Love is Here to Stay: Janelle Asselin on the ‘Fresh Romance’ Print Edition Kickstarter
At the beginning of last year, editor and publisher Janelle Asselin launched Rosy Press with the specific goal of publishing romance comics, a genre that most in the industry had long since given up on. With the help of a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Rosy Press anthology title Fresh Romance had an acclaimed digital run, continuing today with the release of Issue #7.
Now Asselin is running a second Kickstarter to bring a Fresh Romance collection to print, with the help of Oni Press. ComicsAlliance spoke to Asselin --- a former editor for this site --- about her recent successes and future goals for Rosy Press.
ComicsAlliance: Was this always the plan? You had a successful Kickstarter for the digital run of the book. Did you know then that you wanted to use a second Kickstarter to take it to print?
Janelle Asselin: I did not know then that I'd do print! I felt pretty strongly at first about keeping things digital, but from the moment we launched I had publishers wanting to work with us on print versions. And after such a successful Kickstarter, it was hard to not see it as a good way to raise awareness for a project and get some solid funding for it.
Kickstarters are a lot of work --- more work than just throwing a book into the direct market and hoping it works --- but the reward when you're successful is very satisfying.
CA: When did Oni Press enter the picture? Did they approach you, or were you shopping around for a publisher to partner with?
JA: I've known the Oni folks for a while, but they approached me about sitting down to talk last year during Emerald City Comic Con. Our schedules didn't line up, but they let me know they were interested. I had so much on my plate just getting launched that I put a pin in that for a while --- I had a few other publishers that were interested, but Oni seemed to be the best fit over all.
CA: Can you expand a bit on how the new Kickstarter campaign and the Oni deal work in concert? Am I right in understanding that the Kickstarter backers will get a completely different edition of the book from the one Oni plans to distribute?
JA: Absolutely --- basically, the Kickstarter campaign funds a Rosy Press edition of it that will have a unique cover on it and will only be available to backers. What's backed there will be the only editions of that type that will be produced. Oni has been absolutely hands off on the Kickstarter. It was my idea and they're supporting me in the fulfillment and that's about it.
Oni's edition will use Marguerite Sauvage's cover from Fresh Romance #3 and will be co-branded and distributed to comic shops and bookstores and libraries. It'll be a much more widely available version of the book.
CA: The nature of publishing an anthology is that you're working with quite a few creators simultaneously. How much does that complicate this whole process?
JA: It can be a bit like herding cats, but they're really talented cats that you don't want to yell at. Anthologies can be some of the most difficult books to produce, but it does help the schedule to have a bunch of people working on short stories versus one set of creators working on a much longer story. At any given time, there are probably three or four people emailing me about their story, which can get overwhelming, but is also a lot of fun in terms of the variety of work you get to see on a daily basis.
CA: You were recently nominated for the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity In Comics. Did that take you by surprise? How did it feel to be listed alongside those other books, including Ms. Marvel which ultimately won?
JA: I had submitted us for consideration, so I wasn't completely surprised. I was touched, however. Publishing diverse voices and featuring diverse characters is so important to me and I really appreciate the fact that the McDuffie Award judges recognized that. Not every publisher gives a sh-- about those things, but I do.
It felt amazing to be listed alongside those other books, and honestly, if I had to lose, I have no complaints at all about losing to G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona/Takeshi Miyazawa. They have created an amazing book that has really changed comics, and I respect that absolutely.
I see the nomination as spurring me forward to commit even more strongly to publishing a wide range of creators.
CA: When you launched Rosy Press and the first Kickstarter early last year, it was with the goal of reviving the romance comic for the 21st century. Do you feel like you've accomplished that goal?
JA: I feel like I've accomplished making the comics industry see romance as a viable genre again. I know of multiple publishers who have romance comics in the works because they saw the reception to Fresh Romance. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, you know? I think there's still a lot more that we can do with the romance genre, though, so I think we're just getting started.
CA: Looking back now, is there anything you would have done differently in planning Fresh Romance or Rosy Press as a whole?
JA: I think I would've brought at least one person in to partner with from the beginning so as to have that extra level of support. I've talked to other small press people who can't believe that I'm doing this alone. It is a lot of work, and stuff slips through the cracks. It's not a great feeling. I bust my ass to make sure that things get done, but I'm only human.
A couple weeks ago I was in Portland at Oni's offices and I got to sit down with everyone and talk about things like marketing and distribution and editorial support and all of that jazz. It was really amazing to have a team again.
CA: What's next for you and Rosy Press? Once this Kickstarter is successful (as I have no doubt it will be) and the books go to print, what's the next big goal for the press?
JA: First, Fresh Romance #7 comes out on Feb. 23, which is super exciting! We're happy to get back into the swing of things. Getting Fresh Romance into print is the big one --- getting the book into comic shops and bookstores and libraries will be great. That will expand our market, for sure. (I'm also just excited to hold one in my hands, too, you know?) And then I'd like to publish more than just Fresh Romance. I'm working on doing stuff beyond the anthology, which will be a lot of fun.
The current Rosy Press/Fresh Romance Kickstarter runs until March 16.