Over at his blog, Kean Soo reports that the first volume of his Jellaby series has gone out of print.. Published by Hyperion, Jellaby, a lovable monster who has adventures with a little girl, had appeared in several Flight anthologies and Soo’s own website.
Ironically, tThe second volume, Monster in the City is being published in April, still available and Soo worries that the unavailability of Volume 1 will hurt its sales
This decision was wholly out of my hands. It was, I presume, a financial decision on the part of my publisher, Disney-Hyperion, even though the book has been a modest success by comic standards (more than 18,000 copies sold over the span of 21 months), and had been slowly picking up readers as time went on. Having Jellaby off the shelves does create an unfortunate situation, however — the second book, Jellaby: Monster in the City, is the conclusion of the story that runs through both books, and by removing the availability of the first book, Monster in the City is in danger of leading a shortened life as well, being a now- incomplete second half to a two-part story.
The move brought a swift reaction on Twitter from Hope Larson:
Still a bit bummed about Jellaby going out of print. Or reflective, anyway — end of an era.
Kean and I came up in comics at the same time and created the Secret Friend Society together.
Both books serialized at the SFS have since been published and gone out of print. Aw.
(Larson is referring to Salamander Dream, which was published by AdHouse.)
R. Stevens repliaed
@hopelarson stuff like that makes me wonder if one can trust large companies with projects one cares about for the long haul
Stevens hits the nail on the head. Jellaby is surely not the first book to go out of print that was signed up in the Great Cartoonist Migration of ’04-’06, when traditional book publishers were signing up cartoonists like so many scoops of raisins. Soo is probably just the first to make a big deal out of it. In 2005, Douglas Wolk wrote:
Some of the recent migrations from indie to big house include: Joe Sacco, an acclaimed comics war correspondent whose work was previously published by Seattle-based Fantagraphics Books and Toronto-based Drawn & Quarterly, will publishing his next book (about a refugee camp in Gaza) with Henry Holt’s Metropolitan Books imprint. Chynna Clugston, a stylish, manga-influenced indie star, published her two funny teen girl series, Blue Monday and Scooter Girl, through Portland, Oregon’s Oni Press. Clugston’s newest, Queen Bee, just came out from Graphix, Scholastic’s recently launched graphic novel imprint. This fall, Chamberlain Brothers, a pop culture–oriented imprint at Penguin, will publish former Top Shelf author Matt Madden’s new book, 99 Ways to Tell a Story, a clever lit-comics variation on Raymond Queneau’s book of experimental fiction Exercises in Style.
There are many more examples in the piece and more that came later unmentioned. 18,000 may be great in comics terms, but for a publisher like Disney, it’s way too small to be an investment.
Of course since long ago 2005, the book business itself has changed dramatically. But it’s a given that books go out of print all the time, and it’s a harsh marketplace — a book deal, sadly, isn’t a ticket to eternal availability. Cartoonists need to be mindful of two things, it seems: a) keeping control of their rights so they can manage their own publishing and b) a publishing career is often built on more than one property.