They are the best of publishers, they are the worst of publishers. It all depends on who you talk to. If you can.
Many know TOR books as a science fiction powerhouse. They publish best selling authors who love them to pieces, and well they should.
Then they publish us. This might be a surprise to many of our readers, as we have been self–publishing Girl Genius and other comical books for over thirty years. But, in fact, TOR is the publisher of the first Girl Genius Omnibus; Agatha Awakens. You see, TOR was thinking about starting up a line of science fiction graphic novels, and told us that they thought having a multiple Hugo Award winner as the launch title would be a nice touch.
We agreed, but had reservations, as we had been selling Girl Genius for over ten years at this point, and didn’t want them to be disappointed. We told them how many copies we’d sold, and they sat back, chuckling knowingly, and assured us that our entire sales history would be a nice warm up for their edition, and in fact, they very nicely allowed us to continue producing books in our current format, so we wouldn’t cheese off all the loyal readers who’d already invested the book shelf space in this format (We had been prepared to insist on this, as I know how much I hate it when a series jumps publishers and the bindings don’t match up. I have friends who think I worry about things like this too much, but then they never correctly sort the spoons in their utensil drawer, so what do they know), but to our pleasant surprise, we didn’t have to. Better and better.
. . . .
So then we asked when the paperback edition would come out, so we could promote that. Soon, we were told, first they wanted to assess the sales on the hardcover, so they could get an idea (based no doubt on some secret mega-publisher mystery math) on how high they should set the print run. Okay…so when do you want us to get you the files for the second omnibus? Because at that point, we could have had three of them out the door in as many months, and any noob to publishing can tell you that the way to build sales on a series is to keep the books coming.
I mean, nothing. I called my agent. “Hey, did I cross a line or something?”
No. In fact, they’re not responding to him, either.
. . . .
So after a year of this (yes, an entire year. We are Slow to Take Offense, here at Studio Foglio), I write to Mr. Hayden, asking him if our editor is dead, or just fired? This question surprises him, as he saw her in the office that morning. He seems sympathetic. We even have a face-to-face meeting at worldcon the next week where he explains that TOR just really doesn’t know how to sell graphic novels, and when someone takes on a job they don’t know how to do, they tend to just stick their fingers in their ears and hope that eventually, it goes away.
. . . .
Because our contract with TOR says we can’t publish “a competing product” for five years. Okay, what can we do about this? But now, Mr. Patrick Nielsen Hayden has apparently decided that we’re too much trouble.
No, seriously. You don’t want the series. You can’t sell it. We’ll even buy the remainder sitting in your warehouse. Talk to me. Talk to my agent. Prove you’re not dead or fired.