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Ricky Miller looks back at 10 years of Avery Hill and its packed 2023

Avery Hill logo

Launched in 2012, Avery Hill has become known for publishing some amazing graphic novels and finding talent before they break big. Tillie Walden and Zoe Thorogood are just two of the names you’ll have found published by them.

Coming off of celebrating 10 years in publishing we got a chance to chat with one of the founders and copublisher Ricky Miller looking at the past ten years and looking forward to what 2023 brings!

Graphic Policy: First, I want to say congrats on ten years. How does it feel to make it to a decade in the comic industry?

Ricky Miller: Unexpected! 

When we started the company, we thought we’d be doing it for a couple of years at most. So to reach ten years is pretty mind-blowing. 

The longevity can be put down to some of the amazing authors we’ve met along the way who have made us want to keep things going. Discovering Tillie Walden was a big factor, and then other fantastic creators like Charlot Kristensen, Zoe Thorogood, and George Wylesol helped us keep up that momentum. Additionally, seeing our other authors, like Tim Bird, Katriona Chapman, B. Mure, and Owen Pomery develop into outstanding graphic novelists gives us so much energy and excitement.

The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott

We’ve also had the opportunity to travel around, go to some brilliant comics shows in various countries and meet people, see cities, and have experiences that we probably would never have had if not for comics! Really, it’s been life changing.

Also you saying “in the comics industry” made my heart do a little flutter there, as I don’t often think about us being in the comics industry. But I guess we are, and the me in my early teens would have very much been amazed at that.

GP: Before we get to the future, I want to focus a bit on the recent past. The comic industry is absolutely in an interesting space with so much shifting, how has Avery Hill fared during everything that’s been going on?

RM: Yes there we are definitely living in “interesting times!”

Some of the things going on have impacted the UK, and some haven’t. Obviously, the pandemic affected everybody, and while it was going on we were quite successful in pivoting our focus to sales through our online store while sales from online retailers also remained strong. In fact, 2020 was one of our best ever years in terms of sales. However, there was definitely a fall-off the following year and it was a massive shame not to be able to give proper launches to the books that came out during that time.

Some of the digital developments, such as the growth of Webtoon and Tapas, haven’t really featured on our radar as yet. Any digital sales we have are a very small part of our overall sales and I’ve yet to be convinced that the adult GN market has much of a future digitally, at least not until there’s a really good reader that can handle things like double page spreads nicely!

I think the thing we’re most waiting to see the effect of is some of the antipathy towards the traditional social media platforms impacting our sales. There was a time when we would find new creators through Twitter (such as Tillie Walden and Zoe Thorogood), but I think that is getting increasingly hard due to the amount of noise on that platform making it almost impossible to spot anything new or worthwhile. Sales through our online store that we used to be able to directly attribute to social media posts have definitely been decreasing as well. 

What We Don't Talk About

GP: What challenges have you felt as a publisher?

RM: There are lots of logistical issues, especially around how long international shipping takes and the associated costs. We have UK and US distribution, so getting the books out to the US in time for launch dates has definitely been a problem. Issues with EU VAT have meant selling and shipping books into the EU has become a lot harder. 

And then there are print costs going through the roof and the retail sector figuring out new/altered models of business. . . .

GP: You had some interesting tweets lately about an initiative for “adult graphic novels” that’s similar to the push for the middle-grade market that’s caused massive growth there. With some “adult” graphic novels that are really well-known in the mainstream, why do you think one has succeeded with such growth and the other hasn’t?

RM: A lot of the issue with adult graphic novels gets blamed on superheroes, and on the fact that grown-ups can be put off because of the broader reputation of comics being just that single genre.

However, I think the kind of adult market we should be aiming for, the kind of adult that regularly reads novels and non-fiction, are well aware that GNs aren’t just for kids. They may even have read Persepolis or Fun Home. But they just have never moved on to read them regularly. 

A lot of that is not knowing what else they should be reading. The information sources they have, the non-comics focused media, only tends to latch onto one (or fewer) GN per year and then loses interest. Mostly that GN will be non-fiction and have a topical or relatable angle that can be written about. 

These people don’t have friends who regularly read comics, and they‘ve never been in a comics store. Their local bookshop might have stocked a couple of GNs due to being talked into it by a sales rep (possibly something random or boring), but the owner has probably never read them and definitely isn’t actively pushing them. No one is visibly reading them on their commute. So they don’t know what to buy, and they don’t know where to buy it. And worse, they don’t even know that they’re missing anything.

