PR: What Not to Do: Open Book Vultures

Over the weekend, a company called Open Book Press (link no longer available) sent out a press release trying to capitalize on the misfortune of Speakeasy. Here are excerpts, complete with snarky commentary from yours truly.

Open Book Press Offers a Ray of Hope to Speakeasy Creators

Wow, how magnanimous of them. Sounds a bit like a charity service, like a suicide prevention hotline or something.

North American book and graphic novel publisher, and soon to be comic publisher Open Book Press, is issuing a public statement that it is willing to discuss and review materials from creators who are now left without a publisher due to the closure of Speakeasy Comics on February 27th 2006.

Then again, maybe not. They don’t publish comics, but they’re willing to talk to people with prepared projects, only they don’t promise anything. What are they really providing?

Open Book Press had only just recently changed its guidelines to state that submissions would only be accepted or solicited at public appearance events where an editor was in attendance. Now the company is making an exception for anyone who had a comic series being published or slated to be published by Speakeasy.

“Let me make this clear so there are no misunderstandings. We are not saying that we will open the flood gates and passively envelope the entire Speakeasy stable. What we are saying is that we are willing to make an exception in our submission guidelines in order to help out the creators who are now stuck in the lurch. I can guarantee that we will not be accepting any and all Speakeasy Comics submitted to us. We’re not looking to spread ourselves thin with too many titles, what we do want to do is help out those creators and add to our new comics stable by picking a select handful of books that we feel have the most potential.” added Gagnon.

Ah, they’re offering only the ability to mail submissions, making it clear that they want to cherry-pick cancelled Speakeasy titles. Wouldn’t the professional, business-like thing to do be to contact the creators they’re interested in directly instead of throwing open some weird kind of email cattle call?

And since when does an announcement of this level of disinterest justify a press release? It looks to me like Open Book wants to dance on another company corpse just to get their name out there.

(Note that I’m ignoring the various typos and punctuation errors found throughout this document. They’re another indicator of the level of professionalism on display, but I figure the people that know that have already noted the errors.)

In fall 2004 Open Book Press acquired SMASH! Comics, another comic book publisher based out of Toronto, that was experiencing difficulty. Now the line has been revamped and set to re-launch in May 2006, with buzz saying this new SMASH! Comics line will revolutionize the industry. Open Book Press has also approached the owners of Speakeasy Comics to express interest in a similar deal where Open Book would buy the left over assets of Speakeasy. So far Open Book Press has only expressed interest to the owners of Speakeasy who have not made any public response or scheduled any discussions.

Ah, now I recognize the name. I tried to review a SMASH! comic once. Amateur work, shoddy printing… That doesn’t give me confidence in the new company, especially given their love of meaningless hype like “will revolutionize the industry”. I also don’t trust any company that tries to conduct negotiations in public, as with this supposed “offer”. I wouldn’t blame Speakeasy for ignoring these clowns.

More details can be found at: www.openbookpress.com

Actually, no, they can’t. This press release, at the time of writing, wasn’t posted there. The last update at their site appears to have been two months ago.


7 Responses to “PR: What Not to Do: Open Book Vultures”

  1. Ray Cornwall Says:

    Thank you for pointing this out! I read the press release with my jaw on the floor. “Wait…you’ll…CONSIDER…publishing a former Speakeasy project, even though no one’s heard of you? Yeah, that made sense.”

  2. David Welsh Says:

    Much as I’d love to see the rest of Elks Run, I hope they don’t accept this generous offer. The words “frying pan” and “fire” leap to mind, for some reason.

    Plus, is anyone else alarmed by the fact that they don’t indicate that they’ve gone to the trouble of… y’know… reading any of Speakeasy’s titles to see if they’re any good?

  3. Joshua Fialkov Says:

    My understanding of the company is that they’re a proper book publisher ‘dabbling’ in comics. Noel Tuazon (artist of Elk’s Run) has done a few children’s books (that are quite excellent) through them.

    That being said, we’re still working on our solution for Elk’s Run, and should have some news very soon.

  4. Johanna Says:

    yay! I’d like more, please!

  5. Leigh Walton Says:

    I like how they get to announce what “buzz” has been saying about their company.

  6. Mike Gagnon Says:

    I understand and expected the scepticism from the media and public about this press release. I do thank Johanna for pointing out the spelling errors.

    At the time this release came out many members of the comics news journalism community questioned our motives behind offering the opportunity to work with us.

    Several journalists took the time to actually contact me and get more information, and have me clear up any misconceptions about our motivations. Foremost this entire idea came about because I am personally a Speakeasy fan. Those journalists who took the time to question us found that we do not have opportunistic motivations in mind.

    This has resulted in the news release being carried by many prominenet sources such as newsarama.com and others. Several Speakeasy creators are now working with us or talking with us about future projects, and we are currently talking with Speakeasy owner Adam Fortier about other opportuinities.

    We are a fairly young company and many people have yet to hear of us. Our goal is to change that in the near future as well as over the long term.

    I freely welcome anyone who believes the motives of Open Book Press to be purely selfish to contact me and ask questions, raise flags, and discuss points. I invite everyone, and do not expect anything such as media or news coverage from anyone who has questions whether or not they are part of comics journalism or not.

    I will also paste a copy of one of my private e-mails with a comics journalist who had questions below in order to shed more light on the situation.

    I do thank you for raising critical points for us to consider on future press releases.

    I wish all Speakeasy creators the best of success in the future no matter where this industry takes them, and I truly appreciate the critical eye that Johanna Drapper Carlson has placed on this news release.

    Thanks for anyone taking the time to read all this and thanks to comicsworthreading.com for providing the space for people to write.

    Mike Gagnon
    Open Book Press

    Pasted excerpt below…

    “Just curious why you’d not simply contact any creators you’re interested in directly? To be honest, this kind of comes off like an opportunistic cry for attention.”

    Sorry to come off that way. We have approached creators, but haven’t been able to get contact info on all of them. I felt it imperative to move quickly so that these creators would know about the option to submit work and the opportunity to be involved with our new comic line.

    Also, as stated in the release there is only room for a few series here, so it wouldn’t be fair to contact all of them in person and then refuse most. Also we did want the news to be tied in with the fact that we have approached Speakeasy about buying their company for a possible future revival and we have already done the same for SMASH! Comics.

    We really simply are trying to help out those creators who have been stuck without a publisher. I know it sucks because I’ve been there.

    I personally really want to help these creators out. I know that kind of thing is not common in business today and I did expect to receive some cynical responses from people who believe I’m making the offer out of my own self-interest. If I truly wanted a publicity stunt I could have offered much more hype than what was offered in that press release.

    I truly am a fan of many of the comics that just lost their publisher, and that was my motivation and inspiration for making the move. I fully expect
    that some people will question my motives and I am fully prepared to answer for any actions or statements made and explain any misunderstandings.

    If you would like to discuss any questions you have further I would be more than happy to elaborate and answer. If not that’s fine too and I really do
    appreciate you taking time out of your day to at least contact me and pose the tough questions as opposed to simply slagging the press release or the
    company.

    Again if you do have any question or misgivings or need more info let me know, and thank you for your time.

    Mike Gagnon
    Open Book Press

  7. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Butcher returns to dissect How To Get Published The Open Book Press Way. I was snarky about one of Open Book’s early press releases back in March, when they tried to capitalize on Speakeasy’s demise. [...]




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