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.


  1. According to our receiving data, Jellaby volume 2 came out in April 2009, so there is a little bit of cross up in the article.
    Regardless, it is pretty crappy that volume 1 is going out of print. We kind of suspected when we couldn’t back order it through Diamond and we bought out the last 5 or so copies through Baker & Taylor. No doubt not having volume 1 in print will hurt volume 2. Both volumes of Jellaby have been great sellers for us and we can only hope that Kean Soo can find a way to keep the book going. A great all ages read.
    -John, Comic Swap

  2. Um… According to and Books In Print, Jellaby #2 has been in print since April 2009.

    There are 4 TPs of Volume 1 available used, and 8 HCs (super cheap!) at

    Disney/Hyperion could always issue a compilation if the book continues to sell or gets buzz. Or the author can take it elsewhere once the second volume goes out of print.

    (And v.2 finished the story? It didn’t feel like an ending.)

    Meanwhile… I partied with the librarians in Boston last weekend, and there’s all sorts of good stuff coming out from the major publishers!

  3. This is quite possibly good news. If Disney/Hyperion let go of the property, it can be relaunched as one large book (either self-published or through someone like Top Shelf); and also as an e-book available directly from the author.

  4. Which is why out of print clauses are so important; the publisher may not want to print a book anymore, but the original creator may still want to. Or another publisher!

    Still waiting for Tokyopop to go bankrupt. But like James points out, you learn to focus on the new work. Though I wouldn’t necessarily say you should forget the old, as well.

    Speaking of which… (heads back to work)

  5. To reinforce what Paul and Rivkah said, this is reason #4367 to read your contract carefully, and make sure that rights revert to you if and when your book goes out of print.

    And make sure the contract’s definition of “out of print” doesn’t allow a publisher to say that it’s still in print — and theirs — because they have a box of books gathering dust in their warehouse or they’re selling 2 copies a year via their print-on-demand service or they’ve made it downloadable, or…you get the picture, so make sure it’s a threshold you understand and agree with. Publishers can be and usually are great partners, but you still need to guard against low-rent, no-publicity means they might use to hold on to a book they’re not actively supporting and promoting.

  6. On this, as on a great many things, Jim O. gives great advice. That minimum revenue threshold is key, especially nowadays when print-on-demand capability has made “out of print” an archaic term.

    James K’s idea is a good one, too, because it might allow for a renegotiation after a few years. That might prevent something like the Watchmen situation, where no one signing that contract in 1986 or whatever could have imagined it’d remain perpetually in print. Of course, I doubt Moore and Gibbons could be too upset with the royalty checks, or think they’d have done much better on their own.

  7. Another thing that all creators need to work on is their own publicity and marketing. Study the bestselling authors in the book trade and you will see people who actually invest in their own campaigns. As big as RH, S&S, Disney/Hyperion are, they still dont do as much of the promotion as you think. Most often, that author has paid, invested, in the process.

    Book publishing is a business. 95% of publishing your book is now marketing. Your book is competing with Nike, McDonalds, Wheaties and a new pair of socks. It’s not enough to believe everyone will ‘find’ your book. You have to sing out from the mountain, or skyscraper…or that stepladder in your kitchen.

    It’s a new game and if you expect to sell your book, your’e gonna have to jump in and play better.

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