Most of the graphic novel publishers who are putting out adult graphic novels are small indie publishers (as is Avery Hill), so we don’t necessarily have the resources of ‘the big 5’. But I think it’s essential for all of us to think about expanding the market and gaining new readers as we publish every book – raising the profile of adult graphic novels so those booksellers and readers have comics in the front of their minds!

GP: What do you see as being behind the growth of the middle-grade graphic novel market?

RM: The middle-grade market was created in the US by Scholastic and First Second, essentially getting to the kids through schools and libraries. Money and time was spent educating them and publishing great books and authors (like Bone, Raina Telgemeier, Dav Pilkey). 

These books are widely available in the UK, but kids of the same age over here aren’t reading them as voraciously because there hasn’t ever been the same sort of initiative targeted towards them by a publisher. Manga sells here, because manga is, firstly, AMAZING, and secondly, there are tons of ways for young people to be introduced to manga titles.

Alone in Space

GP: You’re a publisher that has a talent for finding aspiring creators who haven’t broken out yet. How does it feel being able to recognize and find that talent and any secrets to being so good at it?

RM: I’m sure that most people who had seen work by the likes of Tillie Walden and Zoe Thorogood before they were published knew they were looking at good work, we’re not particularly alone in that!

What we’re also looking for is something a little different about the authors we work with, some kind of sensibility or sense of humor or something that makes you stop and think – something that makes them unique. With Tillie, it was her ability to just shine emotion out of every drawing she did, to make you feel something. For Zoe, it was all about attitude and little details in her work that made me feel like there was a great intelligence in what she was doing, that every detail had been thought of – if not consciously, then at least subconsciously, like her mind had been living this stuff for years. 

With both of those two, it pretty much just took one drawing for me to make my mind up about them. Then the real trick is in deciding if authors are ready to make a book and being able to help them do that. 

Making one piece of art is much different from making a book. We have extensive conversations with authors about the process and time-commitment of making comics before we sign a contract with them, and then work to help them as much as possible throughout the process. We also publish a number of ‘novella-length’ graphic novels – not only are they a satisfying way to read, that means we don’t need to ask first-time authors to make 200 – 300 page books!

GP: Talk to us about what’s coming in 2023. What can readers and fans look forward to? What are you excited to get out there?

RM: We’ve got some exciting titles in store for 2023, with genres ranging from horror to literary to science fiction – some from new authors, and some from returning Avery Hill favorites.

Pet Peeves by Nicole Goux is a horror story about being in your twenties and wanting to be a musician but owning a soul sucking alien dog instead. We’ve been following Nicole’s work for years since we came across it at a couple of comics shows, and we’re very excited to be putting out her first full-length comic that she’s written and drawn. 

Then there’s Ellice Weaver’s new book, Big Ugly, which is about sibling rivalry/co-dependency that stretches deep into adulthood. As anyone who has read her first book, Something City, would know, Ellice combines an incredible gift for illustration and design, with a slightly odd worldview that makes everything she does beautiful and just a little strange. No one else could or would have written this book like this, and we find that massively exciting. 

Our third book is an adaptation of Macbeth by K. Briggs. We’ve never done any kind of adaptation before and didn’t know we wanted to until Briggs sent us this. It’s the full text rendered in Briggs’ stained-glass window/collage art style, and it’s a wonder. 

Then we have a sci-fi book by Owen Pomery called The Hard Switch. If you enjoyed Owen’s book Victory Point, which is gentle, thoughtful and lovely, then this is like that . . . but with guns and spaceships!

GP: How long have these graphic novels been in the works?

RM: We tend to know what we’re putting out a couple of years in advance. With these graphic novels, we’ve been involved at different points in the process for each one. Nicole had already finished Pet Peeves when she came to us about it last year, whereas Owen only had a title and synopsis plus a couple of images when we started discussing The Hard Switch. Macbeth has been a long labor of love for Briggs, and Ellice has been trying to do another graphic novel for years, but has been swamped with illustration jobs.

GP: When putting together what to publish in a year, what type of thoughts go into it?

RM: Building a year-long publishing schedule is part creative, part logistics (that’s a HUGE part!), and part balancing all that against our personal lives and commitments.

Beyond that, we like to try to get a mix of different types of books and try to get a balance between new creators and creators we’ve worked with before. We also like to have one or two US creators in there when we find someone whose work we fall in love with.

Predominantly though, we definitely see ourselves as a UK publisher, with responsibility towards helping to nurture our local creators. Publishing opportunities for adult graphic novelists in the UK are few, and seem to always be getting fewer.

It always makes for an interesting list of authors and titles, and I’m excited for you to see everything that’s in store from Avery Hill in 2023!

GP: Thanks so much for chatting and looking forward to reading Avery Hill’s releases!

