finds, dinged book sales, and selling some personal stock. It worked. It worked because you all took care of us by buying books on our website. There was never a time when we were in trouble. Month after month we were OK. It felt rewarding to have the support of so many people.
Also, throughout 2022 and up until now, Vicky and I have focused on designing more books. We would finish a new title, set it aside, then start another one. We have completed over ten books that are ready for the printer. We have an additional 15 books in various stages of production. Four of these are almost done.
In the spring of 2023, we launched the Carbon 5 by Mark Schultz Kickstarter campaign. The success of this book served as a fresh starting point for us. Then, we launched the Arthur Adams Kickstarter campaign in May that exploded in popularity. (We still remain in shock at how many people pledged.) I still wake up in gratitude each day, especially when considering just how unpredictable the last few years were.
Currently, the printing and shipping costs have subsided back to realistic levels. Between the popularity of Arthur’s campaign and the production costs dropping, we are in an excellent position to start feeding the press again. It feels incredible to be able to start sharing what books we have ready, and to begin making announcements again. Letting things happen—thanks for the wisdom, Jim.
Here is the list that reveals the next six Flesk books that will be coming out between this fall and the spring of 2024.
The Art of Arthur Adams Release date: October 2023 This has been well publicized. This book was in development for approximately 4 years. It shows examples of Arthur’s work from 1982-2023. Each piece is accompanied with commentary by Arthur. I’ve been following Arthur’s work ever since picking-up Longshot #1 when I was a kid. This is one of those dream projects that I thoroughly enjoyed working on.
We have another book by Arthur that is completely done, except for the new cover that he will work on when the time allows. Also, the Monekyman and O’Brien big collection is well mapped out. We are hunting down some missing elements and bugging Arthur to draw a few new pieces for the book. We will announce release dates and more details once we have these two totally wrapped up.
Gilt by J.A.W. Cooper Release date: October 2023
Can you believe it has been since 2018 that we had a new book with Cooper (Pastoral)? And since 2020 since we released the Genesis collection? Cooper took 2 full years off from drawing any personal art. Now, Cooper is back! I’m very excited to share the details for this book. It’s unlike anything we have published before. The two tiger drawings are example of the edition that comes with an original drawings. We will begin to take orders and reveal all the details in late September.
Barren Lands by Brynn Metheney
Kickstarter launch date: October 10, 2023
It is always an honor for me to have an opportunity to publish a new artist for the first time. I have talked with Brynn at various events over the years. She’s such a great person and I love her art. As soon as I stepped down from Spectrum so that I could focus more on working with individual artists, Brynn was one of the first artists who I approached. Luckily for us, she had a few book ideas. Brynn was fun to work with and I’m so very excited to release this book soon. We are launching a Barren Lands Kickstarter event on October, 10, 2023!
The Art of Rachel and Terry Dodson
Kickstarter date: Early 2024—TBA
I’ve been very lucky to have had a friendship with Terry and Rachel for years. We’ve made trips together and visit each other when we can escape our work schedules. We share a passion for nature and the outdoors. They are lovely humans. Vicky and I had a blast making this book and spending time with them. I love being able to highlight friends. This book is done, and we’ll launch a Dodson Kickstarter campaign in early 2024.
The Complete Genesis Collection by J.A.W. Cooper
Release date: March 2024
This book was released in 2020 and sold out quickly. I suggested to Cooper that I wanted to keep it in print. We revisited the book and made some updates for the re-release next spring.
Pastoral by J.A.W. Cooper
Release date: March 2024
The original large format printing of this book was back in 2018. We reformatted the book to the handy 7.5 x 10” size, made some changes, and added some new pieces. This will be released at the same time as The Compete Genesis Collection next March.
We have more books that are done, but I am not ready to announce the release dates or details. I’ll give you a tease though. We have a two-volume set that relates to Elfquest by Wendy and Richard Pini. The new Jeffrey Alan Love graphic novel is almost ready. It’s in the final design stages. We have a new edition of Ambedo by Tran Nguyen and a new book of her studies. The big Comics three volume set by William Stout continues to be in development. Also, future books with Daniel Warren Johnson, Mark Schultz, Gary Gianni, Bruce Timm, Frank Cho, and more!
I’ll share more details about the future once we are ready. Once again, it’s you that makes these books happen. Thank you so much for allowing us to publish the works of these extraordinary artists.
