Interview #41: Selling books to humans with Humanoids Marketing Director Hillery Pastovich

December 22, 2016

Hillery Pastovich has been selling and marketing comics for publishers since 2005, most notably for Tokyo Pop and now for Humanoids. Along the way she’s figured out how to sell not only to people at shows but also at libraries and directly to stores as well. In fact, her knowledge about selling to libraries and stores is what brought her on the show today. If you don’t know Humanoids, here’s a bio from their website ( 

From its beginnings, Humanoids has embodied creative innovation, a fiercely independent spirit, and a drive to break new ground.

Under the French name Les Humanoïdes Associés, the publishing house began in the turbulent period of the early 1970s in Paris, which—like San Francisco and New York—was alive with the spirit of artistic revolution. As young people were debating ideas in unprecedented ways, three young men—graphic novel artists Jean Giraud (known as Mœbius) and Philippe Druillet, along with writer Jean-Pierre Dionnet—were determined to push the limits of their art and of the medium as a whole. They joined forces to create a comics magazine like none before: Métal Hurlant (French for "Screaming Metal").

From its first issue in January 1975, Métal Hurlant showed how comics could be created and presented in groundbreaking ways. The magazine combined with its book publishing counterpart quickly achieved a reputation as a company run by creative people for the sake of creating and exploring sequential art in unprecedented ways.

The magazine achieved such worldwide acclaim that National Lampoon launched a U.S. version, Heavy Metal. It initially published Druillet, Mœbius and other European creators in English translations, exposing American audiences to a whole new side of comics.

Soon Humanoids attracted the attention of creative luminaries outside the comics world as well, such as filmmakers Federico Fellini and Ridley Scott, and Humanoids' vision evolved beyond selling books.

In 1988, Swiss entrepreneur Fabrice Giger purchased Humanoids from European media giant Hachette. Besides fostering talent, Giger's goal was to implement a unique creative approach that emphasized international collaboration. Over the years, Humanoids has achieved and maintained that mandate. It has become completely international in its thinking and creative process, with artists, writers, and staff in multiple countries working jointly to create art and stories with global appeal.

Humanoids has published thousands of original titles, with third-party publishers translating many of them into numerous languages. Some, such as The Incal, have achieved stellar performances worldwide and sold millions of copies.

Since 1998 Humanoids has been the only publishing house of European origin with a direct presence in the U.S., and since 2014 the only non-Japanese company publishing its graphic novels directly in Japan, under the brand ユマノイド ("Humanoido").

Known for creating beautiful books, Humanoids has also embraced the digital age from its inception. Its catalogs are available on platforms worldwide, including on its own iTunes apps.

Books were long considered Humanoids' primary focus, but never destined to be its end products. Part of the company's plan was to adapt the source material from Humanoids' vast IP library for other mediums, such as movies—when the time was right. The company wanted to be in an optimum position to select the best partners and have a hands-on approach to all aspects of the filmmaking activity. Fabrice Giger has been waiting for the opportune moment to strike and bring Humanoids' unique touch to this highly competitive field.

While retaining its Paris office, Humanoids made its American branch the headquarters of the group in 2013.

In 2015, it forged major audiovisual development deals with various international and Los Angeles-based partners, leading to the creation of the Humanoids production division.

As Variety put it in its May 15, 2015 edition, "Marvel Comics changed the face of Hollywood. Can legendary Paris–L.A. graphic novel publisher Humanoids do the same thing...?" Whether or not it sets the bar that high, Humanoids is certainly poised to keep rolling out quality and innovative titles, and to do the exact same with the other mediums it chooses to explore.

I had a really good time on this episode talking about selling comics. Granted, Hillery is mostly focused on distributing comics to retailers and libraries instead of hand selling at conventions, but that’s what made this interview great because she talked specifically about selling books on a way larger scale than I have ever thought about before.

I dug how she went deep into the sales process of getting your book ready for retail, and how to go through the whole process of selling and marketing your book for all sorts of markets. She also went into her history in sales, and how she got over the idea that sales is gross.

We went a little off the sales at the end there and discussed the general ethos of the Business of Art, and the big reason why so many creatives fail, and to me that’s where the interview got really interesting, because you are seeing somebody on the other side discussing all the things that make creatives succeed and fail.

If you like this one, make sure to reach out to Hillery online, and find Humanoids at to check out their books.

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