Earlier this week, we ran an excerpt of an upcoming book from Tinto Press. Tinto is publishing their 2020 line through a Kickstarter campaign, which has a little less than a week to go and has already met its fundraising goal. As a part of setting up the excerpt, I asked Ted Intorcio, the publisher of Tinto Press, a few questions about the press. That initial set of questions turned into a short interview about how Tinto works, what it’s like being a comics publisher right now, and about running a Kickstarter during COVID-19.
Alex Hoffman: For someone who doesn’t know Tinto Press, could you talk about what you do and how you started?
Ted Intorcio: Tinto Press is a small press publisher of independently owned comics with an eye to good storytelling and a focus on reality-based genres. I started doing this in 2012. It was a bit of an experiment to see if I could do something beyond my career as a motion graphics designer. The first book I published was Homesick, by Jason Walz. After it was nominated for an Eisner, I began to believe that maybe I had something to offer as a publisher and was thinking it could actually become something.
AH: Our publisher, Daniel Elkin, had a conversation with you at Small Press Expo in 2019. He told me that you had decided to work on Tinto Press as a full-time endeavor – how has that been going?
TI: It’s hard! I’ve had to do things I hate doing, (sales calls and accounting). Dealing with rejection and setbacks is tough, but there are little things that keep me going. For example, getting into 50+ stores through hard work, getting this Kickstarter funded, and finding great new work that I’m excited to help get out there. Also, my friendships with Denis Kitchen, Charlie Lagreca, Josh Bayer and many others have developed and mean a lot to me. I’ve also started picking up freelance motion graphics work, so maybe there’s a middle ground that will work for me.
AH: How does your publishing process work at Tinto Press? Are you taking pitches, or do you reach out to folks whose work you like? How did this 2020 slate come to be?
TI: It’s a fairly organic process and by that, I mean I have no idea. I’m fairly active in the comics community so when I see something new that I like, I generally pursue it. I accept submissions all the time but the majority of them are works that are either somewhat lackluster or just aren’t a good fit for the Tinto brand. I’m looking for books with a focus on good storytelling, and that have some basis in reality. Anyone can send me a link to their work at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please do send a link and not a big attachment, that tends to clog up my email server which has limited space.
AH: One of the books in your 2020 season seems a little off the beaten path for you as a publisher. Could you talk a little bit about The Cats of Ostia Antica, and what drew you to this book?
TI: This is the book that’s gaining the most attention. Julian Brier stopped by my table at DiNK last year and told me about it. I don’t remember whether I expressed interest, but generally, my response to these types of pitches is to say, “Let me have a look when your closer to being finished.” That’s just what he did. So, I met him at a bar months later and took a look at what he had. Around seven pages in I started to realize that he had something. About 12 pages in I began to get pretty excited about how it was developing and by around page 20, I was in! I think it’s fairly unique and the art builds in grandeur with every page. I love the portrayal of the real city of Ostia and the inclusion of the Roman imagery. Julian is passionate about this book and it shows in the work. His sensibility for color and detail is something special and even though it’s a silent comic (no word balloons) the pacing and development of the story are spot on.
AH: What do you think the world of small press comics looks like when this pandemic is all said and done? What role do you think small presses like yours have in the aftermath of all of this?
TI: I don’t have any answers. I sincerely wish I did. Certainly, with crowd-funding, indie comics will have a place, but the brick & mortar shops are hurt most severely from the pandemic and that is a big portion of any serious publisher’s distribution model. I guess we’ll see. My belief is that there will always be comics, and there will always be a market for them. But how they will be brought to the readers is up for debate. I’m seeing a lot of stores doing online sales and I think that’s a good thing. Maybe subscriptions will come back into vogue? I’ve been meaning to explore a subscription box idea for a while but the Kickstarter has been taking all of my time at the moment. There’s no doubt in my mind that the internet will continue to play an increasingly important role in distribution, both in print and digital comics.
AH: What is it like working on a major project like this during the COVID-19 pandemic? Has anything changed about your process or your planning?
TI: Things have changed so much in such a short period! The wholesale business has dropped off to practically nothing whereas before I was doing more sales to shops than retail. I’ve had to devote myself to this Kickstarter and retail sales as a means of survival. It makes perfect sense, I mean, with Diamond not delivering and stay at home orders in place, how are stores supposed to operate? I was unsure whether it was even a good idea to launch the Kickstarter when so many people are getting laid off or furloughed. But I went ahead with it since there was no indication that waiting might not make things worse. I lowered the funding goals and instituted stretch goals to get the levels of production value up and it seems to be working out. We’re just under our first stretch goal to make Cats of OA a hardback and we still have five days left. So I’m hopeful. Thanks to everyone who has helped support it! There’s still time to get in on these books but time is running out!
Earlier this week, we ran an excerpt of The Cats of Ostia Antica, which you can see here.