Peter Howard Interviews Annie Koyama, Publisher of Koyama Press
Sequential Highway is aware that there are many publishers making an effort to bring a variety of interesting material to the marketplace. However, many retailers and comic book buyers are oblivious to their existence. We intend to remedy that.
Please allow me to introduce Annie Koyama, publisher of Koyama Press.
Peter Howard: Why have you chosen to publish comic books rather than books of other genres?
Annie Koyama: I didn’t set out to publish comics. I began with art books but that year the art book stores in Toronto closed and without a distributor it was difficult enough to sell the books locally, not to mention in the U.S. I had success selling a few comics and gradually became part of the alternative comics world. I found a lot of good work by emerging artists and chose to publish their comics to get that work out there into the world. I still hope to do more art books. Jeremy Kai’s book of photographs of his underground exploration, Rivers Forgotten, continues to do well.
PH: What do you believe is essential to the makings of a good comic book or graphic novel?
AK: For me, it’s the artwork first but the story should be strong too.
PH: What distinguishes Koyama Press from other publishing companies?
AK: The company was created initially to support emerging artists by giving them a product to sell and keep the proceeds. Now, after almost six years, I run the company more traditionally. Working primarily with emerging artists would, I think distinguish the company too from others.
PH: Are there artists whose work you would particularly like to publish, should the opportunity present itself?
AK: Ha! Yes, too many to mention. As I am only doing about ten books a year, I have to choose carefully. But I have some very exciting books in the works. More established artists approach me now as well, so I’m working out how to fit them into the catalogue.
PH: Do you find the comics market accepting of new projects and new ideas or do you find the market frowns upon change?
AK: I don’t really think about that but I will say that if publishers don’t take risks and publish new artists, knowing from the outset that you may not sell a ton of books, there won’t be much change. Ideally you can balance putting out riskier work with books that you know you can sell to stay afloat.
PH: Does Koyama Press provide digital distribution?
AK: Not yet, but it’s on the horizon.
PH: Do you think that digital comics are poised to replace traditional paper publishing and the traditional retail sales market as a whole?
AK: No. I think that there will always be readers who want to own a paper book. If I like something I’ve seen online, I like to buy the paper copy as well. Particularly with the kind of books I publish, the artwork is really important and it’s an object unto itself in paper form.
PH: Do you have a message that you would like to address to comic book retailers as a whole?
AK: Yes. Please order books from places other than Diamond! You’re missing out on so many good books. From Koyama Press alone, Diamond doesn’t even carry the two Eisner nominated books, LOSE #4 by Michael DeForge and The Infinite Wait & Other Stories by Julia Wertz. What the hell!!! Even from a purely commercial point, you are missing sales here.
PH: Is there anything you would change about the current distribution system?
AK: I am fortunate to have Consortium Book Sales & Distribution in the U.S. and internationally. Raincoast Books sell Koyama Press books in Canada. However, if you are a small press without a large distributor, it’s very difficult to get your books out there to a wide audience.
The small press world is made up of people making books because we love books but there’s not a lot of monetary return. We need a central distribution system, but shipping rates are horrendously high especially outside of the U.S. so it remains a dilemma.
There’s a new U.K. based distributor called Impossible Books and that is a good thing. www.impossiblebooks.com. For alternative comics, many smaller publishers depend on book sales from book shows and comic cons.