Knowing Is Half The Battle: Peter and Maria Hoey Give 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.

How do I move forward from an idea to a finished book? How should I approach the licensing of print and digital rights for my comics? Who owns the copyright for my work? How do royalties and advances work? There are a lot of questions about the publishing process, some of which are unique to comics, and some of which are standard areas of concern for working artists around the world.

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.

For the initial interview series, Sarah Wray from Astra Editorial, who has worked with publishers such as Avery Hill, Liminal 11, and Breakdown Press, reached out to a number of cartoonists that she has worked with and provided them with the following prompting statements:

  • The main thing(s) I expect from a comics publisher is/are…
  • My #1 advice for submitting to agents and publishers…
  • A sneaky red flag or shady thing I would warn new creators to look out for…
  • I think it can be worth it to take a lower-paid illustration job in return for ___…
  • If a publisher/offer seemed too good to be true, here’s how I’d check it out…
  • An organization I’d go to for support if I needed advice or if something went wrong…
  • My best tip for promoting your work online and at cons…
  • To take care of your health / mental health as an artist, I recommend…
  • I wish someone had told me ___ before I started working in the comics industry…

To add to the dialogue, we continue to reach out to cartoonists using this format. Today on The More You Know we’re featuring tips from Peter and Maria Hoey.

Peter and Maria Hoey are brother and sister artists and illustrators. Since 2007 they have independently produced and published their comics under the name COIN-OP. Their recent hardcover collection, Coin-Op Comics Anthology 1997-2017, published by Top Shelf Productions / IDW earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Their latest issue in the Coin-Op series: Coin-Op no. 8: INFATUATION was nominated for a 2020 Eisner Award in the Best Issue/One-Shot category. Their comic: “Supply Chains” was nominated in 2019 for an Eisner Award in the Best Short Story category.

Their work has appeared in The Best American Comics, and BAC’s Notable Comics list, The Society of Illustrators, and in many issues of American Illustration. Their accordion-fold book, The French Drop, is in the Spencer Collection of Illustrated Books and Manuscripts and Fine Bindings at the New York Public Library. Their comics have won The Award of Excellence at New York’s MoCCA Arts Festival (2017 and 2018), Best Anthology at Denver’s DiNK festival (2019), and ‘Comic of the Festival’ by Broken Frontier at Thought Bubble UK (2019). Their Anthology was named “Comic Collection of the Year 2018” from Page 45 (U.K), and their books have appeared on Fantagraphics Bookstore’s Annual Favorite Comic List (2016, 2018, and 2019). They are hard at work on their first full-length graphic novel (to be published in 2021 by Top Shelf Productions).

Peter and Maria’s literary representative is Pete Ryan at Stimola Literary Studios. Their illustrations are represented by Rapp | Art. You can find out more about their work at, follow them on Twitter, and check them out on Instagram.

Peter and Maria Hoey

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

We have been primarily self-published/distributed artists. 

We started self-publishing our work in 2009 with our comic art series titled: Coin-Op

Self-publishing is a satisfying path for artists because you have total control and ownership of your work. We are able to develop and produce at our own speed (which is 3-4 titles a year). 

The downside to self-publishing is a lack of distribution. 

When you are publishing a niche book within a niche segment of the publishing world, your work inherently becomes harder to discover. However this is not a deal breaker, you just need to produce work in a way that makes the venture self-sufficient.

For example, we print all our books in the US, on better papers and in non-standard formats — all of which makes for more expensive books. So we balance this reality by printing smaller runs, and making sure we sell as many as we can. 

In 2017 we signed our first book contract. And 9 months later, Top Shelf Productions published a gorgeous hardcover anthology of 20 years of our comics. It was a wonderful experience, and we feel really fortunate to have hit the publisher lottery. 

A publisher gives you something that when you self-publish you don’t have: A team. We now had copy editing! And production experts! And most importantly, the expert eye of an editor. 

With a good publisher you gain a group of people who want your book to be great. It’s invaluable. 

Our Anthology allowed our work to reach a much larger (and international) audience. Since its publication in 2018, we have been nominated for 2 Eisner Awards, and we are working on a new full-length graphic novel with Top Shelf.

In addition to the new book we continue to self-publish issues in our Coin-Op series — with the goal of a second collection to come. 

Our #1 advice for submitting to agents and publishers…

We have had an agent for our illustration work for 25 years. Last year we also signed with a literary agent. 

It is always a good thing to have an expert when it comes to the business side of things. And when they understand your work it is even better. 

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

Lower-paid does not mean under-paid. The reality is that some assignments pay lower than others. That is different from being paid less.

I think the recommendation of finding what the going rate for the scope/size of the job is a good way to find out what the usual fee is. From there you can make an informed decision. 

If a publisher/offer seemed too good to be true, here’s how we’d check it out…

See agent. : )

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

If it’s a matter of a contract dispute, I would go to a lawyer. 

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

1. We really love going to books shows/conventions. It’s a unique way to interact one-on-one with people interested in your work. Presenting and selling our work IRL (for us) is key. 

Because at the end of the day, we are making books, not pixels. There is nothing better than picking up books and feeling them. And there is nothing better than being in a room full of book and art lovers. So attend as many festivals as your feet (and wallet) can stand. I think especially this year, because of the pandemic, we are more aware of that community and what we are missing. 

2. Make a website that is easy to use. And then get off the computer and make friends with the people at the Post Office, because hopefully you will be seeing a lot of each other. 

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

I think for both of us, we’d rather be doing this, than anything else.

We wish someone had told me _ before we started working in the comics industry…

It’s like anything, it’s better to just dive in and figure out your own path. There is no one way to do anything.

SOLRAD is made possible by the generous donations of readers like you. Support our Patreon campaign, or make a tax-deductible donation to our publisher, Fieldmouse Press, today.

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February 2023


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