Ambrosia Publishing popped onto the comic scene earlier this year with several serialized Webcomics, but it wasn’t until they announced they’d be publishing two series I was already familiar with, Plastic Farm and Nantucket Brown Roasters, that they really caught my attention. Wesley Green, who used to run the website Independent Propaganda and currently runs Ambrosia, agreed to answer a few questions about his company, what they’ve been up to and where he hopes it’ll go.
Blog@: For those who aren’t familiar with Ambrosia Publishing, can you give us a little background on your company’s history?
Wesley Green: I started Ambrosia earlier this year, around March, I believe. Around this time, I was running Independent Propaganda, an independent comic news site which is now in the hands of Matt Butcher. I had been thinking about possibly publishing comics, but I didn’t want to just do what everyone else was doing. I wanted to do things differently.
After running Independent Propaganda for less than a year, I saw a lot of mistakes and missed opportunities both new and established publishers and creators were making. I also saw where they did things right. So I used this knowledge and added it to my business and technology background to create Ambrosia Publishing.
Blog@: In terms of those mistakes and missed opportunities … any examples you can give?
Green: To me, it would be easier to point out what some publishers- new and established- do wrong. One would be to have the mindset that all they had to do was have the book distributed by Diamond. Everything else would just fall into place — people would come to you for interviews, people would search for your book, reviews for your comic would begin appearing everywhere, etc. It doesn’t work that way. Publishers have to make things happen. I saw more than one new publisher debut with books only to never hear or see anything else from them. Now that could be for a number of reasons. But you can’t help but wonder.
Another “problem” I see with new publishers is coming out with superhero comics. I was sent numerous superhero comics from new publishers, which were done by talented people. But rarely does a superhero comic continue as a regular series from a new publisher- let alone from an established independent publisher.
I would like to see publishers try new ideas. Whether that means new marketing ideas, new format ideas, new publishing ideas, etc. Besides Ambrosia Publishing, the only other publisher I see trying new ideas is Slave Labor. I really respect what Mr. Vado and his company are doing right now. They are doing new things that I honestly can’t believe other publishers are not even trying.
I would suggest to people thinking of self-publishing or starting their own publishing business to look at other entertainment industries to see what they are doing right and wrong. See what they are doing in terms of marketing or getting their product into people’s hands. The direct market as it is now is not for independent publishers. That is why I’m building my company so that I don’t necessarily need the direct market in order to survive.
I think the paradigm is shifting where the consumer will be the publisher’s main customer and not necessarily the comic shop retailer. So why build your business around the direct market when it is a known fact that most comic shops don’t even carry independent comics except for those from established indie publishers? It just doesn’t make much sense to me and I think a lot of independent creators and some publishers feel the same way.
Blog@: It seems like you’ve been trying out a lot of different ways to get your titles in front of people, such as email distribution or letting them choose how much they’re willing to pay, a la Radiohead. What’s been working for you and what hasn’t?
Green: You have to do whatever you can to get noticed in the market today. Not saying what you mentioned are gimmicks, but they have brought attention to the books, creators, and the company. So from a marketing point-of-view, these new distribution and payment options have worked to a certain extent. The only marketing tactic which hasn’t worked like I thought it would would be giving people a free digital version of a graphic novel in return for a short review posted on their blog or site. While people did take me up on the offer and follow through on the reviews, I thought more people would be willing to invest five to ten minutes writing a short review in return for a free digital graphic novel. But then again, it might have been due to a number of things: people not knowing about it, people not wanting to read comics on their computer screen, etc.
Blog@: Ambrosia publishes both on the Web and in print. What titles do you currently have available in each format?
Green: There is only one title available now in both formats and that would be Kyle Strahm’s dark fantasy, Clockwork Creature: Chapter One. That will change after the new year when the action/horror graphic novel series, Smuggling Spirits is published in March and the HP Lovecraft-meets-Invasion of the Body Snatchers mishmash, They Do Not Die! hits in April. All the graphic novels will be available from the Ambrosia Publishing Store, as well as online and offline comic shops and book stores.
Blog@: Are your plans to collect everything you publish online into a print collection?
Green: Definitely. I think this web-first-then-print publishing model is the future for independent publishers.
Blog@: One of the questions that always seems to come up in regards to web publishing is format … CBZ, flash, PDF, etc. What are you guys using? What are your thoughts on the various formats that are out there, good or bad?
Green: The standard digital formats used at Ambrosia Publishing are CBZ, PDF, and eBook formats with some graphic novels being available for the PSP and iPod.
I don’t see any real negatives to the formats themselves. It would be nice if there was a universal format… kind of a one-size-fits-all digital format for the different portable devices and such. That would make my job easier.
Blog@: Recently you started publishing on the Web a couple of previously released comics – Plastic Farm and Nantucket Brown Roasters. What made you interested in publishing these two series?
Green: I was re-reading the excellent first Nantucket Brown Rasters mini-series a while back, which led me to contacting Jason (Asala, the creator of Nantucket) to see if he might be interested in publishing his stuff through Ambrosia. I’ve always thought his stuff was one of those rare finds, kind of like discovering a great band you think no one else knows about. So I wanted to, hopefully, expose his work to more people. His work on Roasters, as it’s known now, is a mishmash of Grant Morrison’s writing with artwork from Mike Mignola.
I knew of Plastic Farm before its creator, Rafer Roberts, submitted it to me. I remember Rafer really promoting the hell of it when it was first published on Warren Ellis’ old Delphi forum. So when he brought it to me, he already had the willingness to market the hell of it going for him. After reading Plastic Farm, I knew it — and Rafer — would be a great fit for Ambrosia.
Blog@: Coming strictly from what I’d personally like to see in print again … any chance you’ll be releasing Asala’s Poe?
Green: Right now, Jason and I are just planning on bringing Roasters out. Poe may happen in the future hopefully.
Blog@: What’s coming up from Ambrosia?
Green: Right now, I’m getting the marketing machine ready for Ben Fisher and Mike Henderson’s Smuggling Spirits graphic novel mini-series. The first book will be available for pre-ordering in the December Previews catalog. So I’ve got to start marketing it to the retailers now.
Besides that, I’m getting ready to launch the next web serial which is the horror/dark fantasy Atheist from Moon Lee. After that, there are a couple of other projects coming up which are currently being completed.
Blog@: Are you looking for new material?
Green: I’m always interested in submissions as long as the people submitting know what kind of material I’m publishing, as well as understand what kind of publishing and business model I’m using. I try to make it as enticing as possible to creators by offering them 100 percent creator-ownership of their work. Plus, they get a large portion of the profit made from sales of their work.
Blog@: What do you look for in a proposal?
Wesley Green: The material and originality of the project is important, obviously, but I’m also looking for professionalism and the willingness to help market and promote one’s work. Plus, I also want to work with people who I would like to have a beer with. So far I’ve been very fortunate to be working with some great guys.
Blog@: Where do you hope Ambrosia will be at this time next year? In five years?
Green: Next year, I hope some more established creators will bring some projects to Ambrosia. Being a new publisher, it’s only natural for people to be leery of the company. But I think after our first line of books hit stores, people will begin taking more notice.
In five years, I still plan on publishing only a handful of strong, original graphic novels. It would be great for people to start comparing Ambrosia Publishing to companies like Top Shelf, Oni Press, AdHouse and the other innovative, respectable indie publishers out there. I also hope to have some industry-related awards under my publishing belt within five years.