If you’re an avid comics fan, you either already know Avery Hill Publishing, or you ought to! The South London-based publisher “helps aspiring creators reach their potential and is a home to the geniuses that the mainstream has yet to recognise.”

To celebrate the arrival of 2024, Comics Beat caught up with Avery Hill’s Publisher Ricky Miller. The Beat asked all about Miller’s reflections on Avery Hill’s 2023 books, what to expect from the publisher in 2024 and about philosophies regarding the support of debut authors! Be sure and let us know Avery Hill books you’re looking forward to in 2024 in the comment section.

COMICS BEAT: Can you tell us about the books that Avery Hill published in 2023?

RICKY MILLER: Our 2023 books were the most visually striking lineup that we’ve ever presented. We had the lush fantastical landscapes of The Wilderness Collection by Claire Scully, countered with the garish, unsettling horror imagery in George Wylesol’s Curses collection. The beauty of outer space and alien worlds in Owen Pomery’s The Hard Switch contrasts with Briggs’ mixed media version of medieval Scotland in their adaptation of Macbeth. The cute and punk sensibility of Nicole Goux’s Pet Peeves pops off the page with her amazing black, white, and red artwork. And finally the incredible sense of graphic design and stunning illustrations in Ellice Weaver’s Big Ugly.

As well as working with a group of creators who are incredibly talented artists and designers, we also upped our game in terms of presentation, breaking out dust jackets and French flaps for the first time! We love designing Avery Hill graphic novels so they feel as special as we know each story is.  

THE BEAT: What were some of the highlights for Avery Hill in 2023?

MILLER: We spent this past year publishing great graphic novels—and we’ve been so glad to get back to exhibiting at comics festivals and being able to share them directly with readers. Getting to match up books and readers is always one of the best parts of being a publisher. 

One of the main highlights was seeing the growing cult following around Wylesol since the release of his book 2120 last year. We’ve seen a big upsurge of interest in his work, and many new readers. His graphic novels are amazing – he’s a genius in creating intelligent psychological horror. 

We use crowdfunding to help get the word out about Avery Hill graphic novels, and the massive success of the Kickstarter we ran for The Hard Switch by Owen Pomery was very pleasing as well. We published both Owen and George’s first graphic novels and we’ve worked with them across multiple books since.

Seeing the profile of Shanti Rai rise has been a big pleasure as well. Dealing with chronic illness has impeded her career so far, and it’s meant that she couldn’t get out and promote Sennen as much as she would have liked, but the power of social media has come through for her. We’re planning another book with her in the near future and can’t wait to get more of her work out there!

It was fantastic to see two of Avery Hill’s most popular authors, Tillie Walden and Zoe Thorogood, rise to new heights – Tillie as the Cartoonist Laureate of Vermont, and Zoe as the winner of the Russ Manning Award. 

THE BEAT: What kind of preview can you give us about what to expect from Avery Hill in 2024?

MILLER: We’re super excited about the books coming out this year! 

We kick off next month with Barking by Lucy Sullivan, which I think will be a big hit this year. It’s an amazing story about depression and the mental health system. Then we introduce new creator Kit Anderson with her lovely collection that skirts the borders of fantasy and contemporary fiction, Safer Places. We’ve got the weird and wonderful gothic historical horror graphic novel The Scrapbook of Life and Death, by J. Webster Sharp. Then we’ve got a new autobiographical book, Adrift on the Painted Sea, by Tim Bird coming out towards the end of the year, and we think this story about him and his mother is the one where he’ll start being recognized as the major creator we’ve known he is all along. 

We’re also completing two sagas, in the form of Alabaster Pizzo’s cute-but-terrifying Mimi & the Wolves and B. Mure’s gentle ecological fantasy Ismyre—and we’re starting off a brand new one with the kaleidoscopic science fiction adventure Infinite Wheatpaste, by L. Pidge! 

THE BEAT: I understand that you may have thoughts about the UK comics scene that you can share with us?

MILLER: In the UK, we have a thriving small press and self-publishing scene, supported by comics-focused printers, comic shops, arty book stores and a variety of small, local and national comics festivals. There’s also an amazing digital scene headed by the Short Box Festival, which launches dozens of digital comics by up and coming creators each year.

These mini-comics creators, self-publishers, and digital comics creators are now graduating into a new wave of graphic novel creators and independent publishers who are fueling a book market-based Age of the UK Graphic Novel. Here at Avery Hill, we started out photocopying our own zines and have now built up to now producing 500-page hardcover graphic novels that sell in the tens of thousands. It’s invaluable to us publishers to meet creators and see their mini-comics and digital comics as we figure out who to publish, and the comics festivals and conventions around the UK makes that possible. 

We now have a generation of creators who are generally already savvy about the marketplace: a whole range of experienced talent ready to be published, and who we can help reach new heights with the resources we have at Avery Hill. Having worked with printers and designed and put together their own books, UK comics creators know, soup to nuts, what it takes to create a great graphic novel. This is something that many North American publishers are taking note of, with creators such as Thorogood, Paul Rainey, Darryl Cunningham and Lizzy Stewart having major graphic novels snapped up by the likes of Image, Fantagraphics, and D&Q in the US.

That graphic novel market is much stronger than the market for pamphlet comics in the UK. Due to a lack of newsstand and direct market distribution channels, floppy comics made in the UK have little chance of reaching a broad audience unless already well established, like the series 2000AD. 

THE BEAT: What are your philosophies regarding the support of debut authors?

MILLER: We primarily work with debut authors, and our aim is to nurture them and build up their profile, so they’re set up to have an amazing career in comics! There was recently an article in the UK publishing industry magazine The Bookseller about how most debut authors seem to have a not great experience publishing their first book, and it’s imperative for us to make sure that our creators have a positive, satisfying, and fun experience working with Avery Hill on every graphic novel. 

Our main guides in this are that we aim for fairness and honesty in all of our dealings with our creators. We provide all our authors with as much information as possible about what they can expect from us and what we can expect from them. We never take more rights than we know we have opportunities for, and we don’t take any licensing rights or copyright outside of the normal publishing rights. Of course we can’t guarantee that any book will be a success, but we can guarantee that every graphic novel will be produced with care, love and attention—and that we will do our very best to sell as many copies as possible! 

THE BEAT: Are there any books from other publishers that you found particularly impressive in 2023?

MILLER: Why Don’t You Love Me? By Rainey (D&Q) was probably my favorite book of the year. One of the first small press comics I ever got into was There’s No Time Like The Present by Rainey, and I can honestly say that it opened my eyes to what could be achieved by a creator working on their own in the small press/self-published space. WDYLM is the kind of brilliant work he’s been making all of his life, and it’s amazing that he’s now being recognized by big publishers and the press for it.

I’m continuing to enjoy Asadora from Viz, by Naoki Urasawa, who is probably my favorite current comics/manga creator. The geeky, mainstream side of me is also massively enjoying the Daniel Warren Johnson Transformers series!

THE BEAT: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about? 

MILLER: I’m constantly hearing about the success of kids and YA graphic novels, and manga—which is wonderful. But here at Avery Hill, we’re really focused on the other end of the market: the adult graphic novel reader who’s interested in amazing stories and wonderful artwork. With how much the comics market is growing in other areas, I know we’re going to see some adult graphic novels winning more awards, hitting the best-seller list, and getting new adult readers excited about the format. 

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