J.A.W. Cooper’s 2023 solo show “Curious” at @gallerynucleus in the Los Angeles area is now available to view online (and also in person through April 30th)!
Cooper completed over 30 new originals that were revealed during the opening night on April 15th from 5:00-8:00PM. We were delighted to see Cooper swarmed by visitors. The line to meet and talk with Cooper lasted throughout the full three-hour premier and eventually had to be moved outside since the gallery had to close. It was great to see everyone there. We had such a good time!
This is a brief overview of our year and what you can expect to see from us.
I’ll start with the photo. It was taken during a visit to the Al Williamson studio a few years back. Being able to see the “Savage World!” original art was a special moment. Especially while the pages were resting on Al’s drawing table.
Here’s a shipping update on the Williamson and Mark Schultz books.
If all goes well, we will have Al Williamson: Strange World Adventures, Carbon 4 by Mark Schultz, Xenozoic by Mark Schultz and the Al Williamson and Mark Schultz Astounding Sketchbook next week. The books are still at the port waiting to be offloaded from the shipping vessel. We will begin shipping our Kickstarter pledges and Flesk online pre-orders just as soon as they arrive.
As for our next wave of Flesk books, we have five other books at the printer. These include The Drawings of Edwin Austin Abbey, Covenant: The Art of Allen Williams, new books with Frank Cho and Gary Gianni, and a new printing of the Bruce Timm Naughty and Nice collection. Once the books have been printed and are being shipped to us I’ll reveal more and open them all up for pre-orders. We would like to see how the shipping transit times are looking before we announce the release dates.
In the meantime, we are working on the new Franklin Booth book, two new Arthur Adams books, three new William Stout books, plus we are wrapping up two books by a pair of new artists. Then we have the J.A.W. Cooper book to start in June, plus two other new artists who we will start working with in the summer. Then we will have more books featuring Mark Schultz and Al Williamson to work on for 2022. There’s more, but this is what we can share to date.
For the rest of 2021 we do not have any plans to exhibit at any shows. This includes the San Diego November show that we will skip. We will start fresh with events in 2022. Until that time we will continue to make the best books that we can.
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 received word from the shipper that the books will arrive at the docks on December 5th. Depending on processing and customs we should have the books about a week later. We’ll start shipping the books as soon as they arrive.
Here’s the link to learn more or to place your pre-order:
Thank you for a successful J.A.W. Cooper Kickstarter campaign!
I’m feeling grateful and appreciate everyone who supported the campaign. I never take your support for granted. What excites me the most is that I have the opportunity to work with Cooper, to package and publish and then share her work, and that we have this chance to mail out packages to 878 backers. Wow! That’s what drives me every day. I absolutely love being a publisher. Having this chance to connect directly with our supporters is incredibly fulfilling.
The J.A.W. Cooper enamel pins for our Kickstarter supporters are in production! We are now eagerly waiting for them to be manufactured and shipped to our warehouse! We’re sure you’re all as excited as we are for their arrival. If you aren’t, that’s udderly ridiculous.
We can’t wait to get these awesome goodies out to you in October!
We will be sending the shipping address surveys out closer to the shipping date, so keep your eyes peeled for those late September/early October.
We have an amazing selection of items that highlight the artwork of J.A.W. Cooper, including:
Three books titled Familiars, Flora & Fauna, and Viscera; A premium 18 x 24 inch signed and numbered print; A postcard set featuring Cooper’s travel gouache works; Plus, three exquisite enamel pins to complement the three books.
Four exclusive bonus Kickstarter prints and an enamel pin “Fig Frog” will be included with any tier selected of $25 or more. Four stretch goals have been unlocked to add value to every book and premium print pre-order.
Over this last week there have been two interviews posted online that feature J.A.W. Cooper. I thought that I would share the details about each with you in case you were interested in learning more about Cooper.
The first one was conducted by Bobby Chiu from Schoolism. A portion of this interview is her philosophy regarding freedom vs. income and maintaining a proper balance in life. This hour-long video can be viewed on the Schoolism website, or on YouTube.
The second interview with Cooper was conducted by Walt Morton and is titled “Drawing the Inner Animal With J.A.W. Cooper. It’s an enjoyable read where you can gain much insight into her influences, working methods, and additional details regarding her philosophies.