Knowing Is Half The Battle: Archie Bongiovanni Gives Advice on the Publishing Industry

You’ve been working on your comic for what probably seems like forever and finally, you feel that you are ready to share it with the world. Of course, you can always go the route of self-publishing, but that carries with it a number of obligations and expectations — printing, shipping, marketing — that you may not have the desire or the knowledge to take on. Thankfully, there are a number of amazing small press comics publishers who are constantly looking to expand their catalog and bring new voices into the world.

Unfortunately, though, as much as there are ethical publishers who want what’s best for the artists they publish, there are also bad actors who prey on the talents of young and new creators.

Part of the goal of Fieldmouse Press, the nonprofit press that publishes SOLRAD, is to advance the comics arts. We see the continued social and economic success of cartoonists as integral to that goal. SOLRAD has devoted and will continue to devote resources to this area of focus.To this end, we are running an ongoing feature at SOLRAD called KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE where we both feature an artist every week and ask for their advice about navigating the world of comics publishing, best practices for the business of comics, and other general advice. Today on KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE we’re featuring tips from ARCHIE BONGIOVANNI.

Archie Bongiovanni is a cartoonist and illustrator living in Minneapolis. Their graphic novel, A Quick And Easy Guide To They/Them Pronouns was published with Limerence Press/Oni Press and has been praised by School Library Journal (starred review), was a Publishers Weekly Favorite Reads of 2018, a 2018 Chicago Public Library Best Book Of The Year for Teen Nonfiction and one of YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels For Teens. Their newest graphic novel, Grease Bats was released by BOOM! Studios in fall 2019. Archie’s future books include Flagging 101 (Silver Sprocket) and a young adult non-fiction comic forthcoming from First Second. They’ve been featured on Autostraddle, Vice, Everyday Feminism and The Nib.

Archie’s work centers around the queer community. Their work as a freelance illustrator has been utilized by universities, app developers, libraries, and LGBTQ digital magazines.

You can find out more about Archie’s work by visiting their website or following them on Twitter or Instagram

Archie Bongiovanni

The main thing(s) I expect from a comics publisher is/are…

I don’t know about “expect” rather than desire, but my answer is transparency. I want them to be clear in their expectations of my work and the project, as well as be open to hearing what I expect from them. From a more business standpoint, I want to fully understand the contract, royalties, and game plan as far as marketing goes. 

My #1 advice for submitting to agents and publishers…

Have a phone call before signing anything! It was really important to me that I found an agent I felt comfortable speaking with, who was interested in the creative process and providing feedback and edits to whatever project I work on. By having a phone conversation, you can really get a feel of how you and your agent will converse. For me, I wanted something that felt like a casual conversation with a friend. I was thrilled to find another non-binary creative (Trevor Ketner at Ladderbird Literary) to represent my work who is both funny and quick to respond when I had questions. 

A sneaky red flag or shady thing I would warn new creators to look out for…

Any project, gig, or commission (that isn’t like…idk a zine project) that doesn’t have a contract to go with it. This is especially necessary if you don’t know the person asking. There are lots of sample contracts online, but make sure there’s a kill fee and a date for when you’ll get paid by!

I think it can be worth it to take a lower-paid illustration job in return for ___…

I frequently do lower-paid (OR FREE) illustrations for people/places/organizations I want to exist in the world. It’s definitely a case by case scenario for sure. I will not do a lower-fee illustration for an organization I can’t personally vouch for. I guess at the heart, I take these gigs because I’m part of the community they serve. I can also do this because, like many artists, my income comes from like 10 different sources and I’m not surviving on illustrations alone. 

An organization I’d go to for support if I needed advice or if something went wrong

Well, first I would try and ask other comic artists. Becoming pals with a few comic artists has really helped not just enjoy comics (and conventions) more, but also has helped me with my career. I try to be open about advice if other’s need it as well. OTHERWISE, in many cities there are local arts organizations that often offer classes or advice. Here in Minneapolis, we have Springboard For The Arts which offers professional development workshops, career development meetings, and can also connect you with an attorney. 

My best tip for promoting your work online and at cons…

Don’t be scared to showcase yourself off! Be your own biggest fan! Don’t hesitate if an opportunity to promote your work pops up. 

 To take care of your health / mental health as an artist, I recommend…

Re-defining success so it includes things other than professional accomplishments. I feel like I am living a successful life because, to me, success includes nurturing my relationships and building community, and also lots of time to party. 

 I wish someone had told me ___ before I started working in the comics industry…

Work on the projects that you find the most fun, the most exciting. The projects that are just monetary end up…well mostly nowhere. Drawing things that I’m passionate about has brought me similar projects. I’m now getting paid to draw things that feel highly curated towards my interests, and I think that’s because I drew a lot of queer comics and queer content when I was younger.

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