Preview: Suzanne: The Jazz Age Goddess of Tennis

Suzanne: The Jazz Age Goddess of Tennis

(W) Tom Humberstone (A) Tom Humberstone
In Shops: Sep 14, 2022
SRP: $20.95

One of the greatest tennis players the world has ever seen was a woman few even remember. A championship player by the age of fifteen in a Europe overshadowed by impending war, Suzanne Lenglen broke records for ticket sales and match winning streaks, scandalised and entranced the public with her playing outfits, and became a pioneer, making friends and enemies throughout restrictive tennis society in the trailblazing jazz age. With stunning art and an astute eye, Suzanne explores how she battled bias in sporting journalism and her own divisive personality, to forge a new path and to change sport forever.

Suzanne: The Jazz Age Goddess of Tennis

Preview: Sleeping While Standing

Sleeping While Standing

(W) Soma (A) Soma
In Shops: Jul 27, 2022
SRP: $16.95

A series of short autobiographical strips, dropping in at important events throughout her life that shaped who she is today, told in a compelling and humorous authorial voice. We are led by Taki through her early childhood in Japan in the early 80s, to moving to Minnesota, the separation of her parents, childhood trauma, teenage angst, death, drugs, comics, health issues, love, fertility, pets and zombies; all of life is here in this book! It’s a picture of a highly regarded creator, with an unflinching look at some particularly harrowing moments, but threaded through with levity and love.

Sleeping While Standing

Suzanne tells the story about French jazz age tennis superstar Suzanne Lenglen

Suzanne: The Jazz Age Goddess of Tennis is a stunningly-illustrated, well-researched graphic novel which tells the incredible story of Suzanne Lenglen – a woman who changed the face of sport and society in the trailblazing jazz age, but who few even remember. Suzanne explores how a figure both enormously influential and too-often overlooked battled her father’s ambition, bias in sporting journalism, and her own divisive personality, to forge a new path — and to change sport forever.

One of the greatest tennis players the world has ever seen was a woman few even remember.

A championship player by the age of fifteen in a Europe overshadowed by impending war, Suzanne Lenglen broke records for ticket sales and match winning streaks, scandalized and entranced the public with her playing outfits, and became a pioneer, making friends and enemies throughout restrictive tennis society in the trailblazing jazz age.

Suzanne is by Tom Humberstone, an award-winning comic artist and illustrator based in Edinburgh. He writes and draws non-fiction comics for The Nib, as well as the New Statesman, Vox, Buzzfeed and others. It’s out this September from Avery Hill Publishing.

Suzanne: The Jazz Age Goddess of Tennis

Preview: Outer Wilderness

Outer Wilderness

by Claire Scully
In shops 16th June (UK) / 23rd June (North America)
32 pages, softcover, printed on gorgeous textured card stock
£8.99 / $12.95

The third instalment in an ongoing project exploring sequences of events unfolding across varied environments. Each book in the series is a standalone, wordless collection of illustrations that examine our relationship with the spaces we occupy.

Outer Wilderness is the third and final instalment of a journey that began with introspective self-imagined places (Internal Wilderness,) followed by a passage of experience and memory (Desolation Wilderness,) and now looks further away to the edges of the universe and into the unknown. It explores a vast spectrum of locations beyond the boundaries of normal time and space.

Each of these landscapes are inspired from a mix of science fiction, imagination and space documentaries which builds into a journey through a fantastical environment.

Outer Wilderness

Preview: Jinx Freeze

Jinx Freeze

(W) Hurk (A/CA) Hurk
In Shops: Dec 1, 2021
SRP: $16.95

Crime has descended on the normally tranquil Riviera – a solid gold sculpture on loan from the Gurgleheim Museum has been stolen and the local police force are well out of their depth. They need help and they need it fast. But local Henshin hero King Gianthead Fighter Policeman O.X. is lost in a waking reverie of lucid dreams and his potential replacements – like Modern Tahzen and Danny Kildare the Space Priest – aren’t faring much better. And why are people going into the Great Exhibition of 11851, the pop-up selfie experience in the middle of town, but not coming out again?

Fortunately, Marge Maggiore has picked up the trail and has a plan to catch the villains and save the day – if only she can clear her name for a crime she didn’t commit!

Told through the twisted creative lens of Hurk in his long-awaited full-length technicolor debut, Jinx Freeze is a heist story unlike any you’ve read before!

Jinx Freeze

Preview: Methods of Dyeing

Methods of Dyeing

(W) B. Mure (A/CA) B. Mure
In Shops: Dec 1, 2021
SRP: $12.95

A new book in the quiet, fantastical Ismyre series by Bristol-based creator B. Mure. Mure continues to expand the Ismyre universe, this time with a story of deception and intrigue! In Ismyre, on the eve of his lecture, the renowned botanist and master dyer Professor Detlef is found dead in the university gardens. As the local constabulary begin their search for the culprit, a strange detective arrives from outside the city to help solve the crime. In a place where things are never as they seem, will Mary the university custodian be able to help the mysterious investigator uncover the truth?

Methods of Dyeing

Preview: Sour Pickles

Sour Pickles

(W) Clio Isadora (A/CA) Clio Isadora
In Shops: Dec 1, 2021
SRP: $15.95

Pickles Yin is a final year student at a prestigious art school struggling to live up to her own expectations of how to navigate the transition from education to career. Surrounded by nepotism and wealthy peers, her friend Radish suggests an alternative method to achieve success that results in crumbling teeth and deteriorating mental health.A semi-autobiographical comic about being struggling to finish the final year at a prestigious art school, Clio’s debut full length work is a worthy successor to her acclaimed self-published zine, Is It Vague in Other Dimensions?

Sour Pickles

Preview: Quiet Thoughts

Quiet Thoughts

(W) Karen Shangguan (A/CA) Karen Shangguan
SRP: $16.95

Shangguan’s warm and lyrical narratives capture fleeting moments and sensations; while her shifting perspectives take in all of existence from the emptiness of space to the intimacy of human interactions. A contemplative journey that explores how it feels to be alive.

Quiet Thoughts

Avery Hill Publishing Reveals its Spring 2022 Releases

2120

George Wylesol
Out 19/05/2022 (UK) – 26/05/2022 (USA)
504 pages, softcover, full colour throughout, 195 x 271mm

A fascinating philosophical journey framed as a loving tribute to classic point and click video games.

You’re Wade, a schlubby middle-aged computer repairman, sent to fix a computer in a vacant, nondescript office building. When you get inside the door locks behind you, and you can’t get out. Now the adventure begins! You have to explore this building and try to find your way home. The building is huge on the inside with a lot of sprawling hallways and empty rooms but your only hope is to uncover clues and try to work out the mystery this whole experience hangs on.

Presented as a blend of classic ‘choose your own adventure’ stories and point and click escape games, 2120 offers readers the chance to explore these liminal spaces and, at the same time, take an existential journey of discovery.

George Wylesol is an illustrator/designer/writer from Philadelphia, living and working in Baltimore.
He has an MFA in Illustration Practice from Maryland Institute College of Art.
2120 is his third book with Avery Hill after Ghosts, Etc. and Internet Crusader.

Sleeping While Standing

Taki Soma
Out 14/07/2022 (UK) – 21/07/2022 (USA)
100 pages, softcover, full colour throughout, 158mm x 240mm

A series of short autobiographical strips, dropping in at important events throughout her life that shaped who she is today, told in a compelling and humorous authorial voice. We are led by Taki through her early childhood in Japan in the early 80s, to moving to Minnesota, the separation of her parents, childhood trauma, teenage angst, death, drugs, comics, health issues, love, fertility, pets and zombies; all of life is here in this book! It’s a picture of a highly regarded creator, with an unflinching look at some particularly harrowing moments, but threaded through with levity and love.

Taki Soma is a HUGO award nominated artist, writer, and a colourist. She’s worked on projects such as Rapture, Sinergy, The Victories, United States vs. Murder, Inc., Bitch Planet, Dick Tracy, The After Realm, Iron Man and others – her work can be found throughout publishers such as Image, IDW, Marvel, Dark Horse, Jinxworld at DC and more! She lives surrounded by furry critters and a husband who shares the same passion in comics.

Outer Wilderness

Claire Scully
Out 16/06/2022 (UK) – 23/06/2022 (USA)
32 pages, softcover, full colour throughout, 102mm x 152mm

The third instalment in Scully’s ongoing project exploring sequences of events unfolding across varied environments. Each book in the series is a standalone, wordless collection of illustrations that examine our relationship with the spaces we occupy.

Outer Wilderness is the third and final instalment of a journey that began with introspective self-imagined places (Internal Wilderness), followed by a passage of experience and memory (Desolation Wilderness) and now looks further away to the edges of the universe and into the unknown.

Each of these landscapes are inspired from a mix of science fiction, imagination and space documentaries which builds into a journey through a fantastical environment.

Based in London, Freelance illustrator Claire Scully works in pen, ink and digital with a heavy focus on drawing. Her work explores a variety of themes including the relationship between ‘man’ and his environment.

Clients include: Penguin, Random House, Harper Collins, National Maritime Museum, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, New York Times, Adidas, Line Ski, Burton Snowboards and Icebreakers clothing label.

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